Age Before Beauty?

You may have heard the idiom “age before beauty.” It’s said in good humor when a younger person lets an older one go ahead of him – say, through a doorway, or in taking a first slice of cake. I heard it for the first time as a kid, playing games in my parents’ swimming pool. A younger kid said it me (punk!) and when I realized what it meant, it struck me as strange. Why are these two things separate? Is age incompatible with beauty? Is to be old to be not-beautiful?

Now I’m 35, and it just recently struck me that I have never felt more beautiful. Nor have I ever looked less objectively “beautiful” in my life. I don’t look in the mirror and see a supermodel; I see a real version of myself who has ten (okay, 15) pounds of baby weight still hanging around. I have a C-section scar that didn’t heal perfectly. I see hills and valleys where there used to be flat plains, things that used to be high getting lower, wide feet that grew (and stayed) wider due to pregnancy. There are tiny baby creases forming around my eyes. My skin needs more potent moisturizer than it did in my twenties. My nail polish is chipped from kitchen work, my shins are bruised from run-ins with kids’ toys.

No, I don’t see a supermodel when I look in the mirror. But, I do see a BEAUTY. I see wisdom in my eyes that wasn’t there ten years ago. That glow in my cheeks? My sweet husband keeps that fire lit with his open appreciation of my body and my soul.  I see deep peace that developed in doubting God’s goodness and then seeing His goodness proven, on a thousand different occasions. There’s a brokenness accompanied by deep joy, thanks to my toddlers, who daily break my spirit and then heal it again.  There’s a true confidence in the abilities I’ve discovered in myself over the years, a strength forged in the fires I’ve walked through, large and small. I see a fierce yet tender vessel with cracks and scars that only add to its character.

I am older but somehow more vital, more comfortable in my skin and my voice and my self than ever before. I now realize how raw and unfinished I felt at 23 – slimmer, fresher, and more full of energy, yes – but so relatively unaware of (or ready for) the pain and glory of living. It wasn’t something I could’ve recognized or changed at the time, just a feeling that I now understand. This understanding makes me look forward to the aging I have left to do. I’m not wasting away — I’m flourishing.

So to the world, I say “YES! Age before beauty!” For to age is to become something more excellent, more enchanting than the word “beautiful” can capture.

image.

To age, you have to live, but more than that – you have to live THROUGH and ABOVE and BEYOND it all. You have to fight and you have to surrender, over and over again. You earn scars and stories, enlightenment and strength.

To me, that’s just plain beautiful.

Psalm 92:12-14:

But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God.
Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.

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2 Comments

  1. Catherine — this one made me cry! I can so relate. Beautiful, beautiful words. I love this line, “You earn scars and stories, enlightenment and strength.”

  2. Rosemary Stamper, the MIL says:

    I loved this too for now in my 60’s I look in the mirror and see way more wrinkles, extra weight and yes gray hair (those ones that did not get colored?). I would not trade any of it though because it means I have lived and loved and the memories are outstanding!

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