I remember singing in the choir in the seventh grade with people I would describe as “my mom’s friends.” If there is a choir, mom is going to sing in it. These women had taught my pre-school Sunday school classes, been there when I was dedicated. I remember the patience these women had for me. The way they encouraged me, the way they quietly prayed for each other. I remember them laughing a lot, in a comfortable way. You could tell they had been singing together for a while. They were so patient with me. Even when I was 14 and had no idea how obnoxious I was.
I remember taking piano lessons. I probably would not have gotten to, but our piano teacher was a woman from our church, and just as we could no longer afford them she approached my mom at the Christmas Eve service and offered to give them to us for free. My oldest sister is now a music therapist and she, at least partially, has this woman to thank.
I remember being a little intimidated by her big house and her grand piano. Her huge TV in the basement that I sat in while I waited for my sister to finish her lesson. I remember the gummy bears behind the ice cream bar that I was allowed to help myself to. Very specifically I remember the time she knew that I did not ask for the sticker I wanted when I had done well on a song. I remember it had glitter on it. She told me that sometimes girls didn’t think that it was okay to ask for what they really wanted, but that it was important to speak up. It was good, to ask for what I wanted. She was the first person that saw that weakness in me, I don’t think I deserve what I really want. She was the first person to gently speak the truth to that weakness.
Later, when I got diagnosed with the middle-aged lady disease at 17, the same one she had, she encouraged me in ways that no one else could. She saw my soul again. I still have the cards she slipped me in church. She knew, she made me feel less alone.
I remember another woman who played the piano as I walked down the aisle. I remember singing in the choir she directed when I was 5 or so about how all God’s creatures have a place in the choir even if “some just clap their hands and their paws and anything they got now.” I remember learning the songs she wrote for our moms on mother’s day. And I heard that when my mother approached her about payment for playing for my wedding she scoffed, “Kathleen, I know you aren’t talking about paying me. I thought we were friends!” Then, she arranged some extra flute pieces for my cousin Rachel between the rehearsal and the wedding, simply because she recognized serious talent when she saw it.
I was continually blessed during Christmas eve and Easter services by the same woman finding instrumentalists and arranging music. I loved the Sundays with the full orchestra. I remember a few choir directors and the time in between. I don’t think this woman was ever paid for all she did. I think she just did it.
There are so many women, and men too, of a certain age and station that make up the strongest memories of my church experience growing up. The Sunday school teachers, the choir singers, the nut-sale organizers. The women who complimented my grown up hair cut and new contact lenses when I was still awkward. They made me feel beautiful. They were proud of who I was becoming. They told me how proud my parents were of me. I believed them. They spoke truth.
At 29 and 30 my husband and I are solidly in the older half of our church. College students and young marrieds, beautiful mid twenties women (seriously, Christian men, if you are not going to 1027 church, you are missing out!) that is our population. These are the people I worship with. I love them, and they are Jesus to me in so many ways. But I can’t help but miss the over 40 crowd. The way over 40 crowd.
I think they have truth that we could use. I want to know that there is nothing new under the sun, that the Christian life is hard sometimes, but at 60, 70, 85….it is worth it. I need the steadiness of people who have already quibbled over worship styles and done all the quirky Bible studies and abandoned the gimmicks but remained holding on to Jesus. I need the steady call of “this too shall pass” even as my youth (what little left I have) shouts obnoxiously that no one could possibly know, this time is different. I need their forgiveness for my youthful folly.
I think my kids need them too, these surrogate grandparents. They need to see that Jesus is the answer at every stage of life. They need to see that it is possible to fall more deeply in love with our savior every trip around the sun. They need to see someone who is excited to see them when mommy and daddy and all of their friends parents arrive to church exhausted by the effort it takes to get everyone there every week.
I think we need to learn how to serve them, us young whipper snappers need to step out of the rushing around of our little ones and budding careers and serve people who have come before us. We need to be reminded that we are not the first, and will not be the last, that there are a long line of saints (many still living) that have paved the way.