Thursdays are usually geared towards answering theological questions I receive in my role as a pastor. However, today I wanted to share a piece that’s not quite “theology” as much as it is a meditation on the cross as an answer to our cultural perspective on the signs of aging. I pray it’s an encouragement to you.
Thoughts on the Signs of Age
Why is it that the particular signs of advancing age —graying hair, growing veins, wrinkling skin— are so often less desirable to us than the physical marks of youth?
Biologists would say we’re hard-wired to prize youth because of its reproductive viability. Survival of the species depends on a ready supply of healthy individuals who are able to reproduce effectively and provide viable offspring.
Sociologists might point to a multi-layered cultural system that prizes sexuality above almost all else, and therefore magnifies youth as the embodiment of that desire.
Others might point to the idea that with the outward signs of aging comes the inescapable reminder of our own mortality and eventual death, such that the more we can surround ourselves with displays of youth, the easier it is to distract ourselves from the reality of our inevitable death.
Some would say that the outer signs of aging are an all-too-true mirror of the inward aging of the soul, and if one’s experience is of pain and toil and a growing sense of the loss of the “good ole’ days,” then any reminder of that is something to flee or mask, indeed.
Perhaps it’s the sense that the older we are, the less able we are to produce or accomplish, and in a world that often ranks a person’s value by their achievement, a lessening of that ability seems like a decrease in worth as a person.
Maybe the veins and the hair and the wrinkles are unwanted reminders of the growing loss of innocence, the increasing distance from a time when we were carefree and careless, before the crushing weight of the world took its place like a vulture on our shoulders.
Maybe we prize youth and dread old age, simply because it seems like everyone else does.
Perhaps it’s the fear of pain, sickness or suffering that drives us to close our eyes and mask the marks of growing old, as if we could stay well and safe simply by willing it to be so.
Likely a major reason we don’t desire the signs of aging is the sense that their presence will prevent other people from desiring us —for any of the other reasons— and no one wants to feel unwanted.
Look, now, at the cross of Jesus Christ.
Look on the agony, the injustice of betrayal, and hear the Word of Truth, “I did this for YOU, because I made you, and I desire you.”
See the nail marks and the blood stains, the rough splintered timber that received the lacerated back of a dying Savior, and hear the gentle reminder, “My suffering was great, yet my deliverance was sure, and so is yours.”
Think of the loneliness, the total abandonment of close friends and the jeering scorn of the crowd, and be strengthened by His lone voice crying out clear, “I hung alone for you so you could walk along with me. The crowd doesn’t matter, only my love for you.”
Remember the promise of His blood, “This is my blood, poured out for the forgiveness of sins,” and hear it cry out from the muddy ground of Calvary, “You are innocent! You are forgiven! You are clean!”
See the hands of the carpenter, calloused and strong, now so cruelly nailed to wood he never wanted, bones splintering before the spikes, unable to work any more…for now.
Hear His cry from the cross, “It is finished! It is done!” and be reminded that He did His final work to secure not just your final rest, but a life of rest even now. Nothing remains to be earned or accomplished to secure the love of God —it is finished.
Look to the streets leading up to the hill of execution. See the innocent man carrying His own cross for you, and hear His words to your weary soul, “Come to me, all who are weak and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Let His burden lighten yours and restore to you the strength of soul that slipped away so long ago.
Turn now, away from the hill of the cross and look towards the garden tomb. See it there, its entrance stone rolled away, merely a vacant space now because HE IS NOT THERE and no more does death have the last word.
Hear His promise to those who believe, “I AM the life…if anyone comes to me, they will never die.”
He was released from His tomb in the ground.
Now through Him, may you be released from the tomb of the age of fear, and the fear of age.