A Hero in Her Seventies

We need each other, girls! Titus 2:3–5 shows us the value in listening to the wisdom of the generation of women ahead of us and carrying the banner of truth for the generation behind us. Because we want you to be inspired by the testimonies of women in every stage of life, we’ve interviewed a few of our favorites for a new series we’re calling “Walk with the Wise.” In today’s post, Jessie interviews Marilyn, a fully devoted follower of Christ in her seventies. Can I be totally honest with you? When I was a teen, I never really wondered what my life would be like in my last decades on earth. I mean, I had plans until maybe thirty (which included gallivanting around the globe as a National Geographic writer). Forty sounded old, and I regarded fifty as ancient. Everything after that? I didn’t really think about it, to be honest, other than it being that season of life that happened to other people. People like my grandparents, with their soft, wrinkled faces. People like my kind, elderly pen pal Ben, whose handwriting wobbled across the letters he’d send. But if pressed to think about decades seven and beyond, I suppose I would have wrinkled up my brow and pictured those latter decades fading into the distance, a blur of gray hair, Jell-O, and knitting needles. Can you relate? Is it hard to imagine what your life will look like in fifty or sixty years? Jean Fleming, author of Pursue the Intentional Life, recently suggested I start an “Old Lady File”: a collection of snippets, articles, stories, and Scripture to help shape my later years. We were talking about aging well (which she is doing marvelously, by the way), and she said that creating an Old Lady File earlier in her own life helped her form a vision of what her latter years could look like: impactful, peaceful, beautiful, and stuffed full of meaning. No idle gossip or endless bridge tournaments for her. Being big on vision-casting myself (wink to you, Crushed readers), I got right to work creating my own Old Lady File. And I knew just who the first entry would be: Someone who has walked faithfully with God for six and a half decades, who did an amazing job raising three boys, and has unwaveringly supported one husband. This someone has become incredibly dear to me in the years since my own momma’s death. She’s my mother-in-love, Marilyn Minassian. Because I’m keen on giving you gifts, I have half a mind to share her with you. It would, actually, be just plain spiteful for me to keep her and her hard-won wisdom all to myself. So I asked her to share a bit with all of you about what it looks like to be faithful to God your whole life—right to the very end.

How long have you been a Christian?

Sixty-five years! I was nine when I accepted Christ at a Billy Graham event for kids. They were teaching about Zacchaeus—that no matter how big or small you are, God takes interest in you. Amazingly, I had been trying to memorize Bible verses before that, but they didn’t make any sense to me. However, after that day, I was suddenly able to understand what I was memorizing.

When you were in high school, what did “being faithful to God” mean to you?

At that time, being faithful to God meant making good decisions and surrounding myself with others who were Christians. My parents made a point of getting my siblings and me involved in church activities, and we had a family policy of only dating Christians. I believed faithfulness largely revolved around what I did or didn’t do.

Has your understanding of faithfulness to God—what it looks like in daily life—changed over the years?

I have come to see faithfulness as a deep relationship with God. Daily Bible study and a rich prayer life have kept me on course and allowed me to trust the paths God has given me. For example, when I was younger, I wanted to be a nurse like my mom. When I did poorly in the prerequisites, I was tempted to wonder what was wrong with me. But as my relationship with God deepened, I began to see that the way He made me was no accident, and I was able to trust His plan. Today faithfulness looks like trust and a relationship.

Were there any specific times in your journey with God where He asked you to do something brave (something uncomfortable or scary) in service to Him?

When I was a teen, there was a big push to be willing to follow God to the ends of the earth. I remember being so scared, because I was just sure that if I surrendered to God He would point His divine finger at me and announce, “Africa for Marilyn!” I was just terrified of being sent to Africa! But I don’t think God pushes an unwilling person to obey Him; God gives us desires to “go” and “do” in line with His plans. He never sent me to Africa. Instead, soon after I got married, my husband, Roger decided to leave the military to attend seminary. Being a minister’s wife wasn’t easy. I vividly remember the first time I was asked to come and pray at a banquet. I wanted to say “no!” But I mulled it over and finally decided that I would simply pray to God and try not to care what others thought. Years later, when God led Roger to leave the pastorate to start Hope Now for Youth, a ministry to gang kids, I wasn’t afraid. I knew if the Lord was leading us, He would take care of us. That’s the beauty of learning to trust His plans. I always knew that if God was in it, we’d be okay—even when finances were tight. We knew nothing about gang culture, but at least I wasn’t in Africa!

What’s one piece of advice you’d like to give to young women, for their own faith journey?

Apply your salvation to your daily life.

  • Who are your friends?
  • What activities are you involved in?
  • In your studies at school, are you working hard? How about your relationship with authority, especially your parents?

Developing a deep relationship with God gives you a new way of looking at things, and this new perspective will begin changing the outcome of the battles you face with the evil one. These verses hold strong application to your season of life:

Letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will (Rom. 8:6–7 NLT). So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:13–16 NLT).

It’s Your Turn

I loved getting to interview Marilyn for this post, because 1) it reminded me that I hit the in-law jackpot when I got married, 2) it’s a gift to have older women who have walked ahead of us on the twisty roads of life, giving us tips to avoid the potholes, and 3) I now have some new gems to stuff into my Old Lady File. Ironically, most of the beautiful things Marilyn talked about are habits we can (and should) start today—while we’re young—if we want character to blossom in our later years. Hmmm. . . It reminds me of the ridiculously gorgeous roses that blanket her front yard; the blooms come from hard labor, not by accident. So how about you? Are you ready to start an Old Lady File of your own? Maybe it will fit right next to your “college file,” “career file,” “bucket-list file,” “marriage file” or “mom file.” (You know who you are, fellow vision-eers.) And why not? Why not start thinking about each season of our futures? We don’t have to insist that our life circumstances look a certain way, but we can dream about what faithful service to God can look like in every decade of life, no matter where He leads us. Who’s with me?

About the Author

Jessie Minassian

Jessie loves Jesus, sunshine, and sand between her toes. She's also a speaker, author of a handful of books, and the resident "big sis" at LifeLoveandGod.com, a Q&A website for teen girls. A native Californian, Jessie now lives near Denver, Colorado, with her husband and two daughters.