Over the last five years, I have mentored quite a few college students and logged a tremendous number of hours in conversation with them one on one. While we have talked a fair bit about life in general, the majority of these students have expressed significant doubts and questions about God, church, or faith in general. It's odd. They always find me. Every year. It seems that God has planted me right in the middle of people who doubt and question.
The irony of this is that when I started mentoring students, I was almost ready to give up on my own faith. Although I expressed some of my own doubts and questions to students, the conversations were not supposed to be about me, so I didn't press my own concerns in any significant way. And unfortunately, I did not have a mentor to whom I could take my own questions. I had a couple of friends who very patiently listened and sympathized, but I couldn't shake the longing to have a person in my life, someone older and wiser who had already lived through my questions, who would help me through the problem spots of faith. Even now that I have come out the other side, I still long for the wisdom and experience of an older friend.
When comparing myself to the average age of an emerging person, I am at the upper end of the spectrum. I am the oldest woman in leadership on our church plant team, and most of the people in our area even a couple of years older than me don't "get" the whole missional/ emerging movement. It appears that I am almost at the top of the emerging generation, with a few notable exceptions, and definitely at the tippy-top in my somewhat rural locality. But even when age is left out of the equation, the emerging movement is still so new that there are often very few people around who can provide the wisdom of experience.
This leads me to wonder about the biblical example of the older teaching the younger. How do we who are among the oldest, most seasoned of the emerging generation learn from older more experienced people when it appears that there are none immediately around us? Books are great, but they lack relationship. Friendships are fantastic, but they do not always provide a greater sense of wisdom. And while it is true that we can learn things from people younger and greener than we are, there is something to be said for learning from someone who has already navigated our current difficulties and can look back with the wisdom of long-since hindsight. To hear, "This is my story, and this is how it has turned out over the years" is a priceless treasure that should never be taken for granted.
The relative lack of older people in the emerging movement brings home to me just how important it is that I continue meeting with students. Not that I have arrived at the end product, but at least I have a few more years of thinking and doing than they. They need me (and you!) to do this for them even though it appears that there are very few people who can do the same for us. So I press on while continuing to hope for the wisdom of age and experience in unexpected places.
Labels: Emerging Church, Spiritual Formation