By Natalie Klein
“Mom, look! I got a letter from Allison!” Eyes wide, I careened to a stop against the kitchen counter, clutching my prize. The envelope was torn to pieces in my haste to open the treasure, but the card within I opened with care. At fourteen, receiving a letter from my mentor and friend gave cause for great rejoicing. I was thrilled that my summer Bible study leader took the time to correspond with me from Moody Bible Institute where she was preparing to go with her fiancé as missionaries to South America.
The cheery card made me chuckle, but when I began to read Allison’s letter my laughter stilled as I hurried to get my Bible. I still have all of the letters from our year of correspondence, but even without looking I can clearly remember the words Allison wrote in closing: “Philippians 1:9-11 is my prayer for you. May you continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of God.”
Every time I come to those verses in Philippians I remember Allison and the huge influence her loving attention played when I was fourteen. I recall the amazement when she told me she was praying that Scripture passage for me. Praying for me? She was a beautiful accomplished college student, engaged to one of my favorite pastors and well-loved by everyone at church. Yet she took time to write to me, an awkward, shy eighth-grader! I found it unbelievable that someone outside my family cared about me enough to challenge me in living a godly life.
Allison not only prayed for me, she also prayed with me: consistently, sincerely, and earnestly. During a painful month of testing she often sought me out at church and we huddled in a quiet corner to talk and pray together. Simple acts make big impressions—eight years have passed and Allison now lives in Ecuador with her husband and two sons. Yet we still keep in touch and she will always hold a special place in my memory.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior…teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored. (Titus 2:3-5 NASB)
This passage is the central Scriptural teaching on how older women are to instruct younger, but we younger women need to be available and eager to learn from them. Our part is to seek their counsel, serve and love them, work by their side, and glean all the wisdom God has given them to share with us. They, not our peers, are the ones who teach us to be sensible and pure workers at home to God’s glory.
The word for “pure” used in Titus 2:5 is the Greek word hagnos which comes from a root meaning “sacred and holy.” It describes someone or something that is free from ceremonial defilement, and is translated as “chaste, free from sin, innocent, and pure.” Sensible means “of sound mind, self-controlled” and is also translated “prudent.” Both are well learned by example—better “caught” than “taught,” although instruction is essential. These are the qualities and characteristics that the older women display and those which we greatly need to see present in our own lives. As a young woman, I want to urge my sisters to never underestimate the value of an older sister mentoring and encouraging you in your Christian walk. To the older women, I hope that you are reaching out to girls in your life. We respect you so much, and desperately need your wisdom and influence in our lives!
Allow me to interject a disclaimer: no older sister in Christ should take your mother’s place of authority and confidence in your life. However, some girls do not have a mother to fill this role, and even those of us blessed with wonderful mothers can benefit from the input of other godly women. In the past my mother and I together sought the counsel and wisdom of another older missionary wife who guided and encouraged us.
In finding a mentor, I never set out with so firm a purpose in mind. It was God’s goodness to bring the right ladies to me at the right time, and by His grace I have always had at least one older sister to turn to with my struggles and grief. Some relationships were long-distance, others through my local church. Some were informal, only talking when a particular question or struggle emerged, while other years I met regularly with an older sister. No matter the situation, the same truth remains: we cannot find all of our fellowship and support as a believer in one person, or in books, or in any one location. We need the input of many members of the Body of Christ.
Originally published here January 22, 2008
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