Can You Relate?
—Amberly Dawn Neese
As a busy author and speaker, I meet thousands of people a year. What initially caught my attention about Debbie was her daughter. I was speaking at a mother/daughter retreat at a camp in Southern California. At this camp, there was a wooden pole over 100 feet tall that daring campers often climbed to illustrate their bravery. One particular mom was running out of steam as she neared the top. The voice of her daughter sliced through the noise of the crowd, "You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength, Mom!" The scene brought tears to my eyes. As the mom reached the summit, as was custom, she yelled out a goal she had. She was too far away for any of us to decipher her words, but the experience impressed me greatly.
Three weeks later, I had a speaking engagement at a youth camp in Arizona. As I was greeting arriving campers, I recognized the face of the girl who had encouraged her mother weeks before. She excitedly introduced herself and her mother who was serving as a camp counselor. The mother, Debbie, and I hit it off immediately. Like me, she was a pastor's wife. Not unlike me, she struggled with the pressures therein. We talked all week and decided that both of us were in need of a prayer partner. Ignoring the fact that we did not live near each other, we vowed to call each other once a week and spend time in prayer for one another. Three years later, I still eagerly anticipate our weekly call. We share our struggles, our hearts, our triumphs, and our vulnerability. We know the other is a safe place for honesty with information shared only with the Father. Looking back, I can see God's hand in this relationship of accountability from its genesis. She is a "Mary"—one who worships and prays fervently, yet sometimes struggles to get things accomplished. I am a "Martha"—one who sometimes gets so caught up in accomplishing things I forget to seek the face of God. We challenge each other. I have learned a great deal from this godly woman, and thankfully, she has expressed that she has gleaned from me as well. I love her and praise God for this relationship.
Recently, she asked me if I heard her express her goal on the top of that pole years earlier. I admitted that I hadn't. She divulged that the words she shouted up to heaven were: "I need a friend, God. My goal is to find one."
Mary and Martha were sisters who, with their brother Lazarus, were good friends of Jesus.
Q: Read the following passages and note thoughts you didn't previously notice about the story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus and their relationship with Jesus.
Q: Did you learn anything new that surprised you?
Q: What parts of the story do you relate to the most?
Most women who know the story of Mary and Martha say they want to be more of a Mary and less of a Martha: a challenging goal in a world that focuses on achievement, acquisition, and busyness. We have become a very materialistic, frantic, and isolated society. A common lament I hear from women is the one expressed in the opening story of Debbie and Amberly—loneliness. Women are searching fora Christian friend, and yet when given the opportunity to be in an M&M relationship or a friendship, they often respond with "Oh, I have no time for that. I'm too busy." It's a paradox that we don't allow ourselves to enjoy what our heart deeply desires—relationships. Friendships and M&M relationships do take time, but I am convinced that women would experience far less depression and illness if they allowed themselves to indulge in the blessings of a nurturing spiritual friendship.
Usually, we look at the story of Mary and Martha from the aspect of worship versus busyness, but there is so much more we can learn from what the Scriptures tell us about these two sisters—particularly, how their story applies to relationships.
"The disciple of Jesus is not the deluxe or heavy-duty model of the Christian—especially padded, textured, streamlined, and empowered for the fast lane on the straight and narrow way. He stands on the pages of the New Testament as the first level of basic transportation in the kingdom of God." —Dallas Willard, "Discipleship for Christians Today," Christianity Today
You might not know that Martha is the older sister since Mary appears to be the more spiritually sensitive and mature of the two. We learn in John 11:27 that Martha is a believer, but the first time we meet Martha in Luke 10:38-42, she doesn't seem to understand the deity of Jesus, while her younger sister, Mary, immediately discerns and recognizes the significance of Jesus's visit.
Q: Reread "What is Mentoring?" on page 8 and "Who Are M&M'S?" on page 11.
Q: Read Titus 2:1-8. How do the verses apply to mentoring and M&M'S?
Q: How does the story of Mary and Martha suggest that a chronologically older woman is not always equipped or ready to mentor?
Q: Underline the words teach and train in Titus 2:1-8 in your Bible.
Q: What has a spiritually older woman taught you about God that you could teach to a woman spiritually younger than you, regardless of your chronological ages?
Q: How might the chronological age difference between Mary and Martha (Martha being the older sister) have influenced the roles they each took in Luke 10:38-42?
Q: How might their spiritual age difference have influenced their actions?
Q: Is the "spiritually older woman" chronologically older or younger in your relationship?
Q: If she is younger in age, does that make either of you uncomfortable? If so, take time at your next meeting to discuss any concerns you still have. Make some notes here:
Q: If both of you are the same spiritual and chronological age, how can you apply this biblical truth: "As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend" (Proverbs 27:17 NLT)?
Spiritual age doesn't necessarily parallel chronological age. Accepting Christ as our Savior or choosing to mature in our walk with Him is a personal choice that can occur at any age. In some families, the person closest to Jesus is a small child.
Titus was a young pastor starting a church plant in the exceedingly pagan city of Crete. Just like in today's churches, the first believers joining Titus's church were not all elderly: they varied in age and became the first generation of believers in his church. As more people of all ages joined the church, Paul tells Titus in verses 2:1-8 that he should have the first generation of spiritually older men and women teach and train the next generation of spiritually younger men and women: men teaching men and women teaching women.
Traditionally, we look at Titus 2:3-5 as instructing only chronologically older women to teach and train chronologically younger women. But many women accept Christ later in life, and even though they are wise in the world, they are babies in the Lord—older women in worldly years, but younger in spiritual years. These spiritually younger women need a spiritually older mentor, who just might be the same chronological age, or even younger.
If you accepted Christ at a young age, you are older in the Lord than someone who accepted Christ as an adult—you are the "Titus 2 older woman" whom God has called to teach and train what you have learned about the Christian life to spiritually younger women He puts in your path.
M&M'S can be friends, relatives, acquaintances, coworkers—any two women who want to learn and grow together in Christ.
In my own family, my daughter-in-law, Janel, is younger in age than my daughter Kim, but Janel has been a Christian since childhood and Kim became a Christian at age 25. Janel married and became a mom before Kim had those life experiences. Even though Janel is chronologically younger than Kim is, Janel is spiritually and experientially older and is a role model and mentor to Kim, who often says: "Mom, Janel is so wise. I love to hear her perspective on things!"
While theirs is not a formal mentoring relationship, Kim watches, asks questions, and considers Janel to be a wise and trusted counsel—so as sisters-in-law, Janel indeed is mentoring Kim.
Mentoring is simply teaching to another woman what someone has taught you, so she can teach another woman what you taught her, so she can teach another woman... and on the training goes down through the generations, regardless of how many birthdays any of you have had. It's sharing with another woman the things you have seen God do in your life.