Welcome to the bleak midwinter. When you hit these days in the deep freeze of January, the weather tyrannizes everything. Whole days are formed, like hoarfrost, around how frigid it is, whether the wind is howling and it’s safe to travel; how well your vehicle or tires handle the icy/snowy/foggy/blizzardy conditions; how much energy or will you possess to battle the prevailing circumstances. No wonder Albertans check the temperature several times a day, and the forecast dominates our conversations!
On the plus side, we’ve had several mornings of awaking to the fragile, unearthly, unspeakable beauty of heavy hoarfrost. It’s a meteorological miracle so unique it almost makes up for the cost of the winter. It is literally the silver-lining in the harsh desolation of dormancy. Great idea, God! Nothing so exquisite as these glistening crystals magnifying the silhouette of things and bouncing light around with gay abandon. It’s like being placed inside a jewel box. Take a walk with child-like eyes and marvel at the elevated dignity it bestows on the most mundane of objects.
Recently, I’ve been paying attention to the widening strip of hoarfrost coloring my world, and showing clearly in the mirror. I remember the utterly shocked, disbelieving sensation I felt upon spotting my first grey hair. It couldn’t be! I was way too young! Silvery-gray is definitely here, but now that I’ve embraced it, I realize it’s sweetly granting to my complexion the platinum tonality I’ve been fighting with hairstylists for 30 years to impart (no! I do not want a honey blonde!). Watching this unmistakable marker of vintage, I have to ask the question: can we receive the hoar-frost whitening the edges of our lives with the equal wonder we afford it in nature? Do we respect (and embrace) the aging process with the expectation it will produce a beauty we have not witnessed before?
The world devalues people as they age, but that is not how God thinks. The Lord has no less tangible, manifested blessing for those in their last decade of life as those in the peak of their strength. He gazes with the same tender dotage on the nonagenarian as upon the newborn. He has tasks so refined, so significant and unique, that only someone with a requisite collection of both days and experience may execute them properly. In God’s sight, the aged saint is a thing of beauty.
The silver head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness. Proverbs 16:31 KJV
Beloved, our problem is not that this is not true. Our problem is that we do not believe it. Not really, anyway, although much lip service is floating around. Truth to tell, we’d rather possess the vitality of youth than the wisdom of decades. We get depressed about growing older because we do not possess an accurate expectation of unfolding glory. We’re paranoid about what we don’t know and can’t control, and in the natural course of things, fear will simply grow if we give place to it. Count on becoming consumed with anxiety, dissatisfaction, intimidation, discouragement and just plain misery, complete with corresponding physical manifestations of our dark spiritual energy. These are proof of yet another powerful maxim “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). In other words, if you buy into a world mentality rather than believing what God says, you will deteriorate rapidly with age. He’s got a promise that “our latter days will be greater”, but we’re going to have to fight for it, because there’s a churning maelstrom of negativity seeking to engulf our days. Apparently, they are so loaded with authority, aspiration and anointed activity that the Devil throws everything left in his arsenal at us to prevent their fulfillment!
Recently, I’ve been meditating on another passage in Proverbs that addresses the hoarfrost of aging. It runs like this.
The glory of young men is their strength and the beauty of old men is the gray head. Proverbs 20:29 KJV
Contrary to popular opinion, the gray head of aging possesses its own beauty. In Hebrew, the actual word used here, hadar, is translated ‘majesty, glory, ornament, honor or splendor’. It conveys the idea of both dignity and excellence. It’s a luscious, weighty word, and we're invited to take it seriously. This is the mantle with which God is prepared to array the faithful. Question: Are you poised to receive it?
There’s a grand old boy, not much celebrated, but present in the pages of the Old Testament, by the name of Barzallai (2 Samuel 17:27, 19:31-39). When King David fled Jerusalem in the Absalom revolt, and was hiding in the wilderness, this venerable saint came to visit and support the demoralized king, replete with victuals, practical supplies and moral sustenance. This aged Gileadite came, not to add to the rank of warriors, but to provide a strengthening of wisdom that was vital. He was completely indifferent to the fall-out of his actions; faithful only to his own inner convictions. He was exactly what David required at that moment, and as powerful a succor as ten-thousand troops.
As we grow older, we grow in the virtues of passivity; patience, forbearance, endurance, faithfulness and tolerance. We master 'left-handed' strength. We grasp the importance of waiting for something to come into its full, ripe moment of maturity. We tarry for the promises we hear in our spirit. There is a beauty that comes with meekness, humility, compassion and the docility of deep faith. It coalesces around our spirits like an unseen gemstone quality; shining in places we cannot see, but its presence nevertheless perceptible.
The hoarfrost comes in the complete, inert stillness of the winter, when in fact there is no movement, no verdure. Like the dew, it graciously shrouds objects with pristine magnificence that can never be duplicated. Don’t underestimate the glorious things made possible by age.
"He has made all things beautiful in their time." Ecclesiastes 3:11