The face in the mirror
It’s been nine years of marriage. Two cities. Three babies. Five surgeries. One dog. Thirteen ducks.
These days my quick glance in the mirror turns into a pause at the woman staring back at me. I contort my lips. I smile, frown, and watch the surrounding skin move into rippled patterns. The skin doesn’t bounce back as it used to.
Facebook flashbacks show me pictures of a different woman. I can see my face- but it’s smoothed, clear, and my eyes are free from the black frames that now rest upon my nose.
I don’t dislike myself. Still, as I start to see gravity take its toll on my face, part of me mourns the loss of the face I used to know. Does my husband miss her? Sure, he tells me I’m beautiful often, but doesn’t beauty as you age just mean more beautiful in the heart than the outside?
We all live in a world that speaks of beauty in contradictions. Advertisements and movie stars show us that ageless bodies and youthful skin are superior, even while they try to tell us about inner beauty. As Christians, we’ve sought to fight against this sexualized culture, and we preach to ourselves that our character and soul holds beauty alone. But I wonder if it has to be either/or. I don’t want to idolize my face, but I also don’t want to feel like it no longer even matters. Could there be something more than simply accepting that our aging, broken bodies are something for others to look past?
What we Can’t Separate
I discovered some answers one evening, huddled with my husband on the couch amidst three children as we watched the video of our wedding day. The kids peppered us with questions. Why are you holding flowers? Was this in a church? Is that Aunt Sarah? As my husband and I answered, and remarked how much technology has changed in nine years and how nervous we were that day, I couldn’t help but notice the groom standing at the front of the church. He was young, and in that moment the sight of his face looked foreign to me.
Where were his wrinkles put there by late nights of laughing?
Where were his scars made by the deck, trailer, or fence we spent weeks together working to build?
Where were the lines made through fervent prayers for my sick body?
Where was the face that has held me, encouraged me, forgiven me, and sought repentance for nine years?
The face of the young man standing in front of the church not only revealed a number on a birth certificate, but it revealed all we had not yet been through.
God has patiently grown us by his Spirit through these years, and while my husband has grown more beautiful to me in his soul, his aging face has grown all the more beautiful beside it. I cannot separate the body from the soul of my husband, just as he cannot separate it from me. Both have grown precious to me. Every wrinkle and variation of his skin serve as a memorial for what the Holy Spirit has done in his life, and in our life, through the trials and joys of our everyday.
A Walking Memorial
When we are in Christ, he patiently gives us his Spirit to sanctify us, little by little until our death (2 Cor. 3:18). He takes the slow days, difficult months, and quick years to put to death our sin and unite us closer to our Savior. Yet we don’t do this apart from our bodies. We don’t exist as if only one matters. Our bodies are important, and one day when Christ comes back we will be united again with them (2 Cor. 4:14). While we wait for his return, we grow in godliness, and it is our body that shows the fruit of it.
Our mouths show its fruit through humble apologies.
Our hands show its fruit through sacrificial service.
Our eyes show its fruit through tears of repentance.
Our laugh lines show its fruit through years of delighting in the gifts of our Father.
We find beauty in a heart that fears the Lord, and we have that same beauty in the body that testifies to that truth. Yes, our bodies show the result of the sinful world- we feel the effects of suffering, sickness, and aging that will one day bring us to death. Yet at the very same time-when we are in Christ- our bodies show the resurrection we hold even now. We wait in a fallen world, but we live in his kingdom now- and our faces, our bodies, and our souls show the fruit of this glorious truth (Col. 1:13, Eph. 2:10).
I don’t want the face of the man in front of the church back right now, and he probably doesn’t want mine back either. I want the wrinkles, the worn skin, and the spirit of the man who lays beside me nine years later. And I’ll choose his face again in another twenty. It’s there where I see reminders of God’s grace and power conquering the pull of our sinful world.
So maybe next time we’re at the mirror, we could stop and see our faces not purely as a result of the curse, but as a memorial of what God has done. Because our husbands, our sisters, our friends, and our parents surely love us for what is inside- but they also love us for what is outside. They have grown in their love of the face, the hands, the feet- the body- that is a testament to the incredible goodness of our Savior. And that is something to which no wrinkle or sunspot can compare.