All of us have a life story…one story with many chapters. Have you ever thought about how God showed up in every chapter and that He can use that chapter to touch the life of someone else?
Why, then, do older women sometimes fail to see the impact their life can have on younger women? Why do they sometimes fail to share the tough stories of their life story? Stories of failure, pain, weakness, hardship and sin? What could be holding us back? (BY THE WAY…ALL of us are older than someone so we are ALL older women! Smile!)
I had an email last week from a young leader who had led a retreat focused on Titus 2 (check out especially Titus 2:3-5) who challenged the older women to be willing to share their stories of weakness and where God met them in those experiences. Here is part of her email to me:
One comment came back in the feedback from one of the older women in the group that older women had a hard time sharing. Her words were, “Personal experience and journeys are sacred and therefore sharing should not be forced.” I know you’ve done a lot of intergeneration work. What are your thoughts on this? Is there a line of too much? How have you encouraged older women to connect with an be transparent with the younger generation? What has worked? I challenged the “have it all together” generation and the “hot mess” generation to meet with humility because we both desperately need Jesus. Some of the women over 50 shared with me, “We don’t even know how to do that. We were raised and told that no one wanted to hear about our problems.”
Instead of typing this into an email, I told her this would be the subject of my blog post this week. So, here goes.
My own personal experience in this area starts with an older women than me (a generation older) who shared her hurts with me in connection with a prodigal daughter. She also shared her faith and how Jesus was leading her daily to walk with Him in peace.
This was not the norm back in the early 1980’s. To share this transparently was rare for her generation (Silent), and even somewhat for mine (Boomer). But as our own prodigal journey began, I was able to face it in the same kind of trust in God my mentor had (although back then we didn’t use that word…it was just sharing life and ministry together). Had she not told me her own painful story, I am not sure how I would’ve known how He could help me walk through my own painful season. No one else in my church had shared their prodigal story with me except her, although, later, I found out many had that same story. Because of how she touched my life with her story, I chose to use my own painful prodigal story (and many others as well) to minister to others.
SO…with just this one example of a tough chapter in life let me give you 6 encouraging ways you can use your own story to minister to a woman in need:
Consider the chapters (time line) of your life. Write down the ways God gave you the strength and wisdom to navigate these “sacred” experiences so that they don’t feel “forced” but need to be shared.
Ask the Lord to show you how He can use your experiences to encourage another woman who feels like she’s the only one going through her pain.
Listen to women and respond when you feel the Holy Spirit’s nudge to share a part of your story.
Pray for God to lead you to women who need to know something you’ve learned through your life journey…the joys and the pain, the blessings and the sacrifices, the successes and the failures.
Be willing to share whatever the Lord asks you to share. If you aren’t yet willing…pray to be willing!
Praise God for giving you multiple chapters in your life that are opportunities to praise Jesus for His presence in each one and His ability to use each one to minister to others.
Young women today are searching for truth and need to know how we’ve learned the Truth of Jesus, how we have survived pain and failure, how we are who we are BECAUSE of these chapters in our story. How else will they really see HOW our faith has grown deep in desperate times.
God won’t ask you to share your darkest pain daily. Sometimes He won’t even ask you to share details at all, although one-on-one He may ask you to share more deeply.
But our stories are not “accidental” experiences. Our sovereign God has allowed them to be a part of our story and He promises to use then for our good and His glory if we are walking with Him in His purposes for our life. (Romans 8:28-30) He also redeems our struggles as we share them with another woman in need. Once we experience the joy of sharing our struggle and watching it transform another struggling woman, we won’t want that to be a one time event.
What else would you suggest to encourage the older women to share their stories?