In the past few days, my social media feeds have been filled with pictures of my friends—except 40-50 years’ older—with the hashtag #AgeChallenge or #FaceAppChallenge.
The #AgeChallenge involves uploading a photo of yourself—or someone else, if you’d prefer—on the FaceApp, and using one of its filters to show you how you might look like in a few decades. (If that image is too daunting, there is also a filter that allows you to travel back in time and revel in how you used to look like decades ago.) Since the trend has caught on, the Internet has been filled with not just “aged” photos of ordinary people, but memes of celebrities reminding us all that beauty is fleeting—even for the rich and famous.
Photo of the Jonas Brothers without the FaceApp filter, taken from @jonasbrothers
Photo of the Jonas Brothers with the FaceApp filter, taken from @jonasbrothers
After casting a few bemused glances at my friends’ photos, I decided to take the plunge and see how I myself might look like in 50 years’ time.
To my horror, the FaceApp predicted that the ageing process would not go down very gracefully for me. In fact, if that projected image was anything to go by, not only would I have to contend with physical problems that I’m already dealing with—a back that’s aching even after a good eight hours of sleep, failing eyesight, and wobbly knees on the verge of crumbling if I overexert myself—but every crease and line on my face would be lengthened and magnified, and the evidence of all that fried chicken and ice cream I’ve been consuming would remain permanently lodged in my cheeks.
That made me wonder how any of my friends found the courage to share those photos of themselves—mine went straight into the trash bin but remained engraved in my mind’s eye.
A few other colleagues who also took on the challenge reeled at the sight of how they might look like in 50 years’, and we found ourselves sighing in relief, “Thank goodness we won’t look like this immediately!”
Our comments made me wonder: Why is it that when we think about ageing or growing older, all that fills our minds is negativity? We imagine how our bodies will sag, our energy levels will peter out, our heads filled with a white crown of hair (which we’re now diligently attempting to color out), and our faces marked with deepened lines and wrinkles—and fear and dread begin to creep into our hearts.
More importantly, why do we mostly associate ageing with our physical appearance? In fact, even without the aid of the #AgeChallenge, I’ve noticed that most of my conversations with my friends often revolve around how we can slow down the ageing process through facial masks, supplements, detox programs, laser treatments, the nine-step Korean skincare regime . . . and the list goes on.We know that ageing is inevitable, and no amount of money we pour into beauty products will stop those dreaded lines and wrinkles from appearing on our faces eventually—so why not turn the #AgeChallenge into a challenge to age well?
When I think about the people in my life who have aged gracefully, I realize that what draws me to them has nothing to do with the way they look, but the wisdom that I can glean from their stories, the excitement in their voices as they recall God’s faithfulness in their lives, their undying passion and enthusiasm to serve God, and the grace with which they carry themselves. These are the people who make me think, “I hope I’ll still be as passionate for God as they are when I’m their age.”
That prompted me to think about ageing in a different way: instead of fretting about how I might look in the future, would I live a life that others could look up to, and which would point others to Christ?
What if someone invented an app that showed us what would be inside our hearts in 50 years’ time instead? What would we see? Traces of regrets, unforgiveness, bitterness, hardness of heart—or a heart at rest in Christ and joyously looking forward to an eternity with Him (where, thankfully, we are promised in Philippians 3:20-21 that our lowly bodies will one day become transformed so that they will be like His glorious body)?
This question has been weighing on my mind since a few days ago, when we were asked at cell group to draw a picture of where we see ourselves in 5-10 years’ time. That night, I was stumped and just stared blankly at my paper.
Perhaps it was due to the fact that over the course of the past five years, I’ve seen God derail my plans one by one . . . sometimes using the most humbling methods to set me on a detour so I would be on the right track with Him.
I have seen years of hard work crumble into dust in a day, lost my first job within nine months, gone through long periods of unemployment and closed doors right after months of serving God in the mission field, spent years being trapped in toxic environments and caught in the middle of conflicts I had no power to change.
In the midst of these crushing and confusing seasons in my life, I’ve often been tempted to turn away from God or blame Him for my circumstances, but one fact remained clear: even when God was leading me through what seemed like my absolute last choice or plans that I begrudgingly obeyed only because I had no other choice, He always led me to a better place.
That made me wonder if it was all that important how I looked like or what I achieved or did in not just 10, but 50 years’ time. The more I reflected on how God had brought me to where I am at this moment, I thought: If the next 5-10 years of my life looks anything like what the past 5-10 years has been, then perhaps the question to ask myself is, what would the posture of my heart be towards God?
Would I be quicker to obey God and trust His plans for my life? Would I still be faithfully pursuing His purposes instead of my own agenda? Would I become better at considering it “pure joy” when trials come my way (James 1:2-4)?
These are questions that require deep thinking which may age us, but our responses to them will determine whether or not we age gracefully—and with God’s grace.
Having been brought to the lowest point of my life, I now know that the only vision for my life that I can rely on is that of a heart anchored in Christ and walking in step with Him. And perhaps that’s the only grand plan that matters. If my vision for my life is to live in pursuit of righteousness—a life of living rightly by God—then it doesn’t matter where He leads me to or even how I look like, I can be assured that He will order all my steps, and that I will “still bear fruit in old age” and “stay fresh and green” (Psalm 92:12-14).
In fact, when I approach my life this way, I can look forward to what’s to come in 10, 20, 50 years’ time because I know while I may be wasting away on the outside, I am still being renewed on the inside from day to day (2 Corinthians 4:16-18), and there will be plenty of opportunities for me to grow in wisdom and to continue to experience His goodness in my life.