Tuesday, March 2, 2010

woman to woman (1) answering the call of Titus 2

I've just published my manifesto. Okay, maybe that's too grandiose a term, but that's what it feels like!

If my life has a purpose - well, a purpose beyond serving Christ as I love my husband and children, care for people in my church and community, and reach out to neighbours and friends (which is about as much purpose as anyone needs!) - then it's summed up in an article I just wrote for The Briefing.

Here are the opening paragraphs. I might publish some other excerpts during the coming weeks, because I think it would be great if we could reflect together on women's ministry to women. So tell me your thoughts!

My friend and I were visiting another friend's church, enduring that uncomfortable time after the service when you stand around, a cup of lukewarm tea in one hand and an Arnott's biscuit in the other, feeling like you have the word ‘visitor’ tattooed across your forehead and waiting for someone to approach you to make awkward conversation.

But the woman who approached us quickly put us at ease. She was white-haired, bright-eyed and vivacious, and she asked us, “Is this your first time here?” with sincerity and warmth, as if she really wanted to know the answer. We basked in her interest.

As we chatted, it became apparent that here was an older woman who hadn't lost interest in younger women. She told us that she went to the young people's evening service as well as the morning service just so she could spend time with young women and encourage them in their faith.

As my friend and I reflected on the conversation later, we realized the same thought had run through both our minds: “She is the woman I want to become”.

I'd love to hear your comments and reflections. Have you ever met a woman like this? What kind of impact did she have on you?

You can read the rest of the article at The Briefing.

image is from stock.xchng


Susie said...

Hi Jean! I remember as a teenager compiling a list of women who I admired and aspired to be like. None of them were Christian?! There was no one around encouraging me, by word and example,to even consider that the snow white haired woman in our church might be a good model....and I am not sure she knew what she had to offer either. The message of Titus 2 is so important. I wish I had heard it when I was 16. Looking forward to the discussion that follows your post.
S xx

Meredith said...

Thanks for posting the link to this article. I skimmed through it this morning. I have printed it out this evening in order to read it more closely in the days ahead.

It is a timely gift beyond imagining. As our youngest has started Kindy this year and next year will be in full time education, leaving me in a somewhat new situation, I find that my black and white, no-brainer thoughts on how to fill my time have developed into troubling shades of grey. Thanks for some new input which will help me to sift through my muddled thoughts.

You are always such an encouragement.

mattnbec said...

Yes, I have met a woman like that. Perhaps a few, actually, but the one who comes to mind first is one who I grew up knowing.

She was something like my spiritual grandmother. She always took an interest in me and asked how I was going. She prayed for me, listened, gave sage advice... and I wasn't the only one who she did this for. She was definitely a lady who I want to be like - encouraging, warm, prayerful and wise. And along with her husband she's had a profound impact on those who knew her, including the few generations after her.


Jean said...

Susie, yes, you're right - so often we miss the example of older women because we, they and others don't even know what to do with it! I remember being in a church when I was younger a regarding the older women as if they were irrelevant rather than wonderful role-models. What a waste!

Meredith, I'm glad you found the article timely. I hope the grey works out into some kind of clarity for you! Maybe we can help each other with that.

Bec, your "older woman" sounds wonderful! Praise God for women like that - and may we have the eyes to see them.

Jenny said...

Hi Jean - I often read your blog and find it a breath of fresh air. Thank you.

I've been wondering for a long time at what point do you become the 'older' woman? There have been situations that I've found myself as the older woman in terms of expectations from other less mature Christian women. And I wasn't all that old! Currently we're at a church where some of my kids are the oldest in the church and so again I feel 'older' in stage of life.

I would love to be able to give more to younger women but I feel overwhelmed by own family and their needs a lot of the time.

I can also see that the needs of elderly parents can make it hard for some women to take on this role. I also see that many women struggle with mental health issues (and general health problems) as they get older.

While I think that work and materialism are often a reason for older women not being involved we need to remember that the older women too have their own struggles and pressures. And as you say, if we looked around and recognised the value of older women we could both support and learn from them at the same time!

Hope that ramble makes some sense!

Jean said...

Hi Jenny!

For Paul, the "older woman" was a widow over child bearing age (1 Tim 5). But I think Titus 2 applies more broadly to any woman who's older than others in the faith.

