Whose voice do you hear when a much older Christian woman speaks into your life?
When I was eight years old, I became a grown-up. Changing life circumstances and a mom who needed my help in many areas of her life caused me to say good-bye to most of the rest of my childhood and learn how to be an adult quickly.
One recent Sunday, almost 50 years later, I sat in church and listened to a prayer written and spoken by a woman a little older than my mother would have been if she were still alive. Her prayer was just a minute or two long, and by the end of it I was in tears. Now, I cry easily for many reasons, so the tears themselves didn’t surprise me. The surprise was that I was crying for something I longed for without knowing, like a memory that had never happened or a desire just out of reach.
I cried because I recognized something in an elderly woman’s voice—a voice of experience, of someone who knew suffering, who had lived a long time and knew grief and loss. A voice of a woman who loved God with her whole heart and whose relationship with him had sustained her through many decades of both joys and sorrows. A true prayer warrior who, at that moment, sounded to me as if she spoke from the very heart of God, with a desire that we all should know him as she did. By the end of her prayer, a prayer of comfort and reminders of God’s grace, I was in tears—tears of gratitude for the voice of a spiritual mother in our midst.
Whose voices did I hear that day?
I heard the voice of Anna, the aged woman whose patience, faithfulness, and boldness of speech was rewarded with a personal encounter with the Christ child when he was brought to the temple.
I heard the voice of Naomi, the mother-in-law whose story gives structure and meaning to the book of Ruth, who was made empty and then filled again with a gift from God, a redeemer and restorer of life.
I heard the voices of Lois and Eunice, the godly grandmother and mother who had a sincere and living faith and gave that gift to Timothy, and because of that were not without names in the Bible.
I heard what is often inaudible in most areas of society today: the gentle voice of a much older and wiser Christian woman. A woman who, like the four women above—and like David—was after God’s own heart. A woman who exhibited the quiet, humble fruit of the spirit in daily life.
Later, as I hugged her and thanked her for her prayer, I began to cry again and wondered, somewhat embarrassed, why I was crying. (She was no doubt wondering this as well.) What I didn’t say: I’m crying for my lost childhood. I’m crying for my mother who was unable to master most of her adult responsibilities, much less give me the support and spiritual guidance I craved. I’m crying for the wandering restlessness and detours in my life that I experienced as a result. What I did say: I’m crying because I didn’t realize how much, even at my age, I’m still in great need of hearing encouragement and wisdom from a Christian woman who is farther down the road than I am in her walk with the Lord.
The truth is, you’re never too old to no longer want your mom—the mom you may or may not have ever had. One who not only cares for you physically, but also speaks into your life with spiritual wisdom and comfort, who prays for you and builds you up with words of experience and knowledge, who reminds you of how much God loves you and desires a relationship with you.
If you have that kind of mom (or another spiritual mother), and if she’s still living, you should call her and tell her thank you.