I have just come in from Highlands Toddler group where we have been exploring the topic of feelings. There is nothing so intimidating as a group of 2 year olds showing you on mass their “cross face.” They don’t hold anything back and are totally committed to the course of action. Equally, there is nothing more uplifting than a sea of their smiling faces beaming in one accord at you, while they sing, “If you’re happy and you know it, stamp your feet!”
My grandma used to say to me that by the time you are 40, you have the face that you deserve! I was always a bit mystified by this as a child, but I think she meant that if experience had made you doubt other people’s motives, or made you cynical about life, it usually shows in your face. If you have found yourself defensive all the time, stress will be written in the tightness of your mouth and hardness of your eyes. If you have been caught in worry, anxiety will be displayed in a hesitant gaze and still face.
If you have been able to smile in spite of everything; if you have learned to tolerate people, and recognise your own failings in others, it will be seen clearly in your face. So maybe there was something in what she said; that our faces reflect our experience. What the saying implies, however, is that when you are 40, you are stuck with the face that you have.
I am not sure that this is true. I have seen people coming together after years of being at odds with each other and seen how forgiveness transformed their faces, with the bitterness being washed away.
I have seen a marriage; late in life and unexpected transform a closed face into one of gentle smiling relaxedness. Whether you are 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, or 90, it doesn’t matter. Love or courage, or resilience in suffering, can and does change us at any age.
Prayer also changes us, changes how we think and act. In prayer we draw near to the source of love and courage and call on God to fill us with his Spirit, so that whatever our problems may be, they do not overcome us. Rather we are able to face them, not in weakness, but in the strength of his love and the knowledge that the love of God ultimately overcomes all evil and suffering and even death itself.
So let us pray with confidence this autumn as we say:
Holy Spirit, come down and enter into our being;
To those who are anxious or perplexed, give peace;
To those who are weary, give rest;
comfort those who mourn;
and according to your wisdom and will for us,
heal the sick, strengthen those in need,
so that your love will live in our hearts,
and be reflected in our lives and in our faces! Amen