Empty Next

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

 

A Woman’s Place

As I get a little older, my hindsight increases, and I can see life patterns. Some patterns are bothersome—maybe not to the extent of ranting or disrupting fellowship, but words are needed.

One such pattern is the ongoing discussion of women and their roles in the local church. In society and history, feminists sought education, careers, equality, and even independence. At times they disparaged women who sought a career in the home, or those who enjoyed cooking or sewing. Women at home criticized their sisters as reckless, harmful to the family unit, masculine, and emasculating. Instead of women offering salt and light to the world, the negative behaviors encroached on the Church—some denominations leaning too far one way, some leaning too far the other.

A woman’s place is wherever she is ministering with her gifts. Respect for the woman called to minister to infants in a nursery should equal the respect for the one called to mission in teaching. One is not more Biblical than the other. Cover your head, or don’t cover your head. Speak from the pulpit or do not speak from the pulpit. Disagree or agree. But do so with respect and the expectation of learning from  one another–not the gossipy asides, condemnation, or jokes at the expense of others.

The following video might begin some dialogue.

Posted by Alice Longaker