Authentic Relationships

What do authentic relationships between women look like? In this women’s topic, Sister Linda Miller outlined characteristics that are important to have good relationships. We can look to Jesus to see how there will be different levels of relationship.

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Introduction by Mrs. Curt Wagoner:

Good afternoon and welcome. I’m sure you’ve all been looking forward to this. We have Linda Miller with us today. Ken and Linda are from Waynesboro, Viginia. They have 6 children ages 15 to 27. The two oldest are married and the oldest daughter and husband are serving in Poland. One son just moved to Ireland to teach school this fall. And they have 3 children at home, a daughter and 2 sons. The youngest is still in school. They don’t have any grandchildren yet (that’s always a question that gets asked). Perhaps what most of you would know Ken and Linda for is that Ken spent 2 years in prison. He was released in March of this year. His charge was aiding in international parental kidnapping in relation to the Lisa Miller child custody case. Lisa fled the country with her daughter since her former lesbian partner was seeking custody. And I think you’re all probably familiar with that.

So, Linda, if you want to come forward… Let’s pray:

Heavenly Father, Lord, we bow before Thee, seeking Thee, Almighty God. Seeking Thy grace, Thy hand, Thy blessing. Father, just be with Linda. Calm her. Give her a clear mind and a heart for Thee even in the midst and in the presence of others. That she would not be distracted. Just bless her in what she shares. Bind the enemy or any powers that would want to hinder this work here. And Lord as listeners, open our hearts, Father, to those things that we can apply and learn in our own lives. So just bless our gathering, Father, in a mighty way. For Thy glory, for the victory of Jesus, and for the defeat of Satan in each one of our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Linda Miller:

Well, it is good to be together at this place today with all of you dear sisters. I feel indebted to so many of you for your prayers and support during the time that my husband was away for two years. And it is only really by God’s grace that we are what we are. As difficult as that time may have been, it’s amazing how God uses those times to perfect us personally, and to be a witness, and to bring Him glory. It’s not about us. Its just such a good reminder. It’s all about Him. No matter what happens to us, it’s all about Him!

Think about relationships. We all have relationships… or do we? I actually read about a man who lived by himself in the woods in Maine. And he had contact with one person in 27 years. I would think that is definitely the exception because we as women tend to be relational. We enjoy being with people, at least for the most part. So we’re interested in relationships, and I think your presence here would say that you are interested in learning about relationships. We like the close, meaningful, life-giving interaction with others. And you know, God made us for relationships. Since we live in a sinful world of brokenness and conflict and chaos, we just yearn for that peacefulness that comes when we can relate together with those around us. But we need to realize that authentic relationships begin with a close relationship with God, as we walk with Him in truth and love.

Interestingly, there are lots of books written about relationships and in my studies I narrowed it down to taking a lot of thoughts from John Coblentz’s book, Getting Along With People God’s Way. I would highly recommend that. It’s an excellent study of interpersonal relationships.

And since this is a women’s meeting, the relationships we’re thinking about is mainly relating to each other as women. Our interaction with men enters into another category. And I don’t really plan to address those, although some of the same principles do apply. And especially for those of us who are married…principles in relationships carry over into our marriage relationship.

Today, I’d like us to think about the basis for relationships. First of all, that God is relational. Also that He created us to be relational with Him, and with each other. And then we want to look at several different levels of friendship and relationship. Also, what it means to be authentic, as our title is “Authentic Relationships.” What does that mean? And how does it look? And then how do we wisely relate to each other?

Our key verse today I chose to draw from 1 John 1:7. The apostle John says, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” That’s the kind of fellowship – the authentic relationship – we yearn for. And God wants us to have that kind of relationship with Him and with each other. This verse also talks about walking in the light. Which means we need to be open and humble.

So, first off let’s think about God as a relational God. How do we know that God really enjoys relationships? Well, in reading through the scriptures we realize that even in the beginning God communed with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. And all through the Bible we have instances where God was walking with people and people were seeking Him. We have Noah who walked with God. We have Enoch who walked with God. And remember Abraham was called the friend of God. Wouldn’t that be nice to be said of us…to be the friend of God? And of Moses it was said that the Lord spoke with him as a man speaks to his friend. Other people in the Old Testament – the judges, kings, and prophets…there were some who walked with God, such as Samuel, David, Elijah, Isaiah and Daniel. All of them walked with God and heard from God. They had a relationship with Him.

Then in the New Testament we have Jesus coming. And remember one of the names that was given to Jesus, at his birth, was Emanuel, which means God with us. Another instance where God is telling us, “I want to have a relationship with you!” We know that in the end God will have His way. He will be with His people. Revelation 21:3 says, “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.” That’s something we can look forward to, as we, in our journey, walk with God. So we see that God wants a relationship with each one of us, but He does not force himself on us. It’s up to us to choose. Will we seek Him or will we turn our back and walk away from Him?

