Monday, May 19, 2014

Does Appearance Matter?

By Carla Foote

I was struck by an article I read recently on a mainstream news platform, regarding whether or not women should color their hair as they start graying with age.

First of all, the obvious gender issue - there are no articles about whether or not men should color their hair!

Then I felt the weariness of the topic - another article about appearance and women. Would we ever get past the "What we look like" issue to be able to freely live and work based on our minds, hearts, gifts and abilities?

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As a 54-year-old woman who decided about 10 years ago not to start coloring my hair, I wondered whether or not the article even applied to me. I am happy with my choice of hair, and I appreciate my friends who have made different choices. Then I scrolled down to the comments, something I try to avoid on websites, since people often put on their crazy side when commenting online. And I felt the fear and resignation of my sisters ...

This comment summed up the thoughts of so many:
I color my hair, period. And will continue to do so as long as I work in middle-management in corporate America. I am 65 years old and don't want to be laid off because I look like I'm ready to retire anyway. Most folks think I'm in my early 50's.Yes, yes, age discrimination may be against the law but in practice it's alive and well.

So even though the article encouraged women to find their own style and not be afraid of gray, the comments made it clear that such a decision was risky in terms of career aspirations for older women.

What about the church? Surely those of us secure in the fact that we are made in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus can be more courageous in our appearances. After all, there are lots of older women (and men) with active roles in the Bible - Sarah and Elizabeth come to mind. The Bible even commends older women to teach younger women. Surely churches and Christian organizations haven't succumbed to the new and young is better than old and gray push?

Or have we?

When we quietly push older voices to the sidelines because we are looking for new, younger voices, are we saying that there isn't room for a harmonious blend of old, new and in-between voices speaking truth to all generations?

When we discard church programs which seem dated in favor of the newest strategy, are we throwing out discipleship principles that have worked for years in favor of the chase for relevance?

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Don't hear me wrong. I am absolutely in favor of the relevance of the gospel message for upcoming generations, and to shared leadership between generations. But can the church be a place where all ages are welcome at the table, and where the appearance of being older doesn't necessarily mean that we are irrelevant to the Christian community?

Carla Foote's dark brown hair is now streaked with gray. She loves connecting with and learning from women of all generations. She is the FullFill blog manager and also writes and edits through