(I’ve been wanting to write this entry for a long time and am only now getting around to it.)
I honestly can’t think of too many phrases that make my formerly fundie friends more twitchy than the words “Titus 2 woman”. What is a “Titus 2 woman” you ask? Well…
“Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.” (Titus 2:3-5)
It doesn’t sound that bad, right? I mean, I know a lot of young moms who could use encouragement.
The problem: most older women I deal with online and in person who subscribe to the thinking in this passage are the biggest scolds I’ve ever met. It seems like their sole reason for existence is to criticize people, give unwarranted advice, and try to get people to conform to their viewpoints. It is one of the reasons young women like myself don’t get involved with women’s ministry stuff at church (other than the fact that we have kids and probably can’t find a babysitter). It’s also a reason why a lot of us leave the church — why would we be part of a community of faith where all we hear is how “young people” are screwing things up?
are a couple suggestions is my manifesto from my perspective as a pastor’s wife and as a young woman.
[+] Realize that the epistle to Titus has a specific context. One thing that drives me crazy is people just taking various verses that prove their point and using them in a completely different context than they were written. Paul was giving instructions to Titus on how the people of his church plants should behave so that none of the people in the area could find anything to criticize about them. This is applicable to today where you don’t want your church members’ behavior to reflect badly on the church but it isn’t a license to be critical of every freaking thing that people do.
[+] Realize that our lives today are different than yours was when you were raising your kids. Back in the day, women didn’t work outside the home, homeschooling wasn’t a thing, and girls were groomed specifically to manage a household. In the 21st century, we’re running a household and having a career because it’s probably not doable to live on just one salary. A lot of us stay-at-home moms (SAHM) would absolutely *LOVE* to work outside the home but it’s not feasible because of daycare costs. This is something that most of the older women I deal with haven’t faced. If you see us out grocery-shopping by ourselves, don’t ask nastily where the kids are and why we’re leaving them with our husbands. Our husbands probably came home and saw a dazed look on our faces and sent us out to shop for groceries alone to help us maintain our sanity. If you see us sitting in a coffee shop reading with our baby asleep in the car seat next to us, don’t make snippy remarks about how “I never got to do that when my kids were little.” We’re there reading as a way to get out of the house and decompress a bit to save our sanity.
[+] Realize that we probably don’t give a rat’s butt about your opinion on something because we’re concerned with other things. I had a parishioner (we’ll call her “Delilah”) who always had to give me her opinion on something I was doing… which was apparently always wrong. (This would be the same person who called me 30 minutes after I’d gotten home from being in the hospital for a week with the HELLP Syndrome and chewed me a new one because I wasn’t down in Great Falls with Daniel. Almost six years later, I’m *STILL* angry about that.) It got to the point where I would be sneaking around the church and checking the parking lot at the grocery store to see if Delilah was there so I wouldn’t get ambushed by her. She actually wanted to lead the youth group because she had some things to say about how messed up the youth are these days. (The kids actually had a code word that they used to warn each other about her coming up behind them.) I don’t think she realized that when she was berating me, I was usually planning blog entries in my head, figuring out how to pay Jon’s self-employment tax (clergy are considered self-employed by the IRS), making a grocery list, or doing any number of things instead of listening to her. Seriously, if we want your opinion on something, we’ll ask for it. Otherwise, accept that you’re wasting our time and leave us alone.
[+] Unless you gave birth to us or have legally adopted us, quit attempting to parent us. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been told that someone has a kid my age/someone is old enough to be my mother, I could pay off Jon’s college and seminary loans in one shot. Really, I have a mother. We’re incredibly close. I don’t need another one. I’d rather deal with you as a peer.
[+] Respect is earned, not automatically given. My mama raised me to be polite to people but it doesn’t mean that I’m going to respect you just because you happen to be older than me. Respect is a two-way street and it does not mean that I have any respect for you just because I happen to be polite. For example, I live with my in-laws. Having two alpha women sharing a house can be really tricky. What makes it possible for everything to work is the fact that my mother-in-law respects me enough to let me do things my way most of the time and I respect her enough to ask her how she would like certain things to be done. (It is her house, after all.) She has shown me in the 14.5 years I’ve known her that while she has opinions on how things should work (LOTS of opinions), she trusts that I am capable of getting things done correctly and sometimes even better than her way. In return, I value what she has to say even if I choose to go in a different direction with something.
