Discipleship In The Eyes of a Student
Editors' Note: The Goal for this Interview is to paint a picture of what true discipleship looks like between a college age student and a family. I have received plenty of requests from college students expressing their desire to have someone disciple them. But we felt challenged to express where we think the best discipleship happens, by being integrated within a family. In these two blog posts we interviewed a family and the college student (at the time) and asked them both what discipleship looks like as their lives were interwoven.
Discipleship In the Eyes of a Student: Below is the blog interview that was done with Maddy Barden.
Discipleship In the Eyes of a Family
How Can I Get Discipled?
Before we start, I wanted you to give people a background of your life. How did you understand the nature of “family” when you were younger, particularly before you started to follow Jesus?
I grew up in a family of 4 – My Dad, Mom, and older sister, Heidi. We went to church until I was about 8 years old (for reasons I am unsure of) but don’t remember being brought up in the gospel or seeing my parents really love Jesus. I looked forward to church so that I could be with friends or turn in tokens I had earned at Sunday school for toys. My parents were divorced when I was 13, my mom stating that my dad no longer wanted to “have fun” and live her “free-spirited” type of lifestyle. I lived with my dad through high school along with my sister and my relationship with my mom suffered. Both of my parents are alcoholics, which was something I wasn’t as aware of as I am now but I can look back on my time when I lived at home with my parents as having a significant impact on my trust of others and how I functioned in my relationships.
A few years ago you asked the Kruyswijks if you could come over and be a student of their family and learn. What were your intentions for reaching out to them, and what did you hope would come out of spending time with them?
I originally met Sierra (9) and Carson (7) during a church day-project cleanup when we re-did the garden area of Redeemer. The kids wanted to run around and help me with my different projects and it brightened up the work! I made the connection that Janine was their mom a few weeks later through volunteering with Redeemer Kids. I had been hoping to get in relationship with a family for a few months and already had made connection with a few of the members of their family. We got to chatting one day and she invited me over to dinner. I had heard from other friends and through various Christian blogs or posts that experiences with families helped them grow in their understanding of marriage, raising children and every day life in light of Jesus. My hope in spending time with the Kruyswijk family was to see how Jesus had changed their lives, share life together and to also grow in my relationship with their children so that I could be helping shape their hearts for the Lord as well.
You have spent a lot of time with the Kruyswijks and have sort of become a part of their family now. What sort of things has Jesus taught you about yourself that you wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t spent all this time with them?
Oh man, loaded question! I feel like I have gone through so much with them since we started spending time together! I’ve mainly learned that life is beautiful and hard and that Jesus is the only rock that we can rest on. I remember Sierra having a severe allergic reaction at one point in time and praying for her and beginning to see parenthood in a different way. I remember Janine first finding out she was pregnant with Eden, seeing her belly grow and getting to share in some of the first hours of her life. I learned so much about seeing Janine and Steve’s love for one another from Christ and then also to their children. Seeing the vulnerability and trust they have in one another humbled me to see that I could only ever do marriage and kids if I rest in Jesus and find him as my source to do those things. Outside of that I would fall on my face and fail miserably.
Before my experiences along side of their family – the good times and the hard – I thought marriage and having children was much more self based, and I thought I was pretty set and had the capabilities to take it on. Now I see that I will never be able to do those things without the power of Christ in me, trusting in his grace and with the support of God’s family around me. I’ve seen and learned more about how unappreciated moms are (and dads I’m sure as well) and how moms must be comforted that God sees their labors. What a humbling job that brings you to your knees in need of Jesus to sustain you.
I’ve learned a lot about grace and about the body of Christ. We are one and it’s beautiful. The Kruyswijks have extended grace upon grace to me and I’ve been able to do the same to them. I feel sharpened by them, encouraged by them and challenged and always accepted. I can come as I am and in my family growing up I couldn’t do that. We didn’t talk about the hard stuff, my parents didn’t talk to me about the hard things I was seeing on the news and I never felt freed up to tell them what I was struggling with. I’ve learned that it’s a joyous thing to share and to give grace so that others feel freed up to share as well.
What did the term discipleship mean to you before you started hanging out with their family? How has your view of discipleship changed, now after spending the last few years with them?
Discipleship to me meant meeting randomly and talking theology, at least in the most basic sense. Of course I believed life should be spent together but that was more in the sense of talking about our lives but not actually living life together. It was also something that I thought of being very hard (which I still think it is but in a different sense). I thought of it as hard because I thought you needed to have all the right answers and spend a ton of time together. Now I think the hardest part of discipleship is being vulnerable. I don’t want people to know the depths of my sin, I want to ‘keep face’ with people and want them to think of me as the best person who ever walked the planet (SO NOT TRUE!!!). Discipleship to me no longer takes on a formal sense and I am slowly learning how I can take my experiences of living life with the Kruyswijks and applying it into other relationships in my life. We definitely talk theology, I go over there on random days, and sometimes it is really hard. It’s the hard days that bind us together, we get to dwell in grace together and remind one another of the cross. It’s a beautiful thing to see them love and accept me as a sister and link arms with me and I am glad they allow me to speak truth to them and push them to love Jesus more. God has been gracious to us.
