When I was in my thirties and first attending Friends Meeting at Cambridge, one of the ways I got through an hour of silent worship was to check out fellow worshippers—especially the older women. What beautiful skin they had! What lovely, soft, gentle, serene faces! (Their sensible shoes and L.L. Bean clothing I found far less intriguing—although there was this one, ancient mohair suit I adored.) A Quaker newbie and quite sure I’d never quite measure up, I knew those elderly women’s beauty was because they’d led deeply Spirit-led, mindful lives.
“I mean, it’s not like they all have a secret face cream,” I joked with a F/friend of my generation.
“You do’t know that!” she replied. Sharply, as I recall.
Thirty years later, I am now a white-haired grandmother with a medicine cabinet full of Origins’ latest anti-aging creams and serums. (My beauty secrets revealed! You read it here!) Thirty years later, it’s finally dawned on me that everyone—even lovely, serene-looking old women—has a backstory/ain’t perfect. We’re all just doing the best we can.
So if my wrinkled face appears serene during meeting for worship, it’s not because I have lived an unblemished life. Far from it. It’s because I am delighted to be in silent, collective worship. And listening to that small, still voice.
And, yeah, checking out my fellow worshippers.