Reaching your hand back

Reaching your hand back

At Collide, a women’s day I am apart of, we consistently have many women signing up with a desire to be mentored. On one particular occasion, we had way more young women who wanted to be mentored and only one women who signed up to mentor. That women was Kristin Allen. So I surveyed the situation and posed an idea to Kristin. I said “Would you be willing to try an experiment? Why don’t you meet with all of these girls at once? Each one of them can come with a question that they write and put in a bowl and you lead a dialogue around each question. We can call it wisdom share. What do you think?” Kristin, who was already tentative about feeling equipped to mentor one woman, with great courage said “Sure! I will try it!” What came out of that experiment not only grew her and a group of young girls but has also spawned more groups like hers! Read her share her story and be inspired to go out of your comfort zone!– Willow

When I was a little girl I used to sit and listen to my parent’s and their friend’s conversations (unbeknownst to them, therefore I heard a WIDE range of interesting things!)  I’m not sure to this day why I enjoyed that so much.  But I do remember how it made me feel.  These people had things figured out.  They knew things about life that I didn’t know yet.  I felt a sense of security knowing that those ahead of me, with this knowledge of life, would be there for me as I grew and needed to know these things too.  It would probably be an eternity before I ever became an adult and I knew I had a lot to learn.

Fast forward years later when I was going to college at Western, and was more mature than the young eavesdropper that I used to be, my conversations would have sounded “older” to young kids listening too.   Even though I might have sounded older to those younger than me, there was still a lot I didn’t know.  Now I was asking those older than me how to get a job after school, how to choose the right person to marry, and how to navigate friend and family issues.  I still had to walk through unsettling experiences,  and was nervous about new territory I found myself in.

And now married with two kids, life can still be awkward or overwhelming sometimes!  There are waters ahead of me that I haven’t navigated yet.  Some days I feel so frazzled dealing with issues that I could never have expected, or having faith questions that I thought I had already worked out.  I can look back on my past and see how God worked in my life then, but now there are new issues and new seasons.  I used to think that I would eventually reach a point in life where all the learning, stretching and personal growth wouldn’t be so necessary.  When I was younger, I would look at those who are my age now and think their lives looked pretty smooth sailing.   But now I know that God will never be done growing us.

I realize now that listening to the conversations of those older than me is one of God’s blessings.  I love the inter -generational women’s bible study I am apart of.  It’s so encouraging to hear strong women of faith relate scripture to their season in life.  I can file their wisdom away in my mind for when I reach that place one day.  One thing we all have in common is that we all have a past.  We have waters that have already been navigated.  And there are people in our lives, younger than us that need to hear that we made it through.  They need to hear how we made it, what we learned from it and what God revealed to us.  There are people in our lives, older than us, who could share what they have learned from their experiences.  That knowledge that looks out of reach, that season in life that looks unattainable, looked that way at some point to those who are there now.  Sharing these things is part of community.  It’s one way that God uses us to bless others.

I picture one hand stretched behind us to share with others what we have already learned, and one hand stretched before us, ready to receive from those who have already been there.

We are meant to build one another up, support, encourage, and continue to point each other to Jesus. I had the great privilege this summer to meet weekly with a group of amazing college aged women.  Each person in this group had signed up to be paired with an individual mentor.  It didn’t work out that there was enough mentors to give each person their own, so did I was challenged to do a little experiment called Wisdom Share.  I would meet with the group once a week throughout the summer, and act as the mentor for the group.  Each person could come with any question, concern, topic, heavy burden or praise to share that she wanted, and we as a group would listen, process, support encourage and pray.  Now let me be really honest here.  The title Wisdom Share, freaked me out a little bit!  I don’t know that I even called it that more than once myself, preferring to call it my Summer Group instead.  That sounded less intimidating.  All of a sudden my mind was attacked with a lot of questions that could have kept me from moving forward.  Who am I to say I have wisdom to impart to anyone?  What do I have to say that someone else couldn’t say in a much more eloquent, inspiring way?  Are you sure you want me to do this God?  Me?  I’ll be so inadequate…

Thankfully I had wise, loving people in my life encouraging me to move forward, and thankfully I listened to the Holy Spirit’s nudging me!  And something really wonderful happened…this group of women wowed me!  God wowed me!  I had no idea He wanted me to learn what I learned this summer.  But isn’t that the way it always goes?  God knows we have areas in our life that need to be stretched, even though we feel nice and comfy the way things already are.

They came each week with deep, tough questions, vulnerable, personal issues, faith struggles, praises, laughter and kindness.  I sat listening to them verbally process and navigate some waters I remembered going through, and some I hadn’t specifically experienced.  We talked about how God fit into experiences, relationships, our perceptions on life and so much more.  I gave my two cents each week, but the thing that really showed me God in action was the wealth of wisdom, grace and encouragement the group gave each other.  It wasn’t a one-way street, with them asking and me answering.  They shared insights, encouraged one another, bounced ideas off of me, and as a group, we felt a sense of growing, together.

I am so thankful I said yes to this experiment.  I am thankful for each individual woman I got to meet, and thankful for the fact that I have a larger community now.  When I see them, they can know that I include them in the people I care about, am praying for, and am invested in.  They know now that there is one more person in their lives who wants to see them grow in their relationship with Jesus, and that I’m here to listen when they need someone to talk to.  I’m no longer just another face in the sea of people at church on Sunday.

Being willing to reach your hand back for those behind you can feel a little risky at times, no matter how old you are.  You may think that you don’t have the wisdom to share with someone who has questions, fears, insecurities, or faith.  But I’ve learned a great lesson.  It’s not about always having just the right thing to say, but about being there, and saying “you matter”.   And it’s not all about trying to be the biggest blessing that person will ever experience in their life, but about a willingness to enter into a relationship where you will be blessing one another.  God is growing you too… Kristin Allen


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1 Comment

  • Stephen says:

    I’m a "Gray Beard". I’ve often heard that "old white guys" have been the cause of most the problems in the world. I said it myself before I turned gray. That causes me to ask, "Can we change? What is the solution? Who can we ask for help?"
    After reading Kristin’s testimony, I am reminded that we all have doubts, questions and faults. That however, does not give us an excuse to quit trying, or to run from adversity. We need support from those around us and Kristin is providing that to her small group. Through doing this for the young ladies, she is blessed. I pray that God will continue to bless Kristin and use her to spread His Love. We must all carry our load but we need help bear our burdens.