I've been toying with this post for the past year or so as it has been on my heart for sometime. This idea surfaces periodically, and I push it down, but it keeps coming back. I am taking that as a nudge from the Holy Spirit that I need to listen.
The problem is that I have listened to the world for so long that it has substantially altered my thinking. I have bought into the lie. Now it's time to do something about it. I am taking what I am calling "The Pledge." God help me that I don't have to eat my words. I also am likely going to offend some of you out there, but this is too important. There is a great deal at stake here. Not only do we need to look at ourselves, but we also need to look at the messages that we, as women, are sending to our daughters and our granddaughters along with our husbands and our sons.
This is the problem. We talk about beauty as if we believe that it comes from the inner character and soul of a person, but we don't live as though we believe this. In fact, we constantly define our idea of beauty by the culture's standard and by the most cursed object of them all: the mirror.
Truth be told: when we look in the mirror, most of us are not happy with what we see. We moisturize our wrinkles until they cannot be moisturized away, and then turn to injections like Botox and Restylane to minimize the encroaching signs of aging. Others laser their damaged skin, subject it to harsh chemicals, sand it down to oblivion, or better yet, go under the knife to cut away or lift up the offending portions. Just thinking about all of this deeply saddens me. Why are we doing it to ourselves? What is so offensive about aging? And if we start subjecting ourselves to these procedures, how and when will we stop?
My intent here is not to castigate, vilify, condemn, or shame any woman who has resorted to any cosmetic procedures. Instead, I want to encourage us to begin an honest conversation about the struggle that most of us face with regard to aging. We could begin by telling the truth. Let's not lie about what we are doing to circumvent the passage of time, whether it be so simple as coloring our hair to hide the gray or having that eye-lift we've dreamed about. And let's drop that critical appearance-driven-standard that we apply to every woman we encounter over the age of 40. Let's be honest. Most of us are quite adept at secretly judging other women for the size of their hips or the depth of their crow's feet (or even the lack thereof) behind their backs, all the while subjecting ourselves to countless diets and other fads to keep the sweet bird of youth firmly in our grasp.
The irony is that when we start grasping for that youthful girl we once were, she is already long, long gone. In our culture we no longer talk about aging gracefully the way that we once used to, and I am deeply saddened by this. We know longer look at a woman with gray hair and widening hips and celebrate the woman that she is...instead we look at her and pronounce judgments about her external appearance. Instead of celebrating the lines that time has etched on her face, we disparage them.
Not too long ago, I heard a woman say about another older woman, "Boy, has she let herself go." I asked her what she meant, and she said, "Well, she obviously hasn't taken care of herself. She doesn't see a dermatologist or surgeon...that's for sure."
Wow. And neither do I.
So here is my pledge.
No matter how far my face slides down, and no matter how much pull gravity exerts on my neck, my boobs, and my stomach (to name but a few areas), I will NOT define myself by reflection I see in the mirror, nor will I judge others by their reflection either. I pledge to look for the beauty within each woman I encounter and to embrace and celebrate what I find. I do not plan to have surgery, inject myself with Botox, or other fillers, laser my skin away, or sand it down to nothing, but I will not excoriate those who do. I simply want us to have an honest dialogue about the culture's notion of beauty and how manipulative and destructive it has become and to believe that there IS another way to age.
Trust me, I am constantly tempted, but I keep coming back to what I believe God says about me. And it has nothing to do with the way that I look in the mirror.
It's not the procedures that are so vile, it's what they represent to aging women. It is a deep and profound unkindess that we are doing to ourselves. We are not loving well, not one another or ourselves. We are buying into the lie. And I am vowing to try to turn the tide that threatens to overwhelm me at times.
Aging gracefully means accepting myself for who I am in the mirror as well as who I am on the inside. And certainly who I am when no one is looking.
It's hard to be real. It is difficult to choose the authentic self. Everything about this world since Eve ate the apple has been about covering up. Not just our private parts, but our true feelings, our emotions, our pain, our struggles, our hurts. We want to look good.
I know. I battle this. Every. Single. Day.
I battle this when I go up another pant size, when I find more wrinkles around my already wrinkly mouth, or when I get dressed up to go out and can hardly find my eyelashes anymore to even apply mascara.
Daily I struggle to bring my thoughts captive to a God who tells me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. And He is talking about not just on that day that I was born with my new, soft skin, tiny hands, and tiny feet, but also NOW with my dry skin, my pimply more than middle-aged chin, my sagging crepe neck and my crows' feet. NOW. He finds me lovely NOW.
I really want to believe this. My heart longs to believe this. And I wager so do most women out there. We do not want to be defined or confined by the image in the mirror. We long for validation and beauty that emanate from the inner soul.
The issue is: Can I dare to find myself lovely? Can I let go of the corrupted vision of beauty that woos me with its promises of a younger self? Am I willing to be an almost 60 year-old-woman who is so thankful to not be 25 or 35 or 45 anymore? Am I willing to be content with who I am?
Pray with me and for me that together we can stand and proclaim that God is not lying when we says that "Charm is deceitful and beauty evaporates, but a woman that feareth the Lord shall be praised."
I want to embrace the Lord's vision of me. I want to look into His eyes to see myself rather than defining myself by my own flawed and aging reflection in the mirror. I want to mirror Him.
"...inwardly we are being renewed every day..."
I am daring to believe that He does not lie.
I am choosing another way.