Young women have been on my mind a lot lately.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent selah* in Titus, Paul’s letter to the young pastor he assigned to the Greek island of Crete. As I read slowly and contemplatively, and as I hear our pastor teach on this portion of scripture, I’m struck by some verses in Chapter 2, where Paul gives Titus advice on how to guide different segments of his congregation. Regarding mature women (my age group), he says this:
“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
Any woman who has sought God’s plan and will in each season of her life has been told she should strive to become a “Titus 2 woman”. The weight of that calling is especially profound as I realize Paul places responsibility for teaching younger women squarely in the lap of mature women.
Paul tells Titus to instruct mature men “to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.” He also tells him to “encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned….”
But not a word on how Titus should instruct younger women. Paul leaves that role to the mature women.
In his letter, he makes it clear that the best way mature women can teach younger females godly character is by example, “to be reverent in the way they live.” Only then, after they have “walked the talk” are they qualified to give instruction to the younger ones, “to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands.”
Some days, I fall far short of the call to reverence issued in Titus. I may not be “addicted to wine” but I can be impatient, self-centered, slothful and, yes, a slanderer.
But I also know I am formed in Christ’s image and I live under God’s grace. That is what I can offer to young women the Lord has brought into my realm of influence, even as I strive to live out Titus 2. I stand on those truths as I heed the call to “teach what is good.”
When I hold the hand of a young mother who struggles in her marriage, who is trying to be a good Mama and a patient Wife, but is overwhelmed by the challenge of it all, and we pray and speak of God’s grace.
When next to me on the church pew, tears are streaming down the face a new friend, broken and lonely and regretting so many mistakes as she tries hard to press in to the grace and forgiveness and glory of this God who’s captured her life. It is so real to her, and still so very hard, because she knows her choices have hurt the very fruit of her womb, the ones she loves beyond understanding. I remind her she is created in the image of Christ.
And on a late summer evening when I serve coffee shop customers alongside young women giddy with the prospect of future husbands, children and LIFE, I remind myself of Paul’s instruction. I offer encouragement and gentle counsel, perhaps not with words, but with presence.
While I can’t offer these young women the perfection of a fully mature, completely reverent woman of God, I can extend to them the hand of experience, the counsel that all strength is found in faith and in scripture, and the gift of knowing God’s grace will cover it all.
* The word “Selah” occurs seventy-three times in the Psalms, and is found also in Habakkuk. The exact meaning of the word is unknown, but it’s believed to be a command to “pause, or reflect.”