A few days after my 26th birthday, I was on the phone with my mother and I told her that I actually “felt” 26-years-old. This was the first birthday where I truly felt that my spirit had been transformed; that my soul had become wiser. During my 25th year, I successfully spent one year alone in a state that was 1790 miles from my entire family. I became a finalist for the Houston Texans Cheerleaders, created a healthy circle of friends, went to therapy for the first time, and re-established my walk with Christ. I felt that I had been and was being transformed from the inside out.
“I just don’t feel the same way that I felt last year”, I said somewhat hesitantly. It was almost as if I was afraid to say that I felt “older” to someone who was, clearly, much older than me. She raised me! Everything that I know is because she modeled it or taught it to me. Does anyone else ever feel this way when you’re about to announce some new life lesson you’ve learned? Do you check yourself before telling someone who, you assume, already learned this lesson? Maybe it’s just me; but, for a long time I would be hyper-aware of the [apparent] fact that the older person had much more wisdom than I did. I expected them to be holding onto a “I told you so” in the back of their mind while I divulge whatever paradigm-shifting, life lesson that had manifested within me.
So when I said, “I feel older” to my mom, I was expecting a scoff. “Girl, you don’t know what old is! You’re still too young to know anything about what real life is”, she would say next. However, to my surprise, she affirmed my statement by highlighting all of the areas in which she observed personal growth in me that year. She told me that as we get older, we start to notice changes in ourselves each year. Sometimes those changes are obvious (like in my case) and sometimes they are more subtle. Either way, change is happening as we continue to hear from God. He is always working on us, pushing us closer and closer to our destiny.
Now, as I push through my 27th year of life, I am reminded of this conversation and many other conversations like this one. I recently watched an episode of “Red Table Talk”, a show hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith, where Jordyn Woods made an appearance to discuss rumors of infidelity with another celebrity. Without diving too deeply into the drama, Jordyn was accused of being a “home-wrecker” by a close friend and their family. Honestly, I could care less about the drama and, quite frankly, I can’t say that I believe Jordyn’s full testimony. But, what I found so fascinating about the episode was Jada’s demeanor throughout the conversation. I was enthralled by the way in which Jada demonstrated such empathy and compassion towards Jordyn instead of just blindly supporting her. Jada is clearly biased based on her relationship with Jordyn, which they discussed in the beginning of the episode. However, she did not steer the show in a direction that would be seen as derogatory toward Jordyn’s “enemy”. She also did not just take Jordyn’s story at face value. She asked thought provoking questions that sometimes drove Jordyn to rethink some of her decisions. She pushed Jordyn to acknowledge where mistakes were made and provided insight into the perspective of her accusers. Most importantly, Jada made it a priority to acknowledge that she made similar mistakes when she was Jordyn’s age!
Something about her demeanor felt incredibly authentic and representative of the true role of the woman. I realize now that all those years spent avoiding deep conversations with women, especially older women, was pretty foolish. There is something that makes these conversations so extremely important and necessary! It is the need for women to share their stories in a space where they feel validated and not judged. In a society built on constant shaming and unequal public persecution of women over men, it’s refreshing to hear someone say, “It’s okay to make a mistake. I made the same mistake and, instead of shaming you, I am here to listen to your confession, point out your wrongdoings and help you grow from them.” It takes someone who is able to admit their own faults by saying, “I’ve been there too”. In doing so, choosing to become a support system rather than hold them to the same scrutiny they faced when they made the same mistake.
Women are uniquely designed to be better at operating with compassion and grace. Paula Rhinehart described how God designed both male and female in His image in her book, “Sex and the Soul of a Woman”. She states: “The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist in perfect unity without erasing their individual personalities. And when this triune God set out to make human beings, it took both male and female to adequately express what He is like….the essence of gender is rooted in The Trinity itself.” Every morning we are awakened with new mercy as God forgives us for the mistakes we have made in the past and will make in the future. We never pay in full for our sins. God recognizes our mistakes, chastises us accordingly, and allows us to make a correction with the free will that He gifted to us. According to Rhinehart, “Every member [of The Trinity] moves in compassion, gentle correction, and faithful presence, which are traits we commonly associate with the feminine.”
Compassion. Gentle correction. Faithful presence. Perhaps, these notions are the reason Jada’s behavior was truly impressive. In Jada, we see a portion of God’s personality portrayed through a sympathetic woman who understands the true power of her innate gifts: the ability to consider Jordyn’s perspective, recognize the need for empathy, correct in love and remain a consistent source of refuge. In Jada and Jordyn, we see a symbiotic relationship of two women at different stages of life. We see an older woman who, in the younger, sees a chance to share that advice she wishes someone would’ve shared with her younger self right before she made an unnecessary mistake. We also see a younger woman who, in the older, sees validation and hope for the future that “this too shall pass”. Haven’t we all been one of those women at some point ? On the one hand, wishing we could go back and change the past. And on the other hand, wishing that there was someone who could say, “The same thing happened to me and this is how I overcame it.”
As I get closer to 28, I realize that 27 has been the year of the woman. The year where I am recognizing the extreme importance of healthy female relationships. I find myself seeking deep conversations with other women. More frequently, I am laying out my vulnerabilities in a way that lends itself to more honest and genuine discussion. The most amazing and enticing characteristic of God is His ability to truly know you (flaws and all) and love you anyway. I am finding that as I share my truths with others, the natural instinct of women, that which was created in God’s image, shines through. It pushes me to tap into the parts of God’s image that are deeply ingrained in me. In a world full of people who continue to persecute women for mistakes WE ALL make, I am trying to be one more Jada, willing to respond in the way that God created me to: with compassion, gentle correction, and faithful presence.