As a young girl I remember always watching. Watching anyone and everyone around me as they did life. I was an observer. I'd take in details, expressions on faces, emotions, body movements, and as I did I was trying to make sense of what I saw to better understand the world which I was surrounded by.
At times, this was good and at other times it was beyond what I could understand, and yet, thought I understood perfectly. At five years old a person thinks they are mature and understand life because, face it, this is the oldest they have ever been! Years after being five years old, I shared with my family what I thought about on Christmas morning of my fifth year. I had noticed that Santa, a man who didn't know or love me personally gave me tons of presents, and yet my own parents who knew and loved me, only gave me one! This was very distressing I'm sure. As the years have passed, I'm sure I have made judgments on how I saw life unfolding without the proper understanding. Don't we all?
I hope I've gotten better at understanding what I see now, but I'm sure at times I still have to grow in understanding, as I haven't been any older than I am today!
At the age of nine I fell in love with Jesus. My family was living in Winnipeg at the time. I was surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins and an Oma (Grandmother) that loved Jesus. As a family we attended her sweet church. I don't remember church, but I do remember skating Sunday afternoons at the ice rink. One particular Sunday, I remember skating around and around in circles with the song I had heard in church “... and He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own” on endless loop in my head. I loved that I was not alone and would never be alone. I now saw life through eyes of faith.
As a teenager I came across a verse that really intrigued me. “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). I think because of how I had always observed life, this verse spoke even more to my soul. Possibly others were also watching me.
I had always been watching others and now I saw that God had a plan and a purpose for how we live out our lives in front of each other. Another verse that comes to mind is:
“... encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today...”
Both of these verses inspired me to live out my faith and love for God so that when people observed me, they would see Jesus and want a relationship with Him too.
My observation of people has stayed with me as I've grown older. As I became a young woman, I observed how older women treated me.
One older woman that comes to my mind is my Oma. From a very young age she would get down on the floor and play with me. She laughed easily, told incredible stories about her life growing up, listened to my stories and loved me unconditionally. I felt believed in and this gave me courage. Not once did I feel like she was looking down on me. Even when we disagreed on something when I was much older, she did it respectfully. She stated her, ahem, strong opinion, but never did I feel like this now became the lens through which she saw me. My opinion that she disagreed with didn't follow me into new conversations with her. Her same unconditional acceptance and belief in me remained constant.
I've had other older women in my life who seem to see life through different tiers in society: those that know how to do life, as they have lived longer, and those that have much to learn as they are so much younger. A person can almost see them looking down their noses at you as they say “you'll learn” condescendingly or “dearie” as they shake their head. Often, as they start to talk about a subject, they tell you everything they know about the subject forgetting that maybe you too know a lot as well. They leave no room for discussion or addition to their knowledge. They are the teachers, mentors and you are the ignorant student.
These are just two examples of the types of older ladies in my life. There are many, many more that fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
As an older woman now, I always keep tucked in the back of my mind how much everyone can teach each other. Age, at times, doesn't mean all knowledge or wisdom. I try to come into every conversation knowing that I can learn from whoever I am talking to. Even when I talk to my granddaughters, who are seven and five years old, I walk away learning so much with each encounter and conversation. It is so beautiful how God uses each person to impact us, encourage us or teach us if we are willing to see them through eyes of faith.
“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” (Titus 2:3-5)
As a woman who is now somewhere on the “older woman” scale as opposed to the “younger woman” scale (as my children are grown up), I again, like the verse when I was younger, take this verse very seriously. As I did when I was young, I still observe and notice details, expressions on faces, emotions, and body movements.
As a young person I chose to live with this in mind... “ “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young”. Now as an older woman I have chosen to also keep in mind the verse that encourages me how to live as an older woman so that I can “urge the younger women to love their husbands and children”.
As I now come alongside younger women, my hope and prayer is that when younger women look at me they see “my Oma”. I want to live my life in a way that they see Jesus, that they feel loved, respected, and believed in. I want younger women to walk away feeling encouraged. After chatting with me, I want them to walk into their life situations feeling like they are facing their life circumstances with new courage, that they are believed in, and respected. I want them to come away with a spark of happiness that came from our conversation, which in turn maybe gives them more energy to do what they are called to do.
We are all stronger together.