I was reminded this weekend of the goodness of having a few dear friends who are a few years older than me—women who have walked a season before I got there. On Saturday I was briefly reunited with a friend who I served with in Japan about 13 years ago. She lived a plane flight away, so we didn’t get together much back then. But once in awhile we gathered for retreats or conferences. She always took time to ask me how I was really doing.
In the span of a few hours she and her husband would get to the bottom of Mark’s heart and mine.
“How’s your marriage?”
“How’s ministry? Are you rested? Are you being encouraged and fed by others?”
“How are your kids handling the life you lead overseas?”
They didn’t know us for long or especially deeply. But they had walked in our shoes—they too had been missionaries in Japan, they too had raised daughters overseas, they too experienced the high and lows of “living in a fishbowl,” as we often called life in ministry.
Their bold questions were a gift. They weren’t looking for pat answers. They were checking in on us and ready to offer the wisdom they had gained by walking before us. In those brief encounters over the years they said some things that have stuck with us for the long haul.
One time, when we were lamenting to them that we were experiencing especially low attendance at our ministry events, her husband said to us, “You know, once a mentor told me, ‘If you can’t rejoice and be faithful with a few, don’t ask the Lord to give you a lot.” We’ve repeated those words to one another time and time again over the years. That slice of wisdom has pierced our hearts and rooted out pride more than once.
It was this friend who told me that I could actually train my babies to sleep well. She looked into my exhausted eyes and shared what had worked well for her. It was she who witnessed firsthand our seriously naughty firstborn in the throws of a two-year-old tantrum and asked, “Well, what do you do to discipline her?”
These pointed comments and questions truly changed the trajectories of our lives. We rejoiced over the few. We taught our babies to sleep. We woke up to parenting and realized our toddler needed some boundaries. I am so very thankful for men and women like these friends who are willing to speak the truth in love—they didn’t wait for the perfect moment or until we actually asked them for advice. They sweetly offered wisdom from their own walks before us—especially nourishing for us, as we were not raised in Christian homes and were always hungry for role models.
This weekend I shared these remembrances with my friend. She laughed and said, “Did we really say those things?” She didn’t even realize how the Lord used their mouths to give us the guidance we truly needed. Once again I am reminded at how precious community is, how important it is to be in relationship with women older than I, and how—with humility and kindness—speaking the truth in love to a younger sister might just be used of God to shape her and stick with her for the long haul.