The moment might strike while antiquing; their eyes meet over a mid-century modern divan, and the sparks fly. Both middle-aged partners are ready for some empty-nester afternoon delight… thanks to the pharmaceutical industry.

That’s the picture we get from the ads for erectile dysfunction medications such as Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra that pepper late-night TV programs. A new batch of commercials for the drug Osphena target women who experience painful intercourse, or dyspareunia, due to the hormonal and physiological changes at menopause.

For many, these products have lived up to their promises to enhance intimacy—countering the effects of other medications, alleviating sexual performance anxiety, and extending sexually active years beyond what most of our forebears could have imagined. But I wonder how 15-plus years of such ads have affected our understanding of “normal” sex at midlife.

Physiological changes that accompany the aging process increasingly appear to us as medical problems to be treated with costly medical solutions. (Viagra is not a cheap date; it retails for about $40 a dose.) Commercials featuring husky-voiced sexy grandmas or rugged 50-something men driving vintage convertibles tell us we’re supposed to perform in bed as if we’re half our age, even if it takes a pharmacist’s help to do so.

Nearly 8 million prescriptions were written in 2012 for those famous little blue pills alone, our own version of the fountain of youth. That figure doesn’t include any of the other ED drugs prescribed for men or the new class of drugs like being offered to menopausal women. Our government is a major customer of ED drugs; last year, the Defense Health Agency spent $84 million on ED prescriptions. “Some studies have found ED has become a growing health problem for service members in the last few years, (but) it turns out that less than 10 percent of these documented prescriptions were actually for the troops,” CBS News reported. “The rest went to retirees or family members covered by military health plans.”

It’s a normal, healthy desire to wish to stoke the fire in a long-term marriage or forge a vibrant intimate relationship with a new mate if an earlier marriage ends in death or divorce. Media images of fit Boomer marathoners and actresses who are “sexy at 60” have replaced the last generation’s norm of genderless, thick-waisted, polyester-clad grandparents playing bingo in the retirement home. We’re living longer, with a greater understanding of diet, exercise, and medical treatments for conditions that used to slow us down. Plus, we have access to those sexual enhancement drugs that promise to keep us forever young.

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However, it’s still important to remember that in our fallen world, aging is normal, too. And it’s not all bad news and decay. Midlife reframes and tempers the ambitions that drove us in our young adulthood. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become ever-more comfortable with saying “no” to things that aren’t really important to me, “yes” to people and ideas that challenge and push me, and “maybe” to making lots of long-term plans. There’s a wonderful freedom in learning to be comfortable in my own skin, even if that skin is kissed by an increasing number of age spots.

Ecclesiastes 2 details how the aging author attempts to fight the decay of his body and soul. He details his attempts at capturing pleasure: savoring alcohol, intentionally embracing fun and foolishness, amassing wealth, building monuments to his power, and enjoying a harem-full of women (the latter, perhaps, the ancient equivalent of an unending supply of Cialis). When he tabulates his efforts, he declares them all meaningless.

There are promises in Scripture about God bringing flourishing to every season of our lives, but those promises are framed by a larger, truer reality: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

The ED/dyspareunia commercials use gauzy images and frank language—including hurried recitations of some pretty memorable side effects—to tell us another story: We don’t have to waste away. Surgery, spin classes, or an adventure vacation demonstrate our vitality. If we turn back the clock in the bedroom, we can insure that vitality and spark. And perhaps we can keep death at bay.

Many of us (ahem…) find these adult ads uncomfortable to watch, especially if there are children in the room. Yet they’re so much a part of popular culture now, we may be tempted to think the messaging doesn’t affect us much. A few years ago, the American Academy of Pediatricians called for a ban on airing them until after 10 p.m. Though the drugs are targeted at adults, the AAP suggested that children are absorbing a distorted message about adult sexuality from them:

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These ads suggest that if you aren’t having sex there is something wrong with you since you can call a doctor to write a prescription to fix it…National sex surveys show that whether we’re married or single, we’re not having sex all the time, but these ads make us think we should be. The whole point of most ads is to make us feel inadequate. Without that as a motivation why would we buy something?

When we as believers are faced with this advertising, we can remind ourselves that a couple of middle-aged actors are trying to sell us an expensive drug, not the fountain of youth. If we obsess on what we may be losing as we age, we will miss the gifts God gives us during this life stage including wisdom and the generous beauty of maturing love. Even as our bodies change and age, we are “being renewed day by day” by our eternal God.