From Miss to Ma’am: God’s Perspective of Aging

By on July 15, 2014
older woman smiling with hands resting on chin

By Sharon V. King –

Have you ever heard the expression, “Women get old; men become distinguished?” We may want to believe our 21st-century society has evolved beyond such thinking, but the sad truth is that perceptions of aging are not gender-neutral. In many situations, women have to invest greater effort than men to ward off the effects of aging. Of course, with the “graying of America,” as the Baby Boom generation ages, even men have become a bit nervous about the aging process. But, a heavy burden still falls on women to look and act younger than their years.

During my years as an academic sociologist and gerontologist, I reviewed much research that confirms that aging devalues people in the eyes of many social institutions. This is one of the reasons for the passage of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967—to protect people from unfair treatment in the workplace because of their age. But, age discrimination has a personal as well as professional impact. Changes in the ways others perceive or treat us as we age can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and even depression about getting older.

We have legal remedies for age discrimination in the professional world, but we should seek a spiritual remedy for any inner negative attitudes we may have about our personal aging. We certainly should do all we can physically to boost our positive attitude about aging, including staying fit, eating nutritious foods, and judiciously utilizing cosmetic and medical procedures that enhance our appearance. But, as Second Corinthians 4:16 points out, the day will come when the outer person must perish (read that “grow old”), but the inner one can be renewed daily by faith. We should remember how God views our aging process. Fortunately for us, He doesn’t measure our value by counting the number of candles on our birthday cakes—or the number of wrinkles under our chins!

As I explored my own feelings about how others’ perceptions of me have changed as I’ve aged, I wrote the following meditation about God’s perspective of aging. Perhaps you can relate to it. May we all grow in grace as we age in years!

From Miss to Ma’am*

Both start with an “M,” but there the similarity ends. Miss and Ma’am are like two ends of a one-way worm hole. You enter as Miss, spin wildly through blasts of light, sound, and experience, and exit as Ma’am in a galaxy far, far away. Yet, the journey only may take a few flips of the calendar—or a few changes in dress size. Once labeled as “Ma’am,” you scour your brain to recall what became of “Miss.” Was she not me, just a few years ago? Has Ma’am less to offer than Miss? Surely, God doesn’t think so. Miss He danced with on Prom Night; Ma’am He communes with in candle light. Both have stolen His heart.

*Excerpt from the 1st place winner of the 2014 Annual Poetry/Prose Contest of American Christian Writers East Metro Atlanta Chapter

© 2014 Sharon V. King, PhD

(For more about spirituality and aging, see my ebook The Spiritual Fitness Checkup for the 50-Something Woman and follow me on Twitter @svk50plus or connect with me at my blog www.yearsfullofgrace.wordpress.com).

Sharon is a retired gerontology professor who writes self-help  devotional books for 50+  women. In addition to her academic journal articles about religion and aging, Sharon has published several inspirational ezine articles  and Christian Education curricula. Her new book, Aging Gracefully with the 23rd Psalm, will be published later this year by Anaiah Press. Connect with Sharon on her blog at www.yearsfullofgrace.wordpress.com.

 

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From Miss to Ma’am: God’s Perspective of Aging