Waking up the day before my son’s wedding day with a collection of feelings completely at odds with one another took me by surprise. Abounding joy, I had expected; the slight but baffling sense of loss, I had not.
I adored my bonus daughter-to-be. How could I feel anything but happiness for my son to have found a precious wife who loves and complements him in the best of ways? How could I feel even one iota of loss when our family was gaining an amazing human?
Of course I was aware that our family would expand when my son got married, but until the eve of the wedding, it hadn’t entered my mind that our family unit as it had been for twenty-four years would be forever changed. And I certainly didn’t know this would mess with my emotions.
It made zero sense, and bewildered, I struggled to understand my feelings. I was genuinely happy for Thomas and Gina to marry, but to have even a shadow of sadness brought guilt and confusion. Shouldn’t I have anticipated something like this?
I found myself wishing I had been prepared for what I felt, that someone would have warned me that I might wake up a bag of mixed emotions. True, we had thirteen months to get ready for the wedding, but how could I know this was something to know? My dilemma was the kind of thing experience teaches you . . . or, in a sweeter scenario, the kind of thing a friend who’s gone before you can share.
I remember feeling the same way, but for a very different reason, when I received a call from my doctor with news I wasn’t expecting — that I had hit menopause. The new revelation about my health had left me reeling and mournful about something I feel like I should have known but didn’t. I remember thinking, Why didn’t anyone tell me I might feel this way?
Both of these experiences illustrate something important and valuable: We need friends who’ve gone before us to help us navigate the inevitable challenges we’ll face in life, to help prepare us for what comes next, to help us process our complex emotions, and to help us realize what we’re feeling is normal.
I’ve had, and I have, wise and godly friendships with older women. But have I made space truly to learn from them? Have I given them permission to speak freely? Have I invited conversations that allow older friends to share their life experience, even if it’s awkward sometimes?
Equally important, I need to be that older friend for those who are a few steps behind me. By the time you get to the season of life I’m in — a card-carrying empty nester — you’ve done some serious living. I’ve been wedged between rocks and hard places where I couldn’t see my way out. I’ve parented three children who are out on their own and making our world better. I’ve walked through the valley of the shadow of death. I’ve faced success and failure, hardship and adventure, joy and sorrow, plenty and want.
God calls us to be good stewards of what we’ve been given. Earned over time, experience and wisdom often come at great cost, and neither should be wasted. It’s powerful and important to redeem the hardest seasons of our lives by pouring what we’ve learned into one another.
In church, this might fall under a formal women’s ministry, inspired by Titus 2:3-5 —
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.
But pouring into one another can happen anytime, and it isn’t about perfection or being some sort of “super Christian.” Paul, in instructing Titus about how to train older women to pour into younger women, says it this way in The Passion Translation —
. . . lead them . . . to be teachers of beautiful things (v. 3b)
Isn’t this amazing? As we grow older, we’re called to be teachers of beautiful things. (I love, love, love this!)
Life, with all its challenges and complexities, is still a beautiful thing — maybe even more so because of its challenges and complexities. So ours is a two-fold opportunity:
- To invite older friends to speak wisdom and truth to us. This means pursuing the kind of godly friendship where trust is developed and conversations happen naturally. There are a few women in my life who might have “warned” me about how I might feel leading up to the wedding or when I faced menopause if I let them know I wanted and needed their wisdom and experience.
- To pursue friendship with younger women. Regardless of your age, there are women younger in life and faith than you who would benefit from your wisdom and experience. When they’re struggling, take every opportunity to point them to the truth of the gospel and pour out what you’ve learned and experienced. The stories of how God has met you in the midst of difficulty might be exactly what they need to hear.
Had I been pursuing a deeper level of friendship with my older friends or been more intentional about the time we spent together, I could have been more prepared for how I would feel before my son’s wedding. Their insight wouldn’t likely have prevented my mixed emotions, but my feelings wouldn’t have come as a surprise. When it comes to issues women will inevitably face — like my experience with menopause — it is helpful to talk with others who understand and can help you navigate those seasons. And once we walk those roads ourselves, pouring what we’ve learned or experienced into younger friends is a lovely redemption of the struggle.Leave a Comment