29 The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair. (Proverbs 20:29)
Through the Bible Reading: Proverbs 19-21
One of the highlights of my week as a pastor is the hour I spend on Wednesday mornings with Mr. Harold. At 77 years old, Mr. Harold is the oldest person I’ve ever baptized. We’ve been going through the gospel of John together in the weeks since he became a believer. But mostly, we’ve been going through his life together. Mr. Harold is a baby Christian, but he is a wise man.
The older I get, the more aware I am of the bias against old people we have in our society. Millions of dollars are spent (by both women AND men) on products that will wash that gray right out of our hair. The current number one movie in America is Top Gun: Maverick. And while it does feature an older, wiser Tom Cruise, it is notably missing an older, grayer Kelly McGillis, who played Maverick’s love interest in the original. The 64 year old actress hasn’t minced words about why she wasn’t cast in the sequel:
“I mean, I’m old and I’m fat and I look age-appropriate for what my age is. And that is not what that whole scene is about!
But, to me, I’d much rather feel absolutely secure in my skin and who and what I am at my age as opposed to placing a value on all that other stuff.”
Wherever our ageism comes from, be assured that it does not come from Scripture. The book of Leviticus commands that we honor the aged:
“You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD (Leviticus 19:32).
And in Proverbs gray hair is called the splendor of old men. Not their embarrassment. Not our visual cue that we don’t have to take them seriously.
There is nothing sweeter than time spent with a seasoned saint. In Proverbs 16:31, the one other verse in Proverbs that mentions gray hair, we read that,
Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.
Aren’t we all doing this reading plan because we want to know how to live a righteous life? Aren’t we supposed to be seeking out wise people to walk with, in order that we ourselves can become wise (Proverbs 13:20)? God has designed the human body in such a way that we can readily identify those people!
Listen–I’m not judging you if you decide to color your hair. You do you, and God bless you. But from the bottom of my heart, I want to apologize for all those times I’ve made judgments on people who didn’t color their hair. For all the times I’ve grown impatient with senior adults. For all the times I’ve written off an older person, thinking they were out of touch or had nothing to offer me. Dear God, I am so sorry.
And if you are a “seasoned adult” that has felt forgotten or neglected or marginalized, I am sorry that our culture puts such a dumb premium on youth and the appearance of youth. I’m sorry for family members that don’t have time for you. I’m sorry for casting directors and advertising executives and television programmers that have placed such unrealistic expectations on you. I pray that you will be secure in your skin, however wrinkly or age spotted or saggy it is. And please, please know that God has not forgotten you. As the Lord spoke through Isaiah the prophet,
even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. (Isaiah 46:4)
If there’s snow on the mountain, that means there is depth in the valley. God, help me remember that today.