It is the Empty Next. When children grow up and leave home, or it might come with retirement, or death of a spouse. It may creep slowly or enter with sudden force. Talented women, who long for intelligent conversation, are patronized, patted, or ignored. Women who may have little power over circumstances in their lives—health issues, heartbreaking adult children—are expected to reduce their lives further to a senior efficiency apartment and a small pet under 25 pounds.
Recently, at age 63, I applied for an internship. I had waited years for the right time and opportunity. The program challenged my spiritual, intellectual, and personal growth and physical stamina. I found an unexpected love in this newness—hospital patients. But the glow dimmed a bit when spiritual leaders asked me why I would want to start something new at my age. They wondered how I would pay for it (none of their business) and if I was physically capable (I am an adult and capable of competent of decisions). It was suggested that perhaps a volunteer position would be more appropriate. We celebrate young people enter a mission field, yet these questions rippled when a mature person, a mature woman, embarked on newness.
Often the church mirrors its society and ambles without care. The sheer, overwhelming number of women over 60 relegates them to commonplace. Replaced by newer, younger models in the workplace and in marriage, these women are cast aside and forgotten. Church leadership and even “elders” come into roles in their mid-thirties, squeezing older women to back pews. Teachers sprout in youth. Worship teams recruited from local colleges have no wrinkles or warble.
That is not to disparage the education, energy, gifts, or wisdom of youth. It is to say that ignoring the gifts of mature women robs the church of wisdom and richness and strangles its power.
Posted by Alice Longaker