I’m an older woman…so now what?

Im-an-older-woman-so-now

Younger and older women alike sometimes look at Titus 2:3-5 with varying degrees of emotion and sometimes more questions than answers:

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;

That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,

To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

First of all, how old is “aged?” The ESV graciously says “older” instead. Sometimes women resist the admonition in these verses because they don’t want to admit to being an “older” woman (although I’ve often said we’re all older than somebody.) But being now on the far side of my 50s, yes, I have to admit I am probably getting there.

The second questions that comes to my mind is “How am I supposed to go about this teaching?” I don’t think the text means that older women are supposed to buttonhole younger women and lecture them. That would not go over very well at all!

I shared in a post on mentoring women that Paul probably did not have in mind classes or retreats when he wrote this. I don’t know if they had such things (as we think of them) then. We do have them these days, and they can be a great blessing. Even still, there would only be a small number of older women in an “official” teaching capacity. Are the rest of us off the hook? I don’t think so. I also mentioned there that some churches have formed one-on-one mentoring programs, or some women have specifically asked an older woman to meet with them regularly. For me personally, the best teaching I received from older women wasn’t necessarily done deliberately. As a Christian teenager from a non-Christian home, I mostly went to church alone unless I took my younger siblings. Another family in my church invited me over regularly, and God used them greatly in my life to show me how a Christian home operates. The wife, in particular, was a lovely example to me in every way: her relationship with her husband and children, her homemaking, her sweet spirit. But I don’t think they took me on specifically as a “project.” They were just hospitable, and their character and spirit came through everything they did. Similarly, often in the everyday activities of church life – nursery duty, baby showers, ladies meetings, ladies Bible studies, putting bulletin boards up, etc. – very often God would send me “a word in due season” from sometimes a seemingly chance remark by an older lady. One of the few times of specific instruction I remember was when a mom of teenagers was taking about one of them (favorably) while we put up a bulletin board and said something like, “When your kids get older, don’t dread the teen years. Don’t expect those years to be tense and rebellious. You can have a good relationship with your teens and they can grow a lot during that time.” That stayed with me through my own kids’ teen years, and I am so glad it did, because the worldly wisdom by then was that it’s a necessary rite of passage for teens to be rebellious and somewhat estranged from their parents. That lady’s advice probably saved our family from some grievous attitudes during that time. So, though there are other more official ways to teach, to me, to employ an overused phrase, “doing life together” is one of the best.

Then there is blogging and writing. Again, this may not be something Paul had specifically in mind, but it’s a great avenue to share truth in this day. Many of us won’t go on to write books, but we can share from our experiences through a blog. For me, again, some of my favorite blogs have not been specifically didactic, though I have learned from that kind as well. When I first started blogging, the blogging world (at least among the women I knew) was chatty and neighborly, more like visiting over the back fence. There wasn’t as much talk then of “branding” or finding one’s niche. Sometimes I consider whether I should make my blog a little more professional or focused, but for now, even though I do get a little teachy in some posts, I still prefer the “doing life together” aspect, and hopefully sharing a Christian view of handling life in the process. I do wonder whether that costs me some readers who don’t view a blog like this as a “serious” blog next to the didactic ones. I probably would never make any list of “Best Christian Women Bloggers Over 50.” But that’s not my goal. My goal is to blog about life and what God is teaching me along the way. As I mentioned, some of my favorite blogs were the same type. For example, my friend Dianna, who, sadly, isn’t blogging any more, wrote mostly about her home and family, but her sweet godly spirit shone through and was an example, and often a rebuke, to me, just in her writing about the course of her day or some project she was doing at home.

When it comes to what to teach, I am much relieved by what the text says. I don’t think this is an exhaustive list: I think older women can teach other women the Word of God in an expository manner and touch on other subjects than what is listed. Lisa Spence discusses this more fully in her post I am more than my motherhood. But what relieves me in reading about the specific topics listed is this: I don’t have to take sides in the latest “mommy wars” topic being debated or on any couple’s marital debate, but in my interaction with women, I can teach and encourage loving hearts and godly attitudes. I’m relieved that I don’t necessarily have to teach younger women how to raise their children, because I’ve been astonished at how much I have forgotten about some of the details, and some recommendations have changed over the years (even with my own three children in the nine-year span between the births of the oldest and youngest, I had three different official medical instructions about the position they were supposed to sleep in from the same doctor). Plus there is a lot of room for different opinions and methods even in Christian parenthood. I’m happy to share any specifics I might remember when asked or if I think of something that would be helpful. But above the details, I’m concerned with godly character.

I have read a number of times over the years the question from younger women, “Where are the older, godly, Titus 2 women?” More recently I’ve seen the question, “Where are the older women bloggers?” Lisa makes the point that older women can’t write about parenting their teens or adult children as they write about their 2-year-olds because we need to be circumspect about their privacy. They may not want Mom to share anything about their interactions, good or bad, even if it might be helpful to others. Sometimes older women hold back because they don’t feel qualified: they feel like they’d have to “have it all together” in order to say anything. Years ago at a ladies meeting when I wanted to set up a panel discussion and entertain some questions about how to love one’s husband, I had a hard time getting anyone to be on the panel for this reason: everyone felt their own need of instruction, no matter how old they were or how long they had been married.  Some things I wrote in an earlier post, Why Older Women Don’t Serve (in the church), come into play here as well: sometimes older women in the “sandwich generation” are taking care of elderly parents or facing their own health issues. Sometimes, honestly, they don’t feel wanted. I’ve shared before that I was stunned when a younger mom shared with me that the younger women didn’t come to our ladies’ meetings because all the ladies there were “older.” My first thought was, “Well, of course that’s the case if the younger women don’t come.” I was admittedly hurt and my confidence was shaken. We weren’t that much older: this lady was in her early 30s and most of the ladies who attended the meetings were in their 40s and 50s. I wrestled for a long time with how to make our meeting topics and luncheon themes and decorations more contemporary and appealing to younger women, but I’ve always had a little hesitancy since then in dealing with younger women, feeling that they don’t really want to be around me. Aimee Byrd touched on the fact that older women bloggers are out there, but they don’t get as much notice because everyone follows after younger women bloggers (many of whom are doing a wonderful job.). Perhaps older women just need to be encouraged that we really do want to hear them.

