by Shari Stratton
Why is vulnerability so difficult? I recently found myself in conversation with someone about homeschooling and parenting; she offered encouragement and advice, but I quickly became aware of areas in my parenting where I needed to improve. I felt vulnerable. I wanted to ask her to pray that God would help me to be a better mom and that God would give me the strength and wisdom to correct my mistakes. The words were on the tip of my tongue. Instead, I just nodded and acted as though I had it all together.
We were in a semi-public place, and my reserved-self did not feel comfortable letting my guard down. Looking back, I wish I had said something. I know this person well and trust her to be confidential. I know that she loves and cares about me. I admire and respect her greatly. Every one of her children have grown to be solid Christian leaders—and I know that didn’t happen by accident. However, because I was afraid of what she might think of me, I held back and missed out on the blessing of her prayers and support.
We Need Mentors
Titus 2:3-5 tells us that the older women are to teach the younger women how to be good wives, mothers, and godly women. I’ve always thought of this happening “by example” rather than by actual teaching; more recently, I have come to see this passage in a new light. Being a good mom and knowing how to raise godly children does not happen by instinct. There is an overwhelming number of parenting books and articles available, but how does one know which ones are based on solid, Biblical principles? How does one know if it would be right for one’s child? What if one is implementing it incorrectly? From this passage in Titus, it would seem that God’s plan is for the older, more experienced women to come alongside the younger women and teach them.
Sadly, our culture doesn’t make it easy to foster healthy mentoring relationships between women. We live in a world where social media makes it easy for us to hide behind a facade of a perfectly decorated home, a spotless kitchen and smiling, angelic children. In reality, we take pictures of our home on good days, bribe the kids to cooperate, and have three billion outtakes before finally getting one of them all smiling at the same time. And yet, even though we know how easy it is to present a perfect image of ourselves, we still find ourselves caught up in the comparison trap and feeling like a failure because we are all too keenly aware of our own shortcomings.
So, what should Titus 2 look like in real life? I believe that it comes down to one key component: relationships. While older women should and do offer support and advice to the younger women, it is unlikely to be accepted or effective if they have not already established a relationship. Women in differing age groups tend to isolate themselves or spend time with women their own age. If they do mingle at church or women’s ministry events, it is usually at a superficial level.
Reaching Out For Friends
When my husband was pastoring at the Beavertown God’s Missionary Church, I had the privilege of helping to start a ladies’ ministry. A handful of interested ladies helped to form a committee that met regularly to plan events. I was the youngest woman on the committee. I often felt like a child trying to lead women who had so much more to offer than I did. We often met at one of our houses—sometimes for coffee or a meal—but always for several hours at a time. We usually found ourselves doing more laughing and visiting than planning. Those planning meetings were something we all looked forward to because of the close friendships we were developing.
Looking back, I treasure the memories, and I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to develop a relationship with each of those women. Although every one of them is old enough to be my mom or grandma, I have come to consider each one a dear, trusted friend. I know that they love and care about me and will do everything in their power to help me be a better wife, mom, and godly woman.
Because of this experience, I have come to realize and appreciate how vitally important these relationships are. Unfortunately, they are unlikely to develop on their own, even at church or a women’s ministry event. It requires intentionality by both groups of women. Older and younger women must be willing to set aside time to get to know each other well. It requires a conscious effort to include each other in our daily lives—doing fun things together and working side-by-side.
The Blessing of Transparency
Both groups must be willing to be vulnerable. As an older woman, you may not feel like you are the person to ask for advice because you know you have made mistakes. We all have. However, sharing some of those mistakes will make it easier for a younger woman to share her weaknesses with you. If you are a younger woman, it may be difficult to admit that you need help and support. Remember that you are not alone. Refuse to believe the lie that you are the only one that doesn’t “have it all together.” If we are honest with each other, most of us will admit to often feeling inadequate. It is when we are transparent with each other that we are able to offer mutual understanding and support; if we choose to go on leading our separate lives, we will miss out on a tremendous blessing.
We all need each other. It is God’s plan for us to learn from and support each other. Many women—including myself—have a deep desire to do something great for God. We can start by considering the people He has placed within our circle of influence. The people in your life are not there by accident; most likely, God has placed them there because you have something to offer them. Ask Him to show you with whom He wants you to build a relationship. Be prepared for some uncomfortable moments. Be willing to struggle to work around busy schedules. Resist the cultural tide of virtual relationships in favor of face-to-face ones. As an introvert, I know how much easier it is to talk about building relationships with other women than to actually do it. It is hard work and sometimes emotionally draining, but it is worth it!
No matter what your age or stage of life, I challenge you to accept the call to invest in the lives of other women. You never know what your encouragement and support will do to help someone else on their journey.
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Dr. Timothy Cooley, Sr.
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