However, as you say, the pressures of family life prevent us from doing as much of this as we would like - which is, I'm sure, in part why Paul talks about this as a responsibility for "older women" - widows without young children at home.

But you are being the "older woman" simply by being faithful and godly in your role - something for younger women to imitate.

And yes, there are many reasons not to do with work and materialism which stop us doing as much ministry to younger women as we would like (don't I know it?!). This is part of life being "seasons" and recognising our limitations.

I think it's about being ministry-minded and doing what we can, rather than getting so absorbed in our own families that we can't see past them. And using our own situation to encourage younger women, by inviting them into our (messy) homes and into our (imperfect) families.

Jean said...

... I'm just rambling ... :)

Jenny said...

Thanks Jean.

Rambling is the best - isn't that where all the great ideas originate from?!

Meredith said...

Thanks for the "maybe we can help each other with that" invitation. I have been feeling an email brewing for a few weeks... :-)

Jean said...

Looking forward to it, Meredith!

Caroline said...

Hi Jean,

keep on rambling, it's helpful - anyway, I'm probably going to ramble too!

I remember when I first came to Melbourne in my early twenties, and was visiting churches with a view to joining one, I went to one with a very small, elderly congregation. A woman there invited me home for lunch. It was quite simple, but I was really struck by her, possibly because she was to only person at that time who invited me to her home, and I was alone in Melbourne. Although others were reasonably friendly, it was fairly superficial and uncostly.

I learnt a few things from her (apart from the things I learnt from her conversation which were all good and encouraging too, though I don't remember the details):

firstly, that hospitality was important and do-able. The meal she served me was not elaborate by any means, but it was much appreciated. Too often I hesitate to invite people back to our place because I don't think I could feed them adequately. But often this is pride more than anything else.

I think, though, that the thing which struck me the most was how humble this woman's position was, and yet she was an important part of the work of God's kingdom. As far as I could see, she was absolutely nothing in terms of church structures or programs, yet she was simply doing what she could. Her whole demeanour was simple, humble and kind.

So I'm wondering if whether, rather than waiting for "ministry" opportunities, we can and do minister to each other by word and example (often in small ways) by living obedient lives.

Jean said...

Thanks, Caroline, I love your story of that woman. What a wonderful example! And yes, more often than not women encouraging and mentoring women happens in these quiet, unofficial, momentary ways - a word or an example during ordinary life. It's good to be mindful of this, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

"the pressures of family life prevent us from doing as much of this as we would like"

Hmm, I think that you'll find that those of us without a family are also quite busy. A lot of the time.
I suspect that a lot of us end up thinking? deciding? that we are currently too busy and that we will do this when we are 'older'.

Jean said...

Yes, you're right - women in lots of different situations, not just women with families, are busy, thanks for pointing this out. In the article, I talk about all kinds of busyness - like being busy with work if you're single - which keep us from encouraging younger women.

What a pity, as you say, that we see ourselves as "too busy" now and put encouraging younger women off until we're older - my guess is if we're not doing it now because we're "busy", we'll find we're still too "busy" when we're older! It's a bit like saying "I'll pray more when I have more time" or "I'll give money when I have more money" - chances are, you won't later if you aren't now!

Of course, different seasons of life have different levels of busyness. But I'd hope that we're always encouraging younger women in some way!

Christine said...

hi Jean, this article is brilliant. im 20 years old and have had a few discussions recently with friends about my realisation that i needed to be trained by older, godly women. i had been stewing in negative and unbiblical thoughts on relationships and women's roles and when an older, wiser woman finally pointed me on the right track, i realised how much i had been missing out. i know im surrounded by godly and wise women but im not really sure how to just go up and say "mentor me!". and i guess i wonder - should i have to be asking in the first place? ive noticed that the staff at unsw have prioritised meeting up with and mentoring female students but you're right, i'm not sure how churches are going with this. i may be able to go up to people i trust and ask for help, but newcomers who havent been around for 10 years or so will not easily be able to do so... somebody needs to be teaching and training them too! i think you've touched on an important issue, and i really hope that women will start to talk more about their roles and responsibilities in regards to one another as the bible teaches.