I’m not going to lie. The moment I spotted my first grey hair was monumental. I literally didn’t believe it. Just short of forty, I was surviving a traumatic romantic crash-and-burn, and the stress caused a huge, noticeable hair loss. When the regrowth started, alas, there was grey in it. This was completely outrageous because I was far too young, besides being not genetically prone to early greying, or so I thought. To this day, I have more silvery threads on my head than my mother.
No one likes to gaze into the glaring mirror of aging. Planning for retirement, even saving for it when you’re younger, does not prepare you for the jolt of actually crossing big age markers. Nor does it forewarn you in any way about the dramatic and difficult adjustments that quickly ensue. Growing old is a vast, dangerously unknown wilderness where anything could happen with breath-taking speed. The blithe arrogance of youth and confidence in the future you had as you burst out of graduation’s gates were replaced by the harsh adulthood of pain, disillusionment, betrayal and injustice. Just when you get through that perilous mountain crossing, you hit the Sahara of life’s eldership. Time overtakes you. Reckless, selfish decisions of younger inevitably come home to roost. Lurking genetic beasts come out of the woodwork. It’s time to pay the piper. All the cinematic black and white of being The Star in your own marquee drama suddenly fades to grey. But that might not be a bad thing.
The glory of young men is their strength, And the splendor of old men is their gray head. Proverbs 20:29
If you’re paying attention, Scripture is handing out some really important information about how to grow old well. Aspects of life that once brought you personal glory, attention, success or wealth change. That needs to be acknowledged. Honor doesn’t come from the same place it used to. When strength is diminished, it finds replacement in maturity, experience and wisdom. Learn to let go and gracefully hand over the reins to the next generation, because time will inevitably bring you to your anointed moment to shine.
One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is the story of the Wise Woman of Abel (2 Samuel 20:13-22). Though her given name is never actually revealed, her outstanding characteristic, courageous conviction, is. When the traitorous Sheba arose after the insurrection of Absalom, Joab, David’s head of army tracked him down to a small town called Abel. As Joab proceeds to besiege Abel, bringing great hardship upon the walled city, our paragon, the Wise Woman of Abel comes out from the city to confront him. She informs him of the city’s reputation for peace and sagacity, reminding him that it is “a mother in Israel”. Her wisdom stops the hardened and dangerous warrior in his tracks. He is forced to concede to her logic and listen to her plan. The head of the rebel is sent over the wall, and Joab and the troops decamp for Jerusalem without shedding a drop of blood. Disadvantaged with age, sex and probably poverty, this righteous daughter of Zion still wins the day for all. Yeaahh, grey hairs!
The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness. Proverbs 16:31
One of the most inexplicable things about aging is the delicate way it tempers us. Life is not always, well, not even usually, black and white, although this is often the hill we want to die on. We learn to muse gently in the shades of grey. (I’m not talking about Fifty Shades here!). Experience tutors us on how to remain gracefully in uncomfortable mental and emotional processes and let them run their full course. It’s a gift to be able to stop making snap judgments about people, relationships and how to preserve our own dignity at any cost. Releasing our cultural biases, religious correctness or personal obstinacy is not a fast process, but tempering does incredibly occur. The great strength and hidden advantage of passivity becomes apparent. It’s a relief to relinquish the Alpha Dog position.
I’ve always loved grey. Nature is overflowing with fabulous shades. Massive storm-clouds looming dramatically. The spiraling plume of smoke, or icy translucency of the hoarfrost. Weathered wood and stone. If only we could age that blithely as well. Will we accept our years with the dignity and power the Lord intended, or fight it? Do we trust Him to carry us through our latter days?
Not surprisingly, my hair is much more silvery now than that first shocking moment I encountered my mortality. But it's become my crown of glory.
Frankly, platinum always was my best look.
cb Image by Bing
I will be taking my regular October break from Blogging. Shalom, and see you in November.