Unexpected Friendships: Women Mentoring Women
Unexpected friendships can bridge age gaps, offering layers of complexity and richness of flavor that isn’t often present in friendships with those of us who are the same age. Different from peer-to-peer relationships, these friendships foster community and transparency in a most unexpected way.
We recently chatted via email with Ungrind regular contributor Marian Green and her mentor and friend, Karen Trigg, about their unexpected friendship. We invite you to listen in.
Ungrind: Karen, how did you and Marian first meet?
Karen: I first met Marian in a Tuesday morning Bible study at our church. The class was on spiritual mothering. I was in my 40’s. Marian was in her 20’s. That morning I don’t think either of us had a clue what a special friendship we would form. It’s a friendship birthed from a gentle whisper I initially heard eight years ago.
Ungrind: What do you mean by a “gentle whisper?”
Karen: I had just been through a season of learning to be still and hear the voice of the Lord. As I stepped away from the position I held with a local youth ministry, and pleaded with God to show me what path He desired for me to take, He clearly prompted me to invest in the lives of young women.
Working with the youth ministry, my position was more administrative. This new prompting was much different — I was being asked to invest in these young women on a very personal level. They were in their 20’s and 30’s and were asking for these relationships. They desired transparency in all things.
Ungrind: Did you feel prepared to take on this new challenge?
Karen: The thought terrified me. All I could think was, Who? Me? No way!! I don’t have what it takes. I would have no idea where to begin. And I certainly don’t know if I have anything to offer.
But at the same time, I couldn’t ignore that it was the voice of the Lord asking me. He desired for me to allow Him to use my gifts — the gifts He created me with—in order to build up the Body of Christ. He assured me that if I would trust and say yes, He would equip me for the task to which I was called.
Ungrind: Did you realize what you were stepping into?
Karen: I didn’t realize that I was saying yes to a generation with a deep desire to interact in sincere relationship with the women of the generation before them. But God did. Today, my heart is full as I look back and see just how my life has been challenged and blessed by each relationship. Each investment. Each unexpected friendship.
Ungrind: Marian, how did you find yourself becoming friends with Karen?
Marian: I thought I was going to a class about being a godly mom. “Spiritual Mothering”—it sounded like exactly what I needed. Then, I saw the cover of the book. It looked like something my grandmother would have brought home from her Sunday morning brunch at Cracker Barrel. An oversized, pastel pink, Victorian couch threatened to swallow a young girl alive if her chin-high collared dress didn’t do it first. The girl was painted on the cover with an unending look of boredom as an older woman read to her from a regal looking book. “Spiritual Mothering,” it said. “The Titus 2 Model for Women Mentoring Women.”
I thought to myself, What have I done? I fought the urge to excuse myself to the restroom and never return. The class was only supposed to be an hour and a half. Instead, I decided to stay and listen. I was a new believer in Jesus. I had never heard of woman-to-woman mentoring, and there was coffee and creamer and yummy little snacks being given away in the foyer.
Ungrind: And what happened after you decided to stay?
Marian: It only took one week before I was blabbing my mouth for the entire morning Bible study. I was in a class of over 20 people and I’m pretty sure I talked almost 70% of the time. I couldn’t help myself; I was so excited about what was being taught. Titus 2:3-4 reads:
Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.
It was a new concept to me. Not only was I a new believer, but I was also newly married. Come to think of it, this was the very first Bible study I had ever signed up for. Little did I know that this model of spiritual mentoring would be the premise for the next several years of my life.
Ungrind: Karen, what’s been most surprising for you?
Karen: My relationship with Marian is one of those unexpected friendships. Soon after that Tuesday morning, I found myself at her kitchen table, her 2-year-old playing nearby. I loved being invited into her world.
As we chatted, I realized we had some life experiences that were similar and others that were not, but despite our differences what each of us desired most was to bring glory to God in all areas of our lives. We connected in a more real sense than I think either of us ever expected.
Ungrind: What does your relationship look like six years after that first kitchen table conversation?
Karen: From my point of view, it is a precious friendship that has been developed over time and deepened with each celebration and each seemingly devastating trial. It has been set in many different backdrops of life — kitchen tables, picnic blankets, court rooms, air planes, Skype video phone appointments, text messages, emails, and phone calls. About half of our relationship has been long distance, but it hasn’t hindered the growth of our friendship nor the impact it has had on us both.
Ungrind: Marian, what has Karen taught you through her example?
Marian: Truth, accountability, authenticity, availability. Those are the things it takes to sow into another woman’s life.
Ungrind: Karen and Marian, please tell our readers what this unexpected friendship has meant to you.
Karen: Our conversation most days leads to discussion around Scripture, but not for the sake of discussing Scripture. Rather, it’s conversation about what God is teaching us or new ideas and directions that He has led us in. It seems that it is just natural for our discussion to be wrapped around the Word of God. There are times when our dialogue is hard, but even then, we remember that we are in the relationship with a common goal and we refocus back to the foundation of the friendship — Jesus Christ.
And I share my struggles, whether they’ve “passed the test of having arrived” or even “in process” of getting to the other side, I firmly believe that God uses all things for His glory as His Word tells us. Being open about my struggles allows Marian a comfort in bringing her own struggles to the conversation. Transparency invites transparency.
The relationship is in no way one-sided. I am so encouraged by Marian. She has a natural gift of storytelling that captures me and makes me hang on every word. This gift is woven into her stories of life. She paints pictures with words, offering valuable insight on my journey towards goals and dreams, as well as with issues I may be facing. Her insight is invaluable to me. Her natural desire to research is a breath of fresh air for someone who is not naturally inclined in that direction.
Marian: Karen has been a wonderful example of what my relationships should look like inside ministry. Shortly after we started spending time together, my husband and I moved to become youth pastor and wife inside a local church. I spent five years mentoring young women in our youth group. It was priceless to have a model of how I could invest in these women and support the values their parents were instilling in them.
Ungrind: How can our readers seek out mentoring relationships in their lives?
Karen: If you are willing to be involved in a mentoring relationship I would love to offer some insight that I have gathered in my years of being blessed by these relationships. First, pray that God would stir within you a sincere desire to be involved in the lives of generations other than your own. Put yourself in a position to interact with women of these generations. As you begin to be drawn to a woman or find that she is drawn to you, be intentional to let her see you as you really are, express genuine desire to hear about her life, listen without judgment, and respond with a sincere heart. I have found that this is truly what is desired by the young women I have been in mentoring friendships with. They express such a deep longing to engage in all areas of our lives — for us to offer accountability and consistency as we “do life” with them.
Main article photo copyright © 2009 Kelly Sauer. Used with permission.
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