The next point, that God created us for relationship, He made us in His image. He made us to be relational just like He wants to have a relationship with us. And you know, a relationship with God is going to be foundational in how we relate to one another and have loving, committed relationships. From God, and from relating to God, we learn about walking in truth and love. And He shows us how we relate to each other in truth and love. Therefore authentic, enduring, human relationships grow out of a relationship with God. There’s a certain level where people that are not following God can have relationships. But we know those can tend to be selfish. “What can I get from it?” A relationship with God will give us the basis and foundation to relate to each other in love – the way God relates to us. And we know that God’s heart for His people is for there to be a committed relationship, just like we have between God the Father and Jesus…a close relationship. This kind of commitment is bonding, loving, knowing, sharing, caring and life-giving. This is God’s desire for His body – the church – that we relate to each other in truth and love.

In the body of Christ we are admonished to “one-another.” There are so many “one-anothers” that He tells us to practice. The most common one is love one another, but there are a whole bunch of others. I am going to read some of them: be devoted to one another; in honor preferring one another; be of the same mind one toward another; edify one another; receive one another; admonish one another; greet one another; serve one another; bear one another’s burdens (and that’s what some of you were doing during our time of hardship); forbearing one another; be kind one to another; forgive one another; submit one to another; comfort one another; exhort one another; consider one another to provoke to love and good works; confess your sins one to another; pray one for another; have compassion one of another; be hospitable one to another; be subject one to another. And then the one in 1 John 1:7. It says, “We have fellowship one with another.” And because we are washed in the blood of Jesus, we can have that fellowship one with another.

Let’s think also of the various relationships, the various levels of relationships. There are the people that you don’t know. And coming to a place like this, I felt like there was a lot of you that I don’t know. We call them strangers. But hopefully they won’t be strangers for very long. We can, with a brief introduction, turn strangers into acquaintances,or people that we may meet occasionally. An acquaintance should be regarded as a divine appointment. It’s good to learn and remember the person’s name. Then that gives you the opportunity to call them by name the next time you meet them. So remember that!

It’s good to be prepared with general questions when you first meet someone, such as (maybe after introductions), Where do you live? What do you work? Or ask about their family. This shows an interest and acceptance. And it shows a respect that you actually value the person. When you’re prepared with good questions you are then freer to concentrate on being a good listener. And of course that helps you maintain a good conversation. You get to know the person a little better by these questions.

And what are the questions you might want to have in the back of your mind to ask if you do meet someone new? For myself I tend to ask closed questions – just yes and no answers – like, “Do you like to read?” Something like that where a person can soon just say yes or no. But I’m learning to rephrase my questions so that they will need more discussion. Like maybe instead of asking “Do you like to read?” say, “What is a good book that you have read?” This will then prompt more discussion. And possibly the person is not a reader. You can soon detect, like if they haven’t read a book recently or something, then maybe you’ll want to go on to another question that might be good to ask.

I found it interesting to look over a list of questions or conversation starters. And here were some of the questions that I thought you might want to stash into your pocket in case you need questions to ask. They can be questions about family, about work, about hobbies, about the future, about books, about travel, about a person’s childhood or hobbies. And here are some: “What is the greatest challenge you have faced in the past year?” Or “what’s the most valuable lesson you have learned in the past year?” “What are some ways that God has blessed you?” “What do you enjoy most about your work or your family?” Or “what made you choose the job you have?” Or “what hobby would you pursue if you had time and money?” “What are some small things that make your day go better?” Or “how do you relax after a hard day’s work?” Oh, and then if you’re interested in traveling, “what is the farthest you have been from home?” Or “what’s the best thing that happened to you last week?” “What are you looking forward to in the coming months?” Or if you want to tap into someone’s memories you could ask “what was special about the place where you grew up?” “What character quality do you value?” Or “what is the best piece of advice that you’ve been given?” “What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned?” Or what do you want to be remembered for?” “What’s the best thing you’ve gotten from your parents?” And maybe some of us with white hair, you could ask “what’s the best thing about getting older?” I don’t know about that one, but that would give you an idea of some things to think about and how you can engage in conversation.

And what this does, it opens up the door for you to hear somebody’s story. And it might inspire you to ask more questions that might get more of their story told. And that’s the whole point: that we learn from each other. God intends for our relationships to be that.

So we have the stranger. We have those we are acquainted with, or are becoming acquainted with. And then we have the friendship level – people that you interact with fairly often, enough so that you know about their interests, and know what they like and what they don’t like. Maybe even know some of their concerns or some of their personal dreams. You know that a good friendship will build Godly character in both of your lives. It’s not just what you can get out of it. Its a mutual kind of sharing.

