Then they can train 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 2:4-5
Looking at the verse in Titus, I’m intrigued by the word “train” because it seems at first glance to imply that young women do not know anything in the first place. And still considering myself a young woman (I'll be 30 next year) I think defensively "hey, I know a little something." The NASB uses the word “encourage” which I like much better but then as I thought about it more I realized that training is encouraging. When I think of training my children I think of three parts of it: encouragement, support and correction.
I have learned the power of encouragement first hand. When I was having our fourth baby I needed encouragement. Both my mother and grandmother had suffered from severe anxiety and depression after their fourth child and I felt like a nervous breakdown was imminent. Fear gripped me and although I knew I was going to have this child, I was afraid of what would happen. I won’t go into many more details but I’ll tell they include a time of resenting my other children for being the first three. I needed encouragement. I needed to know that I was capable of doing this and that I could be proactive about my mental health. I needed someone to say “You know what to do, you’re fully capable…now do it!” I did meet with a mentor and she said exactly that. Through encouragement God healed me from the depression before Ruby was born.
Another example has to do with our journey into middle school. Azzie has had such a hard time dealing with teasing, bullying and just plain mean kids. We feel like we’re doing what we can, praying for her and the other kids, keeping lines of communication open, staying on top of things that are going on there, but we’re still filled with fear thinking, “is it enough? Are we too protective?” Then the other day I had a chance meeting with another mom from the school. She has five children and three have survived middle school. She assured me most kids do and also encouraged me that I am doing what’s best by staying on top of everything that’s going on and who Azzie is hanging out with. She was so gracious when she said, “Your kids will make mistakes, but you’ll be there to help them back to what’s right when they do.”
Encouragement comes from someone who has a better perspective from where they are and can be anything from a hopeful word about what my son or daughter will become or someone saying “now do it” or someone smiling and assuring me I will make it through. Encouragement fights against the fear and uncertainty in parenting.
A few years ago I volunteered at an organization called Youth for Christ in Stanwood. They have a Teen Parent’s program and after being there for a few months I started to notice something about what caused the girls to be successful in parenting and in life; those girls had an adequate support system.
The teen mothers who had mothers, grandmothers, church, etc. usually finished high school, thought about going on to college, paid attention to their children and had a higher standard for relationships. The girls who lacked support acted no different than any other teenager. The problem was they were supposed to be acting like parents.
The purpose of the program was to match mentor moms with the teenage moms in order to have some of that support the girls were lacking. I watched some of the girls who had not previously had a support system thrive, but noticed that they not only connected with their mentor, they connected with all the mentors and volunteers as well as a church group. It really seemed like the more support, the better.
A way that I’ve sought out support recently has to do with our kids getting older and needing to hear things from someone other than their dad and me. They are after all starting to realize that we don’t know everything. Actually they’re already past that and on to thinking mom and dad know pretty close to nothing.
While I feel like we have a good relationship (Azzie pointed out that she’s the only one she knows who doesn’t completely hate her parents) they’ve heard me say the same things over and over and lately I’ve noticed eye rolling and plenty of “yeah yeahs”. But if someone like a family friend or the “cool” teacher from their discipleship class says the same exact thing, they really take it in.
Most of our friends who have supported us in that way are usually older and have been through what we’re going through. Some on the other hand are only a few years older than our girls and remember better about where they are and what they’re going through.
Correction is a part of training but is definitely connected to the other two aspects. I keep thinking of Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; in other words be humble and lovingly correct after much prayer.
Correction, like the other parts, has to do with having a better perspective of things, knowing which battles are worth fighting, when silence and submission are more effective than words and when someone needs to give even herself a little grace.
I can’t say that I personally love correction, but I appreciate that I have people who are in my life and have my family’s best interest in their heart. I appreciate that there are women who want me to live a more abundant life, free from deception and a false sense of control over what’s around me. False thinking and the actions that follow need correction.
In conclusion, in regards to the verse in Titus, I want to point out that it is talking to older women. I don’t think that means that women have to be older or that there’s a starting age at which you may qualify to be a mentor, but a mentor in some way needs to have “been there” and so that they can come along side a young mother with a sense of understanding and love.