So to younger women who are seeking Titus 2 women in their lives, I would say this:

  • First of all, pray for God’s guidance, direction, and provision.
  • Second, look around among the women in your church or family.
  • Observe. In every stage and season of my life, God has placed ladies just ahead of me that I have learned much from just by observing.
  • Interact with them, whether going to ladies’ meetings, talking with them at baby showers, asking them over for lunch or dinner, etc.
  • Feel free to ask questions. They’re much more willing to share when they know their thoughts are wanted.
  • Don’t expect perfection. You won’t find it. No one is faultless. In addition, sometimes an older woman will share something with you that offends you. Sometimes that’s because we are not willing to change in an area we need to; sometimes it’s because the older woman was not terribly gracious. In a post that has stayed with me for years, Courtney Joseph told about someone confronting her about modesty in not the most gracious way, but to her credit, Courtney took to heart the things she said because truth rose above the attitudes (her follow-up post here encourages readers to extend grace even when others have not acted graciously towards us. That’s what grace does.)
  • Don’t expect a fairy godmother. In some source I forgot to note, one woman lamenting not having  Titus 2 woman in her life wanted someone to come into her home, watch her children, help her with housework, answer all her questions, and solve all her problems.
  • Be teachable. When I looked up the Greek word translated “teach” in Titus 2:4, the definitions listed were:

1. restore one to his senses

2. to moderate, control, curb, disciple

3. to hold one to his duty

4. to admonish, to exhort earnestly

Most of us wouldn’t mind that from a book or speaker, but would hold at arm’s length, or even be offended, at someone trying to do these things on a personal level. Incidentally, this is the only occasion this word is used in the New Testament.

  • Glean. Sometimes you’ll get different opinions from different older women whom you respect and who both love the Lord. This was hard for me as a young mom until I hit upon the idea of gleaning – kindly listening and then taking from their advice what would best work for our family and leaving the rest.
  • Read. I’ve probably benefited as much, if not more, from reading books written by godly older woman as I have from personal interaction, both books specifically designed to teach Titus 2:3-5 as well as biographies and even, in some cases, Christian fiction.

To older (however you define that) women, wondering how to go about living out Titus 2:3-5:

  • Concentrate on being before doing. Notice verse 3, which we often gloss over to get to the rest, talks about an older woman’s character. Holiness, self-control, discretion, concern for others, truthfulness, and being willing to share with others are all a part of what we need to cultivate in our own lives.
  • Be aware that younger women will probably observe your actions long before they ask you specific questions. Don’t do anything for “show,” but be mindful of your example, seek God’s grace to be a good one, and confess to Him (and anyone else involved) when you fail. Seeing how someone handles a failure can be as instructive as anything else.
  • Pray for God’s guidance, direction, and grace.
  • Remember the source of wisdom and the way He wants us to share it: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5); “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17); “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
  • Don’t wait for perfection. That won’t happen til you get to heaven. Women need examples and instructions from women with the same struggles and faults they have so they’ll know they can seek God’s grace, forgiveness, and help with them.
  • Seek ways to interact with and develop relationships with younger women. Show interest. Sometimes that might mean seeking them out at a church function rather than the friend you always talk to. Sometimes that might mean extending hospitality. A couple of women I know minister specifically to younger women, one by offering to babysit, the other by offering to help out at home for a few days after a baby is born. Those might not be your way of ministry, but God will direct you in what you can do. And He may not lead you into an “official” ministry, but just being available and encouraging, being a conduit for that “word in due season,” is a great help in itself.
  • If you feel a younger woman does need confrontation in some area, pray much about it first and seek to have a gracious attitude. Don’t assume her motives are wrong: maybe she was never instructed or hasn’t thought about the issue. It’s usually best to speak from the position of a relationship with the person rather than from that of an acquaintance, to talk with that person privately, and not to discuss their issues with anyone else.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of seeming as though the way things were done “in our day” are the only way they can ever be done.
  • Don’t cross the line into being a busybody.
  • Somehow we usually think of these verses in regard to newly married women or young moms. But don’t forget about single ladies and middle-aged ladies. I’d love to see more writing from godly women about handling an aging body, parenting adult children, being a mother-in-law, caring for aging parents, preparing for “old” age, etc.
  • Realize that younger women do want to hear from you.

May God give ladies of all ages grace as we seek His will and interact and learn from each other.

Related posts here at Stray Thoughts:

How Not to Become an Old Biddy.
Mentoring Women.
Why Don’t Older Women Serve?
Ways Older Women Can Serve.
Despise Not Thy Mother When She Is Old
With All Our Feebleness.
Finishing Well.

Sharing at Literary Musing Mondays, Inspire Me Mondays, Me, Coffee, and Jesus, Testimony Tuesday, Wise Woman, #TellHisStory, Works For Me Wednesday, Thought-Provoking Thursdays.

 

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