“…she can laugh at the days to come.”
Proverbs 31:25 (NIV)
Hannah was a German exchange student my daughter and her friends befriended their junior year, and theirs was a friendship that didn’t end when Hannah returned to Germany. We saw her when we lived there a year later, and again when she made a return trip to the States.
Hannah’s English was excellent though understandably imperfect; she was unfamiliar with many colloquialisms. She occasionally had “lost in translation” moments, and sometimes I liked her interpretation better. Without question, my favorite instance was when she called the crinkles that sunburst from the outer corners of my eyes laughing lines. I had always referred to those first signs of aging as laugh lines, but adding three little letters to the word laugh made it infinitely better. It suggested something I was doing contrasted to something I had done. Laughing became descriptor and an action. Lightly tracing my furrows with her index finger, she smiled and added, “They’re pretty.”
There was no way she could have known how her words ministered encouragement to me, but I suppose the Lord knew I needed a kind affirmation, the same way He sent two perfectly-timed words that had changed my life.
The year I turned 50, it wasn’t just that but ALL OF THE THINGS going on then that about did me in.
A son graduating high school and a daughter turning 21.
My baby getting his license and starting to drive.
My husband leaving one job and trusting God for another.
Me applying for jobs I was qualified for and not being able to secure an interview.
A knee injury that required surgery.
Knowing we would likely be moving and starting over. Again.
A mammogram scare and that other blasted confirmation from my doctor.
Right around that time there was one more blow to my heart — realizing I couldn’t attend a women’s event because I had aged out of its audience demographic. I was simply too old for their format.
For days I couldn’t stop crying. I barely recognized myself because a) birthday milestones never fazed me before and b) I’m not a cry-er. I had always seen silver linings and brights sides in obsidian clouds, so that inner shift was unchartered.
It was a sobering exercise in futility to realize I was closer to having grandchildren than my own children, that I had likely lived more days than I had remaining, and that the subtle changes in my body would keep happening no matter how I hard I tried to stop them.
There were moments when panic set in. My footing had never been more unsure. I wasn’t dealing with life or death circumstances, but it felt like I was walking through fire. It was then I heard a whisper, a voice small and still but undeniable,
Age is the price you pay for life, and it is not a privilege everyone gets to have.
My mother died when she was thirty-eight, and because of that loss I began to realize that aging is a small price to pay to see my babies grow into amazing young adults. Through the lens of Mama’s short life I was able to see with clarity and fullness the gift of my own because I have one life, and I long to steward it well.
God’s holy nudging in the midst of my melancholy related to growing older was simple: champion life and age gracefully. That divine check in my spirit and the perspective rooted in my mom’s early death were seedlings, at least in part, for the joy expressed in my laughing lines.
As I sought God, He transformed my thinking. I began to see my age as a blessing, not a curse. I hear women apologizing for their age sometimes, and I’ve done it as well, but let this sink in: age is a blessing, not a curse! Nothing can substitute the wisdom we gain by reaching our age.
I’m not just embracing my age now, I’m celebrating it, and I’m intentionally walking with my younger sisters, encouraging them to earn a few laughing lines of their own.
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 (NIV)