I got a call last week from my dear friend Beth, who happened to be in town. She asked if we could have lunch. I eagerly agreed.
Beth’s parents are my age, and good friends of mine. A couple of years ago when Beth was attending Wheaton, we started meeting occasionally for lunch. Because I had graduated from Wheaton, I was an empathetic listener as she processed the adjustment from high school to college, and the even larger adjustment of going from public school to Wheaton’s, um, unique culture. Our meetings were not mentoring, exactly. I was an older woman who was willing to listen, to ask questions and then listen some more.
She ended up transferring to William & Mary, but this semester is taking some time off. She’s seeking God’s direction.
It is such a privilege to be a part of Beth’s spiritual journey. When we are together, we laugh, we joke. We engage in holy listening. We go to a little French cafe because we both appreciate good food and really great desserts!
One of my mentors once challenged me to be intentional about having cross-generational friendships. To build into women younger than me. When I meet with Beth (who’s 21) or Sara (a young mom in her 30s), I don’t focus on the wisdom I bring to the table, altho I’m praying for that and sometimes God kindly offers it. I try to just be a good listener. Not just to give them that gift–although that’s part of it.
I also engage in the spiritual practice of listening because being a listener feeds my soul. I grow by sharing my thoughts and questions with someone–especially if they are in a different stage of life. It pulls me out of my immediate problems and concerns, forces me to set those aside for the purpose of prayerfully listening. God meets me in my role as listener. And, I just enjoy these women.
It’s been said that most people cannot tell the difference between being loved and being heard, because they feel the same.
Love one another, as Christ has loved you.
Holy listening. I like that. I too think the friendships of women are important and from different generations.
This is a good reminder. I have a friend with whom I’m meeting (happens to be older but a newer christian) in a mentoring role and I find myself chastising myself after each meeting, knowing that I have spent entirely too much time doing the talking and not nearly enough time listening. I need to learn more about the “spiritual practice of listening.” It does not come naturally and is an area I’ve been trying to work on for the past year and a half (with varying degrees of success.) You’re a good role model in seeking out relationships to minister in.
I think it helps if you have other relationships where you are being mentored or listened to. I have a couple of people in my life who do this for me, it makes it easier for me to listen to others when I’ve been listened to.
Also, it’s good to remember that most people who come to us for mentoring or spiritual guidance may think they want advice, but what they really want is someone to just ask good questions.