I remember watching them when I was small. Watching them tease one another at 30, 40, 50. Watching them point to the hair at their scalp and laugh together that the color was fading from it. Watching my grandmother pull at her skin in the mirror, marveling at how it had crushed into itself like crepe paper. Watching my mother’s collection of jars and bottles of serums and creams on the sink grow.
And I swore to myself I would enjoy getting older.
I’ve watched as white hairs have begun to show themselves tentatively at the part of my hair. I do not hate them. They are surprising to me – I am fascinated. I am watching as the creases on my forehead deepen, evidence of a face that constantly betrays my emotions. I do not mind these creases. Being expressive comes with a price I am happy to pay.
At 33, I am not old. I am still many times the youngest person in the room. But at 33, I am often among the only person in the room who is yet unmarried and childless. I do not feel bad about this. I do not feel less than or unlovely because I am single. I am happy to have the freedom that comes with not having children.
And yet I am preparing for my next term on the field as 34 creeps up to me. I am not aging in a sense that my body is failing me or my mind is dimming, but age is presenting itself in my mind increasingly as I consider what my body will be able to do in a few years. It is in this phase of my life that, if I stay overseas, the door to having children will slowly close and lock.
I am not asking for your solutions or your guarantees that it will happen. The truth is, it may not. And that is okay. I do not feel sorrow. But it is an odd feeling to consider that obedience to my calling at this age may close the door to having children.
This is how the holy and the profane dance together in my life. Calling and obedience aren’t easy. They aren’t clean. Saying yes doesn’t provide you with a guarantee of favor or even an answer to your prayers. Saying yes may cost you greatly – it may even ask of you the years your body can produce life. Saying yes may cost you things you can never get back.
Many older than me would laugh at the idea that aging is something I think about. And yet the next few years will determine what the future will look like for me.
I have had young girls confess to me that they want ministry but also marriage and motherhood, and I always look right into their curious eyes and assure them they do not have to choose. They can have both. I have friends who are incredible ministers who are wives and mothers. This not happening for me doesn’t mean it can’t happen for others.
The Gospel is clear to us that sometimes it will come at a cost. Sometimes it will cost us the things we see others enjoy. That may be financial prosperity, material belongings, proximity to loved ones, or even marriage or parenthood. These are not things guaranteed for us for our obedience. Rather, they are things we have a choice to lay down for the sake of the Gospel. Having them is not a sin, but not having them is not a spiritual poverty.
Here I do not offer you answers, but questions. Am I willing to sacrifice motherhood for staying on the field? Am I willing to give years of my life away for the sake of the Kingdom oversea? Sometimes the answer is no. But for today – still – the answer is yes.
In what ways is aging affecting how you view your calling? How has your calling shifted as you age?