When I was young, I didn’t understand the seasons of life. I was in a hurry to experience life. I didn’t realize I would one day say, “I used to do that …”
I have learned many things from my mother through her instructions and by watching how she lived. In fact, there are things she is still teaching me after her death.
My mother was extremely active. She made clothing after just looking at a picture in a catalog. She plumbed the bathroom in our house. She built rooms onto our home. She planted gardens and preserved hundreds of jars of food. She also pieced and quilted many handmade quilts. She even went back to finish high school when she was nearly 60 years of age!
She earnestly studied her Bible and seldom missed church services.
A stroke changed her life
My mom was still active in her early 80s until she suffered two strokes. One stroke took away most of her ability to speak; and the other impaired her left side, leaving her physically unable to do the things she used to love doing.
Mom would sit in her chair and watch me do my routine activities, like cooking and cleaning. Many times over the next eight years she would look at me and say, “I used to do that.”
I understand now
It is a strange reality to now find myself in the last season of my life. The priceless and challenging years of parenting are behind me. The privilege of being a pastor’s wife and getting to share our lives with so many people is now past. The sense of always charging forward into life has now changed.
Over the past two years I have found myself struggling with feelings of loss and not knowing where I fit anymore. I have dealt with the feeling that no one needed me in the same way and that I had lost my purpose. I found myself, as it were, sitting in a chair saying, “I used to do that.”
As I struggled through this, memories of my mother showed me a godly pattern to follow.
Even though Mom was physically and verbally impaired when she said, “I used to do that,” her words were not spoken in bitterness, anger or depression. As I look back, her words were not even said with a sense of loss, because she was always smiling when she said them.
Even though Mom didn’t realize it, she was still accomplishing a work during the last eight years of her life. It was just a different kind of work.I realize now that she was able to rejoice in all she used to do. I am sure she would have loved to join me in my work, but she seemed satisfied that she “used to do that.”
Even though Mom didn’t realize it, she was still accomplishing a work during the last eight years of her life. It was just a different kind of work.
What God desires from us doesn’t depend on the condition of our physical bodies or what we may have done in the past and can no longer do. He asks us to actively continue to love Him and to love His people.
I watched Mom in her weakened and somewhat helpless state continue to perform three acts of love that I believe God also wants us to do:
- Be a fervent and faithful pillar of the truth until the end of our lives, regardless of our life circumstances or physical strength.
- Open our arms wide to all those younger than ourselves. Rejoice in them. Encourage them. Pray for them. Love them. Be examples for them.
- Strive always to be the kind of person God asks us to be. We can do that in any season of life.
God’s “to do” list for the last season of our life
God actually provides us a “to do” list of characteristics we are to have in the later season of our lives. Titus 2 offers instructions for “older” women, and Vincent’s Word Studies says the Greek word for older “is to be understood of natural age, not of ecclesiastical position.”
According to Titus 2:3-5, older women are to be:
- Reverent in behavior.
- Not malicious gossips.
- Not enslaved to much wine.
- Teaching what is good so that they may encourage the young women to:
- Love their husbands.
- Love their children.
- Be sensible.
- Be pure.
- Be workers at home.
- Be kind.
- Be subject to their own husbands, so that the Word of God will not be dishonored.
We are needed
It has been my desire to share some of my struggles as I am coming to grips with this season of my life. My mother’s example and the words of Paul to older women (Titus 2:3-5) have begun to shift my focus from “I used to do that” to “I can do this now” to make a difference in the lives of all I come in contact with.