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Lean Into Other Generations

Mallory Smyth

When I was 22 years old, my 23-year-old friend invited me to attend a women’s small group Bible study. Walking into the room that first night, I quickly realized that my friend and I were the youngest—by well over twenty years. Every other woman sitting at that table landed somewhere between the ages of 45 and 75. 

My hesitation played out in my head. I don’t know these women. I wasn’t expecting them to be so much older than me. Will they think I’m stupid? What if we have nothing to talk about? 

As we met week after week, my initial hesitation transformed into delight. These women, having so many more years under their belts than I had, were a gift. 

Sitting at their feet, I got to hear about the struggles and joys of their marriages and process the choices of their adult children. I listened to the stories of their joys and their tragedies, their good choices and the ones they wished they could change. I saw how Scripture hit their hearts differently at different stages of life. And they did not think that I was stupid. I was also a gift to them, offering them the fresh perspective and energy that accompanied me in my youth.The experience was incredible―nothing less than transformative. 

It is natural to stick with women our own age. Why? Because we are going through the same things. When we sit with women who are in our current state of life, we can process our day to day struggles with women going through it too. When we sit in a group of women from our generation, we laugh at the same jokes, reminisce about the same cultural references, and make connections over similar joys and struggles. This is a very good thing, and we should lean on women who resemble us in age and state of life. However, if we only invest in relationships with women who are in our same generation, we are greatly missing out. 

In the book of Judges, Joshua, a great Israelite, dies. Because Joshua was faithful to God, he was chosen to be the successor to Moses and lead the Israelites into the promised land. Over the course of his life, he honored God, leading the Israelites with courage and virtue. Judges 2:7–8 says, “And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work which the Lord had done for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of one hundred and ten years.”

So what happened in the wake of Joshua’s death? 

Judges 2:10 reveals that “there arose another generation after them, who did not know the Lord or the work which he had done for Israel.”

This is why fellowship across generations is so important. Joshua was part of an incredible generation. His generation was alive during the Israelites’ wanderings in the desert. They witnessed the incredible, unspeakable miracles of God. They had experienced the benefits of obeying God and the dysfunction that followed their disobedience. They were also the generation that took hold of the promised land. Each of them had an incredible story to tell of God’s goodness. Yet, for some reason, there was a disconnect. Those stories did not get passed down. The young and the old did not sit together. As a result, an entire generation of people rose up not knowing God or how He works. 

As I survey our current cultural climate, I submit to you that we are in a similar situation. We no longer spend significant time with each other across generations, and we are suffering because of it. And so while I encourage you to enjoy relating to women your own age, I challenge you to form relationships with women who are from a different generation than you, older or younger. 

You may be reading this knowing that there is more life behind you than there is ahead of you. I have spoken to women like you who look at the young women at their parish and express how they feel like they have nothing to offer. This could not be further from the truth. Friend, your story is important and needs to be told. You have a wisdom that only comes with age. Young women need to know that their state of life will not last forever, and may not be the hardest. They need to hear about your sufferings and regrets, as well as your joys and your hopes for the future. Please do not discount yourself. Your story may be the light that guides a younger woman into peace and telling it to a younger ear may bring a new kind of healing to you as well. 

You may be reading this knowing that there is more life ahead of you than behind you. Sit and listen to older women. Become their friend and hear their story but recognize that you have something invaluable to offer to them. You have a fresh spirit to offer. If you are willing to sit with someone who is older and share your life with them, you may very well soften a heart that has been hardened by unkind years. In you, older women see hope. They see that life might not be as bad as it looks on the news. Your energy is contagious, and your stories may bring up fond memories for them. When you reach out to a woman who is older, you may be the one who brings her out of loneliness and into communion. Do not discount what you can offer to someone who is ahead of you in life. Step out and be the one who reminds her that her story still matters.

Scripture repeatedly speaks to both young and old. Psalm 71:18 says, “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to all the generations to come.” 1 Timothy 4:12 tells us, “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” Each of us has something to offer another generation. Let us not keep it to ourselves. Rather, let us step out across generations, so we may be encouraged into our old age and each generation rises up knowing the glory of God.

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