What a blessing at 40 to say that I am young! But there is nothing like entering a retirement home to get a little perspective! Yesterday I was the young'un who was privileged to be invited by my friend Nancey to talk to her group of ladies. They share the common bond of all being widows...some for months, some for years. They also share the bond of being over...well, let's just say Social Security has been going for a while and they know the ins and outs of Medicare. I came to answer some questions they've had as they've been studying together. Actually, I think I came to take any heat away from Nancey! She's a smart woman. Get the stranger to tell them what they don't want to hear!
They were kind, attentive, questioning, receptive to what I was saying about topics from fear to knowing the will of God to loving the unlovely to being confident in God's eternal plan not just for us, but sometimes especially for others. If they learned anything from me, we all understand that it was the grace of God!
But as I prayed about going, I thought about the mandate given to us as women in Titus 2:3-5...
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.Shouldn't the older woman have come to a younger woman's group to talk? Lord, please, may it be so. But that doesn't mean that I couldn't go to them to encourage, hopefully edify, build up and equip those sweet women. It did, however, start me thinking about why it can be so hard especially in the church to have this seemingly natural process of older training the younger. In talking to them today, they affirmed some of what I've been thinking so I thought I'd share some of it with you all.
Today I want to talk to the younger women...anyone, say, who's either pre-children in their home or still has kids at home...we need to understand the generations above us a little better. They were raised in a different world from us in so many ways, but one of the most impactful for this situation is that they were raised not to put themselves out there. They were taught the blessing of modesty, humility, not to think you know better than others and certainly not to put much stock in your own opinion. As they said yesterday to me: You were taught to save the best for others...to never take the last piece of meat from the platter...to mind your own business...to stay out of it until you were asked into it. They would never dream of walking up to someone and saying: "You need me. I can help you." They were taught that women, especially good southern women, waited until they were asked.
I can picture my Mama T (Mama's mom) here so readily. I see her in her Sunday skirt and jacket with the bow tied under her chin. Smile in place. A widow when her youngest child was in his teens. Then the pastor's wife. Perfect attendance in Sunday school as a child. Can you imagine all that she knew? All the wisdom from not only life, but in hearing the Word Sunday after Sunday? I can't remember her ever talking to me deeply. Ever even hearing her story. How did she come to Christ? (I hope Mom knows!) I was struggling sometimes when she saw me. I don't remember her ever pulling me aside to find out why the hurt was in my eyes or what had made me so happy as I ran through her house at Christmas time.
But you know what else I know? I know I never went up to her to ask. I never sat beside her to see what she might say. I never dreamed that what might be holding her back just might be the training as a lady that her mother had passed down. I never felt the lack of those discussions either, of course, until I was much older. She died the same week I gave birth to Aisley, our middle daughter, twelve and a half years ago. But we lost her in so many ways years before that to Alzheimer's. I was in my teens when I remember things seeming different in her. What teen is smart enough to sit at the feet of their elders? (Okay, Jesus was twelve, but you know what I mean!)
So, ladies, here's some thoughts for what we can do to kick start us all.
- Slow down. Smile warmly at them. Pause when you pass them in the hallway or in the aisle. Comment on something they are wearing or something you see in them. Delight in them. In other words, act like they are coming into your home and be hospitable in attitude. Make them feel welcome in your day.
- Let them coo over your babies and ask them about theirs. They've got lots of them to talk about...6 kids, 17 grandkids and do you want to see the newest great-grandbaby? What do you know? They just happen to have a picture right here.
- Let them see you struggle. Oh, how these present generations of us love to be self-sufficient, independent, fine. And if not, we'll just google the answer. But by doing so, we are choosing to bypass the very means God commanded we use to learn. There is an inference in that verse above that if they are to train us, we must be trainable by them. So open up. When they say some thing like: How old is he? Don't just say: 6 months. Say instead: He's almost 6 months. It's been a blessing, but parts of it have been so hard. Was it like that for you? They will know immediately that you are doing more than just passing on information. You really think they have something to offer.
- Be where they are. Go to the studies they are going to. Sit by them at church. Walk across the street. Go outside in the evenings and play in the yard with the kids. Be available to them.
- Believe that God would not command of them what He did not supply in them. If He says: Older women, train the younger. They can do it. He will give them the power of His Word applied by His Spirit to our lives.
- Take seriously the warning that if we do not get this, the Word of God's reputation is at stake. Listen again to the words above. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. His Word must be of utmost importance to us and we must see that what happens in our homes matters greatly to the gospel. We often wonder how our day-to-day lives make a difference. Here's a huge one.
- Have a humble attitude. See all above, right? But seriously, we all need to do the hard work of not passing by what God has gifted us with. Wisdom and faithfulness are theirs. They've been there and truly done that. Admit that you don't know and that asking a peer can often lead to two blind people stumbling around. Or worse it leads to us leading each other with experts who don't love us or our families. Ask them. Seek them out. Give it a try.
- Know that it's easy to love them! They will bless you. They are so kind, so sweet, so helpful, so encouraging. I'm sure there's a grumbler in the bunch, but you know what? If she was born in the south, she was raised to be a lady! She'll act right when she needs to!