I love to be self-reliant.
To a fault.
I went away to a mission boarding school for the first time in seventh grade when I was twelve. In between me and my family were 600 miles and a dense jungle that could not be traversed except by airplane - a four hour trip through the clouds. A fellow MK from my area and I, because of our small size, would be squeezed into the back of the Caravan where there was little ventilation. Just thinking about that cramped space now makes me feel claustrophobic.
I missed my family so much, I decided to be homeschooled again in eighth grade, even though I would be returning to the isolation that had made me beg my parents to let me go away in the first place. We then went home to the United States for a fifteen month furlough. Upon our return to the Congo, my sister and I were enrolled in a new school in the capital city, Kinshasa. We now lived 400 miles away from home.
For the rest of my high school years, I learned to be self-reliant. It was not a conscious decision on my part, but one made out of necessity, as I believe so many others have done in an effort to cope with long separations with loved ones. The separation doesn't have to be a physical one, as in my case. Self-reliance can spring out of an emotional separation just as easily. The result of my self-reliance was that I decided that I would not share my needs with anyone. I would be a master at hiding my feelings.
I wish I would have had one adult woman during those years of being separated from my parents who lived nearby me who would have taken me under her wing. I wouldn't have needed her to be clever or funny or gifted in anything except having a heart for a young woman whom she was not related to. I certainly didn't want her to be my mother. No one could have taken my Momma's place.
I just needed an adult woman who took an interest in me and showed me the love of Jesus through her life. Perhaps she would have had me fold her laundry. Or play board games with her and her kids. Maybe I would have helped cook the meal we would eat together around her family dinner table. I was a lonely young girl who desperately needed a loving role model to celebrate my teenage joys and dry my tears and offer hope when I thought my world was going to end.
I just attended Lifeway's Women's Ministry Forum. The huge question that kept being asked was:
How are we going to reach the next generation of young women who are leaving the church and their faith in record numbers?
The Lord kept telling me over and over again that it was my turn to be that woman in a young girl's life. Now I understand the other side - the adult side that believes she is too busy, not enough, not gifted enough. Feelings I am sure that at least one woman in my community must have struggled with as she was prompted by the Lord to reach out to me...but didn't.
And now I am faced with the same temptation.
Really, if I am honest, I would have to say that fear of being inadequate keeps me from loving the amazing young women in my circle of influence. I am afraid that...
* I am not "cool" enough.
* I have my own family to raise right now.
* I am already too busy.
None of those excuses will not fill me with regret on the day I offer them to Jesus as reasons why I didn't do what He was prompting me to do.
I have forgotten what it truly was that my fifteen-year-old heart needed most - just love. Just genuine interest. Just someone who cared. And someone who loved Jesus with all of her heart while showing those things to me.
I am realizing my need is just as great as the young women I come in contact with. In fact, the Lord has created this beautiful need in both the lonely girls He is laying on my heart and in me. And ministering to them is somehow going to be used by Him to heal some broken places in my own heart.
Forget self-reliance. Our young women are leaving because of lack of relationship and the kind of mentoring that Paul taught in Titus 2:3-5:
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
I can't stand by any longer and watch it happen.