“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.” Titus 2:3-5
To continue our month focusing on friendship, I wanted to write about the importance of having friends who are more mature, experienced, wiser…ahem, more advanced in age. Multi-generational friendships (i.e. being friends with someone who is not your age) is one of the most beautiful things about being part of the body of Christ. The Titus 2 verses above and also examples found in Scripture, such as the sweet and strong relationship of Naomi and Ruth, show us the importance of such friendships.
In the midst of the turmoil of Ruth chapter 1 where all three women have lost their husbands, we find these heartfelt words:
But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go… May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? …No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” 14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her…. (Ruth 1:8-14)
I don’t think Ruth would have been so adamant about going to Israel with Naomi had there not been a strong bond between the two of them already. Even Orpah was sad to return to her people, but knowing that the odds were better in Moab she took the more-rational, less-dangerous road. Naomi must have lived out her faith in front of the two younger women long before the tragic events of chapter one. How else would Ruth have such a profound knowledge of the God of Israel to trust herself completely into his care by going to Bethlehem with Naomi?
For the past five years or so, I have been blessed to work with a woman who has encouraged and helped me more than she could ever know. I have witnessed the Lord’s work in her life and have been the recipient of her wisdom and advice. In my newly married state right now, her thirty plus years of marital experience has been invaluable as I’m trying to learn to navigate this new realm of responsibilities and living with another sinner saved by grace. Her constant encouragement to give ourselves grace and time to adjust to this huge transition has given me much comfort.
Seeing the example of a woman’s life lived well to the glory of God is a beautiful sight and one that motivates younger women (me) to pursue it as well. Older women have a unique platform to speak into the lives of younger women – “I’ve been there, I went through the same kinds of struggles (or sometimes much worse), and I made it to the other side. You can do it. You’ll make it.”
Elizabeth Elliot wrote this concerning the Titus 2 mandate:
“It would help younger women to know there are a few listening ears when they don’t know what to do with an uncommunicative husband, a 25-pound turkey, or a two-year-old’s tantrum.
It is doubtful that the Apostle Paul had in mind Bible classes or seminars or books when he spoke of teaching younger women. He meant the simple things, the everyday example, the willingness to take time from one’s own concerns to pray with the anxious mother, to walk with her the way of the cross—with its tremendous demands of patience, selflessness, lovingkindness—and to show her, in the ordinariness of Monday through Saturday, how to keep a quiet heart.
These lessons will come perhaps most convincingly through rocking a baby, doing some mending, cooking a supper, or cleaning a refrigerator. Through such an example, one young woman—single or married, Christian or not—may glimpse the mystery of charity and the glory of womanhood.” (From Elisabeth Elliot, “A Woman’s Mandate,” in Family Practice, ed. R.C. Sproul, Jr. (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 2001), p. 62)
This was written to older women but younger women should seek this out. Befriend women in your church or community who are striving after Christ and who you would like to emulate. Be discerning but be open. Don’t look for perfection. Look for humility and grace at work in their lives. Ask them to coffee or dinner. Strike up conversations. Ask questions, get involved in their lives, have dinner with them and get to know their families. Watch their lives and how they handle situations. Learn skills of cooking, baking, gardening, couponing, budgeting, putting a modest but great outfit together, managing a household, planning meals, fixing a toilet…whatever they’re willing to share. And don’t forget to encourage and thank them! They’re only human, too!