Much has been said of the different phases or stages of a woman’s life and no matter what stage you are in, this blog post will speak to you about your own investment in the future women’s leaders. Guest blogger author and women’s leader Martha Lawley will challenge you to consider whether or not you are going to seed!
Much has been said of the different phases or stages of a woman’s life. When I was younger I paid little attention to such things. Now that I am older and have experienced a number of these different phases, I recognize important differences in each phase and how each phase uniquely enriches life.
What phase of life am I in right now? I would say I’m in the very interesting phase of enjoying grandchildren, parenting adult children and helping aging parents. If there is a catchy name for that, please let me know.
The most surprising thing about my current life phase is the parenting of adult children. Who knew I even needed to think about this, much less prepare for it? I have to admit; it never occurred to me that my children, who are all three now married, would still need or want advice and gentle guidance from me. I’m not suggesting this is a bad thing – just very surprising.
I’ve recently discovered that, like life, ministry has phases. Again this is not something I gave much thought to in the early years of ministry. But as I approach a later phase of ministry I’ve been thinking a lot about what God has for me in this new era. I sense some changing of focus and priorities coming.
I recently heard someone refer to the later years of ministry as “going to seed”. Although at first, this did not sound appealing to me. Once I heard what she meant, I could more easily relate.
She described ministry as a plant that began as a seed that was nurtured and over time grew into a beautiful bush. During the early years that bush produced much fruit. But eventually it became time for the bush to focus its efforts on generating seed for new plants (going to seed). The bush’s change in focus represents the later phases of ministry where we become more and more aware of the need to nurture and encourage younger leaders – to pass on what we have learned over the years.
So, although it does not sound all that glamorous, I’m definitely moving into the “going to seed” phase of ministry. I just arrived at this phase and I’m still learning what this looks like. But I truly love how God is moving me along. Not allowing me to stay still too long or get complacent or stagnant. There is richness in this new phase that my heart is longing to embrace.
A very talented woman named Will Allen Dromgoole was an author and poet born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 1860. She wrote over 7,500 poems; 5,000 essays; and published thirteen books. One of her most famous poems is called The Bridge Builder, which so beautifully describes this later phase of life and ministry that I wanted to share it with you. This poem has captured my heart and spurred me on in this exciting new phase.
The Bridge Builder
By Will Allen Dromgoole
An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”
“Going to seed” is certainly one way to describe the phase of life and ministry I’m trying to gracefully enter now. But I think I want to be known as a bridge builder. I want to be more thoughtful about the needs of younger women in ministry – to be more intentional in sharing my experiences with them – to be more available. What an amazing privilege we have as “more seasoned” leaders to invest in the lives of those who God has appointed to come behind us. God graciously gives us the opportunity to touch tomorrow today by building bridges to help the next generation of leaders.
What about you? What stage or phase do you find yourself in right now? Where ever it is may God pour out His immeasurable blessings upon you!
Martha Lawley formerly served as the Women’s Consultant for the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention until her family moved to northern Wyoming. She contributed to the women’s leadership books, Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level and Women Reaching Women: Revised and Expanded edition, published by LifeWay, and has written numerous articles for LifeWay’s Women’s Ministry web site. She is also the author of Attending the Bride of Christ: Preparing for His Return. Martha is a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier and serves her local church in various areas of leadership, and is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.