Through this experience, how has Jesus become sweeter in your eyes, specifically because of the relationship you have had with the Kruyswijk family?
Through my relationship with the Kruyswijks Jesus has become sweeter because I have seen his light shine through them onto me. When they show me grace, I am reminded that Jesus shows an even greater grace. It’s the same with when I experience love, acceptance, commitment, care and joy with them – Jesus is the sweeter and more permanent of each thing they extend to me.
Jesus has become sweeter in my eyes also because he has shown me how he has changed 2 weary sinners into a part of his covenant people (talking about Steve and Janine here) and is re-writing their family history starting now. I see them discipling and loving their children out of Jesus loving them and I want that for myself if I ever get married. My family history will no longer be ruled by money, alcohol, divorce, enmity or sin – it will be ruled by Jesus because he is my Redeemer. It’s been a gift and blessing to see how Jesus changes lives and how he will never stop chasing me as part of his bride.
What are some key takeaways you have learned over the years regarding (family and discipleship/mentorship)? (This is a two-part question)
- Family is beautiful. The love of a parent to a child shows a glimmer of God’s love for us as his children. It is a joy to be adopted into the family of God and the Kruyswijk family and get to experience grace there.
- Family is messy. Jesus claims the mess, gives you purpose in the mess and sustains you in the mess.
- Family calls you to lay down your life for others and trust that God sees your labor when it goes unnoticed. He calls us to obedience. Our labors out of what Jesus has done will not go unnoticed.
- Discipleship is costly. What was the most costly thing? Jesus laying his life down for his enemies. As we give up things for the sake of others, we get a taste of what it meant for Christ to come and humble himself to serve. We get to taste and see that the Lord is good because he paid the biggest price for the most unworthy people.
- Discipleship brings out surprises! God fully knows us and we barely even know ourselves. Meeting with others and sharing life together brings out sides to us we don’t know. We were all built differently, have different experiences and opinions and I think God uses relationships as a means to teach us more about who we are and who he made us to be.
- Discipleship is worth every hour. Even if it feels like you learned nothing new, didn’t get to share any joy with someone or maybe that something became worse in your relationship with someone God is using everything for our good as believers. He wants us to be in community with one another, regardless of what our hearts tell us.
What advice would you give the young college age student, particularly women, who desire to have an older mentor in their lives?
I’d tell them to put themselves out there and ask the hard question of, “Can I come help you around the house sometime?” I think it’s hard to expect a mom to be able to take time off to disciple a college-age woman (but still totally do-able). Most college age girls have time to go out to a house once a week, jump into family life – and it also gives an opportunity to serve. Take the kids on a walk so mom can have a break, wash the dishes after dinner, read the kids a bedtime story and tuck them in. Whatever is appropriate to the family – be respectful. I know I wouldn’t have as much knowledge of family life from sitting down for an hour a week with Janine over coffee vs. going out to their house for dinner. Now that relationship has even turned into me going out there for days at a time, sometimes even spending the night or helping in times of transition (when Eden was born or with Carson and Sydney having surgery).
If a college student is desiring to be a part of someone’s life and learn from them, what sort of things must they be willing to do, particularly to help out the family generously, not just as a consumer?
Jesus calls us to lay down our lives for the sake of others. A college student should be prepared to give up time. Maybe that is 2 hours a week. They must be willing to give up driving time and gas. You have to get to where you are going to serve and grow. If you don’t have a car, get two people to go together and split the cost. They have to be willing to go with the flow of the family and not have high expectations that all things are smooth-going at a home. You have to be flexible with the schedule (even if you are “starving”), with the crying or sick child (which makes things less pleasant, but, hey, it’s real life), or the tired parent after a long day (who may not feel up to listening to what is going on with your life for 3 hours).
It’s hard, but it’s a joy; a deep joy that is not only planting seeds in your heart that God will continue to cultivate, but you are given grace by God to plant seeds in their hearts as well.
Lastly, what are some specific things you love and appreciate about the Kruyswijks?
They have extended grace upon grace to me. Late night talks over cups of tea and granola bars. They trust me with their children and put me right into their family life. That I have been graced with loving each of their children, have gotten to build a friendship with each child and look forward to knowing them for the rest of my life. Their deep love for Jesus and desire to grow and trust him in his grace.