Why it matters to have older believers who love me
Although she’s no longer an “emerging adult”—as a married woman now with a child of her own—Melissa, age 27, speaks eloquently of what it was like to be floundering and hurting in an abusive, spiritually hypocritical family until she met true believers who loved her well and accepted her just as she was.
When I was young, my siblings and I went to church because my parents went to church, and it was expected that we go. After I turned 16, my dad said it was our choice. But still, if we wanted him to be pleased with us, we would go.
I eventually stopped going, mostly because of my parents’ hypocrisy. I don’t remember my parents praying or reading the Bible, but we were told we should read and memorize it. They talked about God but didn’t have a relationship with the Lord. That was apparent from their mannerisms, which were the same as my nonbelieving friends and family members: no love, joy, peace, patience, goodness or gentleness.
So I had a season of not going to church. I knew the Lord was drawing me close to Himself, but I resisted. A high-school friend and her parents were genuine believers. I’d see them reading their Bibles and treating each other in a way that was loving and faithful. It was a stark contrast for me. Even as I’d party, they would love and accept me. They pretty much showed me the gospel.
I came to the Lord when someone challenged me to disprove God and that Jesus was raised from the dead. I couldn’t deny the fact that Jesus was real and lived and died for me.
Once I made that commitment, I tentatively came back to church while in college. That church taught me the Bible and equipped me with the tools to study on my own. There was genuine relationship there, plus older believers who were intentional about building relationships with us young, really erratic people.
One older couple hosted a Bible study every Sunday night for students. It wasn’t, “Come at 6 and leave at 7:30.” Instead, we came at 5:30 and they provided a meal. We’d linger. They’d have a fire going. It felt like a home away from home. During the week, Cindy would check in with us or say, “I’ll be home on Wednesday if you want to come over and have coffee.”
When I think of Jesus, I think of Bill, her husband, who was tender and open and would love to hear you sit and ramble about your classes and how hard they were. He just cared. I hope to embody that and never get so busy that I’m rushing people or communicating that what they’re going through is trivial.
Now, as a millennial with my own child, I cling to older believers who love the Lord and who’ve walked with the Lord through their lifetime. Their investment in me is the biggest catalyst in my faith—rebuilding the trust I’d lost for so many years.
My advice for older adults in the church is to not have a closed hand in regard to your relationships. We understand that you’re kind of tapped out in the number of relationships you’ve already built. People care about attending church, about pursuing their career, about focusing on their family—so there’s no extra room to invite people into your lives and walk intentionally with them.
Instead, please invite us: “Our life is a mess and we don’t raise our kids well, but we’re doing our best. Come on over and have dinner with us, we want to get to know you.”