I know she would be horrified to think she’d left anyone out. Or hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s not what she meant to do at all. But she did. It’s so easy to do…. I’m sure I’ve done it, too.
It wasn’t anything that a lot of other speakers haven’t already said. I’d heard it before. And for some women, it was perfectly true.
She was talking about the difficulty of aging in a culture that worships beauty. And how easy it is to compare ourselves to others (or to our younger selves) and to feel unattractive or undesirable or unworthy.
She wanted us to focus not on what we had lost, all the years had taken from us – but on what we had gained, all we had been given. She wanted us to remember how we got our lines, our scars, our stretch marks, our gray hair.
Our children gave them to us.
Our families. Through the years, the good times and the bad… but mostly good. And she went on to enumerate all the precious memories and rites of passage, the traditional wife- and mothering experiences.
Today, if I may, I want to speak to the women that (for just a moment, unintentionally) she left out.
All the single ladies… and all the childless women, married or not… who still have to face aging.
Lines, wrinkles, gray hair, scars, and stretch marks –they eventually appear, regardless of whether or not you have children.
And to the women who have had children, but don’t have many happy memories. Because of the pain, the heartache, the trauma, the drama — some of which may still be ongoing.
And to the women whose signs of aging, and whose scars – physical or emotional or spiritual – have nothing whatsoever to do with their marital status or child-bearing.
There are a lot of things in life that can leave a mark on you.
Here’s what I want to say to YOU about those lines and wrinkles, that gray hair, those stretch marks and scars….
- They are absolute proof that you belong. You have something in common with every other woman in every room you walk into – because they have them (or are about to have them), too. Despite what the enemy has been telling you, you are not any less of a woman. And God has not singled you out for suffering – or neglected or abandoned you. Our journeys may be different, the trials we go through… But at the end of the day, we can all relate to the misery of trying on bathing suits in department stores, and the cruel things dressing room mirrors can do.
- Your scars say you are a survivor. I know that much. I don’t honestly know if you’re a thriver – because what doesn’t kill you doesn’t always make you stronger. Some of my wounds have made me weaker, when they failed to heal properly, when I let bitterness or resentment or unforgiveness fester. But I’m still here. You’re still here. And as cemeteries full of people can attest to, that’s something. It may be cliché, but it doesn’t make it less true: While there’s life, there’s hope. Even for those wounds that still need healing — no matter how old, no matter how deep.
- You have learned a LOT of things. Seriously. You know stuff. You’ve seen stuff. You’ve experienced it. And knowledge is a very valuable, very powerful thing – especially when it’s accompanied by wisdom. And patience, kindness, and generosity. All of which you have had – or will have – the opportunity to develop even more of, as time goes by. More than beauty or energy or strength (the glory of youth), that knowledge has the power to keep you and the people you love alive. (See #2) Truly alive, in the best possible sense. Thriving. And if you choose, you can use what you know to comfort and strengthen so many other people who are hurting.
- Your scars, your signs of aging, are your testimony. Your very own personal reminders of where you have been on your journey, where God has brought you, and all that He’s seen you through. Kind of like the “Footprints” poem, but with more kicking and screaming.
- As far as we know, your scars and mine are only temporary. In Heaven, we’ll be given brand new perfect bodies that never break down, never wear out, never age. Bible scholars think those bodies may be at the “ideal peak of adult physical maturity” – the way God created Adam and Eve. I don’t remember ever going through that phase here. If I did, it didn’t last long. (I think I was at my goal weight for about five minutes in 2002.) Talk about a whole new experience to look forward to! To be free — not just of the physical, but the emotional and spiritual scars. And all that aging, that external and internal wear and tear, too.
Unlike us, the Scripture says, Jesus will bear His scars for all eternity. They’re precious to Him – those reminders of His suffering. (John 20:24-27)
“I did this for you…”
No matter how we got them, if we bear them in the right spirit, if we offer them to Him, our scars – while we have them – can be precious to us, too.