Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Faith or Fear

The only lie that is a tragedy is the lie to one's self.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been pretty ill; first a bout with the flu followed by a painful kidney stone.  It all left me feeling shaky, weak and exhausted.  Interestingly, during this time I found myself repeatedly thinking and talking about getting old.

Isn't that just the case, when we're feeling well, it's easy to delude ourselves into thinking we're younger than we are. However, having even a minor health issue is kind of like a bracing shot of cold water to the face.  It forces us to face some simple facts.  We are getting older, we are going to continue to get older and then guess what, we're all going to die.  Say that out loud.  Let it sink in.  I'll talk more about it in another post.

I say it because as obvious as it is, I think sometimes we forget.  Our generation seems to live in a state of denial about it all.  We live in the age of seemingly eternal youth.  As no generation before us, we can aerobicize, botoxify, colorize, life-style lift and hormone-inject our way right into the collective delusion that we're going to stay young, stay healthy and live forever.

In fact, we live in a time when the choice not to partake in artificially prolonging youth is somehow seen as "letting ourself go."  As if those who don't dye their hair or go under the knife are somehow lazy and unmotivated.

In my opinion, all this artifice has even warped our sense of what it truly looks like to age.  I frequently hear the comment that so and so celebrity is not "holding up well" yet when I see them, all I see is someone who has chosen not to have plastic surgery. So what they really look like is how someone naturally looks at their age.  We've become so accustomed to seeing chemically and surgically enhanced middle age, we don't even know what real middle age looks like anymore.

A comment I recently read sums this all up quite nicely,
"All of us want to believe that we don't look our age and people our age have absorbed this message that diet, exercise, and doing the right thing will let you live forever.  We're the first generation who covertly, (that is not literally but as a form of magical thinking, as in the way children see things), believes that we're not going to die.  And that profoundly influences our approach to aging."
                   Ann Kreamer, Going Gray How To Embrace Your Authentic Self With Grace and Style, pg. 43
So I have to wonder if all this disconnect from our authentic self has a cost?

As a woman of faith, I believe that God created us.  If that's true, then it's by design that our mortal bodies age. The scriptures are clear that God does nothing that is not for our good (2 Nephi 26:24), therefore there must be lessons in the process of aging that we are meant to experience.

The scriptures tell us that the mind, body and spirit are one.  In fact, they are the soul of man (D&C 88:15).  And Proverbs says, "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."  To me this means that our body is an integral part of the total being.  Thoughts, feelings and desires effect the physical body just as what is done to the physical body can effect mental well-being.

Change in our bodies is inevitable, yet all too often we abhor and fear the process.  It's fear that leads to the chemicals, injections and procedures.  But aging isn't the enemy, fear is.  Because fear doesn't come from God (2 Timothy 1:7).  In fact, fear separates us from God because fear is the opposite of faith and faith is the only means by which we can know him (Alma 32).

By battling age so fiercely, are we showing a serious lack of faith in God and his plan?  Is that lack of faith separating us from some greater wisdom he would have us know?  I don't have any big answers here but my gut tells me yes.

Please don't misunderstand me.  I'm not against a pride in one's appearance or taking care of my aging body.  In fact, I believe I have an obligation to maintain my body as well as I can so that I can be an instrument in his hands for as long as possible.  But, in doing that, I think it is important not to cross the line from body maintenance into body obsession; turning a virtue into vanity.

Listen, I understand that aging is an emotional and highly personal experience.  Even the great Bette Davis once said, "Old age ain't no place for sissies." However, the scriptures present aging as a normal, natural part of mortal life, something to be respected and honored.

Perhaps if we open our minds and hearts to growing older, if we graciously accept the changes and trust the God-given process of aging, then God will open to us blessings and wisdom we will never have access to otherwise.