Tonight marks the end of a precious small group I have lead for 5 years. In the summer of 2003, I opened my home for a college girls “small group” Bible study when Greg became college pastor at Fellowship. The first week, I was in shock as 25 girls came (and I wondered what in the world I was doing). We had many interesting discussions that summer (many centered on the dating of non-Christians), and many of those faces and stories are but memories. Some of those girls kept coming and have grown into women. Others joined along the way in every kind of transition from college to work world, heartbroken to wholehearted, walled up to broken and real, midwesterner to southerner (only in geography by their chosing:)), baby Christian to maturing one, single to married.
I have grown a lot in 5 years. God has used many of these girls to touch my heart…grow me up in His word and what it means to be a leader. As I have struggled personally, He has given me grace to be real and courage to let them be real. He has given me more love for His word and more courage to stand up even when it might not be what someone wants to hear. As college and grad school were a learning environment, this was a lab.
It is amazing how my life has changed in the last 5 years from a 28 year old woman near the beginning of marriage to a “more established” 33 year old. I have seen these girls make some of the same transitions I was making at the beginning of leading this group.
I am thankful for each relationship that has been forged and for each young woman who has come through whether it be for the entire time or a season. My prayer for each is that they invest in the body, be real with the body and continue walking in relationship with their Father remembering the gospel daily. I pray that they take what they have learned in study and relationship and give to others the same. These relationships will continue, but as with everything, a new phase will come.
This past week, our couples’ small group has ended, as well. I started in this group as a 25 year old engaged woman 7 1/2 years ago. This group was with us from the beginning of marriage with Greg traveling all the time to the transition of going on staff at Fellowship. They heard week after week the crazy stories of working in the inner-city to bearing with me as I experienced heart problems that paused our life to walking with us with my Dad’s sickness and death two and a half years ago. They were our circle of friends at the beginning of marriage when times were really carefree. We saw each other buy houses. We witnessed the birth of their children (okay witnessed not in the true sense!). We have really grown up together.
Most people say that college is the best time of their life, but I say those first few years of marriage were so dear to my heart living life with these people. Now, I realize that we have entered a different phase of life. It is like you wake up one day in shock thinking, “what happened?” We are no longer young adults in the true sense of the word. Our responsibilities have grown. Kids and ministry and caring for parents and bearing with the body take us in different directions. In all these things, I am so thankful for the body that God has brought us to. I am thankful for the Utterbacks as our small group leaders. I am thankful for all that have passed through this group with us. In it, we have made some dear friends. I am thankful that we have gotten to know their children.
It is so timely that both of these groups are ending at the same time because I can understand the perspective of the women I am letting go of as I am in the process of letting go of the group that helped me to grow up and out. There is a grieving process and an excitement all at the same time in both of these. I am excited to see where God grows and leads all these women and their families. I am excited to see them pour in and reproduce and be stretched. I say that knowing that in everything in life, we hold loosely. I know that there was a time and place for our couple’s group, and I cannot expect to find another experience like it. Those are my words to them as well. We hold to Christ and his hope and not experience. I thank Him and celebrate these people and experiences and I trust His hand to guide each of us in the future.