Each one of us hopefully learns a great deal through our lifetime, but what do we do with that knowledge? Does it go with us to our graves, or do we learn to share it with others graciously, and without expectation for the way they will use it?
Looking to the older generation for advice seems to have gone out of fashion these days, perhaps partly because families no longer live with or near each other. I don’t know if it is the computer generation with its instant answers from Google (although I suspect it happened long before the internet), but the younger generation doesn’t seem to want to ask for advice and wisdom from their elders. Titus 2 talks about older women offering encouragement to younger women to live their lives well, and I think that’s a great model for us all.
While methodology may change (I still cringe when I think of some of the advice I and my friends got as young mums from older women) those who have journeyed further along life’s path can be a huge source of wisdom, and it is foolish not to tap into it. Surely that’s something of what church family is about? It is both disrespectful and arrogant to think that these people have nothing to offer us in terms of advice and wisdom, so how can we make ourselves more open to it?
And those of us who are no longer spring-like teenagers or in our twenties should also consider what our life lessons have been along the way so far. What wisdom might we have to pass on to those who are younger (in age but also in their faith)?
Just this week a younger couple turned down offers of advice from my husband and me, even though they are going through a situation very similar to one we experienced years ago. We’ve also enjoyed spending time with an older couple who are much further ahead on their leadership journey, who spoke such encouragement, challenge and wisdom into our lives over a meal. Those uplifting encounters are so vital.
So, in the spirit of being older than quite a lot of you now (I still can’t quite get used to that fact), I’m going to practice what I’m preaching and pass on just a few of the things I’ve learned over the years, hopefully in an encouraging way!
Don’t try to do things in your own strength
We hate admitting our need for help, but I’m afraid that’s the way it works. We can’t experience God’s grace and goodness without openly admitting we need Him. And God puts people around us for a reason. Yes, there are times when we are to reach out and help them – but we also need to learn to accept help in those times when we could really do with it. As a ‘do-er’ I really hated admitting I couldn’t keep on top of things and worked really hard to make sure I could – until I had children and those first few weeks completely unravelled my nicely worked out routines! My advice to you: quit pretending everything is okay and allow those closest to you to see how things really are – then accept the offers of help when they come.
Take more time to slow down, and learn how to practise God’s presence
I’ve spent countless years pushing myself to achieve the goals I set myself each day, and yet I’m sure a lot of that rushing was pointless. I can often feel empty at the end of a particularly busy day, sensing that I’ve missed something. The irony is that the pace I lived my life at was often fuelled by a desire not to miss anything! There is so much wisdom in learning to slow down and inviting God in at regular intervals. When I first started working from home, I began to chat to God at various points throughout my day. I discovered that connecting with God in such a simple way made a huge difference.
Be gentle on yourself: God is
If you are a perfectionist like me, you want to do everything you can absolutely to the best of your ability, and beat yourself up when you fall short or when you slip up on that same area of temptation AGAIN. The way we can lay into ourselves is vicious – it certainly doesn’t reflect the heart of God. As long as we come before Him and ask His forgiveness whenever necessary, His hands of love and grace are outstretched before us; beckoning us. He doesn’t turn His back on us in the way we expect. I found this out in a particularly difficult time of my life, when I’d committed a ‘big sin’ and was trying to deal with the inevitable consequences. I seemed to be much harder on myself than God was – He just wanted me to come back and commune with Him again, and learn to take baby steps forward with Him once more.