By Sandi McReynolds
“Thank you, I think, but what exactly does that mean?”
The next few moments were a comical effort by this group of younger women I love trying to dig themselves out of the hole they’d so innocently dug themselves into. It was meant as a compliment, but let’s face it, if someone says to you, “You’re not a normal older person” that’s not a usual sort of tribute.
I’ve loved serving on the Women’s Ministry Board. It’s such a sweet opportunity to build relationships with women of all ages. We work hard to assure our time and energy are well invested in kingdom work and that all ages are represented. At this meeting we’ve been discussing how best to achieve that representation, hence that abnormal compliment. At times I question whether it might be time for me to step off. After all, I’ve been there a long time and others need an opportunity to serve. But the group said, “Not yet.” They insist I still have much to offer, and I know God has given me insights I didn’t have even 10 years ago. Besides I’m not yet hearing the Spirit’s call to make a change, and it’s such a privilege to work with women like these.
They’re Still Ministering
Is there ever a time we can’t be effective in the kingdom? A thousand times no! My mother was a wonderful example of that truth, continuing to inspire and encourage people by her faith and prayers when she could no longer do much else, though as she got older she struggled to believe that. I’m still challenged and humbled by the memory of a friend of hers who spent her last few years bedridden but still busily gathering prayer requests, faithfully praying and then sending notes of encouragement.
I love watching the small cadre of older women in our Sunday morning Bible class who bless everyone just by sharing their smiles and love for the Lord. Our class is a delightful microcosm of the church. Teenagers and young singles and just-marrieds join older single-agains and marrieds of all ages to study the Word and share their lives—and those ladies’ unselfconscious testimony is priceless. They are in their 80s and 90s, still vibrant and enjoying life, a wonderful example of God’s eagerness to use us at any age.
But how do we assure that people of all ages are truly valued and know it? It’s an ongoing challenge for the body on which I want to keep working. How does the church nurture and sustain each disparate generation, and how do we as “golden oldies” offer the experience and wisdom God has granted us without squelching the enthusiasm and freshness of the young? How do we help bring continuity and balance to a culture that seems only too ready to abandon the past for the promise of the next exciting new thing? How do we impart the value of heritage without insisting on “the good old days”? Can we graciously embrace the sound and fury of today’s worship and praise experience when we long for the quiet beauty of a hymn—yet still lovingly bring an appreciation for both to our fractious world?
It’s a question with which we wrestle on a regular basis as women’s leaders in our church. Titus 2:3, 4 commands the older women to “teach what is good” and to “urge 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.” In a world that often tries to convince us otherwise, we know it’s true that women need other women, but with each generation it seems harder and harder to achieve the meaningful relationships for which God designed us. Not so long ago those bonds grew organically as women worked together to serve each other and their families. Now we struggle to stimulate connection. Older women have so much to offer; younger women need their wisdom and experience. Those who are of college age tell us they long for the influence of an older woman in their lives. But life seems to get busier and the gulf between ages to grow wider with each passing year. Where does one even begin?
God’s Still Calling
We must begin—and end—on our knees. Sovereign God’s plan hasn’t changed, and it is so much better and bigger than ours could ever be. He longs to bless us with the most unexpected delights, but he waits for us to choose his will.
We must make relating to other generations an element of the church, woven into the very fabric of who we are. And we must live it right where we are as individuals; fervently having eyes to see and ears to hear the needs of others. We can all do the simple things, like taking a meal to new parents or an ill brother or sister, or stopping long enough to notice that a friend needs a hug and prayer right now.
Are you lonely? Ask God to use your loneliness and be prepared to say yes to the young woman or man who needs a friend—or, even riskier, make the first move. My friend Heather is a gift. She and her two beautiful girls are more a blessing to me than I could ever be to them. We share joys and sorrows, and whether it’s a quick lunch at the park while the girls play or a long, peaceful dinner for just the two of us, God uses our relationship to bless us both. Or maybe he’ll bring you a blessing like Lori, a recent empty nester whose passion to serve young women and willingness to try to new things will challenge your own creativity.
Are you concerned about the younger generation? There’s probably a teenager who needs your wisdom and encouragement. I’m humbled and amazed that the three girls who share my life genuinely welcome my efforts to speak truth and love into their days, and they bring more joy and light into mine than I ever could have imagined.
Do you see something that needs to be done and wonder why no one is doing it? God just may assign you the most trying, challenging, rewarding project of your life! Over 20 years ago I felt called to create a nonpartisan voter guide for area churches. Researching, compiling, and distributing that information consumes weeks of my life and all my energy every two years. It’s too big for me, but God is faithful. For every impossible assignment, he’ll call a partner like my friend Gwen to walk alongside me.
Do you have a dream you think has passed you by? That it’s just too late to take a risk? If God has gifted you for it, it’s never too late, as the books on Amazon that bear my name testify.
We can embrace with joy the changing seasons of our lives. When we’re no longer defined by what we do, God can define us by whose we are. They say “getting old isn’t for cowards.” True. It takes courage to stand stripped of all that the world calls important and just be. But life at any age can truly be golden when God reinvents us for his purposes.
Sandi McReynolds is an independent writer and editor who lives in the Joplin, Missouri, area.