Thursday, October 18, 2012

a philosophy of aging

My parents with newborn me in 1984 and the three of us at my last birthday.  Haven't they aged with grace?

I turned 28 a month and some days ago.  Really, 28 was no stunner compared to 27.  27 hit me hard.  I think part of the shock came from the number line in my head.  I thought everyone had this number line until I tried to explain it to a friend in high school.  You start at one and head due north.  When you hit 20, you turn a sharp right and keep going until infinity.  The tens are in bold.  This is the way I always see numbers in my head.  At 27, I saw just how close the bold 30 loomed.  It was freaky, you guys.  30, always an abstraction -- an age far, far off where I would have a couple kids and a mom haircut -- was tilting precariously close to my spot on the number line.

Then there are the gray hairs.  I can tell you exactly where I was when I found the first one.  My vanity is of a finely tuned precision.  We were driving north on Market Street to a graduation party, and I was preening in the passenger visor mirror.  I pulled that pup out and took it in to the party with me.  I was weirdly proud of it.  Only 25 and already a gray hair to speak of.  There's a conversation starter.

This year, I came to 28, and I felt done with the moaning.  One year of it just plumb tuckered me out.  A month or so before my birthday,  I read a sermon by Peter Marshall called "Go Down Death."  In it, he writes, 

"We are pretending that we are not getting any older -- that we are not afraid of death.  We are all busy in a vain effort to create the illusion of mortal immortality.   Age creeps on, but we refuse to recognize it.  We enlist the help of the masseuse...and the creams and lotions, hair dyes and plastic surgeons, all in an effort to keep alive the illusion that life here will go on forever.  Either one believes in the immortality of the soul or one does not.  There is no middle ground here."  

His words would not leave me.  It hit me how disparate it is to believe in Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life, and at the same time, join the cultural chorus which weeps over our declining bodies.  If every year brings me closer to another birth into a life truer than the first, then why would I pump the brakes? 

The face of Christ awaits beyond the veil. The more days I am given, the closer I am to that sight.  Send back the wrinkle cream and Spanx, y'all; I'm gonna take the new body.

Here, I am a clay jar.  Clay jars get broken.  They get that white limey residue on the outside.  No amount of external renovation is going to change my clayness.  I want to be the most graciously old clay jar there can be.   

All this to say, bring on 30.  And 40.  And well, really, just bring on Jesus.  It's going to be good.  

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