A Circle of Generations
Life, especially ministry life, can be lonely sometimes. As a college minister I have the privilege of watching young women attend university, then graduate, marry and become mothers in a few short years. I have seen that the very same people who were the life of the party within multiple friend groups end up isolated as life progresses. It is even worse for those who struggled socially in their younger years.
When we get older, life seasons necessitate movement. Some of these necessary choices may have moved you out of towns, churches, jobs and ultimately out of friendships.
Even though we intellectually know the value of deep friendships, many of us in ministry still remain isolated. We may be informed by past rejections, betrayal, maybe even exhaustion from work and ministry, but living outside of community while belonging to God’s people is tragic!
Like a baker who bakes bread everyday but hasn’t found the time to eat bread herself, we are continually cultivating communities while starving for soul nourishment. We must take the time to eat, to live the abundant life!
There is great value in having loyal friendships for our faith. These friendships don’t have to be with people who look, act, and speak like us. They don’t even need to be with people of our own age. Intergenerational friendships help us stay the course of faith as others who have gone before us can show us how they succeeded in following Jesus.
As a young mother I remember how my intergenerational church friends helped me learn to care for my newborn son. I was a stranger from a foreign land (India), with my immediate family thousands of miles away. My college and church friends were in New York where I had moved from into this small Oklahoma town. That’s when the women in the church began noticing me and connecting with me, purely out of love.
They taught me how to make meals; they shared with me about ministering to young people in distress (a skill I use today as a campus pastor). They showed me how to wait on God when my prayers seem to go nowhere and continued to teach me many other things. These precious women weren’t preaching to me; they were just living life as usual in observable proximity. I was their friend so I would be invited to coffees and lunches, and to grandchildren’s milestones and graduations. There I learned from them because they allowed me access to their heart and their obedience to Jesus.
Psalm 145:4 says “One generation shall commend Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.”
They were declaring God’s goodness, His works, His faithfulness to them and, in turn, commending His faithfulness to me when I needed encouragement the most.
On my part I just didn’t feel like I had much to offer any of these friendships. I was an exhausted young mother, navigating life and what little ministry I could do at that time. Frequently I felt my incapacity more profoundly than any capabilities I had. It made me self-conscious to the point of almost rejecting new friendships. Some people call this social anxiety. In our world many of us experience this.
We all think we are uniquely ill-prepared, uniquely self-conscious, and uniquely under-performing. Turns out most of us feel this way, while simultaneously thinking that we are the only one “uniquely” feeling these defeating emotions.
When I finally said yes to those gracious invitations and began sitting in a circle of generations, one generation did indeed communicate the goodness of the Lord in their own life in the not-so-wonderful seasons of life to me. They shared about their own struggles with “feeling less than”, their own trials in marriage and child-rearing; they made it safe for me to talk things out loud. They told me about their doubts, not just their faith, and they shared how faithful God had been in dispelling those doubts over a lifetime. Their vulnerability birthed my vulnerability.
Soon the feelings of loneliness slipped away and I began noticing that connection with them helped me connect better with God. While I was prone to obsess over my shortcomings, God used the mouth of my new friends to edify, encourage and allow me to see myself as He did - a dearly beloved child, adopted by Him and set in His Kingdom family.
You see, our hearts are conditioned to crave isolation because they have been trained by the rejection of the world and the betrayal of so called “Christians.” But, should we let people who claimed His name but refrained to keep His commandments (to not gossip, or stir up strife to name a few) and our confidences determine our ability to live in the blessing of true Christian friendships?
Truthfully, I almost did. I almost went into a full-blown isolation spiral. I’m grateful I chose their friendships instead. The Lord used these new friends to recondition my heart to crave community. Their faith-filled faithfulness to me allowed me to bloom where I was planted. They helped me have more hope in and for the church. I experienced “ church healing” instead of “church hurt.”
This is the benefit of community. It comes with risk. Yes, there is the worry of self-exposure, but when we take the risk and let ourselves be known and seen by others who have been molded by His hands, the rewards are revolutionary. As you have been reading, I prayed that God would give you the courage to step out of your comfort zone and connect with one of His lovely people.
A Circle of Generations is Entry Three of June's microblog series on ministry to women entitled Serving Sisterhood. Come back each Wednesday to read from a new guest blogger about this crucial and timely topic. Click here to catch up on the first few entries to the series.
Born twelve time zones from her current home in Oklahoma, Cynthia Dobbs shares a message of hope and encouragement using her understanding and reliance on the Lord forged through unique life-experiences including growing up in India, living away at boarding school, accompanying her diplomat father to America, and adjusting to the ‘Cowboy’ culture of Oklahoma.
Cynthia and her husband Destry lead Chi Alpha at Tulsa Metro Chi Alpha and Cynthia is the cross-cultural missions resource specialist for national Chi Alpha. Destry and Cynthia reside in Oklahoma with their son Obadiah.
Cynthia heads discipleship ministry training for leaders and often speaks at Chi Alpha services. Her thorough study and exploration of Scripture and exegetical approach to sermon-craft challenges groups to dive deeper into God’s Word for themselves.