Wrinkles are like a soldier’s stripes

September 2017 Anniston/Gadsden Holy Humor article

“Thanks, Barbara. Don’t we all wish we could erase half a century from our face!” “Oh, no. Life has been too complicated to want to erase even one flaw. Those wrinkles are like a soldier’s stripes. I’ve earned every one of them. I can almost name my wrinkles according to their cause and remember the situations God has brought me through.” Perhaps I reacted to my friend’s comment the way I did because the night before, I had discussed with a friend how God had miraculously brought us both through so much in our lifetimes. I’ve had heartaches, joys, and even embarrassing times, but Jesus has been there with me through each one. My mind went back to my first year of marriage.  I was only fifteen but had lofty ambitions.  I was determined to be the “perfect” wife.  Any frown or word of displeasure from my husband made me know I had failed.  One night we were having a heated discussion.  He sat on the bed, and I sat akimbo a few feet away by the laundry basket.  During our angry talk, he pulled his sock off and hurled it in the basket.  I started crying to his dismay. “Why are you crying?” Sob, sob — “You threw a sock at me.” “No, if I had been throwing AT you, I would have hit THAT target.”  He had been a high school athlete and still fancied himself as one. We both burst into laughter at our ridiculousness and forgot what the argument was about in the first place.  I mentally traveled on to our difficult college days.  One book wouldn’t hold all of our adventures, misadventures, joys, and troubles of those days as we struggled through with three young sons. One day, the tight community we had formed in the married student apartments at Samford University (mostly ministerial students and wives) took a break from studying and went to the football practice field.  It was just across a ditch from the apartments.  We divided into teams, both husbands and wives participating, for our tag football game.  A while into our spirited game, I took a time-out and ran to the apartments. Too much laughter and the birthing of three boys made me know I need  NOT postpone trips to the bathroom.  I came back with fresh pants on thinking no one would notice. Gene, our good-humored neighbor couldn’t let it go.  “Looks like you had to go change uniforms, Barbara.”  There was great laughter at my expense. I laughed too, because when I laugh at myself, no one laughs AT me, only WITH me. As my wrinkles (or soldier-stripes) became more plentiful as the years and experiences piled on, I, again, thought no one would notice if I just smiled a lot – you know – smile lines. But they did.  One night, our young, energetic minister of music threw his arm around me after the service.  “Becca (his wife – also young and spry) paid you a compliment this morning on our way home from church.”  “Really?” I was ready for any affirmation I could get. “She said when she got old, she wanted to be just like you.”  How was that for encouragement? After becoming a widow, (and, yes, God has seen me through those difficult days too) life has taken on a new normal.  It involves appreciating times with old friends and also meeting new ones.  As I was enjoying a night with a new friend, a widower, a minister, he received a text from his daughter.  He was fumbling to try to type an answer.  “I’m slow on this texting thing.” Being the fixer and helper I am, I suggested he enable dictation so he could merely speak his reply.  He did.  Fortunately, he looked at the message before he sent it.  The shocked look on his face made me look at the message too. It included a word he would never use, one that is disgusting to hear, one that would have put his grown daughter in her grave if she had received it from her holy dad. Thank God for the delete button.   Sometimes I wish I had one of those for some of my less than stellar life’s experiences, but on the other hand, I would have to erase one or some of my soldiers’ stripes if I did. Through the good, the bad, the ugly of my life, Jesus has always been there.  The longer I serve him, the sweeter it grows. “— And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

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