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Cross-Generational Friendships

I’ve never been comfortable around adults. Now that I’m an “adult” myself, that statement sounds silly. One could say that the cause is an ingrained fear of authority, but it’s more probable that I still feel as fragile and flawed as a child.

Older women scare me. Even as a teacher, I cringe and bear it during parent-teacher conferences because I don’t feel as though I have the wisdom and authority bestowed upon by age. At church, I take a similar stance. Older women in that “married with children” stage have conversations about their children that I can’t relate to because in my mind, I am still a child myself!

Consequently, I spend most of my church time in conversation with and reach out to people in my life stage– young, unmarried professionals. It’s as though ABC is divided neatly into sections: youth, Primetime, younger married folks and older married folks. To cross the sections and befriend someone in a different life stage is to invite chaos.

My mindset changed when I attended Women’s Retreat. I carpooled with some older women and we arrived late. The three of us tried to sneak in, single file, but when the first crossed the threshold, the speaker stopped mid-sentence and said “welcome!” As the entire room of women turned around, the woman in front of me stepped back and shut the door. The two of us huddled against the outside of the door and laughed silently, like teenagers who had just pulled a prank. I thought to myself- are they really that different from me after all?

That was just the start of it. Small discussion groups were oddly led by the youngest members this year. I felt ill-equipped in a group of women who were all wiser than me, but I quickly learned that they struggled to give things up to God too. Slowly, I was no longer intimidated by their wisdom, and started to feel blessed by it instead. I began to realize that these older women weren’t a different species that would look down on me for my lack of experience.

They were eager to not just slather on the advice, but also care for and earnestly pray for me and each other. I marveled at the discovery: becoming an adult doesn’t mean you stop making mistakes and become responsible and capable overnight. Sanctification is a process that takes your entire life.

On a certain level, I felt that married people were being purified and matured in Christ at a level far beyond my experience. That can’t be true though, because not everyone is called to be married, while everyone is called to be sanctified. Not long ago, JP mentioned in a sermon that both singleness and marriage are equal gifts from God. At a McLean Bible Church study I attended recently, speaker Enoch Haven mentioned in a talk on singleness and said:

“There are the same requirements for living out a godly marriage as there are for living out a single life. We all need to learn how to sacrifice for the good of others, let go of sin and selfishness, and develop a wholehearted devotion to God.”

He said we should leverage our singleness for God’s glory, and take the initiative in seeking out relationships that would push us to grow in those same areas. Another interesting point is made in Matthew 22:30: “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

I was struck by how natural marriage or family won’t last in eternity. These silly walls we put up based on life stage, singleness or not, won’t matter someday. In fact, if we use eternal perspective, as we should be, isn’t the church the only family that will last into eternity?

If our church slogan is “ABC: A place to call home” shouldn’t we build relationships now and prioritize our spiritual family?

Yes, married women lead incredibly busy lives, but as a member of my  group at the retreat said: “It’s all about intentionality and making time for someone you want to keep as a friend.“ This goes for both sides of the friendship.

There’s been a push for cross-generational mentorship recently with many younger women in search of mentors and not as many older women that are willing to be mentors. I don’t know what the solution to that problem is, but this idea has taken root in my mind. Let’s think beyond mentorship and just address friendship. It is more than possible to befriend someone who is not in your life stage.

I think the questions are not about what is possible in friendships but whether we want to have those friendships. Is it worth the time to be intentional with someone you have to take effort to befriend? Is it worth the effort to love a member of the church who hasn’t sought you out first?

I think we know the answers to those questions. It’s just a matter of whether or not we want to take action.