What do you see in the picture below?  An old lady?  Or a young woman? In fact, both of them are in this cartoon. For what is the nose of the old lady also serves as the chin of the young woman.  And the old lady’s left eye is also the left ear of the young woman.  The picture is an optical illusion that contains more than what can be seen at first glance.  But you cannot see both women at the same time.  They are on two different layers.  Like always, it simply depends on the perspective and your own stance.   For example, regarding the picture in question a study has revealed that the person you see first in this picture could be affected by your own age.
But now – and that is the real challenge – think of everything you see around you as something that has different layers and different meanings.  The cartoonist William Ely Hill gave his work from 1915 the meaningful title: “My Wife and my Mother-in-Law”.  It is not just a play with different perspectives but also a reference to the underlying truth that every old lady was once a young woman, and that a young woman cannot simply stay young.
A seed bears a new plant, and the plant was once a seed.  Only time separates in front of our eyes what is intrinsically connected.  And by the way – what is a young woman or man?  It is sometimes strange at my age, that older people regard me as young and young people as very old.  So sometimes I am young and the next moment I am old.  It just depends on the perspective.  What is grey at night can be flamboyant by day.  And a poor person in a rich country can be a rich person in a poor country. Everything depends on the perspective.
In leaving your old ways behind, you can experience unexpected new situations.  Just try to look at things in a new way and then you will see new things.

That is the promise and the challenge of following Jesus.  Ash Wednesday is this year on the 2nd of March.  This day marks the start of the season of Lent.  The 40 days of Lent connect us with the 40 days of Jesus in the wilderness, being tempted by Satan.  Jesus passed the test.  In the cold and the heat of the desert he was forged and harnessed to start his public mission.  He starts with the words: “The time has come.  The kingdom of God has come near.  Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) Jesus begins like John the Baptist with a call for repentance.
The Greek word that is rendered as “repentance” is metanoia.  “Repentance” has undoubtedly a negative connotation, especially in our modern society.  It relates to the past and sounds like admitting guilt and feeling bad.  But that is not so much intended by the Greek word.  “Metanoia” is more related to the future and has a more positive sound.  It means a transformative change of one’s mind and heart. It can be translated as “conversion” or even “reformation” – and the latter has in our Reformed tradition a superb connotation!  Metanoia
means that you leap at a chance that is given to you.  The focus is not on the botched past as a burden but on the new future that starts today.
How does this new future start?  Not in the way people would normally expect, because we usually think that it depends on us and that we have to take action to pave the way for a better future.  But regarding the gospel, Jesus himself is the new future.  God has already taken action to pave the way for a new world.  And this becomes a reality in our lives through our faith.  Therefore, “repent and believe the good news!”  Change your perspective, see the world differently.  Do not see just the old things you are used to but start to see the young woman as well in the picture.  Do not be distracted and frustrated by all the signs that this world is utterly doomed but believe in the new heaven and the new earth – and the new world has already started in Jesus.  Do not allow yourself to be lulled into simply repeating what you hear in the news and around you but believe the good news of the gospel.  Seize the chance and start anew!
Your past is buried with Jesus, you can now jump into a new life, like the butterfly that leaves its cocoon.
Repent and fly – and do not say “I am too old for this”.
For in every old lady is hidden a beautiful young woman.