With too many dramatic changes in too short of time came loads of worry, fear, swirling, unnamed emotions, and stuffed down experiences surfacing out of seemingly nowhere. Looking in the mirror one morning, only a couple months after our honeymoon, I wasn’t as shocked as I thought I’d be to notice the landscape of my skin.
My skin’s youthful radiance was dimming. Its ability to protect itself from the elements was fading away.
Wrinkles, for the first time, were staring back at me at 28 years old.
Inside I felt the same way. Wrinkled. Cracked. Losing my prized ability to protect myself from every ache and trial.
Sharing my body, a bed, and a kitchen with someone for the first time, setting up a home together half-way around the world, turned out not to be as romantic as I’d envisioned.
The journey of opening myself up to another human being and to God in new ways felt harsh, unnatural to someone who spent most of her life covered and obsessed with modesty in all its forms.
I remember distinctly driving to a friend’s house for dinner with my husband, unable to pull myself together by the time we arrived, I felt too embarrassed to go in. My tears felt indecent. Eventually, my friend came and pulled me from the car.
We spent the rest of the evening holding each other’s hearts with tenderness. We sang and prayed peace into our innermost beings to the tune of her husband’s guitar.
Looking back I was in the beginning stages of grieving the loss of my childish, innocent life. A time when I felt untouchable, invincible, and so very certain about everything.
I couldn’t deny the aging process any longer. Our western world makes millions of dollars by fooling people into thinking they are immune to growing old. Somehow the severe realities of life will never reach out and cripple them or leave creases on their skin.
Living in South Africa for our first four years of marriage, gave me a needed, long awaited empathy for my pale skin and soft soul. The heat in Africa makes a person want to run for cover, searching for shade becomes a mindless habit 350 days of the year.
One cannot afford to go without sunscreen not even for five minutes.
There’s no lotion we can lather on against life though. It is as intense as the unhindered rays of those endless, unforgiving South African summer days.
The furious heat of life ages us without permission. One day, even if it’s in the throes of one of the best seasons of life, we will look in the mirror and see a different person.
Age has a way of finding us and further, curing us of our fears. There are no creams or concoctions we can mix up to prevent ourselves from looking, feeling, and growing older.
We can spend every year of our life trying to blot out the wrinkles with nude foundation and shimmering blush or a ball cap to hide the lines. Sadly, we all do this, for awhile at least.
We are not a culture that honors or admits age. We are not taught how to smile at the sight of wrinkles in the mirror or the cracks in our own soul.
But our humanity is dying to peek out from beneath the hubris of our anti-aging attempts and our painted-on skin, and break the idols of youthfulness and control.
Our soul, too, is desperate for us to relish its wrinkles and be able to celebrate every year we grow in our ability to be exposed, to become more vulnerable.
When we stop trying to hide our weakness and pain from others, or in other words give up on fortifying ourselves against death, and instead start savoring our humanity, only then do we know what it is to live and be free, regardless of our age.