Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Five patterns to practice in relationships

Part 2 of an interview with Pamela Havey Lau,
Author of A Friend in Me 

Young women long for relational connection. Yet, without realizing it, more mature Christian women often distance themselves from women in their twenties and thirties because they use different language to talk about God or have different views on church and theology.

In A Friend in Me: How to be a Safe Haven for Other Women (David C Cook/June 1, 2015/ ISBN: 978-1434708649/ $15.99), Pam Lau shows readers how to be a safe place for the younger women in their lives. She offers five patterns women need to internalize and practice for initiating relationships and talking about issues such as faith, sexuality, and vocation. Most significantly, she reminds readers that when generations get together, they can have a global impact and experience a deeper personal faith than they’ve ever known.



Q: Why do you think it’s harder for women of the younger generation to create meaningful connections with other women?

It’s hard for women from all generations to create meaningful connections, especially with today’s social media, but the younger ones have never known any different! While the need to connect hasn’t shifted, but the opportunities and ways we connect deeply have moved — and they continue to change rapidly. We have all the right tools to connect, but the sheer number of choices, our overall lack of commitment and the breakdown of strong family ties encourage us to live our lives as free agents. So like Dorie in Finding Nemo, we just keep on swimming, exhausting ourselves in the process. We just can’t see clearly to make satisfying connections that are certainly there!

The problem is there’s a gap that’s widening. The way the older generation talks about faith, sexuality and vocation can send the message, “I don’t agree with the way you’re living your life.” On the other hand, the way younger women work, support themselves financially and build relationships may send the message, “I am fine, and I don’t need your support.”  However, I have discovered women all across the age groups desperately need and want close relationships with one another. Our greatest connections are already there — we just need the Spirit of God to open our eyes and soften our hearts.

Q: How would you define authenticity in a relationship?

When authenticity is alive and well in a relationship, people are honest about themselves and about how they feel when the other person hurts them or makes them feel loved. You can't feel loved if the other person isn't loving the real you. You have to come to the relationship as you are — not as you want someone to perceive you to be. That goes both ways. For a relationship to remain authentic, it can't be about transactions or who has done what for whom. It's also not bearing it all without any boundaries. As Christians, authentic relationship takes on a whole new level because we have Christ interceding for us and praying we will love one another as he loved his disciples while he was here. What can that look like here on earth? Christian authenticity is listening spiritually to one another's lives. We minister to each other as we listen to what the Spirit is saying or doing in another person's life. There's a passage in Hebrews that describes the Word of God as alive and active, cutting through everything. That's what authenticity looks like in a relationship where Christ is the center — it cuts us to our truest, most real self. The world is thirsty for Christian authenticity.

Q: Have you ever had trouble being authentic with the women in your life?

When authenticity is alive and well in a relationship, people are honest about themselves and about how they feel when the other person hurts them or makes them feel loved. You can't feel loved if the other person isn't loving the real you. So you have to come to the relationship as you are — not as you want someone to perceive you to be. That goes both ways. For a relationship to remain authentic, it can't be about transactions or who has done what for whom. It's also not bearing it all without any boundaries. As Christians, authentic relationship takes on a whole new level because we have Christ interceding for us and praying we will love one another as he loved his disciples while he was here. What can that look like here on earth? Christian authenticity is a spiritual listening to one another's lives. We minister to each other as we listen to what the Spirit is saying or doing in another person's life. There's a passage in Hebrews that describes the Word of God as alive and active, cutting through everything. That's what authenticity looks like in a relationship where Christ is the center — it cuts us to our truest, most real self. The world is thirsty for Christian authenticity.

Q: Why are cross-generational relationships so important? What is the biggest hindrance in making them work?

Cross-generational relationships are a reflection of the Church. We often spend time with people in our own age or life category, which can be rewarding, but we miss out on the history of life when we’re not with people ahead of us. Younger women need the connections with women ahead of them as they make life decisions. I love, love spending time with my younger women friends, and I work on remaining a safe haven. That’s the biggest hindrance in making cross-generational relationships work — learning how to be a safe haven. Until that happens, the younger women will remain spiritually independent, and that’s not God’s will for the Church universal.

When women are safe havens for one another, the need for spiritual independence decreases. When I read Peter’s reaction to Jesus washing his feet in John 13, I realize that’s what we say to one another when we so desperately need to love and be loved. “You’re not going to do that for me! I will take care of myself.” Jesus was the safest haven of all, and Peter still hadn’t trusted him!

Q: As a busy wife and mother, what are some ways you build time into your life to make friendships a priority?

Once I accepted the fact I cannot survive without meaningful connections with women, I could identify ways to build quality time into my world. Here are a few: Once a week, I pull up my calendar and carefully scan the upcoming week. I look for a work-to-friend ratio. Am I working too many hours without taking a break? Do I have too many social connections scheduled in a week? Too many can drain me and keep me from connecting meaningfully, so I pace myself. 

I also pay attention to the kinds of connections I need. For example, one woman serves more as a spiritual director, another walks closely with me in my writing, one woman prays with me weekly (sometimes daily) and another friend loves to run long distances. My point is not one woman can meet all my needs, and these friendships are reciprocal — so it’s never just about me. One mistake married women with children can make is to form all their friendships around their children’s friend’s parents. Although wonderful friendships can form from those years, I’ve seen over and over how women feel a deep sense of loneliness when their child leaves a school or a family decides to stop homeschooling. 

Q: What are the five patterns you want women to internalize and practice in their relationships with other women?

I want women to practice and know how to talk about their own experiences so they can connect with women who are a bit behind them in life. 

·         The other side of pain and suffering
·         The power of comfort
·         Acting with understanding
·         Knowing full forgiveness
·         Relating with compassion

Learn more about Pamela Havey Lau and A Friend in Me at www.pamelalau.com, on Facebook (pamela.h.lau) or by following her on Twitter (@pamelahaveylau).

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