Jan Johnson

Wisbit - November 2015

Honorary Sons and Daughters

In the past few years, I seem to have acquired sons and daughters in the faith - under 40 men and women whose emails arrive, saying, “Can we talk?” I say yes - always - because Dallas Willard did this for me. So often he said, “Invest in people.” I think these multigenerational relationships are a primary form of disciple making - not in an institutional, checklist way but in an organic way. It’s more informal, but nonetheless intentional. Faith is as much caught as taught and we all need people who believe in us more than we do.

Taste and SeeI’m thinking of this just now because Advent will soon be here. Something that stood out to me while writing my advent guide Taste and See was the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth. In our culture we tend to form relationships based on common age, life experience, and location. These two had none of these things in common.

While Elizabeth was probably about sixty years old, Mary would have been about fourteen. While Elizabeth was the wife of a priest and lived in Judea, not far from Jerusalem—the Holy City, Mt. Zion, Mary was a poor peasant girl who lived in Galilee riddled with trade routes tainted by Gentiles (p. 47).

How did these two pregnant women manage together? Elizabeth was an elderly woman far along in her pregnancy. She would have been very fragile. Had Zechariah been trying to do everything for her? Had he hired someone to help her? Mary showed up in their lives and having come from a very poor family, she would have been used to hard work. Yet she was also in her first trimester when miscarriages often occur. Did Mary get up to do things for Elizabeth only to have Elizabeth tell her to sit down, that she too needed to rest? What did Zechariah think about having two pregnant women in the household? Was he extra protective?

The most touching thing is how quick Elizabeth was to believe Mary’s unthinkable, unbelievable news that “the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20). of the baby’s parentage. Because the Holy Spirit had grabbed Elizabeth and filled her, she believed the impossible--that the teenage girl standing in front of her was “the mother of my Lord.” And so these drastically different women lived together and obviously helped each other. One thing they did have in common is that neither of them had ever been a mother before. So they may not have shared much advice but no doubt they shared a lot of wonder!

My experience with coming alongside my under-40 friends is that I receive as much as I give. We both have something the other person needs. Even when I’m not with them, their words echo in my ears. They have led me to books I need to read; they have taught me to smile easily and effortlessly because they have modeled it and because they also need it from me. I could not say who is more blessed: them or me? Mary or Elizabeth? God supplies what we need in people so different from us!

    Grace and peace,
    Jan Johnson



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