Who’s Prejudiced Now?

“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?”

>sigh<

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.

Prayer: Lord, give me an open mind and open heart toward others. Help me to see each individual as a treasure, someone You created in Your image, and someone with a unique gift to share. And make me willing to share what You’ve given me, as Your Spirit leads, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

18 thoughts on “Who’s Prejudiced Now?

  1. I’m 73 so I really enjoyed your opening paragraphs on this post that pertained to being older and possibly “overlooked”. It’s interesting how our perspectives change as we get older. I’ve always been one that has tried to do my very best and taken pride in being able to accomplish difficult tasks. My background is in Information Technology Network Administration but when I turned 70, I had to acknowledge that my ability to multitask as I had done in younger years, definitely wasn’t at the same caliber that I used to be able to maintain. Not to worry, time to retire. Well that didn’t work out the way I thought it would either so enter compromise. I decided to do some menial work as a security guard at a military base that I used to work at. It got me out moving about and I still had an opportunity to converse with a good number of military personnel that I had previously worked with. I only work five days out of 14 so it keeps me out of the lazy boy chair. I also discovered that even though I couldn’t multitask as I once did, I had no problem whatsoever focusing on a given singular subject, so I started blogging in earnest and sharing the things that I had learned along the way in my walk with our Lord. I’ve grown a lot in the last three years, and developed friendships with people all over the world. And it’s amazing how God can use my presence in the oddest circumstances, a word of encouragement to a young Christian, a word of advice to a fellow Christian. reaching out to non-believers and experiencing how God can turn things around when I’d already written them off. I have time to really think about what God’s will is now and I’m satisfied to just go with the flow that He directs me in. Actually, it’s a relief and I find that I see much more than I used to, the guidance of the Holy Spirit is much more real and precious. And then of course, there’s the grand children that both my wife and I thoroughly enjoy. You strike me as very intelligent with a good sense of humor, but down to earth about learning lessons that God teaches us, and of course, you write very well. I’m looking forward to learning from you. Grace and blessings!

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    1. “…how God can use my presence in the oddest circumstances, a word of encouragement to a young Christian, a word of advice to a fellow Christian. reaching out to non-believers … ” Yes, it’s really a matter of going with God’s flow and being surprised by the way He works through us in everyday situations. Not everything has to be scheduled!

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    1. Kara, there are young people who overlook older people, just as there are adults who overlook kids. Then there are those who see value in everyone. I think you are one of the second group, and you will be blessed for it. (We miss a lot when we aren’t paying attention.)

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  2. Oh, yes, I found you. This is so right-on! When I moved to a new area and had to change churches, I was lost at what I thought was no place for me with all my experience, etc. As you say the church had moved on to the young people. I asked for an appointment with an assistant pastor. Finally, in tears, I said “I guess I can just set for two or three years – but I’m too old to wait to be discovered.” Well that did it! I was recognized and quoted by the pastor for some time. And they did give me a job – sending cards to absentees in the children’s department! Well I worked my way up to part time staff – even an office! I loved it. God is so good. Illness intervened at 79 years so I had a set back; then the Lord moved me into this blogging venture. What fun! He moves us from “glory to glory.”

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    1. What a great story! “I’m too old to wait to be discovered.” – I love it!
      The other day I was meeting with my publisher and the illustrator of my new children’s book, and the conversation was largely about how the way to focus on what we are called to do (as in writing, if that’s what God is telling us) we need to say “no” to a lot of other things we love to do. >Bingo!< That's me. Sometimes I want to do everything! I am considering that God may be gently telling me that He wants me to spend less time trying to do it all and more time focusing on the one thing.

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  3. It is funny how we can never nail down what exactly to do with judgments. For example: We must make judgments about who to market to. We do this as authors. We believe certain people will be interested in our product and certain people will not. Evidence shows that certain parts of the country, or town, or ages tend to buy more of this book than another. We teach our kids where they are safe and where they are not safe and observe the world around us through the lens of our preconceptions. It is not all wrong. It only is wrong when we expect a person to be something or act a certain way and don’t give the chance they deserve, or show them the love God intends for them. Great post.

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