When I’m Sixty-Four

When I am Sixty Four - Becky Allender

For many of us, our bodies and physical appearances are the swiftest way for self-contempt to find a path to our hearts. Here, Becky Allender writes about how a reflection in harsh lighting threw her into the trap of comparison and stirred up a familiar fear, accompanied by a familiar song—“When I’m Sixty-Four” by the Beatles. Becky reflects on aging and re-learning what it means to step into the fullness of the beauty God created for her.

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

A few weeks ago, we stayed with our friends at their lake house in Wisconsin. Everything about our time together was easy and inviting. We talked, walked, cooked, and even colored together. It was wonderful to see them again after six years apart. They drove us to a new Marriott along the Little Chute River so Dan could work out before doing a simulcast at their church.

I was going to change quickly and meet Bill and Janet back in the lobby so we could savor every moment. I decided to brush my teeth before leaving the room and that’s when reality hit hard…really hard. The glimpse of myself in the mirror was shocking! It seemed I had aged 10 years since leaving our friends’ guest room mirror. The fluorescent lights shining down showed every hair on the top of my head: dark and white! My skin looked yellow; I looked dull and ancient. I wasn’t sure if I could sit with my friends without despairing. I took a deep breath and silently praised our choice to have dim lighting in our master bath for the past 20 years.

Apparently, most people have the experience of forgetting what they look like and then glancing in a store mirror or window, shocked by the reflection. It’s happening to me more and more. I decided to talk about this with my new hair stylist—maybe Sean hadn’t noticed what my hair truly looks like!

He immediately understood my torturous feeling in the Marriott bathroom. He began talking about CRI (the color rendering index), which is a technical term denoting the quantitative measure of a light source to reveal the colors of an object in comparison with a natural light source. He stated that the least flattering light for your face is blue-ish light, and that’s what probably happened to me.

I couldn’t help but think of the Beatles song, “When I’m Sixty-Four.” Now that I’m past that age, I really feel the lyrics:

When I get older, losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

I remember my father saying of a single woman he knew, “She has a great personality.” There was something about his tone that felt like he pitied her, but had to say something positive. No one told me, but I suspected that she wasn’t pretty.

The more I decay, the more I’m face-to-face with what I’ve always feared: once my beauty fades, I’m invisible—and far worse, I’m not wanted.

How many times do I need to read these words below?

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

It is not enough to beat myself up for feeling so shallow, nor to repeatedly quote those words to my heart. Something more has to occur. It’s a dark fallacy to compare myself to women older or younger. Comparison leads only to despair or pride. I need more moments of humbling surprise.

Comparison leads only to despair or pride. I need more moments of humbling surprise.

We make our way to glory not step by step, but by a stumbling fall and misstep. Each moment I stumble over my foolishness, I have the possibility of falling into the arms of Jesus. It’s so odd. The more I struggle, the more He meets me with tender and unpredictable care. The more I receive His delight, the more His light shines in me and increases a beauty that I truly treasure.

If I equate my worth with my outward appearance, I’m on the losing side as I step closer to eternity. I’d be a fool to think that Dan’s or anyone’s love for me is based on the way I look. Besides, I don’t do that with my friends and family! My hope is that I will become more of the true “Becky”—a reflection of my creator and how He made me.

I keep singing that one refrain from the Beatles song. It dawned on me that I could sing it to Jesus as well. I have my questions, but what I hear from Him is that even at a quarter to three, the door is always open.