I still remember how nervous I felt. I was 17 years old, a high school senior. I approached Jean at the church potluck with a relationship question and a request for prayer.
My Sunday afternoon inquiry would be followed by a one-on-one, hour long discussion with Jean. She took me aside and gave me her attention. From that day on we continued to meet regularly to process faith and life. She was full of wisdom, and her presence embodied the grace of Christ. She modeled a life of godliness. I knew I could be honest with her without fear of rejection. I knew her words would point me to my Savior.
What I did not know was the precedent this would set for the rest of my life when it came to relationships with women in the Body. I thought my words were asking for specific advice for a particular situation. While that was partially true, my wise and loving Father had a greater, more expansive purpose.
The following year catapulted me into college. It only took a few weeks before God placed me in Olivia’s small group through Cru (Campus Crusade at the time). Olivia and I studied the Scriptures together that year and in her presence was radiant joy because she had been profoundly changed by the blood of Christ. She saturated herself in the Word in a way I had never seen. Our relationship continued and deepened in those years at university, and though she was more or less a peer to me in terms of age, God used her to speak into my life for His glory in years that were full of change, severe anxiety, and disappointment.
Olivia was honest in her own struggles, and that opened the door for me to do the same. She didn’t listen to my struggles and questions to offer pity, but to graciously point me to the stream of Living Water. Her words were seasoned with grace and truth.
When I moved to Atlanta as a new college grad and a newlywed, I entered our new church body with zeal for finding an older woman who might walk with me as a spiritual mentor. It wasn’t long before I asked a woman about getting together and we found a time that worked.
What I wasn’t prepared for was that she wasn’t able to commit to a relationship at the time. She was a godly woman. She was wise. And at the time I felt a sense of rejection.
Looking back, I see our Father had other relationships he was weaving together in both of our lives. She and I continued to have a relationship, just not in a formal or structured way. God had other plans for where He wanted us to invest our words.
In another year or two I met Sharon, and she quickly and organically took on the role of a spiritual mother in my life. She exuded wisdom as we met weekly. I cherished and looked forward to the safety of her presence. She ever so patiently listened and prayed and rooted me in Him, particularly as I shared with her my longings for motherhood.
When my family moved to Virginia five years ago and immediately entered a season of fiery trial, Sharon faithfully interceded for us from eight hours away, taking her words straight to the throne room. Over the course of that year and the following year she devoted hours to phone conversations with me. She helped me to see idols in my own heart and helped me wrestle through grief and depression and loneliness. She pointed me to the Psalms and kept me rooted in the Lord’s character – particularly His sovereignty and His goodness. She helped me honestly take my “why?” questions to Him and learn to trust His goodness rather than strive to feel in control because I had an answer to “make sense” of my circumstances.
She didn’t use her words to magnify my problems – she used her words to magnify God, and that’s where I found hope.
Sharon and I continue to keep in touch and even still discover aspects of our lives that are so similar. We have marveled together at God’s sweet providence in intertwining our lives.
Even still, as an embodied image bearer, I prayed and waited on God to cultivate an in-person relationship with a godly “mother” in Virginia.
After a couple of “small talk” conversations in the bathroom at PCC, I asked Meg if she’d be willing to get together. We spent a morning together with my young children, and I sensed the Spirit leading me to ask her if we could cultivate a more intentional discipleship relationship.
I had to muster the courage to send her that message. I felt like I was asking someone to date me.
Nearly four years later and God has been so kind… Meg and I are still dating ;). We talk and we pray and we encourage one another. She has helped train me in loving my husband and children as Titus 2 instructs. She asks me tough questions, she tells me the truth, and she points me to the Truth Himself. The more we get to know each other, the more ways I see God’s blessing in how He has uniquely knit us together. She has walked with me through the joys and the challenges of motherhood. My children adore her and her family. She’s hugged me through tears, prayed for me in deep pain and sorrow, counseled me in godly wisdom through conflict, laughed hysterically with me, and so much more.
Her words are life-giving because they are Christ-centered. I pray and hope my words are the same for her.
Don’t underestimate what God is doing with your words to build His kingdom in and through relationships. There are many more women whose names I could have included above. He’s always doing more than we ask or imagine, according to His wisdom, not ours, for all wisdom is sourced in God. The one who upholds the universe by the power of His word delights to fill us with joy as we use our words to glorify Him. Our relationships each look different in form and function, but they share the same purpose: to make much of Him.
Will you join me in the race to use words with intentionality - rooted in love - trusting His purposes? He is worthy.
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