Roy Lanier Jr. was teaching a class at Bear Valley School of Preaching one day when the topic of women’s beauty fixes came up—things like tummy tucks, liposuction, face lifts and teeth whitening were being debated. His response was, “Old barns sometimes need a coat of paint.”
And it is not just the ladies who are having face-lifts these days; men are increasingly more concerned with their physical appearance. Unlike the old barn that needs paint for preservation and usefulness, men, and women paint and tuck to seek praise and honor from others.
There is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man! (I Cor 10:13) Aging is going to happen to every one of us who doesn’t die first. As the cliché runs, “It’s better than the alternative!” We can’t do anything about the inevitability of the changes in our bodies, but we do have a choice how we handle them.
For some of us, it would seem safe to say we don’t give wrinkles or gray hair a whole lot of thought until they begin to appear on our own bodies, or on someone we’re close to. As a young person, I resolved, “Aging is a natural process, and when it happens to me I don’t plan to worry over it one bit. I’ll try to take it gracefully and with dignity. I’m going to take care of myself the best I can, and leave the rest to the Lord.” I never pondered the effects of the years on beauty. To me, someone was either “young, middle aged, old, or very old. Whether or not they were nice looking generally never entered my mind; their age was just part of who they were.
Now that I’m over forty, I’ve been entirely surprised to find that, at least for me, aging involves growing increasingly ugly! It’s a process that naturally evokes at least a measure of thought. I’ve learned from personal experience that it comes as rather an unpleasant surprise to wake up one morning and find those tired bags under your eyes just never disappear that day…or the next…or the next…or to have someone innocently remark, “You always used to look young for your age, but lately you’re looking more and more your age.”
I wouldn’t know first-hand, but I would guess that those folks who start out prettier may have harder time than the rest of us in dealing with the loss of beauty. But for anyone, no matter what we look like to begin with, it isn’t particularly pleasurable to find ourselves struggling mightily with saddlebags and cellulite, becoming friends with wrinkles, skin sagging, facial moles, age spots, chest sagging (or disappearing altogether,) hair graying or loss, growing nose, muscle loss…We all know the scene. Unfortunately, the changes not only affect us, they affect the way others perceive us as well.
Age isn’t popular. Youth is. Because we’re all constantly bombarded with this fact in the media, on billboards, everywhere we turn, we get the idea that youth and beauty are absolutely essential, even crucial. “Stopping the aging process” is not only portrayed as desirable, but also natural, acceptable, attainable, and indeed, the “right thing to do.” We even get the distinct impression that to age without trying mightily to look younger is somehow cowardly and careless, even despicable. Who hasn’t heard the remark, “Boy, she’s really letting herself go!”? It all sort of fits the tongue-in-cheek limerick from Louis Untermeyer’s collection for children called, This Singing World. Loosely quoted, it runs,
As a beauty I’m certainly no star,
There are others fairer by far;
But my face, I don’t mind it,
Because I am behind it;
‘Tis the folks in the front that I jar.
Is it wrong to “jar the folks in the front?” Is it simply selfish or lax or inconsiderate to accept our imperfections and do nothing about them? As Christians, we must face this question in light of God’s judgment: Is it right or wrong to attempt to correct my appearance as I age, and to what lengths may I (or should I) go and be pleasing to my brethren and my Creator?
On the one hand, we know we ought to, “…provide things honest in the sight of all men,” as it says in Rom 12:17, and for those of us who are married, we have a responsibility mentioned in I Cor 7:34, “…but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” So, no, we know it’s not best to entirely “let ourselves go.” But on the other hand, we know the Lord has created us for His purpose (Rev 4:11; Acts 17:24-28; Rom 8:28; Eph 2:10), and has a plan for us eternally (2 Tim 2:10-12).
In my understanding of the scriptures, it’s in thinking of that ETERNAL plan that we’ll find our answer to all our questions, including those about beauty fixes. First we must consider: to what are we sowing, to the flesh or to the eternal things of God? (Gal 6:7-9).
Secondly, if we sow to the flesh, we know our flesh will be gone one day. But if we sow to the spirit, knowing it’s eternal, we have a great promise from the Lord (2 Cor 4:16-18; 2 Cor 5:15). We must remember that the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Cor 5:1-15). We also are told NOT to lay up for ourselves treasures on the earth (Mat 6:19-34), but to seek first the kingdom of God and all the things we need will be added. Notice a parallel account, with a few different points: (Luke 12:15-40). We have to ask ourselves, “Am I laying up treasure on this earth or in heaven by taking this measure?” Am I truly seeking the kingdom first, or focusing on something that’s temporary at best?
That’s another thing to consider: Do I really have enough faith to BELIEVE the scriptures that describe our life as fleeting, and that we will have an eternal reward if we consider ourselves pilgrims? (James 4:14; Psa 103:13-18; 1 Pet 1:24-25; 1 Pet 1:3-9) We see from a study of Heb 11:13-16 that “they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”
Add to that the teaching in Psa 39:11-12. “When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah. Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.”