The Philosopher, C.S. Lewis said, “You don’t have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body.” The more I have ponder this statement, the more I am convinced of its truth. My life is basically my consciousness. I haven’t really changed, but I have grown and matured. I like the person I have become. Yet, my outer shell, my body, has changed. On one level, I went from being a fat person, to being a normal sized person. I have written about this transformation in the past. Our outer shells can help us feel good about ourselves or bad about ourselves, yet when I was heavy or now that I am thinner, I am still the same person.
What has taken me by surprise is that my former excess weight hid the signs of aging in my body. Now that I am thinner, I have wrinkles and sagging skin. I have body pains I never had to deal with in the past. The illusion of still being in my 30’s is gone, and has been replaced by the realization that I’m getting old. I am presently older than my grandfather was when I was born. I am not feeling decrepit, but the awareness is somewhat jarring. Inside, I still feel like a young man in my 30’s, but the reality is, I’m not. My children are in or getting close to their 30’s. As their souls have matured, I have seen them more as peers, and less as children.
As a younger man, I watched my grandparents get very old. I understood this to be the process of life, but I didn’t think much about it. It was what it was. Now that I am older, I help my elderly parents, and have watched them go from being strong to being frail. When I talk to my dad, he is mentally sharp, and I enjoy being with him and talking with him. When I have to assist him to stand, and see the look of trust in his face, like the look of a child trusting his parent, it makes me think that part of his soul is still the child that grew into my father. I grieve for the child in him that is now an old man. It makes me feel more tender towards him. Ecclesiastes 11:10 says, “Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, And put away evil from your flesh, For childhood and youth are vanity.”
When I look at my children, growing and maturing, I am proud of the people they are becoming. I appreciate them, and worry for them having to live in the world they are inheriting, yet I know they will be the souls they have become in whatever happens in the world.
I am a soul, and I have a body. My childhood hero, Mickey Mantle, outlived his father and grandfather. When interviewed, he said if he knew he was going to live longer, he would have taken better care of himself. As I have grown in awareness of my aging, I too wish I had taken better care of myself, and am trying to take better care of myself now, but ultimately, if I live long enough, I will continue to age, and eventually, like my father and grandfather before me, I will become frail.
Some people, when they come to this realization run to plastic surgeons and try to recapture their youthful appearance. The cheapest way is to use hair dyes, but there is nothing that looks more ridiculous than a guy with jet black hair on a wrinkly face. They aren’t fooling anyone. For people with more money, they get face lifts, tummy tucks, and have body sculpting. After I lost the majority of my excess weight, I did have excess skin removed, and it did make me feel like the thinner person I had become, but it didn’t change the person I am. If I had more money, I could have excess skin removed on other parts of my body, but I wouldn’t do it, because it wouldn’t make me feel better than I do now, and wouldn’t make me a better person, and quite frankly, at this stage of my life, I’m in a downhill slide. No matter what I do, it will only be temporary. In the 1960’s, my grandmother had a face lift. By the 1970’s, you couldn’t tell she ever had one.
When you get older, what can you do to improve yourself? You can work on two things: First, its wise to eat healthier. Eating healthy will make you feel better and protect your health. If you are going to age anyway, being healthy is always better than taking medicine and running to doctors.
Secondly, and more important, work on your soul. Whatever you invest in your soul will be with you a lot longer than what you invest in your body. Become the person, not the body, you want to be. You can feel pretty good about yourself if you like the soul you are. The body is superficial, and ultimately goes bad on you. Treat people with kindness. Do acts of charity. Laugh more. Enjoy people and life. Draw near to God. You are getting closer to meeting Him.