The Idolatry of Youth
In a culture that worships 17-year-old celebrities and upholds teenage bodies as the epitome of womanhood, it’s easy to feel old. By these standards, we’re “old” when we hit 26! We live in a world with multimillion dollar industries built around erasing wrinkles, covering gray, and squeezing in sagging body parts. Age is treated like a disease to be cured, an embarrassing symptom to be suppressed. If the cultural epitome of womanhood is a perfectly toned adolescent body, then we’re all in trouble! After all, our bodies begin their downhill slide into deterioration as early as our 20s.
While there’s certainly no harm in covering our roots or concealing age spots, we must ask ourselves a critical question: Is “young” really what we’re after? Are we buying into a cultural idolatry of short-lived fun, flawlessly smooth skin, and idealized young-adulthood? Or are we yearning for—and called to—something deeper?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t look to teenagers to give me advice about self-worth or calling or grace. I don’t turn to 18-year-olds for insights about marriage and lasting love. I go to heroes who are weather-worn, lifefull, and familiar with the ways of repentance and grace. I turn to the role models who speak from hard-won experience and who’ve hewn wisdom out of decades of prayer and faithfulness. These are the women I want to be like as I grow up.
In God’s economy, age is an honor. From the perspective of faith, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life” (Proverbs 16:31). As we age, we gain perspective; we grow in self-knowledge; we sharpen our God-awareness; we learn to more readily bend the knee in worship, in repentance, in humility. In this issue of Today’s Christian Woman, we explore the God-shaped process of maturation and we celebrate the goodness of aging.
It’s important to note, of course, that maturation and aging aren’t necessarily the same thing—and this is especially true of spiritual maturation. In “Growing Old with Grace,” Dorothy Greco discusses how one’s commitment to truly follow Jesus makes a profound difference in how we age and the person we become. Will we do life with Jesus and, in our old age, be more like him than we are today? Or will we be shaped over time by self-centeredness and bitterness?
In “The Perks of Aging,” septuagenarian Judy Douglass builds upon Dorothy’s theme, highlighting the perspective and the many blessings that come from doing life with God over many decades. While aging certainly has its challenges, Judy reminds us that it is also rich with goodness.
The passage of time not only ages us as individuals, but it also impacts our marriages. What’s the difference between a marriage that gets stuck in a lifeless rut and a marriage that matures and flourishes with the passage of time? Authentic Intimacy’s Linda Dillow explores key principles for building a marriage that can stand the test of time in “A Marriage that Ages Well.”
The truth is that along with blessings, aging also brings painful and difficult challenges. For many families today, the struggles of aging are tied to a new and weighty responsibility: caring for elderly parents. In “The Long Goodbye,” Virginia Stem Owens explores both the difficulties and the surprising invitations woven throughout the experience of caregiving.
A bout with cancer in her early 30s gave Suzanne Eller a unique perspective on life—and its value. In “Appreciating the Wrinkles in Life,” Suzanne shares her own story of learning to celebrate and deeply appreciate the good gift of aging.
I distinctly remember my grandmother—who endured multiple strokes—defiantly saying, “Growing old isn’t for wimps!” It certainly isn’t. It’s for the determined. For the grateful. For the patient. For the wise. For the humble. For the soul-rich.
That’s who I want to become as I’m “growing up.” How about you?
In grace, in gratitude,
Kelli B. Trujillo, Editor
Follow me @kbtrujillo and @TCWomancom
Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women
The Idolatry of Youth
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