As it turns out, Dolly’s line in Steel Magnolias was both a maxim and a promise: Time has continued to march on, and it’s digging its boots in my face as it passes by. I have already developed the first “1” of the dreaded eyebrow “11.” It’s a noticeable crease, about an inch long. I have learned these lines are referred to as “static lines” in dermatology, as they are now a permanent addition to my face. I have no doubt that solitary crease will have its partner sooner rather than later.
On top of this, I have a bright white patch of hair that sits on the top of my head. At first, I secretly hoped it was some sort of birthmark that had just developed in my early twenties. Dear reader, I have distressing news: that birthmark seems to grow daily. I somehow find more and more of those silver strands all over my head. Social media advertisements for cosmetic procedures are now less of an insult than an injurious truth. The algorithm is merciless in its message: I’m getting older, and it’s getting easier to tell.
Now I acknowledge that I’m certainly not what most people over the age of twenty-seven would consider old. I’m in my early thirties, and God willing I will not stay here. I’m looking forward to old age in comfortable socks, mainly because it’s the inevitable outcome if I keep waking up in the morning. I have very little choice in the matter, it turns out.
When the creases and lines first started peeking through, I researched every sort of beautifying potion I could find. (If you would like to know how they worked out, you can read the above paragraphs again.) Necessity has forced me to reevaluate the situation that I’m in. Over time, a new attitude slowly overtook the internal monologue that plays just after waking and right before going to bed. The web that weaves its way over my face reminds me of what I have, what I’ve endured, and the faithfulness of a Father who is all too good to me.
Marks of God’s Faithfulness
I look at the creases that are forming on my cheekbones and see evidence of witty friends and laughter that “doeth good like a medicine” (Prov. 17:22 KJV). Just under the far corners of my eyes are grooves that show the times I’ve spent in the warm sun—leisurely time reading in a hammock, lounging on a sandy beach, squinting out at red deserts I’d previously only read about. The world we live in is full of beautiful things, and our Father has been so good as to let us live in an age where these things are more accessible than they’ve ever been before. A few creases are a small price to pay for exploring a world formed and sustained for our enjoyment.
The lines on my forehead remind me of the hours in classes, in libraries, out to sea, and in parts unknown. They testify to the gift of learning, an opportunity that not many receive, and even fewer get to finish. Many times, I’ve been given the opportunity to learn from the best, which is not to conflate wisdom with a Ph.D. Not all my teachers had a doctorate; some had barely finished high school. That education took place inside and outside the classroom, in and out of season. Like most of life, it was a mixed bag: it’s never easy having your weakness exposed in front of others. But regardless of the ups and downs, it was still for my good. Good, however, doesn’t necessarily arrive at our doorstep that way. Sometimes it evolves out of sorrow (Rom. 8:28).
Let me be frank: Those marks show the hard times too—days and nights spent with my eyes screwed shut and burning with tears. We often bear the consequences of someone else’s actions, as well as our own. Despite the evil that thrives in this life, our Creator has made this earth flourish nonetheless. He sustains us as well, down to the very last and weakest years of our lives (Isa. 46:4)
That bright white sprout of hair reminds me of the lean years: Years of turmoil, anxiety, and great pain that couldn’t be bypassed. The only way out was through. There were long years of God’s silence while I sat in deep darkness. But God’s mysterious and equally silent provision sustained me amid my tears and ceaseless questioning. While those dark times took their toll on my body, the Holy Spirit faithfully and quietly ministered to my soul.
I look in the mirror now and I’m reminded that Christ will hold me fast. Whatever the years ahead hold, He’s already there waiting for me. My Father has ordained for me every good thing, and he will always order the difficult times for my ultimate good. The Holy Spirit will continue to minister to me with his comforting presence (John 16:7). That streak of colorless hair will continue its slow and steady progress, most likely sped along by the pain that awaits me in the coming years. But I do not have to be a defeatist. My King will lead me to the other side, as he has done before. I see the proof of that written all over my face.