Yesterday, I wrote about the stories our faces tell, especially on Ash Wednesday. Today, I continue the conversation.
At a Fat Tuesday celebration, I reintroduced myself to a young man, whom I know from my husband’s congregation, but someone I don’t see often since I pastor another church. Plus, I started wearing glasses and bangs, so I may look a little different. I dunno. Just don’t want to assume everyone remembers me or knows who I am.
Anyway, he said of course he knew me, but it did take a second. I mentioned how I am getting older and need glasses (a bit of a joke but totally true), and he then made a joke about how motherhood has taken a toll on my face.
Now, he was kidding, but even the other two guys at his table realized that this was not exactly acceptable. They hid in their arms, like “oh no you didn’t.” I responded in jest, saying something like I had no idea that I looked so bad, but . . . He then put his head in his shirt. Like all the way in. And he apologized. And I hugged and forgave him. It was just a joke –not a good one, but no the boy meant no harm.
I am confident enough to know that my face is doing ok, but it is true that motherhood has caused my face to change. But not only motherhood. My face carries the lines of my life. As I mentioned in my Ash Wednesday post, when I look in the mirror, I see the scars from picked pimples (it’s a terrible habit), the crow’s feet around my eyes (they happen), the dark lines below my eyes (inherited from my father and made worse by sleepless nights), the lines between my eyes (a gift from my mom and Granddad and our concerns for the world), the lines on my forehead (like I have been surprised my whole life), and the lines around my mouth (from more laughing than crying).
I detail all of these not out of judgment, but out of description. They are there. They are me. Oh sure, I use eye cream and night cream, moisturizers and sunscreen, and I like to play with make-up to enhance my beauty (and add a little drama every now and then), not to hide behind a mask.
I’m all for taking care of one’s face. It is the only one we’ve got. They only one God shaped just for us.
I am also all for aging as gracefully as possible. And for me, that means cleansers and moisturizers (whatever is on sale at Kroger, if you want to know).
I am still recognizable even to young men who haven’t seen me in a while. But that’s not the case for everyone. The Oscars were Sunday night. Much ado is made on the red carpet about the women and their faces and hair and dresses and shoes and jewelry. Oh my. A reporter asked a Kevin Spacey, a man, the same questions that women usually get, and he didn’t know what to do. They are ridiculous questions. You can see that funny clip here.
The fact that so much is written about the looks of female celebrities may be why they spend so much time and money on looking “just right.” And why some resort to plastic surgery. The difference between Angela Lansbury and Kim Novak, Sally Field and Goldie Hawn is astounding. Contemporaries who have decided either to age naturally or resist the years by going under the knife.
I really don’t judge people who choose Botox or this, that, or the other. It just isn’t for me. But when I see beautiful children of God radically change their appearances in order to erase the lines of their lives, I am sad.
I am sad their faces are so new that they do not tell of the sleepless nights they’ve spent with the baby, the laughs they’ve shared, the struggles they’ve survived.
This is not only a female phenomenon, as males get work done, too, but can you imagine George Clooney without the crinkles around his eyes when he smiles? And I know I can’t imagine my dad without his great laugh lines.
There is a definite gender disparity when it comes to looks and beauty.
But not in God’s eyes. God created both men and women, black, white, pink, and brown, LGBTQI, from the very same soil. Dirt. Dust. Ashes. Earth. And yet all of creation is unique and diverse and radically awesome.
The ashes are washed from our foreheads (and cheeks if your daughter administered them in her own way), but God’s impression remains. Our face continues to take shape, and it is my prayer that we take care of them, unmask them, lift them to the sky and thank God for the lines of our lives and for being in each nook and cranny. There just might be a speck of dust left on our heads. In fact, I am sure of it. Thanks be to God.
Former international fashion model Rev. Sarah Renfro seeks to boost the body image of young women by educating them on the myths of media and focusing on divine within. She also preaches and teaches about marriage and divorce, motherhood, ministry, and mental illness.