Finding a Place to Sharpen Your Sword
Last week I met with three of my best friends for a quick 3 night getaway. For a mere $100 plane ticket to London and free housing in Oxford, our annual girlfriend sanity weekend was in motion. Cheaper than therapy.
The four of us have become friends over the last 10 years through our missions organization. We have a lot in common… strong personalities, all in our 40’s, living in Europe, raising a bunch of teenagers cross-culturally, and married to strong leaders. We all love words, strategy, and God. Two of the group I would classify as mystics (extraordinary connection to and understanding of the spiritual realm) and two of us are pretty rooted in the here and now of earth – walking a lot more by faith than by sight. But the thing that binds us together most is our deep, driving passion to see the Kingdom of Light increasing in our families, neighborhoods, nations and world.
These are women who have challenged me, cried with me, strategized with me, prayed over me, and I kid you not, one of them has pulled an Edna on me (from the Incredibles) – and told me to “Pull Yourself Together!” (see the 44 second clip).
They are my own little posse of superhero girlfriends.
But we’re also normal, messy people. At times we come in pretty battered. We may bring the same broken situation, year in and year out. We may be in one moment, powerfully gifted and in the next neurotically insecure. (Okay, I may be speaking for myself on that one.) In other words, we are human. And this group of friends is what pushes us to be human superheroes.
One of my favorite conversations of the week was about the need for a place to “sharpen our swords.” To be people of purpose, living intentionally into what we profess to believe, we need a group of like-minded people to keep us on track. Whatever superhero skills that need development – vocationally, spiritually, or relationally, we need a safe place to learn new approaches, to try on new postures, to be challenged, and to have our swords sharpened.
If we are married, we may rely on our marriages to be the primary source of development (you know the ol’ “iron sharpens iron” verse) and yes, our spouse will be one of our greatest formation tools (understatement of the universe). But unfortunately when we clash swords frequent enough with our spouse at home, we get friction, sparks and if we’re not careful, someone loses an eye (or so my mother said). We all need places outside of our most intimate circle to be sharpened and challenged.
Finding a safe group of friends for this sort of mentoring, encouragement, and learning isn’t usually an easy thing to find. My first “intentional” friends group emerged accidentally with my two roommates from school in England. Though we lived in 3 different corners of North America, we made a pact to get together once a year for a girls’ getaway and kept that pact for 15 years straight… through college, dating, meeting our husbands, birthing children, exploring life calling, joining an intentional community, wrestling through faith, parents’ divorce, etc. We even let the families come one year. When our group stopped meeting for a variety of reasons, the loss felt almost as disorienting as my parents’ divorce– these friends rooted me through the turbulence of young adulthood.
My current superhero squad came about thanks to my friend Jody. “I just whined long enough until you all gave in,” she says, for even though our spirits were willing, our schedules were not. Her persistent, “We keep saying we want to do this, when are we going to make it a priority?” pushed the issue since it can be hard to carve out space for ourselves.
So where do you start if you want to be more intentional with creating a group to grow, share, and sharpen your sword?
• Decide whether to go local or global… I actually have two friends that I meet with locally for prayer several times per month (if we are lucky) and I meet annually with the superhero squad. Sometimes its best to have people outside your everyday network so you have freedom to share and receive fresh input about your life and work.
•Look for kindred spirits who push you… You want enough overlap in values and common interests to make it fun, but you want people who will stretch you as well. Someone with a different gifting (maybe they make their decisions with their head while you make them with your heart), different values (maybe they are committed to simple living or know a ton about health and fitness) or a theology or worldview that pushes you to broaden your perspective.
• Take the initiative…This is YOUR need. Are you going to take the initiative to see it met? Don’t wait for some else to catalyze the group – just do it. And yes, you can expect some rejections… finding a group with similar needs, availability, and desires that align with yours isn’t going to just fall into your lap. If your friends say yes but can never seem to make time, keep whining until it comes together or they admit they can’t make it a priority. If they turn you down, ask around to others who might be interested. Don’t give up!
• Start with a trial… Always make it a trial. Don’t sign up for the rest of your life. Try a one off meeting just to see if the chemistry is right. Try meeting monthly for 6 months. It’s like finding a hairdresser – you may need to go through a few iterations until you find a group that gels (no pun intended).
Some of you are are reading this thinking of your spouse/friend/parent/adult child and how badly they need a group for themselves. In general, it doesn’t work to catalyze these types of groups FOR other people. It has to come of their own initiative. I remember one of my friends announcing, “I’m done trying to set up play dates for my husband.” His need, his initiative. You can model, brainstorm, encourage, pray, pass on this blog post, but it’s more likely to stick when it comes through their own efforts.
The need to find a place to sharpen your sword is something critical for every stage of life development, even those in retirement. In fact, one of the most critical elements to finishing well in your life is having peer mentors. You need fresh input, accountability, and companionship for the journey right up to the end.
I challenge you to create your own human superhero group this year because more often than we realize, we all need an Edna in our lives to remind us of who we are. (Really, take a look at the clip.)