And then, in these friendships, sometimes there’s an openness to where you can share some of your own struggles. If trust is built, that is a prime way to learn from each other and to interact. It’s so important to be a trustworthy friend. You need to learn about their hopes and goals in life and show an interest and concern. And sometimes there are times when it is good to pray together.

And then the last level is the level of fellowship or close, intimate friendship. This reflects a oneness of spirit where you have same life goals. It’s good to feel responsible for each other and on this level we feel open enough to point out areas of need and maybe even sin in the other person’s life. And, of course, we reciprocally need to be open as well. This kind of fellowship is what is talked about in 1 John 1:7. We walk in the light with each other. It’s a commitment to invest in one another’s lives with the goal of helping each other mature in Godly character. It’s at this level of fellowship that friends often need to take the opportunity to correct one another and point out our blind spots. And, you know, if you have a loyal, faithful friend it is easier to hear that from a person that you can truly trust. And in this way you can encourage one another to spiritual maturity. It takes courage to be in those close relationships. But you know that’s where we thrive. That’s where we grow. And really, in the church, that’s what God wants us to have with our sisters in Christ. The kind of close relationships that will build each other up in the faith.

I personally am very blessed to meet weekly with one of the sisters in the church for a time of sharing and of prayer. And this really has been just a wonderful encouragement and blessing to have that kind of support and platform where things that concern me can be brought and we can pray about them.

So you may be thinking, Well, am I supposed to have these kind of close relationships with everybody I meet? Or, how do I decide to have just an acquaintance relationship, or just a friendship, or a fellowship type of relationship? Well, I think it’s good to think about Jesus. He gave us a good example of interacting with all classes of people. And if you recall, he had interaction with a rich, young ruler, with the Scribes and the Pharisees, with the poor and the needy, and the sick and the beggars. He spoke to crowds. He spoke to people one-on-one, like he did with Nicodemus who came to Him by night with his questions. And then we think about Jesus’ personal friends. Remember He was good friends with Mary and Martha and Lazarus. Where sometimes he would just come into their home and just be there and interact with them. Jesus also took time for the children. We also remember that Jesus had 12 disciples that He was training. But even of those 12 He had 3 that were specifically close to Him. So even in Jesus’ life we see that He had various levels of relationships. And I think that can give us a bit of a guide as to how much He wants us to invest in other people’s lives – what level of relationship He wants us to have.

Let’s go on and think about what it means to be authentic. Authentic would mean real, true, genuine, something that’s dependable and trustworthy. It’s not something that’s fake or pretentious or false or hypocritical. It’s the real thing. And in Christian fellowship we should experience authenticity. Not the superficial, surface-level chit chat but genuine heart-to-heart sharing. And I think that’s really God’s desire for us. Sometimes we need to open up conversations maybe by talking about the weather or our children, but if we are desiring close fellowship we won’t linger there long before we talk about things that are really important.

Some characteristics that need to accompany authenticity are (and I think I’ve mentioned these before) to be open and honest. Authentic fellowship occurs when we are honest about who we are and what is happening in our lives. We’re open about our hurts, our failures, our doubts and fears, and we’re willing to ask for help and prayer. In order to build meaningful relationships we need to be honest even if it’s hard. And of course in this kind of situation, when we are honest with say, one or two people, it’s not something we’re broadcasting to the world. If your friends are trustworthy then it can stay within your circle. Too often we’re afraid and we put up this mask, “I’m fine! Everything’s rosy.” “How are you?” “Oh I’m fine!”

You can be having the worst day and you still say “I’m fine”? Well it might not be appropriate to tell everyone all the troubles you’re going through at the time but you may want to rephrase that. Instead of saying “I’m fine” try saying “Well, it’s not been the best day ever.” Let’s be honest and not hide behind these masks that we tend to put up. When we hide we wonder, why don’t I have any friends? It is the shallow conversation and the guardedness that does not promote close relationships. In fact, it’s the death of any close friendships. So we need to be honest and open.

Another thing we need is humility. We need to be willing to admit that, “Hey, I’m not perfect. I don’t have it all together.” 1 John 1:8 says: “if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” We may as well be up-front. Who. that is interacting with us. does not realize that we are human and make mistakes? We may as well be honest and humble ourselves and admit it.

Another characteristic that we really need is love. Love is from God. And only as we experience the love of God can we truly love unconditionally like He does. So we need to be willing to love others unconditionally. We love as He does without judging and condemning. But this takes commitment. And sometimes it’s hard. Along with loving others we need to show kindness and extend grace when there are hurts and misunderstandings in our relationships. And you know love from God can aid us so much in working through misunderstandings that are about to come.

Another characteristic that we need is courage. We often think of men as being the “men of courage,” but I think we ladies need some courage too. Sometimes we just need to take the initiative and step out from our comfort zones because being authentic requires courage to face our fears. It can be any fears ranging from being hurt by relationships, being exposed, or the fear of failure, of being rejected or misunderstood. But unless we are willing to take the risk and be vulnerable, we really cannot expect to discover and experience the deep relationships that God would like us to.

