Ten years ago I wrote a letter from myself at age 35 to myself at age 50. I stumbled across it this morning and have found both encouragement and conviction. The print in italics is my husband's reply to "the younger woman." I pray you will be encouraged.
LETTER TO AN OLDER WOMAN
Dear Self at 50:
You feel very far away. I have been looking for an older woman, so I’m writing to tell you who I’m looking for. I want someone who will look me in the eye and ask how I’m doing while waiting for an honest reply. After listening, she would ask if she could pray for a specific need. I want someone who will encourage and correct me. Encourage and correct, you ask? Yes, even correct me. I would love to have someone who will make that kind of investment.
Dear Self at 35:I enjoyed hearing from you – how interesting, I seem far away to you, but you are so close to me. It could have been yesterday, or so it seems. I have a few words to say that I hope will encourage you, and help you to become who you want me to be. Rest assured I am praying for you too! I appreciate your desire to be corrected, so let me give you a loving correction before we talk more. Know that God created me unique, fashioned and gifted for His specific purpose. He crafted every circumstance, event and experience in your life to specifically fulfill His design. Oh dear me, please never forget that who you are and what you do matters very, very much, yet, they are valued and measured more differently than we can even imagine by Him. Did you know that what you spend time doing each day is the choice our Lord made for you? Thank you for working diligently and tirelessly to be that faithful servant that He called you to be. Look around. Great is your reward! Don’t you see how immense your influence is; don’t you see how you are impacting lives for eternity?
That’s a bit of what I hope you will be able to do for women like me when you’re older…. Yes, you’re right. I should be doing that even now. So what other things would I appreciate from someone like you, someone whose children are relatively independent? Without putting an undo burden on someone (but I can ask you), it would be lovely if someone would watch our children for me once a month, even once every few months. I rarely take someone up on an offer to “help out anytime.” It’s easy to forget who has offered. Please be someone who calls and says “When could I pick up the kids this week?” As an older woman, listen carefully to younger women and look for opportunities to help.
So, you did recognize that you don’t have to wait to be me to pick up the mantle. What you may not have seen with total clarity is that you are already the “older woman” to many younger women. They would eagerly sit at your feet for advice and encouragement. In fact, there are times even now that they are quietly observing. Look around, don’t you see them in the shadows of busyness or hiding behind the distractions of clamoring children? They ask for advice, watch to see how you manage, then measure your response. Ah-h, looking back to where you are– that was when I was truly in my prime as a mentor. I taught by quiet example, selflessly reaching out from my busyness to minister. Now, I only have words and those who don’t know my history can’t test me, validate me, or examine my legitimacy because they can’t see all that I share with them. By the way, Self, did you forget that you husband was there to help when you need an escape? I have learned more about him over the years and one thing I learned is that he has a great desire to meet your needs, but you have to ask.
Share yourself—not just your past, but also your present relationship with the Lord. One of the most inspiring comments I remember came from a woman with older children who answered when I asked about her day: “You know, I spent the day sitting in the backyard with my Bible and the Lord. It was a really great day.” Wow! As a mother with four young children, I rarely sit anywhere for long without interruption, but this mother had made Christ her priority. She gave me a glimpse of the glory I can look forward to.
I well remember the day when you reflected on this woman’s comment and anticipated the quietness and reflection of the future. I agree that she made Christ a priority in her life. However, I want this season of my life to be as full and satisfying as you imagine it will be. To make that happen, you must seize and capture the small bits of quietness that He gives you now. Pursue them. Collect them. Give some away to new and wonderful activities, let some be stolen by those you love, but keep enough back, so that in time, in His time, you can have a beautiful collection of quiet to give to your Lord only.
The two areas I’ve struggled with the most this last year are loneliness and a sense of lacking purpose. I’d love to have a “mom” of my own nearby. Do you know how priceless it would be to have a relationship with a woman who’s older than I am? As a wife and mom, you understand the unending laundry, cooking, cleaning and other menial tasks that sap time and energy. Life can look bleak and senseless at times. As a young woman who looks up to women your age, you would impact many lives if you would teach me the value of loving my husband and children, of being kind and self-controlled, effective at home and helpful to my husband (Titus 2:4-5). Their importance remains critical, but they are difficult tasks, nonetheless. Maybe you struggle with a sense of purpose yourself. As life changes, being a mentor to younger women might establish God’s purpose for both you and the younger women you encounter.
Well – I have probably said too much and I need to run, but I did have a final point of encouragement. Regarding all those unending laundry loads, meals, and dust mites you dealt with—they were more important than you might have imagined. You made a difference daily in the lives of those God gave you, namely your husband and children. Through your faithfulness, you opened doors for the kingdom of heaven. While still on this side of eternity, we will neither understand nor see all the intricacies. Rest confidently, my former me, that in God’s plan, because you did His work, and fulfilled His plan, you made a difference in eternity that far –far—surpasses that of many who pursued the road more traveled.
As I’ve watched many older Christian women, I’ve wrestled anger. My heart cries, “Why aren’t you teaching the younger women? Do you see me? I need you!” Silence. As a younger woman, I urge you -- I implore you -- to take up the mantle of mentoring younger women. We are yearning to know you better. We covet your guidance and nurturing. Would you be vulnerable enough for us to learn from your mistakes and failures as well as your successes? Please be one of those older women who will take the time to invest in the lives of younger women. Invite yourself in. Be a friend. Offer to help. Be obnoxious if you must, but get involved!
I wish I could know you now. I’d love to see how God is working in your life and what the children are doing. There are many things I’m curious about: Do you live in the same house? What are you doing with your life now that you’ve “grown up?” Have you returned to the working world? All in time…. I know that the Lord is good. Even now, He has given each of us a need to meet for others and an opportunity to meet others’ needs. “…He knows how we are formed, and he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). Thank you for being my dust-mate.
Because He is Faithful,
Your Younger Self