To Christian Women Under 40: We're Sorry
I've watched one young woman after another pour out her heart, expressing deep emotion about the messages they heard from other generations:
"You feel un-relatable to me and not transparent."
"I feel like my mom is under a sworn oath to not tell me everything."
"I need more answers! Why keep things from me?"
"Your idea of a godly woman feels threatening to me."
"When you do talk to me about spiritual things, your language is patronizing."
"The sense I get from older women is they want to fix in my life what was wrong in theirs."
This breakthrough came at a recent event called Shaping Her Faith, part of my research on relationships between Christian women. Women aged 22 to 77 talked openly about the messages we send to one another and how they impact our spiritual lives.
I suddenly knew I was witnessing something sacred. Their young, open voices created a safe haven as we all leaned in, listening to what felt like a mystery finally resolved.
I watched the older generations receive the remarks from women in their 20s and 30s with grace and intentional thought; they each began to ask forgiveness of the younger women. Seasoned women confessed to sometimes not listening, not being relatable, using patronizing spiritual language, and trying to fix their own problems.
Beyond the event, I heard about these women gathering together. One told me, "Pam, I didn't realize how quickly we could get down to the spiritual issues—they are already there!"
In sociologist Christian Smith's book, Lost in Transition, Smith and his collaborators investigated the difficulties young people face. The researchers point out that it's not just their problem but our problem—the struggles of emerging adults have much deeper roots in mainstream American culture. Smith finds that much of our youth's pain and confusion lies with those who've gone before. So my message to Christian women in their 20s and 30s: I'm sorry, too. It's time to mend our generational wounds and deepen our relationships as women of faith.
Part of the solution, I believe is to stop blaming either generation. Instead I want to call you to follow Smith's simple advice to help avert the gap: Intentionally stay in relationship with mature adults outside your age group.
In our public conversation, one mature woman admitted she only met with younger women if they contacted her. Even though older friends, relatives, and mentors should initiate, when young women show a desire to sustain and strengthen a relationship, both people benefit. Here's how you—as women in your 20s and 30s—can help us make amends, to come together for the sake of the church and God's kingdom:
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