Another point is communication. Communication is a subject we heard a lot about today already and I don’t feel like I need to cover things that have already been said but just echo the fact that we communicate in so many different ways. We think, Oh well we communicate by words. Yes, but we also communicate sometimes by words on paper or even by just our body language and our actions.But it takes effort in relationships to stay connected and be communicating with each other. What we say shows what is in our hearts. And it is very hard to hide what is in our hearts. Our lives should be a conduit of grace and not of conflict. And you know, in our time we have so many varied options of how we can communicate with each other, especially with all of the technology that we have. Sometimes I’m wondering if we’re missing out on the old-fashioned way of writing letters and putting them in the mail. I was very blessed, during the time of Ken’s absence, with letters that people would send to us. And some of the letters came from friends that I have not even met to this day. But to receive a letter in the mail was such a blessing. And of course sending mail and receiving mail was one of the ways that Ken and I kept in touch so that was always a highlight as well.

I’m just wondering, how many of you remember the last time that you wrote a letter and mailed it? Ahh! That’s good. I’m glad! Hopefully we can keep that up and can teach our children how to write letters and mail them. Ken was so blessed to receive in prison, notes from little children, pictures they had drawn, or notes that they wrote. I think he saved them all!

So, talking about communicating, I find it difficult to know how to do long distance relationships and stay in touch, especially now that our children are overseas. Deborah and Matt have been in Poland over a year. And our son, Jonathan, just went to Ireland to start teaching school. So I know it’s going to take effort for me to stay in touch with them. I do have the capabilities, I think, of picking up the phone and calling but then there’s always the time difference. And there’s only certain times of the day that it works. So, it’s a challenge. But I have a goal to every so often, write a letter and put it in the mail so they can get some mail. And my son asked for recipes. He said, “Mom, I need some recipes!” Because he’s batching with another fellow. And he said, “I know I’m going to have to do some cooking.” And he wants this recipe and this recipe. And I thought, you know what? I could get my younger son who has a smartphone to just take a picture of the recipe and just send it. I said, “No, I think I’ll put it in the mail for him!” So we’ll see how he responds to that because he just went a couple weeks ago, actually it was just last week.

So, coming back to the whole idea of communication…personally, I think the best way to communicate- my favorite way – is face to face, when we can sit down and talk. And you know, I thought back over the time when my husband and I were courting…before he was my husband. There were times when we were separated. And we needed to write letters and make phone calls. But, you know, nothing beat the times we were able to sit down and talk. So let’s not give up that as the best way to get to know someone. As we heard this morning, the whole way of staying connected with technology, there are so many benefits in all that. But let’s not do it at the expense of the people right around us. When you are with people be ALL there…even if it means turning off your cell phone. When my friend and I meet once a week, that’s just been our pattern. We turn off our phones. This is time for us. If somebody has an emergency, I’m sorry. They’ll just have to find help elsewhere or wait until we’re done. Make it a priority.

And then the last thing that I have here that we need in order to be authentic in our relationships: we need the wisdom of God. Wisdom and the fear of God. Proverbs says that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. And if we want to walk wisely in our relationships and really be authentic it’s going to take the wisdom of God. And let the Spirit of God direct you in your relationships.

I like the definition of the word integrity: being the same person on the inside that we are on the outside.That’s how we need to walk in our relationships. So to build deep, authentic relationships it’s going to take work and effort. But it’s God’s plan for each of us to edify and exhort, and encourage one another. And we need to do that so much the more as the day is approaching when we will no longer have that opportunity.

And as I close here I’d like you to think about…just look around the room…is there anyone here that knows everybody’s name? Anybody? Well, I can’t even raise my hand. Alright! Each of us has the opportunity. Pull out those questions. Take the initiative. All you need to do is step up, smile, reach out your hand and say, “I’m Linda Miller. What’s your name?” Is it that hard? No. So take the challenge. And you know, blessings will be yours. You will grow spiritually and mature through authentic relationships.

I have a reading that I’d like to read. It’s by Mother Theresa. I was so impressed. You know, it’s not about me. It’s entitled “Do It Anyway.” She writes:

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful you may win some false friends and some true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank people may cheat you.
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building someone could destroy overnight.
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
You see in the final analysis, it’s between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

Thank you.

Question and Answer Time:

From the audience: “Linda, you spoke about following Christ’s example, about the levels of relationships. And I just wonder if you have any practical advice for determining those levels. I’m in a position in life right now where I have almost more relationships than I know what to do with. I feel like I could use some advice in how to excel in the ones that are important, and to know which ones are very important.”

