When I was in fourth grade, for the first couple months of school, my teacher thought my name was Brittany Wrangler (instead of Bethany Wangler). When she finally realized her mistake (I was super super quiet back then, so it took a while), we all laughed and for the rest of the year, when anything went wrong in the classroom, we blamed it on Brittany Wrangler, my “evil twin.” Since then, it was comically ridiculous how long Brittany Wrangler followed me, popping up at awards ceremonies, first days of school, etc.
Now, many years later, Brittany Wrangler seems to have finally been laid to rest. But alas, my days of being followed around by an “evil twin” are far from over. Now Bethany the “younger sister” follows me more persistently than Brittany Wrangler ever did.
A bit of background: I am two and a half years older than my younger sister (to whom, if you read this blog with any sort of regularity, you have probably seen me refer). For several years now, almost every time we have been introduced to someone for the first time, they thought she was older than me, then were blown away to discover that I am the eldest.
But oh, Bethany the Younger Sister is far sneakier than that. She even pops up when my sister is not around, simply making people think I am much younger than I actually am. In fact, twice when I was a sophomore in college, I was introduced to people who thought I was in JUNIOR HIGH!!
When Bethany the Younger Sister pops up, inevitably people respond the same way when they discover my true age. They assume that their assumptions upset or offended me (when actually they simply amuse me), and then they offer the consolation, “Don’t worry. In a few years, you’ll be glad about that.”
One thing you should know about me is that I over think things. Like a two-year-old, one of my favorite questions to ask is “why.” So, when they voice their solace to my presumed horror, I nearly always find myself asking, in my mind, “Why? Why will I be glad in a few years?”
The answer: Because in a few years, when the wrinkles and such usually start setting in, I’ll be glad to look younger than my age.
Question: Why will I be glad to look younger than my age? One thing I strongly dislike is when appearances mask the truth. Why would I want to look something I am not?
The answer: Because aging is an unflattering thing for a female. Youth is beautiful; age is not. (Now if I were a guy, would that be different?)
Question: Why is aging considered unflattering? What is wrong with it?
The answer: It does not fit our conventional ideas of beauty.
Question: Why not? What is unlovely about a forty or eighty-year-old woman, especially one who is wise, caring, loving, and experienced in the ways of life?
My answer: Nothing. My mother, my grandmothers, and most of the older women I know are breathtakingly beautiful women. And there is a reason for that, you see. The reason is not that they spend decades spending fortunes on beauty products or years searching after anti-aging treatments and surgeries (they didn’t). The reason is that they spent (and still spend) their lives cultivating inner beauty.
Peter tells wives, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornments, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes (not saying there’s anything wrong with those things; but they are not a real measure of beauty, they are superficial things that you add to your body). Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful” (1 Peter 3:3-5).
Real beauty comes from within. I find it heartbreaking that women (I, not being a man, cannot speak for men) are so caught up in our physical shells. That’s really all our bodies are. No, there is nothing wrong with dressing nice and wearing make-up; but there is something wrong with having your whole identity and sense of worth caught up in how you look.
I wish we could learn to look past the outside, into a person’s spirit. I also wish we would stop fearing age. There is nothing wrong with getting old. Why, in the past and in some societies, grey hair is a sign that you are revered by all, because it is considered an accomplishment to live that long!! By demonizing old age, we rob ourselves of so much. The results: mid-life crisis-es that waste money and sometimes tear families apart; old people abandoned by their families; young people entrenched in folly because they do not seek or listen to the advice of those who came before them. We are an impoverished society because we are trapped looking through messed-up glasses that tell us only the young are beautiful and admirable.
Let’s learn to look past the outside and to invest our time in beautifying our hearts and minds more than our bodies. And then, at the end of the day (or lifetime), we will be prepared, dressed up for the One whose opinion REALLY matters. For “the Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Jesus, fill me up inside with Your Spirit. “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well….Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting….Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; was me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 139:13-14, 23-24; 51:7).
You make me beautiful
You make me stand in awe
You step inside my heart, and I am amazed
I love to hear You say
Who I am is quite enough
You make me worthy of love and beautiful
~Bethany Dillon, “Beautiful”