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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lasting Beauty

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. ~King Solomon

Fleeting beauty...boy, don't I know it. Betrayed by the mirror, the tiny lines spreading like ripples on water, threaten to cover my whole face. And they will some day. Putting cream on my legs, I notice another kind of "line"; tiny blue veins creeping steadily toward my knees. My hands have wrinkles and age spots. I don't like aging. I don't like that I gain weight in odd places. I don't like forgetting things. I don't like the fact that now I'm not only near sighted, but need reading glasses!

We (okay, women, I'm including all of you, but maybe it's just me) spend vast amounts of time moisturizing, coloring, dieting, working out and deliberating over what clothes flatter us. Why? To look good. To feel good. To be our "best".
None of this is wrong or bad. But the other day, it struck me, as I was once again mourning my youth-or at least youthful appearance- that I have a hard time seeing my value beyond usefulness and outward appearance. If I'm not young or pretty or at the very least useful, what good am I? Before you start extolling all my virtues to make me feel better, please, I'm reflecting...asking come along and take time to evaluate how you see yourself.
Is it hard for you to age?
When you look to the future are you excited to age?
I recently asked a wonderful, godly woman in her 70's how she coped with aging-specifically physical aging. Her reply was honest and direct: "You don't have a choice but to accept it and keep living."
The Forsyte Saga, a novel by John Galsworthy, details the lives of several generations of the Forsyte family in England between 1886 and 1921. There's a part in it where a youngish widow is trying to marry off her step-daughter because they've been left with no money. In the attempt to engage Irene, her step-mother is at a ball dancing with a man (older than herself) that seems clearly taken with her. However, in the course of the evening, it becomes apparent that the man's intent is for the daughter, not the step-mother. ouch. The middle aged mother, embarrassed and heartbroken, whisks Irene away. The scene is so tragic to me. The step-mom is lovely and delightful and yet of little to no value because she's not as young or beautiful as Irene and she has no money or power.

Has that much changed since the novel was written in 1906?
Do we, women, know our value beyond our beauty or usefulness or ability to manipulate men?
Do other's honor us for aging...seeing the wrinkles, greying hair and varicose veins as signs of wisdom that comes from living?
Are we honorable women?
A friend who has lived in Africa now for several years, was talking about how there are not many older people in Nigeria, so when someone does live a long life, they're respected and revered. Our society, by contrast, has a long average life span yet everyone seems to use those years to try and look younger and feel younger and live even longer. Americans idolize youth.
I know we can have youthful hearts. I know we can keep learning and growing and experiencing life no matter our physical age. I know elderly women who have beauty beyond imagination. But does everyone mourn the loss of youth?

People, I'm pondering...reflecting...asking questions...of course I know I'm loved and beloved and valued for more than outward appearances (thank God)...but what motivates my actions and reactions? Am I an honorable woman? Are you? It's worth thinking about.

The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing. ~Zephaniah

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