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Grumpy old man

The Life Less Traveled

January 18, 2012
I was getting ready for an early-morning doctor appointment last week when I noticed another gray whisker poking out from my sideburn. I'm turning 40 this year and seem to be finding a lot of them lately. I suspect my wife is dying them while I sleep. How else can I explain it?

No problem, I thought, I'll just trim it. After all, I was heading to the dermatologist later that day to get a suspicious mole checked out and didn't need anything to make me feel older. Checking on suspicious moles seemed like something a grandpa should do. Maybe later I'd go in for a hip replacement.

I'd never actually been to the dermatologist before, but figured once I turned 40, I should probably start adding a new specialist to my list of doctors every year: dermatologist, cardiologist, gastroenterologist and, eventually, when I'm really old, archaeologist.

Thanks to my faithful trimmers, though, my new doctor would never suspect how old I really was. I imagined walking in to her office and her saying, "Oh, don't worry about those moles. You're far too young to be concerned with major health issues."

Instead, she took one look at them and said, "That's not a mole. That's an age spot." Obviously, she was a quack.

"What's the scientific term for them?" I asked.

"Seborrheic keratosis."

"Let's go with that," I said. "I like that better."

I bet it's fun to be God sometimes, watching vain people like me trimming out the gray, knowing I'm only an hour away from being humiliated by my dermatologist. On the way to work, I told God He got me really good on that one.

I also began to think about how those subtle (and not so subtle) signs of aging are actually a good thing, and I thanked God for them. They remind me that I'm not going to be here forever and that each of my days counts. Every moment carries immense value simply because we have so few of them. Like rare gems, their scarcity increases their worth.

A guy named David once prayed that God would "teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).

Some people see the brevity of life as a sign of meaningless existence. The Bible, on the other hand, paints a picture of unique opportunity. We are free to live for eternity instead of just for what's right in front of our noses.

I don't know about you, but I'm sure I waste way too much time consumed with my stuff, my achievements and the approval of others, but aging reminds me that one day all of my trophies and toys will end up in the trash. And those people whose opinions seemed so important? They're just passing through like the rest of us.

So, I say bring on the gray hairs. Give me a few more wrinkles. Laugh lines? Can't get enough of them. Crows feet? I'll take a few dozen more, please. These things are evidence of life, not precursors of death. They are the souvenirs of days well-lived.

Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.

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