I only look 16.
I preface my column with that statement because I have often been mistaken for a high school student. While getting my hair cut, my 19-year-old stylist asked me what grade I was in. My financial planner thought I was my husband’s daughter. At a church I visited, people in my demographic put on their “talking to a teenager” voices and asked if I was having problems meeting people “my own age.” And I am intimately familiar with the patronizing looks people give teenagers — I’ve been the recipient of those looks for 14 years.
Needless to say, I am sensitive about my age — or rather; I am sensitive about my perceived age. It is that sensitivity that gives me pause when I’m asked to take a leadership role.
“But they won’t listen to me,” I whine pathetically to my husband. “They all think I’m just out of high school. At best they’ve labeled me as a recent college graduate. No one will want to take direction from a teenager!”
Of course it all comes down to fear — fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of matching up with people’s low expectations. If I’m ever able to hop over the perceived-age hurdle, I am sure those same fears will rise again when I realize the fact that I am a woman — and not a seminary graduate — could be a bigger problem for some people.
We’re all alike in our fears, whether our hindrances are our ages, our genders or the lack of letters after our names. But it’s through the story of Moses that I am able to step into roles not designed for people like me.
Moses didn’t think he could do it either. When God spoke out of the burning bush and told Moses his plan, Moses reacted the same way I do; he said, “But…but God, I can’t do that. They won’t listen to me!”
Then God said some of my favorite words in the Bible: “Who makes mouths? Who makes people so they can speak or not speak, hear or not hear, see or not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go, and do as I have told you. I will help you speak well, and I will tell you what to say.”
The Lord is with us when we step out into the world. He is with us when we lead and with us when we follow. If he has called us for something, he will surely equip us to do it. He made our mouths, our hands, our feet, our minds. What he did not make are racism, classism, sexism and ageism, so when we tremble with fear, have hope! The Lord of all things is good; he will provide.
Jaime Hunt, who will be 28 in the not-so-distant future, is the editor of Mutuality.