The day after tomorrow is my 60th birthday and every year around this time, I reflect on growing old gracefully. Wrinkles are a part of the aging process, but I must confess it would be nice to have my 20-year-old skin again. If I did, I would apply sunscreen instead of baby oil while outdoors. However, I understand that my wrinkles are like badges. Every wrinkle symbolizes a memory; representing a moment in my story. Even the painful ones are significant and bring meaning to my life. The years wrinkle my skin, but it's not the wrinkles on the outside that keeps me from growing old gracefully, it's the ones on the inside.
Every sorrow, pain, or deep disappointment has the potential to add another wrinkle layer to our hearts, causing our spirits to grow old. If not dealt with, those layers of heart wrinkles can calcify and make us hard and bitter.
But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord's own house. They flourish in the courts of our God.
Even in old age, they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.
Don't you just love that word FLOURISH? Even saying the word brings nourishment to my soul. Do you believe it is possible to remain vital and green as we age, even with the sorrows that make us feel old? What about the everyday pressures of life that add layer after layer of wrinkles to our heart? Anxiety, depression, and sadness – these all age our souls. How about the deep sorrows that gouge a crevice permanently in our hearts?
The day of our oldest daughter's funeral was the day that I put part of myself in the ground. No parent should ever have to bury their child, but sadly it is a part of living in this broken world for many of us. That day a crease developed in my heart that will never go away. Most days it doesn't show on the outside, but it is there every moment of every day. I once believed there was no chance of living vital and green with such a wound. However, I am learning that it is possible to not only survive those heart wrinkles but to accept their role in my story. It's in accepting and embracing that freedom comes and softens the lines into meaning and purpose.
I believe that God has designed us to flourish, produce fruit, and live vitally on this earth, even as we age. Every moment and life experience is an opportunity for me to learn from God and allow Him to smooth out the lines on our soul. It may be letting go of bitterness and forgiving someone who hurt me. What about holding on to the thought that I can control the actions of another person, when it's God's place to work in their lives? It also may be that I am comparing myself to someone else and feeling like life is unfair. All of these age our souls and cause heart wrinkles.
This week let's embrace the wrinkles on the outside as badges of honor, while we allow God to smooth out the heart wrinkles that weigh us down. That is secret to growing old gracefully.