Not long ago, I celebrated my thirty-sixth birthday. When my mother was thirty-six she had five children. Most of my peers have more than one child; some of them have children nearly out of their teens. I feel old, and whether I like it or not, I am getting old. I notice it in a myriad of ways and places, aches and awarenesses. I know I am still a spring chicken to many, but this was the first birthday where I felt older than I am instead of younger. I think that’s telling.
Recently, Jen Wilkin wrote an article on "Mothers in the Church." I highly, highly, highly recommend you read it. As I mulled over it again this morning, I thought to myself, At what point do we daughters ever feel like we stop needing mothers? I sure haven’t gotten to that place. I crave older women in my life constantly and have a dearth of them locally in this season. This question led to another, more potent one: At what point am I the older woman other women desire to learn from?
We All Need Teachers
I’m sure there are some women out there who feel like they carry around enough knowledge for all humanity. Wisdom drips off their tongues and experience from their hands. I am not one of those women. I constantly feel a deep insecurity that I do not have what it takes to be a wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter. And I constantly want leadership around me showing me the way, holding my hand, righting me, getting me back on the path, reminding me. I have always felt like a child and as much as this past birthday marked how old I am getting, I think I will always feel a bit like the one who never has never grown up.
How many of my sisters feel the same way? I know most of us do if only because the number of women looking for mentors outweighs the amount willing to mentor. We all want teachers, but none of us want to be one. Since I was a child in church, I have watched mentoring program after mentoring program fail because the numbers are always so lopsided.
Today Is the Day
The answer to my question, “At what point am I the older woman?” is today. Today I am the older woman. Even when I was nineteen or twenty-five, I was the older woman to a younger one. I have always been and will always be an older woman to someone. Aging gracefully means accepting not only the wrinkles and aches and experiences but also accepting the responsibility of being older than someone else. There’s no shame in that, even if you’re nineteen or twenty-five.
Whenever someone asks me to mentor them, I have always responded, “Gladly, willingly, but you must know it will probably look differently than you imagine, and also, you must recognize and accept the responsibility of mentoring others.” The only prerequisite for preaching the gospel is knowing the gospel, and even the most infant of believers knows the gospel. And what’s more, the telling and retelling and refining of what we believe about the gospel is what gives the gospel feet and hands in our own lives. I know of no better discipline for the growth of the gospel in my life than the actual work of making disciples.
During Advent, we read about the Annunciation, the incredulous news that Mary would bear the Son of God, even as a child-virgin herself, and how she responded, “Let it be to me according to your word.” I was struck in that moment of her willingness, her submission to doing something wildly more difficult than her young body, mind, and spirit could imagine.
I want to encourage us, sisters, with that today. Today, we are mothers, if we will submit to the age we are and not the age we want to be. Let it be to us.
Being a Mentor Where You Are
If you’re in high school, find a girl in middle school and show her what it means to grow into a godly woman, going against the grains of societal norms. Give her gospel language for issues like sin, peer pressure, body shaming, etc.
If you’re in college, find a high-schooler who has no idea what she will encounter in the wild world of college, and show her how she can stand firm in it. Teach her how the gospel enables us to walk in freedom.
If you’re a young mom, set a regular place for a college student at your table. That’s it. She will become part of your family, hold babies, fold laundry, etc. She just will, trust me. Teach her how the gospel is hospitable but also bids a man to come and die.
If you’re single longer than you planned or hoped, find some girls in their early twenties who are sure their life is over if they’re not married by twenty-three. Show them how full the life of gospel-centered singleness can be.
If you’re a mom of middles, go on over and rock babies at a young mom’s house, just for a few hours. Let her take a shower. Embody the gospel by being hands and feet.
If you’re married without children, consider also some young moms who might need a friend, another adult voice in their days. Show her that the gospel is elementary and takes the faith of a child but also grows into more than milk someday.
If your children have flown the coop, that mom of middles needs some reminders that her foul-mouthed thirteen-year-old isn’t going to be that way forever. (Raising hand. Sorry, Mom.) Remind her again and again that the reality of the gospel is that it changes people and takes them from dark to light.
These are just a few ideas; there are a thousand more. Feel free to comment with ideas or how you make it work in your season or how someone made it work for you. Sisters, lives are changed through the act of mothering. Go and mother.
Adapted from Lore's post, "When Am I the Older Woman."