Linda Miller: “I don’t know that I have just a lot of answers. For myself distance has made a difference. We lived in Ireland for a year and a half, and 17 years ago we lived in Kenya for 4 months. I have some really good friends there. But, you know, I couldn’t keep up with everyone. We left Ireland and we were like, “We would never forget to stay in touch with these people.” They were so dear to us. But time and distance have a way of just making it really hard to keep a close relationship. If there is a time that we can meet it’s easy to pick right up. And that’s a real blessing. But as far as the people that you meet and relate to, situations vary, but one tip that I remember reading about in my studies was when you find that the person you are relating to tends to be a bit closed, obviously you don’t push yourself on them. Sometimes that can be a determining factor. As well as if you sense someone that really does need fellowship, consider giving yourself to that person. But if you already really are taxed to the max, maybe it would be helpful to find someone who can come alongside.”

Mrs. Curt Wagoner: “I might just say a word on that. Finding someone else. Somewhere there could be someone that is a match. Like, ‘I know someone who’s experienced what you’re experiencing, and they’ve been through that.’ It doesn’t always happen. But if there’s a circumstance like that then you can be the in-between person to introduce or get them acquainted and then they can bless each other.”

Linda Miller: “Another thing that I have found, I tend to care about people and so I want to help this person. I want to help that person. Early in our marriage, my husband was kind of my checkpoint. He’d say, ‘Don’t you think you’re giving almost too much and neglecting our home duties?’ So that’s been very helpful: to have someone close to you or your husband, be that checkpoint. Am I giving too much? Am I leaving off responsibilities that I really do need to carry out?”

Mrs. Curt Wagoner: “I appreciated the thought of the closest 3 that Jesus had, Peter, James and John. And also the 12. And so if you’re trying to keep up with more than 12 then you’re trying to do more than Jesus did! Of course there are the multitudes too.”

From the audience: “Well, I used to hate meeting new people and when we were first married we would get a lot of visitors and I never knew what to say to them. And my husband, on the other hand, is very talkative and he always knew what to say. I asked him once, ‘How do you always know how to keep a conversation going with all these people that you never even met before?’ I wanted help for my own situation. I felt like I was just sitting in a corner and not taking care of them. And he said, ‘Well, just think of the other person. Don’t think about yourself. Think about that person. And try to make them comfortable. And before you know it you will have a conversation going.'”

From the audience: “I wonder if you would just have something to share about relationships that have been really close and have been strained or damaged in some way? What encouragement you would give? What to do with it?”

Linda Miller: “That is a difficult situation because it’s so personal. There are ways to work through conflict but in most close relationships, if it’s two people, unless there is something that can be worked out between the two, you will need a third person. I really don’t have a lot to say about that. Is there someone else that would have some input?”

From the audience: “A long time ago, 30 years ago, my sister and I were very close. Then I changed churches… just to put it simply. And she looked at me, and the relationship was strained. The best I could do was to be consistent. She saw how far I was going to go. She saw that I was still being faithful. She saw that I still loved her and our relationship now is very good even though we’re our separate ways. But just being consistent, and showing love, and showing care, and praying for them. It was time. It heals.”

Mrs. Curt Wagoner: “Thank you. That was a really good example. I just wonder how many of you out there can relate to what she said? Maybe you’ve made a church change or a fellowship change, and because of that you’ve experienced some strain in relationships. Can I see a show of hands?……It would be wonderful if I did not see all those hands but that’s the reality of life. And I’ve experienced that too. Time is a healer. Sometimes people process that as a personal hurt against them. They don’t know how to deal with it even though really it had nothing to do with them, and yet they process it that way. I think a really big thing is that we keep our hearts pure and that we don’t get bitter about it, or carry some of those negative feelings. But that we stay free before the Lord when someone treats us in a hurtful way because they’re hurting. So thank you for that.”

From the audience: “I just wanted to say I really appreciate hearing from all the older women here. We’re in a situation, in a church fellowship, where there are not a lot of older women. It’s mostly middle-aged families and younger women, and we do have several moms with a number of children who have been very helpful to us younger moms. But I’m wondering if there’s a way to develop and nurture relationships with older women that are not geographically close. We left our church fellowship and that is something I do miss. My mom and I, there’s a lot of hurt there. I really miss the input of the older grandmothers into my life the way the Bible asks the older women to teach the younger women. I’m not sure if anybody has a similar situation that they would like to share or give advice for developing relationships with older women.”

Linda Miller: “Well, I’m privileged to be in a fellowship where we have even the older generation than my generation…I hope you’re not getting distracted by my white hair. I’m not yet 60! But, it is a blessing to interact with the generations. And the Bible does tell us that the older women are to teach the younger women. So I’m thinking we’ll need to find solutions. Because not all of our situations are ideal. Would there be long distance?”

From the audience: “At our church the group is small and there are not older women. I’m one of the older women. So sometimes we have to ask God to give us grace to be able to teach the younger women even if we’re not necessarily older.”

