“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” Proverbs 16:31
Have you ever had one of those moments when you immediately realized you have aged? It almost comes a surprise. You bump into a child or young adult you haven’t seen in a while, and you see them full grown, independent, and engaged to be married. How could this be? Weren’t they just in diapers yesterday? Didn’t they just start middle school this past school year? How can they be legally driving a vehicle already? And then, the inevitable realization – I’m old!
Sometimes that realization happens when you look in the mirror. Most people gaze at their reflection on a daily basis while getting ready for the day. Many people check their reflection multiple times a day to make sure their hair and make up is “just so.” Even though we see ourselves constantly, there comes the day when “it hits us.” When did we develop new wrinkles around the eyes? Is that an age spot? Have those bags under our eyes become more pronounced? Is that more gray hair that I see? When did I become so old?
We hear all the time that “age is just a number.” It’s all about how we feel. Plenty of people spend lots of money, time, and energy to avoid the inevitable – we are all getting older. Why is aging such a surprise? Why is growing older so shocking? Why does it take deep reflection time to succumb to the understanding that we are aging? Why the process of acceptance of such facts?
This past May, I turned 36 years old. My age is relative – some of you will think that I am so young! Others will think, wow, how old! If I were to have another baby at this age, I would be cared for by doctors who consider me to be of geriatric maternal age. In the eyes of the larger church categories, you are a “young adult” if you’re between the ages of 18 and 35. But, once you turn 36, you get the boot.
In June of this past summer, I walked out the church office to find two of my clergy colleagues standing on the sidewalk by the Friendship House. I had no idea why they were at our church – I hadn’t seen any announcements come through the district email chain about a meeting at FUMC. So, I simply asked them what was going on that day. The reply was, “Oh! We are having a young adult clergy gathering today in the Faith Classroom!” Ohhh. Right. Insert awkward silence here. Of course. I’m 36 now. I’m no longer considered young clergy. What am I then? Middle-aged clergy? I’m pretty sure we don’t have support gatherings for us.
I’ve thought of myself as a young-adult for over a decade. I’m still not ready to consider myself a middle-aged adult. Then, what am I? I definitely have plenty of gray hairs – and I’ll be having them colored/covered up soon. Clearly, I’m still working out this transition – and I’m not quite ready to accept the new category I’ve happened upon. Getting older isn’t all that bad. Perhaps its time for me to consider ways to give back and mentor other young clergy – truly young ones. I have over a decade of experience as a pastor in our church. Surely someone could benefit from the lessons I have learned over those years. I suppose its time for me to focus more on being the giver and shepherd rather than the receiver and lost and helpless sheep. All this gray hair and life experience has to count for something.