by Anita Miles
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”
2 Corinthians 4:7
In a recent service, I managed to find myself seated between two sweet women who attend my church. I will leave them unnamed for this conversation, but let's just say, they are both AT LEAST a couple of decades (and maybe more) older than me. I’ve had the privilege of cultivating a great relationship with them both over the years and we love to have good conversations.
As service progressed, a bit of a humorous situation was transpiring a few pews ahead of us. I glanced over to see if the one on my left had noticed. The minute our eyes met, she gave me a knowing chuckle with my favorite mischievous smile of hers. I darted my head back forward, knowing that if I said anything to her, we would both be worthless. A few seconds passed and I glanced over to the one on my right and just about the time I turned to meet her gaze, she started with the question, “Did you…” and before she could even get it out, it quickly evolved into schoolgirl giggles for us both.
In case, I need to say this out loud for the people who do not know me well - I am NOT the friend that you want beside you at a serious event… My tickle box has an extremely sensitive trigger that does not cut off easily once it’s been turned on. And yes, I’m fully aware that I’m in my mid-40s and I should have developed better control of that by this stage of my life. But up to now, I have been unable to develop that skill!! While I love deep conversations, I love to laugh and cut up equally as much!
As the moments progressed in that service and we all 3 finally got a hold of ourselves, I leaned over to each of them and said, “If nothing else, I have learned today to NEVER sit between the two of you again in service!” To which, we all 3 began another little round of attempting to pull ourselves back together from the laughter that threatened to erupt.
I’ve contemplated those few moments over and over since the time they occurred. And over and over, I have intentionally thanked God for the wonderful blessing that these older women have been in my life. Thoughts of them and the moments we have shared bring a spontaneous smile to my face. They have extended their friendship to me and I have wholeheartedly enjoyed any time I’ve spent with them.
Throughout my life, God has allowed me to be influenced by some of the most amazing older women who have touched my life deeply. They have taught me so much by just the mere living their lives out loud. They’ve shown me what faith looked like when they came face to face with their own heartaches and pain. They’ve shown me grace in the moments that I was less than deserving. They’ve taken the time to counsel me when I wasn’t sure about certain life decisions. They’ve prayed for me when situations were out of my control! And the list could go on and on…
While we, by all means, honor our mothers, God also allows other women to walk beside us to learn from. We were created for connection! When we take full advantage of the gift that God has extended to us through the women who are further along in their faith than us, we find some of the most valuable lessons we will ever learn. There are times when a seasoned perspective can completely change our feelings and reduce our stress in a particular situation.
I think that God gives us such amazing pictures of how this role can be so powerful in the ways that the stories of Ruth and Naomi and Elizabeth and Mary play out. When we embrace that God created us with emotions that were meant to be a strength for another person’s journey - our lives can be SO filled with purpose. If there was one moment in Scripture that I would have LOVED to have been a fly on the wall for, it would have been the moment when Elizabeth and Mary embraced after Elizabeth learned that Mary was expecting the Messiah. It was the hug of a lifetime.
It was through watching the sorrow of Naomi’s life unfold that Ruth made the life altering decision that she wanted to follow Naomi’s God for the rest of her days. That one decision from the influence of a godly older woman in Ruth’s life created a ripple effect that led to that Messiah.
I wholeheartedly believe that God gave us the gift of these unlikely friendships to be as powerful for our own journey as it was for those 4 women! The value of the same type of treasured friendships in my own life leaves me at a loss for appropriate expressions of gratitude.
So to the women who have taken the time to love me well through my life, and to live out what authentic Christianity looks like, I cannot say thank you enough.
To the younger women who are reading this, I strongly urge you to find an older woman who you admire and respect to speak into your life. It’s the greatest gift you will give yourself. If there is one relationship that is mandated for women in Scripture - this is it!!
God knew we would need the beauty these unlikely friends would bring to our lives!!