Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Titus 2:3-5
As a first generation Christian wife and mom, there are extra challenges in raising teenage daughters. I was never modeled or taught the beauty of being reverent (godly, holy) in behavior. The Mexican culture that I grew up in operated in the chronic slandering of others in the community for personal gain or deceitful self-validation (aka- gossip). Alcohol flowed freely and drunkenness was the norm in all of our large family get togethers. Self control in behavior and speech was completely off the radar and expressing every emotion, positive or negative, through highly dramatic discourse was seen as a badge of honor because one had the ability to “tell it like it is”.
Growing up I overhead way too many conversations where men were negatively talked about and described as “no good”, manipulators or pain-causers of women. So naturally there were extra challenges at work in my heart and mind to willingly accept Paul’s charge in Titus to be submissive to my husband. I know all-their-life Christian women struggle with the word submission but for first generation Christians, after living years of sinful patterns of thinking and behaving as an adult, it’s a bit more painful when the Holy Spirit gets to work to transform minds and hearts. Holy thinking, behaving, and speaking is hard when one does not have any earthly idea what holy thinking, behaving and speaking looks like.
At the onset of my newly redeemed heart, I used to read Titus 2 and think, “how in the world am I supposed to teach my daughters what Paul is exhorting when words like reverent in behavior, teach what is good, self-controlled, pure, kind, submissive were all foreign to me?
There was no way I wanted to revile my Giver of Life, my Wonderful Counselor, so I knew that I needed to make every effort to get these exhortations right, or at least seek to get them right.
1 Peter 5:1-10 says:
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
After years of making every effort, here is what I have gleaned.
1) Allow a seasoned-in-scripture and older-in-age Godly woman into your life.
As a new Christian, I needed to see what a true Biblical woman looked like in action, meaning in the daily grind of keeping a home, preparing meals, organizing my day to make time for Bible reading, etc. I also needed to see what it looked like to not treat my husband with disrespect or disdain. God provided an older-in-age (meaning not a peer or group of peers) and seasoned-in-scripture woman and in humility I allowed her to speak into my life in all areas- meaning she lovingly and humbly called out sin when she saw it in my actions/speech. When I say she should not be a peer I mean that she should not be in the same season that you are in. There is something wonderful to be learned from older woman who have raised their children past the age of your own and has learned/become familiar with all the demands of keeping a home. If we only surround ourselves with mothers or women that are our peers, though good for fellowship purposes, it’s a bit like the blind leading the blind. Paul knew this and said it should not be this way by specifically exhorting older women to share their wisdom with younger women. Older women are needed in the body of Christ and younger women ought to let them in their lives.
2) Lean heavily, be guided by (Romans 8:14), get in step (Gal 5:25) with the Holy Spirit.
Jeremiah 31:33-34 reminds us as that as new believers ushered into God’s new covenant, his remnant people will have new hearts engineered by God himself. With new hearts freshly stamped with a new love for God and a love for his Word, this new love will give us a desire to seek out knowledge of God and seek to do right by the very One who saved us.
John 14:15-17 tells us of our new reality:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
We are not left as orphans, trying to figure life out by ourselves. (John 14:18)
We will be taught all the things we need to grow in godliness (John 14:26)
We are shown and guided into truth that includes glorifying God with our newly redeemed lives (John16:13-15)
There are so many reminders in scripture that tell us that the Holy Spirit lives in us. We can rest assured God’s very Spirit guides us. We can be comforted because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:5)
Like a newborn baby, I had to re-learn life. New patterns of living, new ways of thinking, new desires for godliness was only possible with the Holy Spirit, a gift I cherish daily.
3) Stay in the Word.
I never would have known that those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on hearts of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Col 3:12). Being a woman that forgives is pretty important too. We won’t know what Biblical womanhood or godliness looks like outside of digging into scripture. Yes, we can read other people’s blogs, glean from great authors who write books on holiness or even hear women talk about Biblical womanhood at conferences, (things I do and love) but until we open up our own Bibles and read for ourselves, we turn the idea of a Biblical or godly woman into concepts where we look high and low for “good advice” to help us attain conceptual aspects of what we ought to be. Only the Word, with the help of the Holy Spirit has the power to change us. The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit of both joints and marrow, able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12) There is nothing that gets to the depths of our soul the way reading scripture does.
4) Don’t be afraid to admit your shortcomings.
Growing up in a home where yelling was the norm and after sharing with my mentor that I hated being a raging mom because I felt it went against scripture, she gave me permission to allow my children into my struggles and ask them to give me grace when I resorted to screaming. The concept was very foreign to me because in my Hispanic culture parents are supposed to be the ones that have all the answers, rule with an iron fist and demand to be “respected”. She recommended that I share with my children that I wanted to stop raging at them when they failed to obey my demands perfectly. They were up for the challenge, but I’m not going to lie and say that it was a piece of cake. The first time they said “Mom, you said you wanted to stop yelling at us”, I had to fight the urge to lash out even more. Painfully submitting to my children’s rebuke went against every thing I knew as a mom. Thankfully, through the years, I have learned that the very act of admitting my shortcomings to my kids actually earns their respect in ways that I could never have imagined. Mind blowing actually.
5) Pray with your daughters often.
Whenever I found myself at a loss in dealing with the preadolescent hormones raging through my daughter’s body that caused her to turn into Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde a gazillion times a day, I had no where to turn to but God. However, instead of finding a quiet corner to pray by myself, we stopped whatever we were doing, even if we were right smack in the middle of a power struggle over what seemed to be trivial matters to me, but monumental to her, we brought our issues to God in prayer. Showing dependence on God through prayer in the middle of mother/daughter conflict diffused tension, reoriented us to God and to each other, and helped me model for her the importance of a robust prayer life.
Which leads me to the last point.
6) Model godly behavior, even if imperfect.
Modeling godly behavior to our daughters starts with acknowledging a desire to attain godliness. Paul tells older woman in Titus 2:3 “to be” holy. The infinitive verb informs us of a “going-to-future” holiness, a futurity of sort. This is definitely not an already attained holiness. Knowing that we should be seeking a future holiness in our behavior, thoughts, and actions wonderfully releases us of from the yoke of feigned holiness. (Whew!)
We can humbly say with Paul we have not already obtained holiness or have already become perfect because Christ Jesus has made us his own (Phil 3:12), but we rest knowing that Christ’s power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:3-4).
After 12 years of making every effort to re-learn life in Christ and strive for holiness in my actions, thoughts and speech, I can confidently say that I am further along than I was 12 years ago. I cannot boast in cleaning myself up but I can boast in Christ for giving me everything I need in life that will bring God glory.
As older women, we should not just read the admonishments in Titus 2 as things we need to be teaching other women, but we should also see them as fresh reminders to our hearts that God, who began a good work in us, will continue to work in us, through us and for us. There is nothing more important than having the privilege of showing what God teaches us to our own daughters for a season while they are under our care.
Let’s do it well, dear mothers.