It’s that time of the year again. My birthday is just weeks away and I’m feeling kind of fragile once more. Apparently, my family has noticed this pattern of mine. They have recently brought to my attention that every year, a month or two before my birthday, I begin to manifest strange behavior. Such as becoming internally focused and imagining every little twinge to be the onset of a fatal problem, and inordinate sighing and mumbling to myself whenever I’m in front of a mirror. There is also a tendency to grab and/or punch my belly after an un-healthy (but scrumptious) meal. Thanks guys. I appreciate our candid relationship, and your united commitment to tell it like it is—no matter how much it bruises my ego.
Like most people who are about to add another year to their tally, I struggle with conflicting thoughts. On one side of the proverbial coin I am absolutely grateful for the opportunity to enjoy more quality time with my family and complete the things I’ve started. The other side of the coin is not as shiny. After a while, this aging process is too noticeable not to notice. We slowly wear down and it shows. (My husband –Eric- says that one of life’s cruel jokes is that we start rotting while we are still alive). This would be really funny if it were’nt true.
To add insult to injury, this is the year my license had to be renewed. We all know that DPS does not send its employees to photography classes (this is not the place to go if you want a Glamour Shot to boost your ego!). I have never seen a Drivers License photo that is good enough to frame. Some of the pictures are downright hideous. Eric has described his picture as something that lives under a bridge, capable of eating small children. Well, I’m pretty sure we found its mate.
I set a day aside to get the unsavory task over with. I even took additional time to fill in the facial creases, working carefully on the puffy, dark circles under the eyes. With my best face on and every stray hair in place, I chose a sassy little outfit with accessories to match. I was feeling pretty good about the results of my time in front of my full-length mirror as I headed out the door. Confidence literally oozed from my pores. I was joking and laughing with Eric as I walked into the DPS office—until I saw the line. There were about 6 people waiting to be served by the one man behind the counter. I was afraid my smile would fade by the time I got to the head of the line, so my first inclination was to leave this for another day. I should have listened to my gut.
Forms filled and questions answered, I was instructed to stand in front of the green screen. I automatically obeyed like some kind of robot, and stood behind the intimidating lens of that camera in front of the screen, as I was told. I’ve never been able to look natural when I’m told to smile and pose in front of people, so I joked around with the man hoping that levity would overpower the discomfort I felt trying to pose in front of strangers. It didn’t.
As soon as I heard“That’s it! Hold that smile!”… it vanished. He waited for me to muster another one. I squinched my face so hard that I could feel the tension in my cheeks. My face started to hurt and my lips begin to quiver. The longer he took to snap the shot, the more I had to force a happy face. A sinister smile was all I had left to give. My eyes fluttered. I blinked. He snapped. The sound of the shutter brought out a pitiful plea from the depths of my very soul…“Do-Overs!!”He glanced at me and smiled; assuring me that I had not blinked. Finished product in hand he smiled sheepishly saying,“This one is temporary. Your PERMANENT one will arrive shortly in the mail”.
Words cannot begin to express the dreadful emotions that attacked me in the one horrible second it took to glance at the face staring back at me. I heard it taunting…“O.K. Deny this why don’t you?”My first thought was that I should’ve gone online and used the old picture instead of being tormented by this horrendous image for 5 years. I’ve never seen so many laugh lines on such little space. The strained smirk pressed my cheeks up, creating two large squishy balls that hid my eyes. My chin rested on my chest, squeezing my jowls (which I was not aware I had) to the sides. My knees almost buckled as I thought,‘Holy Cow!!! Is this what people have to look at? I’ll have to start handing out blinders!’
It is scary when you don’t know where you’ve gone and think you may be lost forever. A feeling of despair settled in my stomach as I quickly exited the building. By the time we’d driven a block I’d asked Eric to pull over twice. I thought I was going to throw up. He laughed, thinking I was kidding. Thankfully, it was a false alarm.
Moral of this story? Vanity is a tough monster to slay. It gets accustomed to being fed abundantly and often when we are blessed with youthful appearance and sex appeal. It expects to be fed forever and starts to get really hungry when the diet changes. Aging is a forced crash diet that no one likes. But, if our happiness is anchored to things that wear out and lose their appeal, we may as well hang it all up now. Tunes change as time marches on. We better learn to dance to the changing beat or we will crash and burn. Denial is a temporary bandage that loses its stick after a while. Denial does not change the fact that‘We are not in Kansas anymore’.
Let’s resolve this year to a make-over of our inside appearance. This is what matters most to God anyway. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4 that we are treasures in jars of clay…though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day..so we are to fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen…for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Unlike our outer being, our inner being has the ability to become more attractive—
more desirable—overtime. Thank God for that!