Intergenerational Relationships… Crossing the Great Divide

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By Susan Shepherd
Director of Women’s Ministries
Christ Covenant PCA, Matthews, NC

The Great Divide. I looked it up in Webster’s Dictionary and here’s what I learned: “The Great Divide is the name given to the principal, and largely mountainous, hydrological divide of the Americas that separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from those river systems which drain into the Atlantic Ocean.” Unfortunately, I am geologically challenged and I have no idea what that means…except that it’s a bunch of mountains with water running among them that separate that water from other water. Clear?

I know it may seem strange to be discussing geology in this publication. And I admit that it is a little unconventional. But as I read the story illustrated by this picture, it gave me hope for a vision that has long been lingering in the hearts and minds of our leadership.

Arizona and Nevada are building a bridge. To cross their piece of the Great Divide. What began more than 4 years ago will be completed next year, at a cost of more than $110 million. The 1900 foot long suspension bridge will be supported by the longest concrete arch in the country. But when it’s finished, Arizonans will cross over to Nevada without the long, narrow, winding roadway built in 1936. And Nevadans will pass them going the other way.*

In my minds’ eye, another bridge is being built. It is taking a long time. It is costly. And it requires a strong, solid support system. But some day, people from one side will cross to the other…and they will joyfully pass one another on the way.

There are mountain ranges on both sides. On the one side stands the generation of women over 40. Strong, steady, solid and secure. Their families are grown. Their careers established. Their homes paid for. On the other side stands the generation of women younger than 40. Passionate, purposeful, personable and powerful. Their friendships are diverse. Their careers are a priority. Their energy is boundless. And between these two mountain ranges flows a river of misunderstanding. Sometimes the river flows at a trickling pace; during other seasons it rages by, carried along by an alarming current. Historically, traveling from one side to the other has seemed tedious and time consuming, and, perhaps, hardly worth it.

But I’m so grateful that we’re beginning construction of the bridge. We’re seeing signs that women are anxious to cross, hopeful that going from one side to the other will be safe. And they are beginning to believe that the travel will be worth the effort. Nevada has something to offer (other than Las Vegas).

Paul was right. Older women have something to offer their younger sisters…and those younger sisters bring their own value to the lives of their seasoned friends. Our vision is for women to grow in their understanding of the covenant family and, specifically in their appreciation for the experience of their sisters. We really believe that God has given us to one another as a gift. The bridge was His idea. Solomon described it this way: “Two are better than one…if one falls down his friend can help him up…” Who better to “help up” a younger woman than one who has fallen in just that same spot?

Three strategic elements comprise the “concrete arch” in the bridge that God is building across the divide between our women.

1) The deep and serious study of His Word together. We are investing in the lives of women by inviting older to disciple younger in a regular, structured ministry built on the personal and corporate study of Scripture.

2) Creating natural opportunities for women to “find one another” relationally. Manufactured relationships rarely last. We’re looking for ways to help women discover women …older and younger … who are “like-minded”. Around interests. Around issues. Around needs.

3) Encouraging meaningful dialog that leads to understanding. We’re talking a lot about the divide, and the bridge that is desperately needed. We’re giving women language to help them understand one another and we’re working hard to bring clarity to their assumptions and expectations.

Practically, we’ve built a team that represents every season and situation in the lives of our women. We have so grown to enjoy and appreciate one another, and we’ve gained so much from each other’s experience and perspective. We’re prayerful on this team that our relationships are a model for women who are hesitating to make their way across the bridge.

We’ve been there, and the view? Breathtaking.


*New York Times Magazine, June 9, 2009

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