But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
(Titus 2:1-8 ESV, emphasis mine)
There’s something to be said about multi-generational community. Older men guiding younger men. Older women encouraging younger women. For some reason this seems to have been lost on today’s society … older people are seen as “past their prime” and “out of touch,” whereas younger people are “self-absorbed” and “ignorant.” Selfies get more attention than multi-generational portraits celebrating decades of family. Veterans who have dedicated their lives to serving their country find themselves fighting a new war against awful health care (if they have health care at all), while my generation complains that the minimum wage is too low (Washington state has the highest minimum wage in the country, so we really shouldn’t be complaining here).
I speak in generalities, of course. There are more scenarios than just these two extremes. But I’m seeing a trend of disregard between older and younger generations. Which shouldn’t be the case. Yes, there is something to be said about peer groups and having support from people in or around your age, but if you don’t expand your community horizons, you’re missing out on some serious wisdom and guidance.
I went to a women’s retreat with my church last weekend. I was not looking forward to it, so much so that I Googled “how to survive women’s retreat” (Google tried to autofill my search with “how to survive women’s prison”, which I thought was hilarious).
I don’t enjoy women’s retreats for a few reasons:
- It feels like a popularity contest. (Do I really need to explain myself here?)
- I’m wary of spiritual highs.
- I’m afraid to be vulnerable with someone in a concentrated environment, then go back to “normal life” and realize that they weren’t really sincere about getting to know me (this could be dubbed “retreat syndrome” or “short-term missions trip syndrome”).
- Large groups of women make me anxious. Heck, large groups make me anxious.
The only people I knew going into this retreat were my age or younger (I’m fairly new to the church). The majority of the women there were at least 15 years older than me. I spent the first few hours quelling a panic attack next to a serene river surrounded by Northwest pine trees (at least the setting for my panic attack was nice, right?). I called my sister in Antigua (thank goodness for wifi and smartphones) and she prayed that God would give me peace and show me why I was meant to be there.
Within an hour, I was having a conversation with two women in two different stages of life: a young mom and an experienced mom. I don’t have kids, so I guess my stage of life is “27.” I was so surprised when I realized more than an hour had passed. I hadn’t even noticed. Because I was enjoying myself.
I talked to the gals in my age group maybe twice, and and both times it was in passing. They were busy doing their own thing, which is fine. But what I came to realize over the course of the weekend is that I didn’t need to be with them to feel included. I was loving hanging out with the older women (and when I say older, I mean older than me, so don’t get offended, OK?). I befriended the cabin next to mine, which was occupied by a stitching group of retired women. My most meaningful conversations were with women who were, at the very least, 15 years older than me. They checked on me all weekend: “How was your afternoon?” “Are you doing OK?” “Come sit with us!” “Did you sleep well?” And the kicker was it was 100% sincere.
I think I’m an older lady trapped in a 27-year-old’s body. I don’t feel the need to laugh and be loud and fill the silence all the time. I don’t enjoy being the center of attention. I love having fun, yes, but I also loving sitting and listening. Learning from other women’s experiences. Being open to encouragement and teaching. Simply living in the moment has gotten old.
This is not a criticism of outgoing personalities or younger women. If laughter is your second language (or your primary language, depending on the day) and you are an extrovert who thrives on being immersed in activity, I envy you. But don’t be afraid to be your awesome self outside your comfort zone. Befriend someone who isn’t in your normal social circle. That’s what made the retreat less horrible for me: I threw myself into the unknown, anxiety and all. And I came out OK.
I still cried for half an hour with my husband when I got home. I was emotionally worn out from battling the “am I good enough” and “do I fit in” and FOMO (fear of missing out) feelings, plus the spiritual growth God had put me through. But I’m glad I connected with the older women who reached out to me. Who graciously looked over the walls I put up and loved me anyway. That’s the example I want to follow.