I’ve been thinking a lot about how old I am. I assume it’s because, with all of the recent snow days, I realize how really quiet my house is. It is obvious that the days of teenaged boys and their friends laughing and carrying on throughout our home are behind me.
In spite of the fact that I can see it in the mirror, sometimes feel it in my bones, and keep getting AARP cards in the mail – it has taken me some time to accept the fact that I am an older woman. On some days this is great news, and on others – it makes me a little sad.
Just being honest.
All that being said, it’s a great season of life! It is a beautiful thing when you have lived a long time, experienced many things and, through those experiences, gained some wisdom. When you can look back over time and see the faithfulness of God – well, there is nothing more beautiful than that.
In a recent blog post, Liz Curtis Higgs wrote,
“When we’re young, we imagine life will be like a bell curve. We’ll climb upward, enjoy being on top of our game for a few years, then steadily decline until we quietly slip out of sight. That’s not at all what God has in mind. Our life in Christ and our service to Him is ever ascending, moving forward and upward, gaining strength and momentum.” [i]
This is entirely true. I’m grateful for Liz’s reminder. Our Lord is so darn counter-culture. I just love Him for that!
This brings me to what is on my heart today. The message is primarily for us older sisters but, younger women, will you also please lean in and listen? There’s something in this message for you, too.
In the middle of an immoral society in Crete, Paul’s plan to influence that society for Christ hinged on developing church leaders and teaching the older men, older women and younger men in the faith (Titus 2:1-10). The male elders were to be an example to them.
However, one important people group was conspicuously missing; the younger women were to be taught and coached not by the elders – but by older, Godly women.
In Titus 2:3-5, we are given our marching orders:
“Older women likewise are to exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teaching what is good. In this way they will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, fulfilling their duties at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited.”
Paul’s message could not be any clearer. Godly character, in a relationship between an older woman and a younger woman, is a critical aspect of our growth as believers – and sisters, our growth directly impacts our families and, in turn, our society.
I wish I could tell you that when I was young all of my encounters with older Christian women were positive; the truth is, there were several painful experiences that I remember to this day. This was particularly true when I was a young leader – I often left their presence feeling beat up and put in my place. Looking back, I realize that entitlement, control and fear were involved – I see it now, but I didn’t see it then.
While I don’t recall being taught any of the attributes listed in Titus 2, I did learn a valuable lesson just the same: I vowed then and there to strive to do better when I became an older woman.
We can ruminate over our negative experiences or we can use them as teachable moments to develop our own character.
To be honest, I’ve done both. The latter is the better way.
Thankfully, that isn’t all there is to my story. There have been many dear, Godly older women who encouraged me, carefully admonished me, and met me smack in the middle of my immaturity. They gracefully allowed me to be me—and what patience they displayed! I was talked off the ledge a few times, straightened out, prayed for, understood, and even called “sweetie”. They led me not to themselves – but straight to the feet of Jesus Christ.
I’ve watched them age well, work through problems, deal with heartache, illness and loss – and still carry on with Christ. All of it done with love and all done in humility, seasoned with extreme grace.
Oh, how I needed these examples during the confusing years of raising my boys, figuring out my role as a wife, a leader, and a Christ follower!
Well… here I am and here you may be, too. We’re the older women now. We’ve been given our marching orders. It’s now our turn to walk in their footsteps, emulate their character, and breathe life & love into the young women who are coming behind us.
I recently gave a survey to the women in my ministry. They responded to questions about leadership and their relationships with older women. The following are the top eight attributes they value in those who lead them AND in older women in general; the comments next to them are mine. (‘Non-Judgmental’ was overwhelmingly the attribute they valued most.)
• Non-Judgmental: She needs our empathy, flexibility, and help – not our judgment.
• Humility: There is no place for entitlement, control, or pride (see Jesus’ example for this).
• Transparency/Authenticity: She wants to be let in on our own struggles both past and present – this gives her hope. She isn’t looking for perfect role-models. She wants us to be our true selves.
• A Biblical Foundation: She wants to see us actively seeking the Word of God and applying it to our lives.
• Honesty: We need to accurately remember that it was hard for us, too. No need to tell her that life was different (better, worse, harder, etc.) when we were young women – that isn’t helpful to her today.
• Grace-Filled: She will do things differently, but she gets the space and grace to try them out, succeed, and even make mistakes!
• Accountability: We can be honest and hold a sister accountable – warn and admonish in extreme grace. She should feel loved after encountering us, not judged (again, see Jesus’ example).
• Generosity: There are times when we need to move aside and let her have her time, her moment. We have had ours.
Enlightening isn’t it? And right in line with Titus 2.
Now… in case you think I have these bullet points nailed down, you are mistaken! I am writing this as much for myself as I am for you.
May God help us all to be life-givers. To build up and not tear down – to take her hand and place it in the hand of Jesus.
“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” ~ Proverbs 31:26
I’m thinking I need to write a few thank you notes to the women who have lived out Titus 2 in front of me. How about you?
I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts.