Getting in my two miles in the morning is a contemplative exercise. Yesterday I kept noticing the signs of winter and Christmas and snow. My neighbors have been busy decking the halls. But the snowman in the yard seemed to be wearing a forlorn kind of store-bought smile sitting there in the pile of musty brown leaves. I heard music as I passed Mrs. Jones’ house and it was hard to tell if it was a cd of “Silver Bells” playing through the bedroom window or the stirring of the wind chimes in the autumn breeze. And my own wooden snowman hanging beside my kitchen door was snuggled in his festive green woolen scarf…but it was at least sixty degrees out there and, with weights on my ankles and two miles behind me, I was burning up in my shirt sleeves. Walking in the house to my own music blaring about the fire being so delightful, I looked over at the Keurig and all the ciders and chais and cocoas…and then opened the refrigerator and grabbed an ice cold bottle of water. It was an exercise in irony.
Sometimes, we as women let our lives get a little mixed up like that. It’s the December of our lives. We’re getting wrinkles and gray hair, love handles and age spots. But inside we feel like we’re thirty, so we pretend it’s July and get highlights and buy concealers and start shopping for Spanx products. Though these things are not wrong in themselves, the finished picture is often a little like the snowman sitting in the pile of leaves. Sometimes we don’t look (or feel) very real.
Why do we spend our childhoods wanting to be adults and then spend the majority of the adult years willing ourselves in the other direction? While perhaps, in part, it’s our yield to human nature, I believe, for Christian women, it’s often a yield to the desires of the flesh. The allure of outward beauty and all of its attendant pursuits is glamorized in the media and in our peer groups. It’s on every aisle at WalMart. It’s in your pantry and in your cosmetic case. If your daughter is beyond the age of four, it’s invading every part of her world. And it is just so very oppositional to God’s definition of true beauty.
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised, (Proverbs 31:30).
I wish I could tell you that there are some easy answers–some shortcuts– to being more about the Spirit and less about the flesh. I wish there was a pill I could take to hone my will; to anesthetize me to what the world thinks is important and fertilize my heart for the cultivation of the fruits of the Spirit. But, alas, the Spirit has revealed the mind of Christ through the Word of God (I Cor. 2:16). It’s only by getting into the Word, regularly and diligently, that I can dilute the fierce delusion that there’s great honor in outward beauty. The Word of God is the anecdote to depression about wrinkles and arthritis. The Word of God is the secret to eternal youth for the most important part of you and me. Hear it:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.
For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (II Cor. 4:16-18)
If you’re about a great physique, toned muscles, great skin and all of the trappings of the flesh, your dreams will abruptly come to a halt, for all flesh will die just like the brown grass under the store-bought snowman (I Peter 1:24). But if you’re about love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, faith and temperance, then you’re all about what the years can never take from you. You are about the Spirit. In fact the very next verse after this list of fruits say you have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts (Gal. 5:24). That intense desire to maintain the standards of beauty that characterize the world is already dead. You already nailed that woman to the cross of Jesus. Let’s be sure she’s dead. If she, like Scrooge said, “is dead as a door nail,” then you can be free from the insufferable quest for youth and beauty. You can enjoy July when it’s July and you can feel just as spiritually exuberant when it’s December and the joints start to ache a little. In fact, when your knees pop or your neck disappears (or worse), you can actually rejoice a little because you know that you’re getting closer to the incorruptible never-grow-old body that the Lord will give the righteous.
For some of my friends who read this blog, it’s April. Be patient. Enjoy April’s blessings of godly friends, parental guidance. Spend time in prayer. Read the Bible and other great books to help you prepare for your amazing adventure with God. Spend less time watching television and more time getting to know elderly people. The’ll be gone soon. Stop looking at your phone all the time and look into the eyes of your parents, if you are blessed to have them around. Ask them for advice and heed it. God’s preparing an unbelievable life for you. There’s a Christian man somewhere, in all likelihood, who is getting himself ready for someone just like you. And, when it’s May or June, he will come and find you and, in God’s perfect time you will move to the beautifully hectic summer of life.
If you are in the summer already and those babies are tugging at the strings of your apron and your heart, bask in this summertime. Treasure every fleeting day. Know that, where you are living, summer is the shortest season. Fill those babies with the Word. Love your husband passionately and protectively. Stop wondering what life is like on the outside and start wondering at what He’s doing with it right within the walls of your house. You are right now, multiplying your potential for the Spirit through those little lives you influence. Live in this moment!
If you are in the autumn, like I am, find the beauty in the changes. You are wondering, “How did I get to be fifty, all of a sudden?…What are these spots popping up on my hand and did that doctor just say ‘arthritis’?” If you’ve done your child-rearing job already, you know you are excited about those grandchildren. You are going to watch the exponent factor of the grace of God at work as your family grows. How fun! If things didn’t go as well as you now wish they had, see those grandchildren as the challenge of your lifetime. Make it your mission to put the Lord in their hearts and pray fervently that you may reach their parents through the seed you are planting in those babies. Love your husband if you are blessed to have him still and fill the empty nest with the bustle that evangelism inevitably brings…a bustle of hospitality and benevolence. Stay in the Word.
If you are in the winter, may I say once more…”Stay in the Word.” I have friends who can no longer see the print, so they listen to the Word on cd. I have friends who can no longer hear, so they spend hours in the written Word. I have friends who evangelize at the retirement home and I have friends who spend many hours grading correspondence courses for Bible students in foreign lands. My winter friends are the best card senders and some of them are the best cooks for the sick. Many are amazing bread bakers for our visitor’s basket in the foyer and some are the most amazing greeters and huggers in the church. I think they are practicing for the amazing reunion they are awaiting where age will no longer be a limiting factor. They truly live as if they are closer to a great destination. They spend time in prayer and praise for the journey they will soon be taking.
Wherever you are, be there…and be real.