Mrs. Curt Wagoner: “I don’t know if the church that you’re a part of would have little pockets of fellowship…where you would have opportunity to cross paths, to meet up with others, and even ask an older sister (that you feel like you connect with) would she be willing to be a mentor to you? You know it’s not ideal with the distance but that you don’t have anyone close and that you would appreciate that. So you can always ask.”

From the audience: “I was just thinking about what she shared about that relationship with her mother, with the church change. I feel like, in some ways, I can understand what she’s saying. I’ve sensed some of that with my own mother, with our recent church change. Maybe not an unloving spirit towards me, but maybe that spirit of fear about where we are going. And it can create that tension. I don’t really know what to say, but the couple things that do come to my mind is: be mature enough and humble enough to still be her daughter. And really, really listen to what she wants to say to you. I think she’ll sense that in your spirit. It seems like even as I sense that tension between me and my mom… that I continue to tell her about things we’re doing. Just keep on doing it. And even, in a sense, take the responsibility for the relationship. And not just be sad so that I’m going to turn away because I know that she doesn’t like it… ‘I’m just going to shut up’ kind of thing. Still that respect and honor and daughtership showed to her. And I can say that I think she’s starting to understand. You know, or at least understand that in my heart it’s absolutely my desire to follow Jesus Christ. It’s actually turning out to be a blessing. And Mom in turn… then they begin again to also share with you as well. But I know that sometimes it’s really, really, really, really hard.”

Linda Miller: “Thank you, Doreen. I think the whole sense that I get is the need to respect and honor our parents. That speaks loudly.”

From the audience: “Hello, my name is Connie. I had difficulties with my mother relationship because of the road my husband and I took to become more conservative. She’s a Christian too. But when she saw the road that we were taking that really made her concerned, you know. So it was 8 years since we spoke to each other. She did not want to have that relationship with us. There were different situations that really I had to work in my heart to not have bitterness. And He did! And so I love her even though we were not speaking. God showed me that I needed to honor her cause she’s my mother no matter what her behavior. So 8 years went by and now we’re talking again. It started really good but it’s going back to the same thing again. So God had to speak to me again. And I’m not going to let anything in my heart to separate me from the relationship that I have with God. That’s very crucial because if I let anything in the earth separate me from the love and what He wants me to feel for others then my relationship with God will be the one that is affected, you know? So I need to just continue loving her. One thing that He showed me is write a nice card. Send her flowers. Show her love. If you cannot talk because I know where that is going to go. So the next step is God showed me write her a note. Tell her you love her. Share what’s happening in your life, in the life of your children. What is going to be her response? I don’t know. But I will continue loving cause that’s what God wants us to do. To honor them.”

Mrs. Curt Wagoner: “Thank you very much for that. What you’re doing is showing the love of Christ. The human tendency would be to have reaction and sometimes when there’s reaction it can be like a vicious cycle of reaction and reaction and reaction. But all it takes is one person to stop that. They can keep reacting but you don’t have to react to that!”

From the audience: “My name is Samantha and I’m pretty new to Kingdom Fellowship. This is my first year. I have a question. I’ve been having trouble with telling my dad about my change. I left him a voicemail a few weeks ago and he just got back to me and I heard his voicemail today about my changing. He does not understand it… doesn’t get it. And it’s funny that I got his voicemail today out of all days. It’s just been quite a journey for me these past few months. I didn’t live a life according to God pretty much my whole life. It’s just recently that I came to Him. And my dad, he’s actually a Catholic, he doesn’t know the way that I dress or anything but my mom explained to him the journey that I’m taking. My mom knows and she totally accepts it. But my dad, he seems kind of upset and I guess worried. I don’t know if any of you might have some answers for me or maybe you might be going through the same thing. Or could give me some clarity on what I should say because I can’t really find the words. I tried calling him and I just hung up because I didn’t know what to say. It’s been on my mind all day. My heart just can’t find the words to tell him. So if anyone can give me some clarity, or something, that would be great.”

Linda Miller: “Those are hard situations, Samantha, and especially with close relationships like that. Maybe it will take a little bit of time to sense what the Lord would have you to say…”

Mrs. Curt Wagoner: “It is hard. And I want to welcome you. It’s your first year here. I want to say that. We’re glad you’re here. It is better if you can separate yourself from your own emotion and that’s really hard to do. Probably it would be helpful if you had someone to pray with you. Just someone that you could really just share and they could pray with you and help you work through your own emotion with it, so that you could just be controlled by the spirit of Christ. I know that you have that love for him and that’s why you’re hurting. And that’s why the emotion is there. There’s a lot of power in prayer. Someone to walk with you so that you don’t have to walk through this alone. I think that would be good. If there is someone here that has been down that road a few years ago, if you could reach out to her and make contact, that would be good too.”

