Nearly every weekend this last year, our daughter made her way over to her friend Carol's house. Carol lives in the neighborhood, and the two of them played board games, colored in new coloring books (my favorite is Megan's, called "Unicorns are Jerks") and ate fruit snacks. Sometimes I got the feeling Megan would rather spend time with Carol than me. That's normal for a 14-year-old, right? But see, Carol is older than me.
Carol and Megan's relationship began because Carol is a gifted musician who graciously agreed to teach Megan guitar. After awhile, she started inviting our girl over to play outside of lessons. At first, I thought, "I hope Megan isn't a bother," and, "I can't believe she wants to give up her free time to spend time with my teenager!" But I have come to see that Carol is simply a woman who loves well. She loves our daughter, and enjoys spending time with her, and that is precious to me.
Reflecting on this, one night I asked some women who were over for dinner if they had a "Carol" in their lives growing up. What followed was stories of grandmothers, aunts, neighbors, family friends, Sunday school teachers - women who chose to invest in us for the simple reason that they loved Jesus and loved us.
My “Carol” was a woman named Marsha. She was our high school Sunday School teacher. In her job as manager of a women’s clothing store, she intentionally hired people who did not know Jesus so she could share with them. When I came to her with issues, she showed me how to take them to Jesus. She asked me about my relationship with God, and shared hers with me. She showed me what it looked like to be a woman who walks with Him.
These women transformed us, through teaching us life skills, being silly with us, praying with us, modeling a love for Jesus, building us up. They invested in us wholeheartedly.
Carol convicts me. She says she adores Megan and absolutely delights in spending time with her, but I know that it is an investment of her time, a sacrificial pouring out. She makes me want to look around and ask, "Who is God calling me to build up? Where could I invest more?"
Recently, I've had the opportunity to begin pouring in to the lives of a few young leaders in our church. I am amazed not only at how open and trusting they are, but also how encouraged and energized I am after spending time with them. It's a joy to pray for them regularly and learn specific ways I can help them in their journeys. We've talked about everything from leading well to dating, from the lies we believe to how we hope God will use us. I'm excited to see what He will do in them in the next few years, and that I will hopefully be able to witness and participate in it.
One of my favorite verses as a young leader was Hebrews 13:7, "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith." Wherever we are in our walk with God, we can ask Him who in our lives He wants us to disciple. We can all be a "Carol" to someone - a person who invests wholeheartedly into the life of another, loving and leading them on their journey.
Gina Butz has served in full time ministry for over 20 years. She and her husband planned to spend three or four of those years overseas, but stayed for 13 instead. They are currently raising two third culture kids and an imported dog in the exotic land of Orlando, Florida, where they serve in global leadership for Cru. She blogs about being wholehearted at www.ginabutz.com and you can follow her on twitter @gina_butz