Women are designed by God to be flexible, but that doesn’t mean it is always easy. Sometimes we have a little stiffness, a little resistance to change. It’s hard to give way when we are accustomed to things as they are. We can feel a little insecure about who we are or what we’re supposed to be doing. But there is no sin in “adjusting” to change. Though it can be uncomfortable initially to adapt and stretch into new circumstances, if we just catch our breath, we’ll be okay. This is just normal.
Though I’ve seen women go through times like this at just about every stage of life, it’s very predictable with women whose children have finished school and moved out and on. These women can feel very much at loose ends, with time on their hands. And it’s this group of women I’d like to address here.
It’s tempting to think that you ought to go get a job. But let me give you a few other suggestions. First of all, if you are a wife, your primary job as your husband’s helper has not changed. He still needs you, and it may be the first time in a long time he has your undivided attention. People have asked me if it’s weird having an “empty nest” now, and I have to say, no, not at all. Not because I didn’t adore having a full nest. But when we first got married, there were just two of us after all, and we managed quite nicely. So in many ways, it is just delightful. But that’s not my point, and I digress.
Though being your husband’s helper is your first calling, you’ve probably been very preoccupied, and rightly so, raising children for the past twenty or thirty years, depending on how many children you have and how they are spaced. So it takes a bit of regrouping and rethinking to determine what it is you’re about now that they are all grown up.
But I would like to encourage you to think about how you can be of service to the church now that your children are raised. Most likely helping your husband doesn’t take all your waking hours, unless you are in unusual circumstances. (If that is the case, then just ignore what I’m saying here.) And though your children may still need your help and support in many ways, you may still be at loose ends when it comes to thinking of the big picture. Many women who have run the race, raised their kids, and have come in for a landing, seldom think about how they can be of benefit to their church and community.
Most women in this age bracket have tremendous experience and more time and resources than the younger women. But the one thing they lack is direction. If they are serious Christians, they don’t want to spend all their time on themselves: shopping, working out at the gym, spending money at the spa, and socializing. So that’s why they consider getting a job. But they may not see how they can be of much use to the church. Well here are a few ideas.
First assess your gifts, abilities, desires, and opportunities. Are you a great cook? Why not start a little cooking class (or sewing class) for young girls in your congregation? Do you love entertaining? Then invite people over. Host one of the church meetings or a shower. Are there any elderly or widows in your congregation? Visit them, take them to lunch, run errands for them. Are there young moms who could use a meal delivered? Make them one. Help with the weddings, cook for the funerals, sponsor the baby showers, visit the sick, reach out to the needy. Each congregation has far more needs than are currently being met (I promise), so get to work. If you need ideas, talk with your pastor. If you’re shy, start with the people you know.
If all the older women began to minister in this way, the impact would startle us all. The older women in the church are a tremendous resource, and we need to get to work doing what we do best, which is caring for people. The side benefit is that then we won’t feel at loose ends. We’ll see that we have an important place in God’s design for the Christian community, and our usefulness didn’t end when the kids all left for college. Far from it! Actually, we are just now warmed up and ready to go.
So don’t flounder around wondering what it is you’re supposed to do now that the kids are out of the house. Open your eyes. Ask God to give you some good ideas. Be flexible. Stretch out a bit and do something new.