Story Lines

handsFive years ago, as I was taking a shower, I reached for the shampoo.

It was an action I had taken thousands of times before, and which I’ve repeated thousands of times since. But that particular moment on that particular day became forever etched on my memory.

I reached for the plastic bottle, and for some reason, I looked at my hand. Really looked. And I thought, This is not the hand of a young woman.

I wasn’t what most people would consider old (I was 39). But no longer was I young. At least, not according to the lines I saw in the skin of my fingers and the back of my palm.

Once, I had been young enough that my skin was completely smooth, my hands unmarked by the passage of time.

Not anymore.

As I stood there in the shower contemplating the changes in my hands wrought by time, I began to consider the changes in the rest of my body, too, from the time I had been born, up until now.

For instance, there are two patches of skin that is slightly lighter than the rest of my skin. One patch is on the top of my right ankle, in the bend between my foot and leg. The other is on my right knee. Both are there because when I was a child, I kept falling and skinning my knee and ankle, so many times that the skin became forever changed.

These changes tell a part of my story.

So do the sagginess of my tummy and my C-section scar. They tell about the carrying and birthing of 5 children.

The calluses on the soles of my feet bear witness to all the places my feet have taken me, from Australia to the World Trade Center, to hospital rooms and funeral homes, to parties and celebrations, libraries and grocery stores and the Playland at McDonald’s.

The increasing number of gray hairs in among the brown ones makes the point that I have lived long enough to have gray hairs.

The lines in my hands are there not only because I’m growing older, but because my hands have done so many things: tended sick children, typed emails or books or papers, held and swung a racquetball racquet, played the piano, fixed innumerable PB&J’s, gripped a steering wheel, changed diapers.

My increasing lack of flexibility (I used to be able to do the splits) reveals not only that I’m aging, but that I don’t often have time to exercise as I’d like to.

The texture of the skin on my face, if you look really closely, will tell you about the times I struggled with acne.

Some of the freckles on my back and shoulders are there because of sunburns I got in the midst of having wonderful fun.

None of these things is an imperfection, or something to be despised; all are simply results of the way my body has changed as it has told my story.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (see Galatians 6:17). I realize that the context is different; he was talking about the abuse he’d suffered for Jesus’ sake. But the marks on my body testify of Jesus, too. They display His creativity and goodness in ordering my days. They tell my story, which is really His story. His plan. His design.

I anticipate more changes as I age, and that’s okay. I don’t regret the way anything has changed so far. And while I don’t exactly look forward to my hearing or eyesight declining, or my energy fading, I do anticipate the way that even these things will reflect the life God has planned for me.

And I look forward to the day when, by God’s grace, I will sit with my grandchildren at my feet, and I’ll say, “Do you see these wrinkles? Let me tell you what they represent—the beautiful story of how God brought them to be.”

My hands may no longer be the hands of a young woman. But they are my hands.

They are my story.

Proverbs 20:29—The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old. (NIV)

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