“The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7b
As I mentioned in a piece I posted earlier this year (around my 65th birthday), I have recently become more aware of attitudes toward older people. No doubt this is partly because I have entered the season of the empty nest and retirement. But I’m pretty sure another factor is having moved from a town where I was a very active member of my church and community to a town where I am virtually unknown.
I have since noticed that unless a person has already distinguished himself in some way, an older person tends to be relegated to the pews. It seems we are generally not looked upon as people who have much to offer in terms of experience, teaching, or counseling. I’m not sure if it’s because people assume that we’re too tired, sick, or weak to teach, or that our short-term memory doesn’t allow us to focus enough to counsel, or that we’re just plain dumb because we have to ask our grandchildren for help with technology.
Look, I may not know how to switch gears on a search engine, but I’ve known the Lord longer than most of you have been alive, and I’ve been studying the Bible for about five decades now. Are you sure there’s nothing you could learn from me?
One day my daughter asked what I was doing Saturday night. She said a newlywed couple in the church were having some marital problems and needed some counseling. I was excited, thinking, At last! Someone wants to avail themselves of the wisdom I’ve gained over a 45-year marriage!
“So, Mom, can you watch the kids while Sean and I go talk to them?”
I was so preoccupied with my own wanting to be more involved that I didn’t realize until about six weeks ago that I myself had succumbed to this very mindset!
I was in my old home town for an authors’ dinner where I was one of ten authors scheduled to speak and sign books. When the woman planning the event told me that each of us was going to be given about 12 minutes to speak, I immediately did the math and realized that this added up to a total of two hours of speaking! I thought surely we would wear out our audience long before the close of the event.
I didn’t have to worry. For one thing, two of the authors didn’t make it, so that left “only” eight of us.
Secondly, the woman planning the evening had scheduled four of us to speak before dinner and four of us after, so the speaking time was split up.
Thirdly, the sheer diversity of authors was anything but boring! We were young, old, and in between; men and women; black and white; writers of fiction, non-fiction, analysis of controversial issues, inspiring testimonies, devotionals, and poetry.
One of the last authors to speak was an elderly lady with snow-white hair, a long blue lace dress, and a sweet smile on her face. I immediately assumed that she must be a poet – the kind of poet that writes for greeting card companies. I settled myself in for what I expected to be a big yawn.
Shame on me.
This woman spoke of her younger years, the years of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain. There was no internet in those days, and Christians in closed countries had no access to the Bible unless believers from free nations smuggled them in. Well, this is what this lady and her husband did. The very fact that they were such unlikely looking smugglers made it easy. Most countries were more than happy to have these “rich American tourists” as their guests and rarely, if ever, searched their luggage. The couple had brought Bibles into so many places that the title of her book had to be changed from Adventures in Europe to Global Travels of God’s Servants. Her testimony was riveting, and as she neared the end of her speech, she casually added that yes, it was risky, yes, they eventually got caught, and yes, they spent time in prison. She then closed with a hilarious poem about resisting God’s call until He gives up and just drops you on your butt. It was called “Butt Prints in the Sand,” which was, of course, a parody of “Footprints in the Sand.” She definitely practiced the old rule of “Leave ‘em laughing.”
I was thoroughly rebuked.
So, I guess I can’t complain too much about people’s preconceived notions about this sixty-something sister, when I myself misjudged an older saint with so much to share.
I’ll have to be more open-minded and more patient with the closed-minded. But I am still on the lookout for opportunities to speak, teach, disciple, counsel, or testify.
Just don’t ask me to speak on the finer points of configuring a format.