To many women, the burden of growing old is wrinkling skin, added weight, and fatigue that creeps up and steals your energy before your to-do list is half done. Hard as it is to see the changes time has inflicted on my body, another burden weighs much heavier on me as I age. God has given me, along with other mature believers, a daunting responsibility. We are not only to continue to strengthen and develop our own faith, but to teach that faith to the upcoming generation.
If you are a mother, as I am, Deuteronomy 11 gives us the challenge of passing on our faith to our children: “Therefore you shall love the Lord your God, and keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always. Know today that I do not speak with your children, who have not known and who have not seen the chastening of the Lord your God, His greatness and His mighty hand and His outstretched arm. . . . But your eyes have seen every great act of the Lord which He did” (vv. 1, 2, 7). Then verse 19 says, “You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
God expects me to speak to those in my household about all the wonderful things He has accomplished. He wants me to be a firsthand witness of His goodness, faithfulness, and care. He wants me to remember and repeat all the things He has done, not only for humanity, but specifically for my family. If I rehearse the pain and sorrow of serving God, they will miss His goodness. If I complain about circumstances, they will think God is not able to provide. If I fail to praise Him for His provisions, they will forget that all blessings come from His hand. What a responsibility that puts upon my shoulders!
But for those who are not physically mothers, the task of passing on the faith is just as weighty within the church body. Many godly single women have carried this same banner as Sunday School teachers, Awana leaders, and missionaries and have had the joy of giving spiritual birth to many children. Leaving a legacy of Christian truth and wisdom is part of the church’s mission, which falls to each of its members, but especially to those women more seasoned in the faith. This ministry is necessary and vital to local assemblies.
When Paul wrote to Titus concerning the details of the church, he mentioned even more responsibilities that fall on mature women in the church. Titus 2:3-5 teaches that older women are to model reverent behavior, guard their tongues, and teach younger women to love and obey their husbands. Any one of the topics on that list is intimidating to attempt personally, not to mention trying to teach or model it to someone else. The text continues to ask that older women teach other illusive skills, like how to be tactful, pure, and good homemakers. It seems a little like Mission Impossible, yet there it is. The challenge, should we decide to accept it, is in front of us in Scripture.
Unfortunately, when some older women in the church have arrived at this time of opportunity to impact the younger generation, they have instead packed their bags for a vacation from responsibility. Feeling they have served their time in the church, they now plan to enjoy retirement from the stressors associated with connecting and serving in their local church. They might rationalize that the younger generation of women, who have energy to spare, should deal with ministry needs and encourage each other in the faith. But God is clear that older women are needed to help guide younger women through the turbulent and sometimes murky waters of living for God in the midst of a perverse generation. Life lessons and the wisdom that comes only from age are priceless commodities to pass on to the next generation. Ironically, past mistakes can be just as helpful to the younger generation if women are willing to be transparent enough to share them. It is not necessary to be perfectly holy to impact others, but it is necessary to stay engaged to have the opportunity to mentor future generations in the local church. Connections between age groups will help fulfill God’s goals for the church, which is never a separated, generational faction, but rather a multigenerational company of believers who share with and sharpen one another.
Paul understood the important responsibility of not only teaching but also modeling Christianity. His disclaimer in Philippians 3:13 and 14 says that although he had not attained or perfected the Christian life, he continued to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He then continued, “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern” (v. 17). God never demands perfection from the men and women He chooses to use. Instead, He asks for humble servants who are submissive to His will and follow His lead. So instead of looking in the mirror, older women should start looking around them and connecting with all those individuals who are coming behind them. And no matter what the bathroom scale may say, to know that people are watching your life and following in your footsteps as you strive to live for God-that is the true weight and blessing of growing old.
Now that she is retired, Nellie Brill tries to connect with women outside her usual circle of friends at Calvary Baptist Church in Battle Creek, Mich.
“I’m on the Family Partnering committee at our local Habitat for Humanity, where we connect with the families selected for Habitat homes. I’ve found that working with a gal while painting, drywall finishing, etc., gives me a unique opportunity to share her struggles, hopes, and dreams while encouraging her and sharing my faith.
“I’ve also been volunteering with another gal during the summer. We’ve adopted a city flower bed and have fun gardening there once a week.
“A third opportunity is working with our church’s Stephen Ministry, where we visit on a weekly basis a special individual who is lonely, discouraged, or grieving. Because it is strictly confidential, these relationships become very close and deep. It also is a wonderful opportunity to encourage them spiritually. I’m very blessed being retired and healthy and loved by my Lord.”
A Webinar for Women: Mentoring Models
Thursday, April 2 at 11:00 a.m. CST
Join Jeannie Vogel for a discussion that will focus on different types of mentoring that take place within the local church. It will address formal and informal types of mentoring. The goal of this discussion will be to understand the needs of women at different stages of life, determine ways to initiate mentoring, and assess effective ways for women to fulfill their Titus 2 responsibilities to younger generations. Register for the webinar at www.rbptraining.org.
That Makes Two of Us encourages lifestyle relationships for mentoring today’s woman. This new resource by authors Connie Witt and Cathi Workman will help you see how easy and fulfilling mentoring can be. (Group Publishing, January 2009)