“Sure, honey.” With a sigh, I hoist myself out of the recliner and sit down next to my teenage daughter. She lifts the heavy cover to reveal the first page, which displays the photo of a woman in her late twenties. Her complexion is perfect, her body athletic.
A stab of envy pierces my heart. I don’t need a mirror to remind me of my crow’s feet and the worry lines on my forehead. Without thinking, I reach up to touch the loose skin of my throat.
Aisha turns the page, careful not to tear the glassine interleave; the same woman smiles at us from a rowboat. She is a sportswoman and I know how she enjoys the rhythm of her strokes as the skiff glides through the water. On the opposite page, she is wearing a runner’s outfit; I recognize how she’s counting her steps, breathing deep, and reveling in the endorphin surge.
I look down at my fifty-plus body. It’s starting to sag. Arthritis is destroying my spine’s cartilage, sending painful messages to my right leg through compressed nerves. Walking is all I can do.
It is as if she’s mocking me, that woman in the pictures. She is in the prime of life, taking beauty and health for granted. In the arrogance of youth, she is confident that she will find the perfect love and lead a purposeful life, satisfying her innate need for happiness. A few bad experiences—and a couple of poor choices—have shaken but not shattered her conviction. She is in control.
Aisha studies the pictures, then looks up. “Is that you, Mom?”
“Yes, that’s me—about twenty-five years ago.”
“Wow. You’ve grown old.”
My mouth puckers. “Well, that’s what happens as time goes by.”
“What is it like to grow old, Mom? Do you feel worse now than when you were young?”
“Uh—” Suddenly, I remember the void. Because the woman I used to be searched for happiness in all the wrong places. The longing for love led her to make hasty decisions and choose harmful relationships. She hadn’t yet figured out that the career path she had taken wouldn’t lead to self-fulfillment. The pride elicited by a compliment of a manager and a significant raise—these things did nothing to fill the emptiness of her soul. And the runner’s high never lasted.
“I definitely feel better now.” As I talk, the truth of my words makes me smile. “Certainly, I’ve lost a bit of beauty and my body is wearing out, but I wouldn’t want to go back in time.”
“But why not? Didn’t you like being young?”
“Maybe I looked better, but I wasn’t happy.”
“Because you didn’t know Jesus?”
“Are you happy now?” Her gaze scrutinizes me.
I wrap an arm around her shoulder and plant a kiss on her cheek. “Definitely. And life is getting better every day.”
She leans against me as we quietly leaf through the rest of the album.
My outer self may be wasting away, but my inner self is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16—ESV).