I once asked my Marvel Cinematic Universe-loving grandsons what superpower they wish they possessed. They threw out the various pros and cons of being able to fly, zoom faster than the speed of light, or be the strongest human on earth.
“I’d like to be invisible,” my younger grandson said. “Then I’d be able to spy on people.”
I wanted to tell him that being invisible isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Many women at midlife feel they’re being shoved into the shadows. A quick search of articles and posts on the topic affirm that the problem is real. It’s even got a name: Invisible Woman Syndrome.
And though many of these articles offer innocuous coaching such as “embrace who you are now”, the reality for most of us is that invisibility is anything but a superpower. Older women who dare to look their ages often face discrimination in the workplace. Though we are seeing more public figures embracing their ages – people like actors Jamie Lee Curtis and Frances McDormand or PBS news anchor Judy Woodruff – we note them because they seem exceptions to the rule that the beauty of youth looks best in the spotlight. And as I’ve written about midlife and the church over the last decade, I’ve lost count of the number of older women who’ve told me that they feel they’re invisible in their local churches.
Though we’re called to let our lives echo the words of John the Baptizer about Jesus (“He must become greater and I must become less”), this doesn’t mean that we’re meant to fade into the shadows as we do. We’re called to make Jesus visible in our homes, communities, churches, and workplaces. That means we must show up in His power, living our lives fully and boldly in His glorious spotlight. Purposing to stay (or become!) visible as we move into the second half of our lives may be the most countercultural thing we can do.
That’s the stuff of real-life superheroes. We older women may not ever be a lead in a Marvel comic book or movie, but we are living in a far bigger story than those. We’re praying for the women who will be joining us for a Wonder Years Gathering in 2020 – and for all of those whose lives will be touched by the superpower of vibrant, visible women living with courage, beauty, and wisdom at midlife and beyond. We see you, Women of the Wonder Years!
—Michelle Van Loon