“My hair is really getting gray,” she says to me as she combs her fingers through a couple inches of waves. “Do I look old?”
“You look your age,” I say. And, because I know that doesn’t seem comforting enough, “You have a young face, but I like that you look your age. We have enough people trying to act like they are younger than they are. Culturally, we need more witnesses of how to get older.”
My mom is not one of those moms that causes people to ask us, “Are you girls sisters?” She has not insisted on celebrating her “39th” birthday for years ad infinitum. As a woman in her early 60s, her short hair is graying more and more with every year. While I never really knew my mom as a young woman, I know from pictures that over the years she has changed shapes, sizes, and styles.
I love all of these things about my mom, because they point to an authenticity that our world needs. To many, growing older is something they fear and something they hide from at all costs. They don’t want to admit their age, as though the wisdom and experience that comes with time is worth far less than the freshness of youth. It is something I do not understand, but perhaps that is because I am sometimes still mistaken for a high school student. Everyone knows that as time passes we grow older, yet as a culture we are still trying to act as though it is not so.
I’m sure that as time goes on I will feel the pressure to look younger than my years. But I’m glad for the witness of my mother in this regard. It isn’t that she let herself go–she still looks beautiful. She knows, however, that the most important thing is not looking like a 30-year old woman when she isn’t one. I like to think that more than youth, my mother cherishes the experiences and life that have brought her to this day. Over the years she has given birth to five children and sacrificed much of her mental energy and time to raise them. In the easy and the hard times, she has remained faithful for over forty years to my father. Her heart has ached for, worried over, and loved her children throughout the transitions, challenges, and changes. People who know her can clearly see her gentleness, concern for others, and her willingness to serve without being acknowledged.
My mother is not perfect and she knows it. Yet she does not spend her time chasing after the fountain of youth. What a waste it would be to spend your life running after what was only meant to be yours for a brief time. The time is better spent learning to fall deeper in love with the Lord and with people around you. I am thankful for the gift that my mother is in this particular way. She is showing how to navigate growing older with grace and acceptance. In that, she is able to share the wisdom that she has gained over the years. And wisdom, that is something that is closely linked with age and experience.