Sarah, our granddaughter, when she was very small, explained to me one day what happens when you die: “Your face goes to heaven, not your body. You get a new body, but keep the same face.”
Sarah’s understanding of our eternal state was a child’s understanding, of course, but she did grasp an essential truth: Our faces are a reflection of who we really are. They are a visible image of the invisible soul—the place on the surface where the self, the personality, the “I” becomes evident.
My mother used to say that an angry look might someday freeze on my face. She was wiser than she knew. A furrowed brow, an angry set to our mouths, a sly look in our eyes reveal a wretched and miserable soul. On the other hand, kind eyes, a gentle look, a warm and welcoming smile, despite wrinkles, blemishes and other disfigurements, are the ineradicable marks of inner goodness.
We can’t do much about the faces we were born with, but we can do something about the faces we’re growing into. We can pray for humility, patience, kindness, tolerance, mercy, gratefulness, and unconditional love. By God’s grace, and in his time, you and I may grow toward an inner resemblance to our Lord, a likeness reflected in a kind, old face. Thus age becomes “loveliest at the latest day” (John Donne).