The Gray Hair Stays
It was early 2013, after a particularly stressful year, that I was at a friend’s house passing the time of day. As I got ready to leave, my friend looked strangely at the side of my head and then swooped in closer. “Amanda! You have a gray hair!” To my chagrin, I realized she was right. At the time, I was a mere twenty-seven years old—in my opinion, far too young for gray hairs. Since then, there have sprung up three or four silver threads on each temple and a couple on the top. At first, I shrugged them off and stopped thinking about them. But every time I fixed my hair and the tell-tale silver caught the light, I’d squirm inwardly. Pull them out. Leave them in. Pull them out. Leave them in. What would it be? Usually my vanity won, and out they came. But I always felt somewhat guilty about that. You see, a few years ago, I wrote a script for a movie that celebrated the beauty of old age. All my life, I’ve cringed at the wrinkle cream commercials on TV. I’ve blushed for the celebrities clinging so tenaciously to their fading youth, that they are willing to undergo expensive surgeries and painful recoveries to keep its façade, and I’ve applauded those who’ve accepted age with grace. But here I was, searching through a thick head of brown hair for a few gray culprits with all the zeal of a Spanish inquisitor. Honestly, why was I so anxious to get rid of those gray hairs? Hypocrisy? Maybe.
Lest anyone chide me for being too hard on myself by pointing out that nowhere in the whole of Scripture is there any prohibition against plucking gray hairs or dying one’s hair to cover up the gray, there’s no need. I’m aware of that. My point is not to guilt trip those of you who do one or both of the above. My goal is to encourage you, to remind you that it’s really okay to look old. You need that reminder because everywhere you’re told that it is almost your duty to preserve your youthful looks at all costs. At the very least, you owe it to yourself so you can be happy. The effects of old age—loss of sex appeal, memory loss, aches, loss of mobility and independence, but mostly loss of sex appeal–should be pushed back to the latest possible date. Why? We don’t know. Just because. Apparently, you can enjoy life more when you’re young and beautiful and sexy, and enjoying life is all that matters.
But I have a thing or two to say about that. God never requires us to look young. Regardless of what the culture may say about the merits of youth, God will never lay that burden on you. He says it’s okay to look your age.
“The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.” (Proverbs 20:29) I love this passage. It harkens to Ecclesiastes, pointing out that there is a time for everything. Youth is not better than age, and age is not particularly better than youth. There is a time to be young and there is a time to be old, and there’s that time in between when we’re all getting old. There is a glory in youth, but there’s something quite special about age. The wording is perfect. Youth gets glory, but age gets beauty. But it goes even deeper than that. Otherwise, we might think God simply has a preference for old people or the color gray and leave it at that.
I believe it has more to do with what those gray hairs represent. Aged men have generally acquired more wisdom than young bucks. For most of the elderly, those hairs turned gray during great trials that God caused them to walk through and taught them magnificent lessons about Himself. Gray hairs and wrinkles represent the wisdom gathered through a lifetime of trials, joy, happiness and sorrow that lead a deeper understanding of who God is and what He requires of us. And God always holds wisdom in higher favor than physical appearance. He makes that plain in this challenge, “The hoary (gray) head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” (Proverbs 16:31) The great qualifier is in the last phrase. Not every gray head is a crown of glory. Not every old person is beautiful. But every gray-headed man or woman who walks in God’s ways is a beautiful sight without exception.
As I look at my own gray hairs, feeling quite tempted to pull them out, I put the tweezers down and stop to think. Do I really want to submit myself to a cultural expectation with which God is completely unconcerned? Am I trying to avoid a blessing that God wants to give? My gray hairs appeared after a lot of stress, after a year that God taught me hard but important lessons. As gray hairs multiply and the smile lines and even frown lines deepen, I can either try my best to erase them, the evidences of my past, or I can embrace them as blessings and reminders. They are my history, like it or not. They will remind me to keep my feet in the ways of righteousness, so that when my crown of gray hair is full, it will be a crown of glory and not of shame.
So, here is my conclusion: You may do what you like. But as for me, the gray hair stays. And that’s final.