The picture made me so unexpectedly sad that I just sighed. And my shoulders slouched. Then my heart got heavy. It was such a surprising reaction on my part to what was actually quite a happy photo that I knew I needed to pay attention to it. To what it was revealing in my heart.
It was a photo of a not-too-old-but-older woman and a not-too young-but younger one, together on an outing. The photo showed the two standing side by side with the younger’s arm resting on the older’s shoulder. And the older woman was tenderly and affectionately grasping the hand of the younger. I know a little bit of their back story. The older came alongside the younger when she needed some help. A soft place to land. A safe relationship to sort some things out. A season passed. The two became friends. Then the younger one figured things out and launched out on a new trajectory – one that will lead to an intertwined and sweet continued relationship with the older.
My emotional response had nothing to do with who the women are, but from what the picture represented. And what it surfaced in me came from such a deep heart desire on my part I almost feel a bit too vulnerable writing about it here. I am confident however that the desire is a very common one among women, so I’ll take a chance and share.
I read Titus 2:3-5 (below) and it describes something so beautiful, so natural and life-giving, that it should be a part of every woman’s life. It talks about how older women – those who have walked with God well, who have learned through the years how to love their husbands and children without bitterness and resentment, who have managed to end up closer to Jesus and more healthy in all sorts of ways than when they started – are to come alongside younger women. And love them. Share life with them. Teach them the things that we are supposed to know how to do, but that we have no clue how to do. To become spiritual friends. Sisters. Moms where the role is unfilled. Mentors. Wise counsel. And older women are supposed to initiate.
I long for this. Greatly. In fact, it almost aches within me. To have a godly older woman see something in me. To want to invest in my growth. To see a future me that I may not be able to see just yet and to say to me with her life, “I want to be a part of the unveiling of who God has made you to be. Of helping you figure things out. And I’d like to spend time with you, to be the place you can come when you feel like it is all falling apart. I can help you sort through the pieces. And then help you put it all back together. And I might even make cookies for us to share while we do it.”
I have spent the better part of my adulthood learning to be the older woman for others. It has been a source of great joy and unless the Lord has some unexpected twist upcoming in my future, will always be a part of what I do. But there is still something in me that feels like the younger woman. Like the one who really doesn’t know what she is doing and just wants an older woman to hold my hand for a bit and help me figure things out.
While there have been those in my life over the years who crossed my path at pivotal times and filled parts of this role to some extent,…this relational void in my life feels huge.
To be honest, Jesus and I wrestle about this. I worry that I am unlovable and not worthy. He assures me that He loves me and that He is enough. And so I work through the tension of wanting/needing something and Him saying either no or not now and trust Me.
The photo pushed this bruise on my heart. And it hurt a bit.
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. (Titus 2:3-5)