Christie has written me a letter every week since she began college last August. Well, I call them letters. She writes me emails. But letters sounds so much more Jane Austen. And in a life that feels very Amelia Bedelia, I need some Jane Austen.
She writes me an update on her life and I respond. And our correspondence has been one of the highlights of this year. Mainly because I get a weekly glimpse into her heart, how she is growing and changing and all she is thinking about.
But also because I must give a response. Ask me to sum up my day – no problem. Highs, lows – disastrous moments, done. Ask me to sum up a few months and I will wax poetic about themes in my life for that season, etc. etc. But to try and give account of my week, every week is challenging. And exposing. Especially because for most of our relationship, I have held the role of “leader” in Christie’s life. I was her high school small group leader – i.e. Spiritual equipper, soul nurturer, teacher, counselor, fount of wisdom and knowledge.
And now she knows the truth.
She graciously has not pointed out that all I claim to be “learning”, I had already taught her. Or that maybe “to be less mean” is not quite an inspirational challenge. She was infinitely patient with me when in one email I told her that I was learning to yell and scream as opposed to being passive aggressive and was quite proud of myself. This is the stuff her mentor has to offer her.
Years ago I was leading a group of girls at a camp and it was Ropes Course Day. I hate high ropes courses. I know this is practically antithetical to the Christain faith. But it’s true. I have no particular fear of heights. It’s the helmets, the awkward waist harnesses, and of course the carabiners. Those cheery ropes course people really acted like I could be trusted to remember to clip, flip and lock everytime on the right wire. I could not and should not.
But the hardest part about Ropes Course Day was that I tried to be someone I wasn’t. No one told me to. I put this pressure on myself to act like I was having a blast and shout this to the rest of my girls. All I wanted to do was cry but I thought I had to be excelling in order to encourage them to do the same. But when it was all over, we didn’t really have much to talk about. We’d done it but it didn’t make us closer or braver or really want to try it again.
I think that was the last day I ever led that way.
When I started leading the small group Christie was a part of, I was at a completely different place in my life. Sleep deprived for the first year, I didn’t have the energy to be anyone but myself. And I had grown enough to know leading had nothing to do with packaging my faith and selling it to them in a box. Life is hard. In those three years that our group met weekly, we laughed a lot. But we also saw a lot of heartbreak and a lot of loss. They deserved nothing less than my transparency.
And so it continues. These dear friends of mine are about to enter the Last Leg of the First Year. Some have had experiences that have exceeded all expectations, others are still wondering what they should be expecting. There have been times to grieve and times to celebrate and lots and lots of changes. But sweet girls – my commitment to you is the same as to Christie and the same as its always been. Walk with me as we follow Him. You lead me in asounding ways. So let’s strap on the blue helmets, painful harnesses and keep moving down the line – honest about our fears and joys. Lets carry each other and keep moving forward – no matter the forces pulling on us to stop, or the tears that stream down our faces along the way.