We live in a culture that prizes youthfulness and scoffs at age. You can see it if you pay attention to advertising. It's blatant. You don't even have to pay close attention.
I find it to be disgusting. Our lack of appreciation for the natural progression of human life . . . I find it especially sad because lots of this advertising targets women. Women who should be given the opportunity to feel some satisfaction with the fulness of a life well spent rather than the shame of having "unwanted" wrinkles.
Lots of people would say that at age 26 I'm still pretty much youthful.
My students either guess my age as being 15 or 57. It's a toss up. Half the time they're way off because they think I'm older and half the time they say, "I just think you're like a teenager!" Folks tell me to be flattered by the latter comment, but I'm not so sure . . .
People are horrified at the idea of having gray hair. Even friends close to my age express panic when their first white or gray hairs come in.
Perhaps my own experience has been counter cultural . . . None of the women in my immediate family circle have ever dyed their hair to avoid natural aging - and I don't plan to either. There's something glorious about my mother's salt and pepper hair - something honest. Something beautiful.
Sometimes I wonder - have we forgotten how to love wisdom in the midst of our culture? Even our Christian culture???
Don't get me wrong - wisdom and age are not always synonymous . . . but more often than not they are connected.
For me, loving wisdom does NOT mean only singing the old songs. But it does mean learning from them - which ones became precious and why? How can we write like that in the present? How can we draw from the experiences of our loved ones who have lived more than we have?
Wisdom. The depth of spirit and heart that so often comes from experience and time. I don't know any young women who can gently press a pie crust into submission the way my Mom can.
But then, she has years and years of doing this. Years of watching what more or less moisture will do, what kind of flour seems to do best . . . years of knowing just how the oven needs to be treated.
The first time I ever memorized something to sing for a small audience I was probably 13 or 14. I'd been asked to come and sing "In the Garden" for a group of older folks who met for Bible study on Wednesday night at my home church.
The group was led by a wonderful retired pastor named Dan Kelly. My sister and I had always loved Mr. Kelly because whenever he visited our home he would tell us colorful stories - our favorite being his story of finding a possum in his garage.
So I felt like I could trust those people. I don't remember being scared to sing for them. And nobody played the piano for me - I just sang the tune by myself. And I could feel it . . . like it was part of the air around me - LOVE. Love coming from them . . . love being given to me.
I've played my songs for lots of "young" audiences - coffeehouses full of people my own age. And I've learned something from these experiences. It's me giving all the love in that situation - it's me pouring out my heart and soul to try and make these other people my age feel like they don't have to prove something to each other. It's exhausting. It takes everything I have.
Yesterday I played a concert in a retirement home.
Those are the best.
Probably 30 people were gathered to hear it. I played 2 classical pieces, 6 of my own songs, and then I took out the hymnal and said, "Name your favorite tune and if it's in here, we'll sing all the verses you want."
They wore me out!
We sang songs that lots of people would consider to be "old," but you know what? Songs aren't old unless we devalue them. Unless they were lacking value in the first place.
These songs weren't old because the people singing them knew that they were still precious.
This is a beautiful song by Sara Groves . . . and it says everything.
I'm not saying that I don't like to play for people my own age . . . I'm just saying . . . we can't forget what is precious. We can't be fooled into thinking that the only precious things are the things of our youth. We have to know that when God promises us life that is "abundant," He is promising something bigger than we understand.
Popularity is a goal apart from God. It has nothing to do with God . . . I say this to myself often because as a writer of songs I am tempted by the desire to be popular with music lovers my own age. But God never has told me who my audience is . . . or where the music is meant to go. All of that just falls into place. I don't imagine any of my favorite composers writing music because they longed for popularity . . . they wrote mostly because they had to write. They loved to write.
It was precious to them.
Peace and Goodness.