At the Whidbey congregation on Sunday, we were privileged to have my colleague the Rev. Dr. Shirley Ranck, author of "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven", as our guest minister. I had been scheduled to work with an RE class that day, but that was postponed because of my overloaded schedule, so I got to listen to Shirley speak.
Her theme was "The Grandmother Galaxy" and she used the phrase "invisible old women" several times. It was one of those sermons where I was squirming internally, and not because I disagreed but because I felt some self-assumptions rearranging themselves in my brain and heart. There was a whole lotta shakin' goin' on.
Age has not been much of an issue to me, or at least I was pretty sure it wasn't an issue. I'll be 65 in June and welcome the greater tax deduction, the availability of Medicare, and related benefits. I look in the mirror and I see a woman who looks much like my age cohort members----a little gray, a little lined, a little less gorgeous but still a decent-looking woman. Invisible? Hmmmmm, gotta think that one over.
In doing so, I had to acknowledge that over the past several years, as I have become more competent in ministry, I have shifted in my "appearance" priorities, from looking like an attractive, eligible, flirtatious woman eager for a romantic relationship to looking like an appropriately dressed and competent minister and community figure. My outward expression of self has shifted because of my changed attitudes toward my life's responsibilities.
There are a lot of ways I have always been quite visible: I am extroverted. I am blessed with a good singing voice which gets me lots of good attention. I am a decent writer and speaker and use a good deal of humor in my public life. I am not afraid to strike up conversations with whoever is next to me in the grocery line or waiting room. I am a good listener. I dress well and keep my appearance up, at least in public. I live in a beautiful place and enjoy having company. I'm not invisible.
But, as Shirley spoke, I began to think about the older women I know who have become invisible, who are tired of trying so hard, who let their husbands do all the public interfacing, who don't speak up any longer because they are weary, who have learned to let their children make their own mistakes and no longer offer advice unless asked. Except for the husband part, I can see myself getting to this point.
Currently, I have congregations who care what I think, who ask for my advice and help, who respect and appreciate my point of view whether they share it or not. I have friends who like to be with me. I have a son who calls me up periodically to ask for help with his children's behavioral mysteries or just to talk. There's no way I could be invisible right now.
But in 20 years? Will anyone care what I think? Will anyone respect my opinions? Will I be helpful to anyone or will I be more of a responsibility than an asset? It's a possibility that demands some thought.