[+] Understand that generalizations about “young people” are going to turn us off of hearing what you have to say. In Jon’s last parish, one of the things that drove me crazy was the complaining about “young people”. Apparently, we can’t read music (I can sing harmony on hymns and sightread choir music like nobody’s business), we can’t cook (said to me by someone who was eating a pesto pasta dish I made from scratch with pesto made from the basil grown in my garden), we only like “holy roller rock n’ roll worship” (ummm… not my generation — we go for the traditional stuff), and we don’t want to be involved with the church (yeah… Bible studies at 2:30 p.m. don’t work for women who have jobs). First off, the “young people” in question are 50-60 years old and were run out of the parish by people who didn’t attempt to listen to what they had to say. Secondly, why would we want to stay in a place where everything we do is wrong, where we’re blamed for the church declining, and where people tell us they want our kids there but give us the stink eye if our kids make one sound during worship? This goes back to understanding that our lives are different from yours. We need a church where the childcare isn’t just the mother who happens to be there with her 4 kids and is forced to decamp to the nursery where her kids run around and play while she feels completely banished and disconnected from the people worshiping. We need a church which has something for women who have to work. We need a church which listens to us and asks us in what areas we need to be fed. In short, we need you to be open to what we need in the year 2015 and not just do things a certain way because it’s the way that it has always been done.
[+] Speak words of encouragement to us, not words of criticism. In Jon’s last parish, there was a woman named Joyce who made it her mission to encourage Jon and I. She would find something to praise about Daniel even if it was that he was “exuberant” during worship, she always found something in Jon’s sermon to praise, and she made sure to compliment me on whatever I did. Her birthday was the same day as mine and I always had a beautiful card from her and a phone call on that day. She suffered a stroke about three weeks before we left and when I walked into her hospital room and introduced myself, her family all hugged me and told me that they had heard such wonderful things about me from her. Did that completely make my day? You betcha. I’m not saying that I’m perfect — I will be the first one to enumerate my many flaws — but having someone telling me about the good I was doing made me want to try harder in various areas of my life. She died the day we arrived in Claremont and while I was really bummed that I couldn’t be at her funeral, I had stories of how she impacted my life that I was able to tell to the colleague of Jon’s who performed it.
[+] Rather than harp on how you had things so hard when you were in our shoes, try to make it better for us so that we don’t have to suffer the way you did. When I have “Titus 2″ women harping on me about how they didn’t get to do ________/have ____________ when they were my age/when their kids were little, I usually want to suggest in my completely snarky way that maybe that’s why they need to do ______________ so that young mothers in their lives don’t have the same problem. An example: I was sitting and reading at a coffee shop near where I used to live in Montana with Daniel in his carrier beside me. “Delilah” (whom I spoke of earlier) came in and when she saw me, she felt she had to tell me that she *NEVER* had time to herself when she had babies or young kids. I really wanted to tell her that this is why she should be offering to babysit, not criticizing me for actually doing something that was keeping me mentally healthy. (Daniel was also asleep and totally fine in his carrier so it’s not like I was ignoring him.) Does a mom at church seem harried as she’s trying to keep her toddler quiet? Maybe you should offer to take the kiddo for a walk around the church so she can focus on worship and you should definitely stop giving her the stink eye. Yeah, I’m sure your kids were perfect in church and you’ve told me that you practiced making them sit for 15 minutes quietly. However… neither of your kids (who live at the opposite end of the local Amtrak route to get as far away from you as possible) had autism or the developmental delays that Daniel had.
This has gotten to be a pretty long entry so I’m going to cut things off here and resume tomorrow with a list of women in my life who are worthy of being referred to as “Titus 2 women”.