Friday, July 14, 2006
Through the Looking Glass, Darkly (Day 3)
Mother was 37 when I was born. One of my earliest memories is how she would stand under our bathroom vanity lights (what a misnomer, they should be called humility lights) slowly surveying her face, evaluating worrisome signs of aging and then moving on to the next feature. I tracked her eye movements from the crows’ feet at her temple to her laugh lines and then to her neck. She would raise her chin, cock her head to the right, and delicately trace the length of her neck from top to bottom. I didn’t know what she was thinking then, but I do now. I am just about to turn 44.
When I was a teenager, I swore to myself I would never kick and scream about aging like some women. I would think, “Why can’t they just age gracefully? What’s the big deal? Are all women vain?”
I guess I am. Occasionally, people tell me that I don’t look my age. I say thanks and slough it off as if it meant nothing. But inside, I have thoroughly, albeit momentarily, enjoyed the comment.
I feel bad to enjoy being told I look young, like I’m selling out to the media’s lie that youth is the pinnacle of life. I do want to age gracefully. When I feel frustration rise about a new wrinkle or ache, I wonder if I’m behaving like a jilted woman on the Jerry Springer show, throwing punches into the air at who/whatever is nearby. If a woman is honest, she’ll tell you, it ain’t pretty to lose your pretty.
In my defense, I have always believed that I am more than my skin or clothes. But I’m also more than the feminist conception of significance, which bases my worth on my degree, career, and significant output. In addition, I feel like I’m more than the roles that Christianity has traditionally endorsed for women: keeper of the hearth, wife, and mother. I’m a combination of these traits and roles, plus more, as is every woman.
Deeper and more complex than any observation another could make about me is that I am a woman who wants to fulfill her destiny and display her truest self: who I am in Christ. No matter what falls apart on my body or what real or imagined disapproval haunts me, I’m always aware that here is one who desired that I should exist and then designed me with a special reason. Often, in a twist on 1 Corinthians 13:12, I’m only able to see myself as I would through a dim mirror, but as time passes, if I’m faithful to pursue his purpose for me, my destiny will become clearer and clearer, until the day the big questions are completely answered.
For now, when I walk by a mirror and see both the girl I used to be and the older woman I’m becoming, I’ll remember that life’s mirrors hide our true images and fog the promise of an extravagantly fulfilling life to come. On that great day, I’ll see my designer “face to face,” and “I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”