Julia and Elizabeth

by the Rev. Paul McLain


A writer is quoted as saying, ‘It’s never too late to be who you might have been.’ That would seem to apply to Julia Child, who found her true calling, being a teacher of French cooking on television, relatively late in life when she was in her 50s. Her participation as a learner and teacher in cooking classes in France, as well as her work on Mastering the Art of French Cooking, helped prepare her to create a new uncharted path as a pioneer teaching chef on a new medium. Julia fully embraced this new role, evolved in it, and continued doing it well into her 80s.


The quote also applies to Elizabeth, the woman advancing in years who at long last would realize her dream of giving birth to a son, a son who would become John the Baptist. We celebrate his birth on the feast day of the Nativity of John the Baptist which is today, June 23.


The birthplace of John the Baptist is in Ein Kerem, a village a few miles away from Jerusalem. In the center of the courtyard is a statue of Elizabeth, showing pronounced dark circles around her eyes. There is a deep sense of character chiseled into her face. There is a knowing quality in her expression that she somehow sees things that the rest of us cannot yet see. When you gaze into her face, you see layers and layers of profound wisdom.


The name Elizabeth means ‘God’s promise.’ For Elizabeth, the promise of God was not just a child to be born to her at long last. It was the hope of a new kingdom to be realized for all of us. Elizabeth was open and available to whenever, whatever, and however God may call her to be part of bringing about this new kingdom. It was over these many years of faithfulness that God gave birth to something else inside her – the gift of wisdom. Wisdom grew in her over time and she was able to see what the rest of us cannot see.


Julia Child taught us all the wisdom that there are no mistakes in cooking. You simply improvise and make whatever you think to be a mistake a part of the recipe. You keep going. That is such a valuable lesson in the spiritual journey of life. She spent the last years of her life introducing her audience to new chefs and delighting in showcasing their talents. This was Julia’s legacy of “preparing the way.”


Perhaps a better saying for Julia, Elizabeth, and all of us is: ‘It’s never too late to be who you always were.’ Julia’s life planted the seeds for a vocation that was always inside her. And God’s promise was always present in Elizabeth’s life, waiting for the right moment to be birthed. There is something new being born in each of us as well. It may be a child, but it may also be a dream, a hope, or a promise. This birth happens in community. Watch and listen for what is being born in you. It’s never too late to give birth to the promise of God that is leaping for joy inside each of us. It’s never too late to be who we always were.



12 thoughts on “Julia and Elizabeth”

  1. This is truly a relevant thought for me as I am taking a new adventure by joining a church group which deals with women involved in prostitution and homelessness. I am anxious to give what I have to them and am looking forward to it.

    1. Roz, so glad this spoke to you as you begin this new adventure in service. You are in my prayers as you offer, give birth to, and encourage gifts along the way.
      Love and Blessings,

  2. Thanks, Paul, for this lovely comparison of Julia and Elizabeth inspiring all of us folks of a certain age to stay ready for new and exciting opportunities to grow in faith and self-confidence.

  3. As always, thank you, Paul.
    The flip of this is also true: “It takes great courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are“—e e Cummings

    (Note: I was 75 when Bead by Bead was published)

    1. You’re very welcome, Suzanne. You (and e e cummings) are so right – it is a journey of great courage to take off the layers of masks and be who you really are. Glad you found (and are finding) your inner Elizabeth.
      Love and Blessings,

  4. Thank you Paul. I was just telling a parishioner two days ago this very thing. I told him that when you and I first met, that is what you said to me. Its never too late…..I just love it when things like this fall into place.

    1. You’re welcome, Zada. You and all of us are in my prayers as we listen and discern what may be next for us, and that we have the courage to act.
      Love and Blessings,

Leave a Reply to Paul McLain Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *