I am currently co-leading a single mom small group with some really incredible young women from my church. Our small group is based on the study of an amazing book my pastor, Jeff Little wrote called It’s Worth It – A Fresh Perspective on Faith, Religion, and Relationships. The topic of our last session led us to an area that has always been difficult for me…leading the lost, hurt, and lonely to Christ. As a Christian, as a leader, and for someone who’s on staff at a church, that is not the easiest thing to admit especially when I’m surrounded by incredible leaders who seem to always say the perfect thing, at the perfect time, and with the perfect applicable scripture quoted.
That’s not me.
I am very much an introvert with a horrible memory for quoting scripture, who is happiest at home. Who feels anxious around people and even more so in large crowds of people. I dread small talk and most often come across as an awkward person who may even be perceived as standoffish. Who was saved only 17 years ago, with only the past 7 years fully dedicated to pursuing and loving Christ and hungry to know Him more. Even with all this, strangely enough God gave me a massive and at times overwhelming burden for hurting people, especially those who happen to be single moms or teenagers.
When I turned to God all those years ago, I learned over time that He speaks to me through my thoughts and a profound pressure in my heart and soul to do or say something. It won’t go away. His constant command has always been to use my past to help others, no matter the cost to my ego. Not easy for an introvert. But with the encouragement and push from my beautiful mentor and friend years ago, speaking of my past to help others has become one of the easiest things for me…easier than small talk! I never could have imagined the joy at watching another’s life change through Christ based on sharing my most humiliating and lowest moments in my testimony.
But just walking up to someone God is urging me to approach….well, that’s the difficult part for me.
The ladies in my small group have diverse personalities and perspectives and I believe, based on where we are all at in our walk with Christ, we were relieved to hear that this is a difficult area for all of us. We had some really great discussions about obeying Christ to reach out to someone who’s lost…maybe we know this person, maybe we don’t. The fear of being shot down, rejected and laughed at was a common worry amongst everyone.
It’s helpful to know and to understand that yes those things may happen but what’s important is to really listen and then obey. After several encounters that didn’t go so well for me (or the person involved!) and many where I disobeyed and just walked away…I had a long talk with God. I’ll spare you the details of my whining but after so many prayers of “come on God – please ask someone else” He responded by saying to me “You need to listen to Me. I did not ask you to SAVE them. I did not ask you to quote scripture or try to persuade them to love Me. What I asked you to do was to plant seeds. To love them as I love with absolutely no judgement.” Now, I can do that.
I used my memories of past encounters with Christians to help me understand this better. The lost don’t always consider themselves “lost” by Christian terms. So attempts to tell them they are and they need to be saved can be fruitless and perceived as critical judgement. As a former non-believer, I had been approached by several Christians over the years since I was a young girl. Those who know me well, know that my memory is not the greatest. But I will tell you that I remember every single person who shared the message of Christ with me over those years. Maybe not their names but I remember their face, the encounter and what was said. When I felt judged, I felt unloved which gave me moments to feel good about NOT having a relationship with God. I would think to myself “well, who wants that?” Certainly not me. But those who spoke of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness through their actions and THEN their words...those who took the time to listen, to care, and to share… are the ones who made the most impact.
When I gave my life to Christ 17 years ago, there wasn’t someone there with me sharing the message of salvation, telling me I will go to hell if I don’t believe, praying over me or trying to persuade me to believe as they do. Nope…it was just me on the floor, too tired, too stressed, and too overwhelmed to continue on. Those seeds that were planted by many different people over the course of many years had grown into branches that were now strong enough to lift me up as I was at my lowest. I remember the seeds of love, their strange perspective on life and joy, the seeds of grace and forgiveness…and as I continued to cry out to God, I whispered to myself… “I want that too.” And immediately I felt the presence of God saying, “it’s yours.”
I promise you, this decision to choose God was a monumental game changer for me in trying to survive and to exist in this world with purpose and meaning. One I am eternally grateful for. Now upon this acceptance did my circumstances drastically change for the better? No. Did I suddenly have money to pay our bills? No. Did I suddenly have a good, kind and loving man in my life? No. I found myself pregnant, alone and with little money just a few months later. This was not quite the grand and glorious change, I thought would just miraculously occur when I accepted Christ.
I continued to do life my way and on my own terms. I’ve always been stubborn and most often my own worst enemy. There would be two more times in the past 17 years, where Christ picked me up off my floor, in a mess of tears and at a point when the stress and exhaustion were just too much to endure and He reminded me that we were not created to do this alone. That I would need Him in order to succeed. The third and final time of giving my life to Christ, it finally stuck. And as I look back I can see all of the doors he opened, the opportunities and possibilities He provided but I had allowed my pride, stubbornness and my issue with obedience to get in my way.
God never once PUT me on the wrong path. I had continued to CHOOSE the wrong path.
The funny thing about planting seeds of Christ in people, is that once they are planted, they create permanent roots. They can never be permanently washed away from one’s thoughts. I may choose to disobey, to sin, to blame God or be angry with Him. I can push those seeds way back in the furthest part of my mind. I can fall off the proverbial Christian “wagon” for a season and yet the roots remain. “He” will never leave me. Only when I embrace Him and His word, I obey, I spend time in prayer, I ask and receive forgiveness and grace…when I choose a personal relationship with Him only then can those branches grow, strengthen, blossom and eventually produce the most amazing fruit.
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: Who should I send? Who will go for Us? I said: Here I am. Send me.” Isaiah 6:8
I love this quote by author Mark Batterson – “God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time, but it’s up to us to see and seize those opportunities that are all around us all the time.” Are you recognizing and seizing the opportunities God is strategically positioning in your life? If this resonates with you, I pray that you will ask and truly listen to God’s instructions. He is providing opportunities and moments for you to plant seeds that produce lasting fruit in other’s lives all the time whether at work, at church, school or out to dinner. This fruit can change generations long after you’re gone. I challenge you to step back and look around…really look at the people around you and ask God to identify who He wants to speak to through you and then step out and say “send me Lord.”