From the audience: “I’ll just speak quickly. I did the same thing about maybe 13 years ago. My parents cried when I told them, especially my dad. He’s very emotional so he cried and cried, ‘Why would you do this?’ It just made no sense to them. My husband’s parents were more serious Christians. They actually yelled at us. And they’re very Godly people in many ways. They just didn’t know how to respond. We were trying to be honest. But an older sister who had gone through the same thing, maybe 15 years before me, told me, ‘give them 5 years.’ She said, ‘If you’re faithful, if you live like God is calling you to live for 5 years, they’ll start respecting you. They might not get it but they’ll respect you. It’s a hard thing to wait 5 years, but I think it is true that your family will start to see the fruit of it. And even if it’s not the same. It’s very hard. They say you can never go home and I think that’s very true for people that have made that kind of change. It’s never quite the same. But we do have the encouragement that they do see that faithfulness. And then,for my husband and I, we have found just a lot of people to, not replace, but just be some of those relationships that our family can’t be like they would have once been.”

From the audience: “Yes, I know how you feel Samantha. I’ve also been there. I’m the first one in my family – extended family- to be Christian. I think that the picture that Jesus gave us, that the Christian walk is a narrow way, really applies in so many situations. This is another one of them. And there’s two things to remember. One is that God is your source and even though good, authentic relationships are a blessing, when we can keep focused – as has been already said – that God is the one to supply our needs, then we don’t tax those relationships, especially those strained relationships. Because we’re still stable in our relationship with the Lord. So that’s one side of the narrow way. And the other side of the narrow way is to remember that, even though we no longer have a lot in common with our parents once we’ve chosen to follow Christ if they’re not walking that path, God can still fully use them to speak into our lives. So don’t cut them off. When my husband and I have come to every major decision in life we have bounced it off our heathen parents, and have heard from God through them. We’ve told them, ‘We’re expecting to hear from God through you because of the position God gave you in our lives.’ And it just opened their hearts and did develop that respect in time.”

Mrs. Curt Wagoner: “Thank you very much. That is very Biblical, very God honoring. Continue with that respect.”

From the audience: “I’ll just share my testimony as well with my parents. When I made a church change about 10 years ago it was very hard for my parents to accept. And my relationship with my parents had always been the kind that I would try to convince them about what I was doing…try to get them to understand. And it created a lot of conflict because I would get very intense and emotional about what I was trying to talk to them about. I got some advice from a very Godly person. They knew my parents as well, and they just advised me to just listen to my parents. Because my parents are wise and they do have a lot to offer. And that was kind of a new concept for me. But I put that into practice and I just began to listen. And as I listened to them I understood that they care about me very much and that’s why they were so worked up about things. I realized that my dad is a dad. It hurt him that I didn’t go to him for advice. I want to listen to him. My mother is a mother. She has a lot of fear about choices that I’m making. Just understanding that they need to be able to voice their concerns. And they need to know that I am listening to them. Sometimes it was all I could do to keep my mouth shut and not say anything. But it has paid off so much because they have sensed that instead of me trying to convince them about what I am doing, I am listening to them and honoring them. Our relationship has grown so much. Somebody mentioned something about being consistent and they will see and learn to trust God’s leading in your life as you are consistent. As I have honored and respected my parents, I also feel that they are learning to trust me and they’re learning to respect me as well. I feel very humble about that. But God has just worked amazing things in my relationship with my parents. So I would just encourage anyone to – it’s very hard to do sometimes- but just listen. Understand that they’re speaking from a father’s and a mother’s heart.”

Mrs. Curt Wagoner: “Thank you Emily. I hope this has helped just a little bit, Samantha, to hear some testimonies of others and some experiences too.Do we have anyone else?”

From the audience: “Yes, David and I left Jehovah’s Witnesses almost 42 years ago. I thought my parents would die, literally, before I told them. They didn’t. I was very thankful but our relationship was deeply affected. There is a total shunning that happens. It’s called ‘dis-fellowshipping’ within the Witnesses. One thing I wanted them to hopefully see in all of this…because we could not talk to them unless it was about the children, severe sickness, illness, or death…they saw our children. It was very, very important for us…and I’m sharing that with so many comments here…to honor, to respect our parents. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done because I knew my parents loved me with every fiber of their being. They loved God first. They thought I was going to be destroyed forever. Through the years, at one point my dad and I were able to talk. It was 8 years after we left. It was briefly, at the death of his only sister, and he was…I just brought up the few things…my love for God. And he said, ‘I know, Deborah. I know you love God and Jesus Christ very much.’ And that meant the world! But I do know that if I had had a disrespectful spirit to them, or a critical spirit, that would have been horrible on my part. I left. David left. All we had to hang on to was Jesus Christ. And I knew my parents were trying to do the same thing to the knowledge they had, even though there were lots of errors. So the love, even though I couldn’t pour it back out on them very often – keep loving them. I keep hearing that. Respecting them. They gave you life. Knowing that God will work it out. And you know, I’m hoping that in eternity I’ll be seeing them. And we can talk again!”

