WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE A “HAS BEEN”

This is what I’ve come to believe  is at the heart of so many of the struggles that I have been going through recently.  In many ways I feel like a “has been”.  I’m beginning to understand the anger I have seen over the years among older people (of course it is not limited to them)…and couldn’t really understand.  No one put it into words really and I can see why.  It is such a mix of sadness, grief, regret and of course, anger.  I don’t think people put it into words because it is one of those elephants in the room.  If you talk about it and wake it up, it seems like it will get so much bigger.  In truth, probably the opposite will happen. 

So here I am, back in the town where I lived nearly twenty years, in the “same” church (of course it is never the same) and I keep bumping into ways in which I feel like a “has-been”.  “Oh, you’re the former pastor’s wife.”   That is such a “plastic” term (although I realize it isn’t meant to be) and does not describe who or what I am now.  I think part of the problem is that “pastor’s wife” means something different to everyone as far as personality/role/relationships.  But I would like a niche for NOW.

At work, I’m struggling to keep afloat.  The best description of how it has felt is that of a near drowning victim who is barely struggling to keep their head above the water to gasp for air only to sink then struggle up for air again!  It is embarrassing to see how hard it has been to get back in the groove… embarrassing and humiliating to the core.  I don’t want to function at the level of mediocre.  Because of the hours and physical demands, I really need to find another job… hard to find when one is feeling like a “has been”.  On an intellectual level, I know I have plenty to offer in the right job and the right setting but finding it seems to be extremely hard.   Between the gaps in my resume and my age, it is very easy for potential employers to turn me down apart from God’s providence. 

In all honesty, when I look at my life, I realize that the best years are behind me/us.  It is difficult to come up with new challenges for the future…even though I still want and need some to feel alive and vibrant.  I have come to know that feeling of walking into a group of people and feeling like I am invisible because of my age.  Or walking into church and getting the same feeling and thinking it isn’t a friendly church until I see a young family walk in and people are falling all over themselves to welcome them.  (This actually happened to us one Sunday when we were visiting a new church!)  Usually it takes more subtle forms.

I can no longer get around the fact that I am old by every standard.  Despite the clichés, 60 is NOT the new 40.  My body never felt some of the things it is now feeling in my 60’s!  I have officially passed my prime and I am very sad about it.  I miss the sharpness and alertness of my mind.  I miss the kind of memory I had when I could remember whole conversations almost verbatim.  I miss the visual memory I had that could remember things I read almost photographically.  That doesn’t happen now.  It is all a struggle and I am constantly running into memory walls that prevent my being able to come up with the words/concepts that I want at a given time.

We received a long distance call the other day for advice and it felt like a drink of cold water.  I know that we have good advice to give and that our judgment is good in the middle of a lot of people who make unwise decisions.  But we also find that unsolicited advice is useless and falls on deaf ears.  Somehow, we have to prove ourselves…again!  I guess I just hate this process.  It would seem that 16 years would be enough to prove ourselves, but we’re among a lot of different people now.  I guess that is the nature of endurance, perseverance and ministry.  We have to be willing to endure during the hard times, be humbled by the various “sufferings” we must endure (and I realize that overall I really haven’t had to suffer much) and when called upon, to share our lives with others.

In the middle of all this mental turmoil, came a discussion we had a few Sunday nights ago re transcendence!  It has been on my mind ever since!  How does transcendence or God’s glory…a more nebulous/overused term to me… help us even in the times we feel like “has beens”.  (We were discussing some concepts that came up in the first two chapters of THE QUEST FOR MORE by Paul D. Tripp.)

When I get a hold of this concept…that there aren’t any “has beens” in God’s Kingdom…just as there aren’t any  unimportant people of any kind.  God, in His providence has put me where I am and He has a special job for me to do while I’m here.  When I’m done, He’ll take me to heaven.  That’s it.  I may not be crazy about some of the jobs he has for me to do before it is time for me to go…like suffer with a disease or care for a loved one who is…or even less dramatically, have to live in the world of the mediocre for a few years because my brain/body can’t live up to what I was once able to do…or simply because that is where He has placed me.  (Now there’s an exciting calling if I ever heard one!)   How would you like to live in the world of the mediocre for the glory of God?:)  For some of us, that is not really an exciting calling.  It also sounds horribly un-American/un-christian.  (I’m not talking about being lazy.  I’m talking about no longer being able to live up to the standards you were once able to live up to which feels mediocre at best.) 

In fact, the value system in God’s kingdom is completely upside-down to most of us.  His emphasis was on the “least of these” and He told His disciples that if they wanted to be great in His kingdom, they needed to become least and serve.  His whole kingdom and value system is upside-down isn’t it?  I guess that is what He is trying to bring home to us through the various things He brings into our lives through His providence.  Some days I wonder if I’ll ever get it!

The amazing thing is that whatever I’m doing for the glory of God will be a part of something so much larger than me and mine that it will have a transcendence to it that will take away the mediocre and drab because it is one little part of what God is doing in the Kingdom.  That changes what seemed mediocre and mundane into something transcendent!  That makes my job…which can be extremely mediocre…and even my response to those I perceive are treating me like a “has-been”, much different because I’m part of something much bigger than myself and how I perceive others are treating me.

So there is my ramble for today.  I am still mentally processing this one because it is not something that can easily be discussed in a group!  Tripp’s concept of our relationship with God being the oxygen that feeds us is also helpful.  our twice a month small group is processing this in light of Tripp’s book and Scripture.  I’m sure I’ll be referring more to this later.  As you can tell, my ideas are not neatly tied up yet.  I don’t know if they ever will be.  Please add your comments.

 

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