Seven decades ago, the whooping crane population was nearly extinct: there were only sixteen birds left on the planet. Wildlife biologists got to work preserving the endangered bird and today there are almost six hundred whooping cranes and counting. (Yes, this is girltalk, not Animal Planet. Stick with me. The relevance of the whooping crane will soon become clear.)
The scientists weren’t content with boosting numbers; they wanted to restore the whooping crane “culture”—to help whooping cranes teach other whooping cranes what it means to be a real whooping crane. As it turns out, part of being a real whooping crane involves a yearly migration of upwards of a thousand kilometers to sunny Florida. So these wildlife biologists trained and then tracked the migrating birds.
But soon an anomaly appeared. While some groups of migrating whooping cranes glided straight to their destination, other groups drifted forty to fifty miles off course. There was only one difference between the birds that flew straight and “the crooked fliers:” an older bird in the group. The birds that flew more accurately followed an older bird.*
You probably see where I am going with this. A parable for Christian women. As younger women trying to fly straight according to God’s Word, we need older women to help us stay on course.
Scripture is clear about this. Titus 2 most famously tells us: “Older women are to teach what is good, and so train the young women…that the word of God may not be reviled” (v. 3-5). And peppered throughout the epistles are instructions for younger Christians to follow more mature Christians: “Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7). “Join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Phil 3:17).
Three things (at least) stand out in these verses:
1. Some Christians are older and some are younger (and it is important to know which you are).
2. An older Christian is one who has an “outcome” (not merely an opinion) worth following.
3. Younger Christians are to “keep their eyes on” the older Christians (not follow the younger Christians or figure it out for themselves).
These days, in our churches and on our blogs, we often get it backwards. Young women are quick to “test their wings” (sorry, I couldn’t resist!), to teach and take the lead, while older women are often marginalized or ignored.
Young women can be more consumed with avoiding the mistakes of the previous generation than learning from their wisdom. We are often better at criticizing than following those who are older in the faith. We think we can find our own way.
But there are also many young women who know they are young, who know they need an older, more experienced guide. They want to be mentored, but can’t seem to find anyone. “Where did all the older women go?” they wonder.
More than ever, we need experienced, fruitful women to teach and train the young women. We need those who have flown a straight path according to the Word of God to show us the way. We need to restore a Christian culture where younger women learn from older women what it means to be real women.
How can we make this happen? What does it look like? Let’s talk.