From the audience: “My name is Irene and first of all I want to bless you, Samantha, for stepping out and choosing to do what you did. May God reward you for that. I never had a very good relationship with my mom or my dad . Eight years ago I ended up moving out through some very difficult circumstances and our relationship just kind of went cold. I knew I had hurt them very, very badly. For me, I just appreciate what all was said. I don’t think I have a lot of different things to say. Although I do want to add that for me it seemed that to separate me from the situation…like remove myself…and allow God to work in me and mature me spiritually that I could maybe eventually come back to them, and listen to them, and see them as my parents. As God has put them there. And He put them there for a reason. And they gave me life, like it was said. To appreciate that, it took time and it takes God’s work in your heart to do that. Sometimes it just helps to remove yourself from the situation. Find Godly authority who can give you direction and help you in life. One thing that I have found very, very important and helpful is to make myself accountable to Godly authority and not just float. I just don’t think that’s good. God didn’t design us to just float on our own. The other thought I had about older women…my heart can say amen to the desire for older women in my life…and it’s just in recent years that I’ve been experiencing the blessing of that. I’ve always had a desire for that. One thing is I started praying for older women. And God has just richly blessed me with that. Oh and another thought I had about your parents is, pray for them! That’s one thing I started doing and it makes a whole big difference in my attitude towards them if I start praying for them. So may God bless each one of you for what you shared. And in your journey may you remain faithful.”

Mrs. Curt Wagoner: “Thank you, Irene. There’s just been a lot of good nuggets of advice here for like separating ourselves. And a lot of this just takes the power of Christ. We can’t let our own person rule or we’ll be caught up in our own hurt and all that, or our own emotions. There’s probably a lot more stories out there just waiting to be told today. We are approaching the supper hour so I will probably cut this off unless someone feels very pressed to share. I don’t want to prevent that from happening.”

From the audience: “I have about the same story as everyone else but one thing I do want to say is it’s been many years since my parents have been in my home. We weren’t from a plain lifestyle. We were from a military background. So, it did evolve from getting mocked and everything to them accepting us and not acting strange around us. But I never had a relationship with them – even beforehand – that I could just talk to them or go to them about anything….But through the years I always wished that I had an opportunity that I could talk to them and there never seemed to be an opportunity. And they got in their 80’s and 90’s and they were in Wisconsin and we were in Pennsylvania. My dad’s hearing went so I could no longer talk to him on the phone because he couldn’t hear me. He’d just get frustrated. So I always wished I could go see them again and have an opportunity to talk to them. And suddenly he was gone the end of October. Five months later my mom was in the hospital. She was going to come the middle of April and stay with me for 2 weeks. Which she had said that she would never do again…never stay with us again. But she was going to stay with us for 2 weeks. But she ended up in the hospital. We went there. My sister said she thought she was getting stronger and that she was looking better. So that first day she seemed weak and it just didn’t seem like the right time. The next day she was weaker. I just kept hoping for an opening that I felt like I could talk to her. It never came. Then she was just sleeping all the time. I would tell her that I loved her. But I never got to talk to her. Then she was gone. Five months from when my dad died. So I just want to say there’s going to come a time when there’s not going to be any opportunities. If anybody has the desire to talk to someone they love, and share how it made them feel, or ask how it made them feel. I wish I would have thought more. I’ve been thinking a lot lately wondering how my mom and dad must have felt when we just totally turned upside down and crazy and rode off on our high horses. I wish…I….I had dreams of things I was going to do with my mom. I was going to have her all to ourselves. No sisters or siblings around to interfere and I just didn’t get that opportunity. Just don’t linger too long. If you’ve got a little bit of time you can write notes or something. Just don’t take too long that your chances are all gone because it hurts.”

Mrs. Curt Wagoner: “Thank you. You can take comfort that it was her heart to come and spend 2 weeks with you even though it didn’t ever get to happen. You know, it was her heart.”

From the audience: “I just really liked hearing the longing in the young girls’ hearts here of wanting that relationship with an older lady. When my mom passed away I started seeking older ladies to relate to. I just went down the road and found some neighbors that were old. These dear old ladies, they are such wonderful ladies! And everybody has neighbors. Just find a neighbor that is old. My favorite lady, she loves the Lord but she has tobacco running out both sides of her mouth. I never know what, you know. But she’s wonderful! I just encourage you to find an old lady to love.”

Mrs. Curt Wagoner: “Thank you very much, Esther. I’m sure those older ladies were blessed very much by having you come into their lives because they were lonely too… God bless you. Thank you, Linda, very much for this stimulating talk, and each one of you for sharing too. God bless you as you go out to put it to practice!”