Who pours into you? That's the question I get asked most often these days, and it's gotten me thinking. Because sometimes my answer to the question posed is a garbled mess. I know what people are asking: "Do you have an older woman that you meet with regularly who offers you her biblical wisdom and shoulder to cry on?" I've had it before, but I don't have it currently, and for some reason, I feel kind of bad saying it out loud. Almost like I'm doing something wrong.
But that persistent question has gotten me thinking about us all. I wonder if, in all our talk of discipleship and mentoring and "pouring into", we've created for ourselves a culture of entitlement. Do we believe it's a biblical imperative that there will always be a Paul to our Timothy? Should we always have someone "pouring into" us in a linear, hierarchical sort of way?
I don't think so. I think it's more circular than that. And I think to believe that we are entitled to have a personal "pourer" is to cripple ourselves from the growth we crave.
But perhaps that makes my point. Do we actually crave growth? Or do we crave a person who is god-like who can tell us what to do, empathize with our emotions, absolve us of our sins through spoken forgiveness, and guide us through our circumstances? Growth can definitely come from processing our lives intimately with another, but if we aren't prioritizing the growth that happens in relating directly with God, we will be forever stunted.
The Bible speaks of believers making progress by "eating" the Word. Babes drink milk but then grow to maturity and eat meat. A babe drinking milk is in a receiving posture, but when I think of eating meat, I think of how I purchase, cook, and serve it to my children. I am a "pourer" who also feeds myself on the meat I cook. Babes in the faith need pourers, but if we aren't babes in the faith, we must be able to feed ourselves (and are expected to feed ourselves).
Part of growth is actually being the pourer. The non-babes are all meant to be pourers. If we're getting frustrated and resentful that no one is personally pouring into us, we're missing something. Perhaps it is our turn to be a pourer and, in pouring, we find the growth we're looking for.
But that doesn't mean we aren't to be or shouldn't seek to be poured into. It just often looks different than what we expect it to, and our problem is that we stick to only one formula--the hierarchical formula. In fact, God has given us the Church so that we might be poured into. This idea elevates the idea of intimate Church, because we must be open with our needs, our sins, and our victories if we are to be poured in to as we desire. I think we often wait for that one person to open up our heart and life to, but God intended for the mature to open ourselves up in community, so that we have a circular discipleship in which we serve and are served. This doesn't come easy. We have to fight for it.
So when I am asked, Who pours into you?, I don't think of one specific person. I think of my pastor-husband who preaches verse-by-verse through the Bible. I think of the elders who provide for and protect our church. I think of the young women who ask me hard questions and cause me to search the Scriptures for answers. I think of the women I'm discipling who in turn disciple me. I think of the staff and elder wives who serve so faithfully and encourage me to use my gifts. I think of my friends who are willing to say hard things. I think of the people in my community group who pray for me. I think of long-time friends who live at a distance and listen and respond objectively to my struggles. And, yes, I think of several older women who help me know what to do in parenting and marriage. This is the Church, and it's a gift to receive. Go grab hold of it!
And if God asks you to walk through a season of pouring without much receiving, know this: He is enough. He will feed you.
From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel, available now, is a book for women who feel that they do not do enough for God and aren't enough for Him, women who need the freedom that comes from knowing God calls us to something greater than being good.