The first time, I remember being a little star-struck. Feeling like I should pinch myself to make sure I was awake. I’d been invited to attend a national conference for women in ministry. As I looked around the room, I saw dozens of other authors and speakers – women I listened to on the radio or saw on TV. Women whose books were best-sellers, piled high in prominent locations at my local Christian bookstore. Women who spoke to packed churches and auditoriums, signed autographs for hours, posed for pictures and prayed with people who lined up to see them.
And here I was, being included in their august company – welcomed as a peer. I was the youngest woman in the room … a good ten or fifteen, twenty, or even thirty years younger than the other women at the conference. But somehow it didn’t seem to matter. We were sisters and friends.
Now the lines on my face and on my resume attest to the reality that I’m not the youngest anymore. In fact, I’m the same age most of my author / speaker friends were when I first met them.
What a difference a few years have made.
Not long ago I attended Allume – a conference for Christian women bloggers. Looking at all the young 20-something women – and even a few 30- or 40-something women just getting started now that their kids are in school – I could instantly relate to the mixture of excitement and fear I saw on their faces.
The thrill of the adventure, stepping out in faith. The confusion, as they try to figure out who they are and what God’s called them to do and where they fit in. So many ambitions (in the best sense of the word), hopes, and dreams. So much stress about building a platform (an audience), attracting an agent or a publisher, selling enough books.
“Ah yes, I remember it well…”
Because I’ve been there. And every once in a while I go back for a visit.
But time has given me a perspective I didn’t have – couldn’t have – back then. Time and sister-friends.
Those women who befriended me early in my ministry are mostly in their late fifties, sixties and seventies now. Some of them are still very active in ministry, writing and speaking around the country. These “shining stars” just keep shining brighter and brighter. (Dan 12:3)
But many of them have been gradually fading into what the world would call obscurity. Their books have gone out of print. Their speaking requests are fewer and far between – and at much smaller venues.
I could name names, but you’d just look puzzled. Because you’ve never heard of them – though they were once at the pinnacle of public ministry.
These days like other women their age, they’re busy caregiving for their elderly parents – or their husbands. Some of them have been widowed. Others have battled their own health issues: diabetes, cancer, stroke. They worry about their adult children struggling with the challenges of midlife, and their grandchildren who have special needs.
They don’t have the energy to travel and speak as often as they used to. They need reading glasses to see their notes. They tell me that their agents and publishers are polite, but disinterested in their book proposals. These seasoned women’s ministry leaders don’t know if they should keep trying or just accept that the world thinks they’re “too old.”
“For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the Word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Pet 1:24-25)
Getting old isn’t for sissies! But these sisters of mine are aging as gracefully and as faithfully as they can. Humbly holding on to Jesus for dear life.
Determined to finish well.
I’ve been in ministry myself now over twenty-five years, fifteen on a national stage. It’s burning in my heart to tell my younger sisters what I see, the view from here:
Fame is fleeting – and so is applause, recognition, success.
Today’s best-seller is in tomorrow’s bargain bin.
Whatever “it” is that you think will validate you, affirm you, fulfill you, establish you in your career and ministry – “it” will never be enough. Never. The bar always keeps moving. The rules always keep changing.
Hold your dreams – whatever they are – lightly.
“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)
Don’t get tangled up, don’t get wrapped up in all the wrong things. (Heb 12:1-3)
And don’t be too sure you won’t! It’s happened to better women than you and I.
Fall on the mercy of Jesus.
Be grateful if He calls you to go deep instead of wide.
Trust that every step of your journey – every path He leads you along – is necessary and precious, invaluable to you.
And be kind.
The little old lady in the seat on the plane next to you — or in line at the store — or on the church pew — just might have a few things to teach you.
One day it will be you.