Hope Bonarcher looks at our culture’s obsession with youth, and reveals the age-defying beauty that Jesus offers each one of us 


Is it truly possible to grow old gracefully? Consider the seasons. Brightly hued spring flowers, the warm and toasty summertime, autumn’s brilliant foliage and the sparkling frost in winter. Each year ages faithfully, each season with its uniquely personalised gifts. However, perusing the latest smorgasbord popular culture has to offer, one can easily get the message that only certain seasons of life are worth embracing (then holding onto with a death grip). 

I notice the faces of the female celebs I grew up with, society’s pinnacles of beauty, appearing more and more tweaked, stretched and manipulated. Women like Madonna, Jennifer Anniston, Victoria Beckham, Nicole Kidman, Elle Macpherson and Naomi Campbell; the season of life ordained for them isn’t being accepted willingly. Even a younger set of starlets; the Kardashian and Jenner sisters, Megan Fox and Cardi B, are poking and filling their faces beyond recognition. This isn’t rogue criticism. I’ve genuinely been so taken aback by some of their facial transformations, it pulls me out of the element of fantasy inherent in a compelling advert, or favourite series, to think: “Who cares what she’s selling? What the heck has she done to her face?!” How would it look to try and stave off winter, to attempt to keep the autumn leaves from falling? The mere thought seems ridiculous, yet we as modern women face more and more pressure to attempt the same impossible feat with our faces.

Facing the physical changes

I know it may read like I can’t possibly comprehend the vainglorious low some women sink to, but it’s quite the opposite, really. For a decade of my life, I lived the fashion and beauty dream of a New York City model, signed to some of the world’s most famous agencies. I’d jet set across the country and oceans, until one fateful day on a photo shoot, I met my husband. Quicker than you could sing the lyrics to RuPaul’s ‘Supermodel’, he led me to the Lord; I was saved, sanctified, married, knocked up, laying down my life on the runway to pick up my cross and train up our brood of God-fearing children. 

Though no longer a full-time model, I’m now learning first-hand how perimenopause ushers in physical changes. No matter the cream or serum, I can’t seem to capture the glow my youth took for granted. My face seems more shadowy with less resilience. I earnestly question whether I’m still beautiful. I’ve got my husband, four lovely children and my church community to show up for…I can only imagine the pressure of having to ‘show up’ for untold millions on the world’s stage. Yet, no matter the stabs (pun intended) at maintaining perpetual girlhood, ageing, like the change of seasons, is inevitable. Gravity pulls, age spots, skin wrinkles and ingenuity fades. Sadly, when the world’s most beautiful women so desperately desire to delay the effects of ageing, their desperation, not their beauty, becomes the spectacle. They haven’t escaped the curse; they’ve become further victim to it – they’re paranoid androids. 

Embracing natural beauty

There are some amazing women doing their part to defeat the prevailing notion that beauty dies with youthfulness. Pamela Anderson made a sensation showing up to Paris Fashion Week, aged 56, without make-up. Supermodel Paulina Porizkova, now also a writer, refuses heavy make-up or harsh retouching, aged 58, gracing magazine covers with wrinkles. American actress and pro-aging activist Justine Bateman writes in her book, Face, about embracing her admittedly “old face”, in turn encouraging and empowering other women. All of these women, aged out of youthfulness, emit an intelligence, depth and honesty not readily found in the hidden, pin-tucked corners of their counterparts. 

I have a gorgeous Christian friend, a fellow home-schooling mom of many children. A salt of the earth Shetland lass, you wouldn’t catch her likeness in magazines or describe her wardrobe as fashion forward. These things aside, when I think of her, what comes to mind is radiant contentment. If you could bottle up her beauty for market, the packaging would be simple, but the fragrance would be a sweet-smelling aroma to the Lord. Nothing clawing or artificial, only what is lovely and good: “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God” (1 Peter 3:4, NLT). This is the peculiar, age-defying beauty Christ offers every believer. 


Freed from the fear of death

So, what does this say about age? Do we need to accept it to embrace it? Is beauty solely synonymous with youth? What does it actually mean to grow old gracefully? Seeking through my Bible, I found this passage of scripture and wondered whether the root of the fear of ageing is the fear of death: “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying” (Hebrews 2:14-15, NLT). 

When the world’s most beautiful women so desperately desire to delay the effects of ageing, their desperation, not their beauty, becomes the spectacle

For me, this was a mic drop moment! The prospect of death itself is inherent in ageing, inescapable and unavoidable! According to the Bible, the power of death is held by the devil. Unbelievers live their lives “as slaves to the fear” of it. Fear of death is a type of bondage. Can we not see it there, in the perpetually unsuccessful attempt to control that which by its very nature is immutable? Youth chasers are bound to the inconvenient truth that alone, they are subject to the defeat of the devil. But God! Jesus made a public spectacle of death and the powers of darkness at the cross (Colossians 2:15). For the believer, the telltale signs that we are creeping closer to death have been erased and replaced. In truth, we are racing triumphantly toward an ageless, deathless, sinless eternal living, with Jesus. Looking at our ageing faces in the mirror, we can smile, anticipating the joy set before us, confident in him through whom we’ve overcome: “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). Let that brilliantly good news radiate through your laugh lines and crow’s feet!