My name is Virginia Elizabeth and most know me as Beth. We named our daughter Elizabeth and call her Libby. My grandmother’s name was Elizabeth but her friends called her Lib and her niece, Elizabeth, went by the name Libba. Elizabeth Ballinger was my grandmother’s great, great aunt back in 1842. Obviously, the name Elizabeth has been passed on in our family tree for many years. So, when I saw the name Elizabeth in the Bible, I instantly took a liking to her. Maybe we’re related down the long lineage of women.
I’ve read in Luke chapter 1 about Elizabeth several times, especially during the Christmas season. She was Mary’s, the mother of our Savior Jesus, cousin. I just finished the book Giddy Up Eunice (that Susan referred to last week) which dug deep into the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth that gave me a deeper understanding of their relationship and wanted to share a little bit about it with you.
One of the things I learned from reading that book is that there was quit a difference in their ages. I knew there was, but didn’t realize how much and honestly hadn’t paid much attention to that detail. Mary was a teenager while Elizabeth was probably into her 60’s. Like these days, being in two quite different ages, they each had different agendas, responsibilities, interests and friends. Yet, God put them together for a reason. God blessed both of these women with a child that neither expected which brought them together. They needed each other to navigate through this unexpected life experience. They could ask each other questions, listen to each other, pray together and praise God together. In other words, as Sophia Hudson says,
“At every age and stage in life, women need other women who will listen, confirm, teach, bless and pray.”
Several years ago I decided to leave work – at a retirement community I loved – in order to stay home with my children. During those years I was able to attend a Bible study along with carve out time with the Lord while they were napping. As I began to study His Word more and try to juggle with life’s demands and strive to be a good mom and wife, deep down I wanted wisdom and encouragement from a godly woman – a mentor.
I praying several times asking God for that. But that prayer wasn’t being answered; so I thought, “Well, since no one is knocking on my door, I must need to knock on someone else’s.” So, I did. I specifically asked a woman about eight years older than me to mentor me via phone conversations and emails. I had recently met her although she lived on the other side of the country. In the brief time I knew her, I learned she loved Jesus with all her heart and it was obvious in her family, faith and wisdom. I quickly respected and wanted to emulate her based on the emails we had written back and forth to each other since the one time we had met in person. She said she was so humbled for me to ask her to mentor me, but kindly said no but that didn’t mean we couldn’t continue our friendship.
When Mary decided to go stay with Elizabeth for a few months, she didn’t call her on the phone or send her an email or a text asking her to mentor her and share wisdom about how to get through the questions, concerns and maybe even fears that all of a sudden flooded her when she found out she was pregnant. Mary went to Elizabeth because she already had a relationship with her. She looked up to Elizabeth because she was older, has a little more life experience and was someone who believed her and believed in her. They could laugh and cry together and simply be together. They were not only relatives but also friends. As Sophia said,
“…maybe the very best way to find a mentor is to find a friend.”
Elizabeth welcomed this younger woman in her life with open arms as a friend does. There was something unique though. Their bond was strong because the Holy Spirit had brought them together at that time in their lives and Elizabeth felt it. Elizabeth is actually the first person mentioned in Scripture who was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Again, Sophia said,
“When the Holy Spirit in one woman recognized and responds to the Holy Spirit in another woman, safe places become sacred spaces
Elizabeth recognized and responded to Mary’s holy experience because the Holy Spirit lived in both of them like He can and does in us.
So, it made me start to think back to when I was looking hard for a “more formal” mentor. I had them, but I didn’t realize it. There have been women in my life who weren’t necessarily trained mentors but who’ve loved me, prayed for me, spoke wisdom and cared about me as I was navigating through my teenage years until now. One of course was my mom, a Bible study leader, our baby sitter’s mom, my neighbor, and a friend who lives at Twin Lakes Retirement Community.
Soon after I realized that, my heart naturally began to reach out to younger women in my life, because if she were like me, she’d want a special and sacred friendship where she can be real and authentic. We all need someone in our lives to be our honest to goodness selves.
So, I ask you. Who are the Elizabeth’s in your life? Who are the Mary’s in your life? Who are the women in your life where you can be yourself – even with your flaws, scars, fears, and all? Who are the women with whom you can talk openly about your faith or struggles with it?
Pray and pursue a deeper friendship whether older and younger than you.