I can pretend I'm not aging as quickly as I am, until I notice my eyes and hands. They used to appear youthful and unlined, and they don't anymore. The crinkles by my eyes when I smile give away my age much faster than any number on the calendar in December when my age goes up by a year.
I look at twenty year olds now and I want their smooth skin, their toned bodies, and their baby soft hands. Mine are starting to look more reptilian than human (perhaps I simply need more hand cream?). I must admit that often I am shocked when I glance at my hands because they used to look so young, and now they look more like my mom's hands. My eyes are the same. When did this extra skin appear under my eyes and beside them? When I really smile it starts to bunch up and I think I could probably pack a lunch in there and carry it around with me.
I may long for the youthful bodies I see around me, but I would never go back to being as unsure and unsettled as I felt at twenty. The cosmetic stuff will change for everyone, as we are all getting older day by day, but the work that has been done inside of me is forever.
I read a book a few years ago called The Story We Find Ourselves In by Brian McLaren and he explored the idea of heaven as a place where we are all fully ourselves, aware of every moment of who we were becoming, all in a pleasing whole with nothing missing or forgotten. That was the first description of heaven that genuinely made me excited about the experience, and I've never let go of it.
What is physical will pass away, but I love to think that who I am inside will never tarnish or fade, but remain forever, within those people I've invested in, and also in whatever is to come next after this life. I like to hope that my children will be further ahead in their identities and confidence as young adults; that their launch into the world on their own will be with a surer footing than I experienced. This is the gift I desperately want to give them, so they have a chance to appreciate their youth in a way that I missed because I was so buried within myself.
Coming to terms with the physical parts of aging is a long and difficult process. It's one step forward and then a few back. On a daily basis, I must conquer my fear of my body failing me, breaking down and not supporting all that I want to do as I get older. I can combat my fear with my faith in God, who is much bigger than I am, and who loves me and cherishes me whether I'm old or young, or somewhere in between. My hands and my eyes are beginning to tell the tale of my thirty-seven years on earth, and the lines and pouches say, "I'm here, and I'm living and learning every day, and the more I laugh, the more lines I create, and I'm not about to stop laughing."