“The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” Titus 2:3-5
Now that I have established my premise that all women were designed with a built-in mothering application, I’ll move on to the other aspect of mothering on which I’ve been reflecting. That second premise is that motherhood is not just something that lasts for 18+ years (or as long as a woman has children in the home), but is a lifetime occupation.
Any older mother can tell you that, even once all of the children have flown the nest, she never really stops worrying about her children. Recently, I read a cute story about a young wife who had just become a new mother. The first night that she had the baby home, she hardly slept as she was wakened by every sound that the little one made. As she stumbled out of the bedroom the next morning, she was greeted by her own mother who had come to help with the newborn baby. The young mother was just about to ask how long it would be before she wouldn’t hear every sound the baby made when the older woman asked, “Are you coming down with a cold, Dear? I thought I heard you coughing during the night.”
We smile at the story, but I am very thankful that my mom still worries about her children – it means that she prays for us! I am sure that many others feel the same way about their own mothers. Before she died, my grandma got to the point where she had difficulty communicating with anyone and spent much of her day seemingly unaware of what was going on around her. Yet, her mind was still active, and she spent time praying for her family and friends. I miss knowing that she is praying for me.
I don’t believe that praying for (and worrying about!) her grown children is the only way in which a woman is to fulfill that inborn need to mother in her later years. When a woman’s children get older and leave the nest, it means that she has more time to pursue things that she just couldn’t get to when her children were young. One of the ways that I believe that the Lord wants us to spend that time is in mentoring younger women, as directed in the verses above. I know a dear ladywho has often been heard to lament that there had never been any “older women” in her life to encourage her. She is now in her eighties and still hasn’t found any! It does seem that the Titus 2 concept was largely ignored for many years in the 20th century. Thankfully, I think that the idea of fulfilling that Biblical mandate is gaining ground and there is more teaching on it. I had the blessing of being involved in a ladies’ Sunday School class last fall where we studied the book, Becoming a Titus 2 Woman, by Martha Peace, and found it to be very encouraging and challenging.
Yet, while there is a growing awareness of the need for “Titus 2 Women”, it can be a real struggle to balance that with the tendency to view those empty nest years as a time when I can finally do what I want to do. The retirement mentality, the idea a person “deserves” to spend their “golden years” for themselves, is really an unbiblical idea that has thoroughly permeated the church. Even ministries that I typically think of as being solid ministries, like Focus on the Family or Family Life Today, will often promote these ideas. For instance, a series of broadcasts was aired last fall on Family Life Today dealing with women and the empty nest. While I listen to the Family Life program on a daily basis and usually find their broadcasts to be encouraging, I was actually discouraged by that particular series. Why? Here they were encouraging women to finally go out and do all of those things they’d always wanted to do and fill their lives now that the children were grown. Furthermore, the implication to those of us with young children still at home was that we just need to hold on for a few more years, and then it will be our turn to do all of the things we’re missing out on now.
Wait a minute. Based on that thought, I could grump that I’ve been “putting life on hold” now for almost 19 years, and have at least another 18 years to go. I choose to believe instead that I am living the life that the Lord has given me to live! But one of the things that we discussed in our Sunday School class last fall was that it is still the norm for women to fill their lives with “personal fulfillment” activities when their children are gone, leaving no time (or thought) for mentoring younger women. Instead of the older ladies teaching the children’s Sunday School classes while the young mothers have an opportunity to study the Word of God without the distraction of small children, it is the young mothers who are filling that role. Instead of older women setting aside time to spend with a younger woman encouraging her and teaching her how to be a good wife, mother, and homemaker, they are filling their social calendars and taking painting classes.
Okay, I’m stereotyping and generalizing here to make a point. I really have no problem at all with a woman having more time for social engagements or taking painting classes. I hope to some day have time for those things myself. But please rebuke me if I fill my time with so many of those things that I don’t have time for mentoring younger women as I have been instructed to do. Better yet, encourage me to include a younger woman in these activities so that she can enjoy them, too!
I don’t want to come across as thinking that there aren’t any Titus 2 women today – I personally know several. Sometimes it isn’t even big things that make a difference in a younger woman’s life. When my oldest daughter was between 8 and 10 years old, there was a very dear older lady who took an interest in her and encouraged her in growing up to be a godly young lady. My mother-in-law used to pass along housekeeping shortcuts. I know of older women who have set aside time to care for a young mother’s children for a couple of hours so that the younger woman could run some errands. And my own mother has been a tremendous encouragement in my life and the lives of other young women.
My purpose is not to point fingers, but just to detail some things that have been the subject of a lot of reflection. I have too long been guilty of thinking that I was just biding my time before my mothering responsibilities are over, rather than embracing and enjoying the calling for which I was designed. I truly was designed to be a mother, and trust that my life gives evidence to that!