WORDS FROM W.W. May 22, 2013
Hitting 59 has made me more conscious of my slowness, morning aches, evening exhaustion, and the multiplying of pill bottles. When I look in the mirror I notice a couple of warts that weren’t always there, but have grown in prominence as I’ve clicked off the years.
The last year of your fifties makes you think of what has been and where you have been. When I was growing up in Winchester, Kentucky I was graced with some freckles on my face. I was actually cute, especially when I was missing a few teeth in the midst of freckled cheeks. Freckles were signs an imaginative childhood. I played with imaginary friends, or even played football against an invisible defense, scoring touchdowns on two yard dives in my backyard. Freckles were child-like, not childish.
A few years later, about the time when it was no longer cool to be cute, pimples started sprouting up on my face like mysterious dandelions in spring lawns. I discovered Clearasil and other products that were suppose to ease the uncomfortableness of adolescence.
Zits were a sign of not knowing whether I was still a child or had emerged into the beginnings of adulthood. It was that time when I wasn’t sure what was going on in my life. I wanted parental closeness, while at the same time keeping some distance. My dad lost some of his intelligence. I insulted my mom’s fried chicken. I wanted to be somebody, and yet I often felt like a nobody. I had a humorous streak about me, but I also was painfully short. Dreams of who I might grow up to be were being shattered. I missed the days of being a child, but knew that I was speeding towards a time of more responsibility.
And now, years later, I look in the mirror and only see trace of the freckles and a couple of little scars from the effects of teenage zits. The warts now stand out. I’m suppose to now have it all together. Experience echoes through my facial imperfections. Although people tell me that I don’t look my age, no one is approaching me to go to a rock concert at Red Rocks, or inviting me to watch Monday Night Football at Buffalo Wild Wings.
I am now a picture of maturity, and I’m about as comfortable with it as I was with youthful blemishes. Oh, it isn’t that I don’t want to be responsible. It is more that I often feel burdened…weighed down by the expectations of others. I want to be able to make mistakes, but I’m often viewed as someone who isn’t allowed to make mistakes.
And yet my warts also tell me that I’m in that phase of life when people want to know what I think, where they will often take their lead from me. There is some sense of gratification that goes with that sprinkled over the mass of responsibility.
I’m just around the corner from the next phase called “age spots.” Sometimes they appear like someone took a red marker to the face. Other times they emerge as little pre-cancerous spots. In fact, I’ve already had a few frozen off by my physician. My dad has undergone two sets of radiation treatments for cancerous spots on his ear and nose.
Age spots are a sign that I’ve gone from being a learner to a leader to a mentor. More of my time will be spent in coffee conversations and quiet reflection. I’ll start collecting letters, photos, and other indications of a lived life. I feel valued as a result of people asking me what I think, as opposed to pressing my opinions. There is soundness in “elders” being respected in the church.
Freckles, zits, warts, and age spots. It seems that there are many parallels between those facial stages and a person’s spiritual development. Dare I also say there are many parallels also with a church’s life stage.
We go from childlike energy and optimism to youthful uncertainty; living out our faith responsibly to passing on the soundness of our beliefs to the next generation.
Chaos appears when we confuse life phases; when a pimpled church tries to pretend it is certain and unyielding in it’s statement of belief, or a warted congregation is childish in it’s actions and attitudes.
A church that is healthy is one that is allowing each of it’s participants to live in the period of faith that they are in.