I ate pancakes before I left the house for my first mammogram. I thought it seemed fitting as, not thirty minutes later, a machine squashed my unmentionables into this exact shape. When I told my mom about it, she welcomed me to the land of maturity, then she suggested I schedule a colonoscopy. Yeah, I’ll get right on that one.
Two of my friends beat breast cancer over the last few years, and while I felt a sudden surprise at reaching the age where my peers receive this diagnosis, it still felt distant to me. Until the bi-lateral pancakes.
Something about the word maturity stuck with me after the conversation with my mother. I turned it over and over in my hands, and I still can’t come to grips with it. Maturity is a slippery concept. I recognize that I’ve reached an age in which mature could be used to describe what I see in the mirror every day–sun spots, crows feet, and a few soon-to-be-plucked grays. But, the mirror doesn’t reflect the unseen, the maturing of the soul and the spirit.
I hoped the good gifts of aging would show up alongside the less desirable ones too. I hoped wisdom would arrive and make its home here, settling deep into the laugh lines of my soul. I wanted knowledge and understanding to find their place, sprouting from my very roots, the ones planted by the rivers of living water. I longed for a better vision, the kind that makes up for the reading glasses and the fading eyesight, the kind that dreams dreams and sees how I fit into the future of God’s Kingdom come.
I look in the mirror, and I don’t always see these good gifts. If the last few weeks of internal wrestling and outward despair at the state of the world have taught me anything, it is that I don’t know how much I don’t know. Wisdom? I look for her and she is conspicuously absent. Visions? They fade as the current state of this broken world assaults me daily, leaving me no room to dream. Knowledge? Understanding? I don’t know how much I don’t know until I hop on the internet and someone is quite happy to tell me–I know nothing.
It leaves me wondering how I cultivate these good gifts, the ones I thought we inherited with age, when it turns out we earn them. Just like I earned my laugh lines and the saggy skin around my mama belly. Life stretches and pulls us until we settle into our old skin. I’m wrestling here, with what I am and what I hope to become, with the years I spent stretching, and the stretching I have yet to do.
People say we grow more comfortable in our skin as we age. The skin of my soul doesn’t feel so comfortable right now, but I see this as a good thing. It means there is more stretching ahead, more life to birth in the years ahead.
How are you stretching right now? What are the good gifts you want to come with age and experience?