Loving Others

Lonely Disciples

My 20 year high school reunion is fast approaching. There are get-togethers planned, veggie and fruit trays to be assembled (bought, if I’m honest) and haircuts to get for self and offspring.

And I imagine the conversations with my girlfriends and their families. Seeing each other changed but not changed, lounging in lawn chairs looking over our children and remembering who we were when and rediscovering who we are now.

And exclaiming ‘I don’t feel old enough to…’

It’s an introspective time of life. I find myself craving the activities and music of my youth. Looking back and feeling that a lot of time has passed but yet, still feeling not old enough.

This is a relatively common feeling for me, this not feeling old enough but knowing that there are follies of my youthful self that have been left behind. Thankfully.

It’s a sandwich sort of feeling. And a feeling that isn’t only reserved for my reunion pondering.

As I age I become more and more aware that my learning and growing under loving mentorship is a necessity of life. To sit with someone who can speak into my life as I guide the lives of others is a deep desire of my heart. But having this type of relationship where we learn from one another in the context of journeying life together is not as easily brought about as I might hope.

Sometimes we look at others and think they spiritually have it all together. Maybe their prayer seems to ignite the room with God’s presence, maybe they teach or preach, have a degree, are amazing at teaching biblical truth to children. And how we wish we could learn from them!

We see in them a level of spiritual maturity and think, ‘wow, they really should disciple someone’.

But that doesn’t mean that they’re not longing for someone to journey with them. Longing for someone to check in with them, show them strength where they feel weak, show them the hands and feet and heart of Christ as they try to show it to others.

Deep loneliness seeps in when people are seen as too spiritually mature to need discipleship. (tweet this)

We never stop learning and growing and evolving into these people Christ envisions us to be.

And no matter who we are, what we can do, or how we can impact others, there is a longing in our hearts to be seen for the flawed and growing people that we are.

Some of the most spiritually lonely people I know are in vocational ministry. Our spiritual needs don’t stop with the 30th Bible study we’ve led or the 100th child we’ve taught.

And it’s so very hard to ask someone if they will walk this spiritual walk with you. We muster our courage and ask that person out for coffee. We summon our breath and tentatively throw out the idea that we’d love to learn from them and the breath stays in our chest. Signals get crossed, the idea falls flat and we exhale. Or maybe we’ve been met with ‘but you should be discipling me!’

Maybe it’s a misunderstanding of what being discipled is. It’s not one-sided in learning. It’s not perfection of person or hierarchy of degrees.

It’s realness and God-focused and laughter and reminders and prayers and not being shocked by the humanity of the other person.

And it’s an antidote for the spiritual loneliness and surface connections that can seep into our Sundays.

So how do we connect with each other and journey together?

We ask, and we answer yes when we are asked.

We don’t let others’ different gifts make us feel that we lack.

We are real and true and honest with each other.

We are serious in the care of each other while not taking ourselves too seriously.

We ask each other if we are alright. And we answer honestly and listen intently.

And we seek God’s face and truth together.

It means we need to be brave. It means we need to say yes when no is much more comfortable and less busy.

It means we let our loneliness give way to leaning in and on as we recognize that we are God’s good gifts to each other.

Just as we are never too old to love being parented and guided even as we parent or guide, we all need these connections. To sit alongside each other and feel comfort and acceptance in each other’s presence. To dig deep into sharing ourselves and our God-journey.

As we sit and recognize this continual life of growing we’re all experiencing shouldn’t we seek these kinds of relationships? Shouldn’t we offer ourselves and ask for ourselves? Shouldn’t we experience this gift of community and growth that God has offered us in the experience of sharing with one another?

Let’s ask of each other and let’s say yes to each other.