In the last few weeks, I’ve had some really strange dreams with really random people involved. I’m 9 months pregnant, and for whatever reason, pregnancy messes with your head that way (or at least in my experience it does). These dreams, though, they’ve caused me to do a lot of reflecting. The last few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about the first year or so I was a Christian and even though God took care of me and worked it all out for my good and His glory, there are some things I realize now that I wish I would have known or done in that time. Hind sight is 20/20, right?
So as 2015 comes to a close and as I’ve pondered these things, I felt like it might be a good idea to share. If you’re out there and you’re considering committing your life to Christ, or if you have recently, I’d love to share it with you especially, because
1. Read. The. Bible.
I mean actually read it. I went to church darn-near every single Sunday morning and I read the verses we covered in the sermons, and occasionally, I’d just sit and read a few chapters here and there, but I wish I would have spent more time really reading the Word. In the first year, I took a lot of what people told me about the Bible at face-value. I listened to a lot of teachers I won’t listen to anymore because I eventually checked what they said about God against what God said about Himself and found many discrepancies.
For example: I should have fact-checked what some of these teachers said about suffering. I suffered much when I first became a Christian and I didn’t expect people to hate my new choices so much. It would have saved me so much heartache and confusion had I known that suffering in that way – being hated for His sake – would ultimately bring me closer to Christ if I’d only known that at the time. (So please, fact check me if you read my blogs. I really want you to!)
I’d like to note also, that so many Christians more mature than I am even now told me to do this, and in my naivety, I said “Yes, absolutely!” I thought it was such a great idea, and then I never really followed through. But they knew better than I did at the time how important this really is. The Word is ALIVE and gives life. It is, in its entirety, good for teaching and rebuking, and at the time, I needed so much of both.
2. Join a small group of my peers.
When I got saved, I’d sort of been introduced to Christ by my boyfriend at the time. He wasn’t a missionary dater and I won’t go into all of that business, but most of what I learned in that time came from him and him alone. He lived in another city and I didn’t really have much time to get to know the people at his church in my age group, and I allowed fear to control me so much that I didn’t step out in my own church community until much later to find like-minded people my age to spend time with. Because of this, I spent much of my first year(s) as a Christian with one foot in the door and one foot still on the stoop. I invested in a lot of relationships I maybe shouldn’t have because they weren’t very life-giving, and in that first year, I could have used more godly influences to bounce my questions off of and learn to study the Bible with, or honestly, even just to go bowling with or something. People who understood my life choices and would have encouraged me in those decisions and weren’t just out to see what I would or wouldn’t do now that I was a professing Christian.
3. Find a mentor.
This is something that wasn’t recommended to me until later in that first year and it took me forever after that to actually find someone that I would be real and vulnerable with. God led me to a wonderful woman who has invested in me immensely and has challenged me in ways I can’t even begin to explain. But she does so because she’s further along in life and in seasons than I am and she has wisdom that I don’t, and she’s not a family member so she isn’t partial to me in any way. She does show me so much love as if we were family (well, we ARE family in Christ), but she isn’t motivated to protect me or shield me from anything; her only goal is to ultimately lead me back to Christ. I can’t help but wonder how differently the first year(s) would have been had I really understood the value of a Titus 2 relationship and actually pursued one for real and practical help discovering who I am in Christ.
This, I think, is especially important for women. It’s important for men, but I’m not one of those, so I’m partial. But we live in a society that tells women we aren’t just equal in value to men, but equal in every way: design, ability, intention, etc. And we aren’t – and that’s AMAZING! It doesn’t demean us in any way to say that we have our own role. It makes us special. It sets us apart as different and unique from our male counterparts and I have been so blessed by accepting my God-given differences from my husband, and having a mentor who is also a Christ-following wife and mother has been a God-send in teaching me what God made me to be.
I volunteered here and there, because the boyfriend at the time worked for a church doing inner-city children’s missions, but because I was just a visitor, I didn’t exactly have a role there. Occasionally, I’d help them pass out food or something, but I didn’t have much to offer them at the time, I thought; I didn’t have any authority there or anything to say because I wasn’t experienced enough, but I had love and I could color.
The last two weekends I spent at his church, I sat at a table with a bunch of kids no older than second or third grade and colored pictures with them. One of the leaders told me that evening that she’d never seen so many completed pictures, let alone, so many proud children asking to have their pictures displayed around the room. I believed for so long that I didn’t have much to offer ministry because I couldn’t lead a Bible study … but really, that night, coloring with those kids was ministry. An adult took time, not to correct them or take them too seriously, but just encouraged them to creativity and did it with them. I knew they had fun, but I didn’t know the impact that had on kids, or other people for that matter. I wish I knew the value of just spending time with people and getting to know them for who they were or what they’re into, that it didn’t have to be this grand thing. We could just do something together and that could be it. That could be the love of Christ that they need. Had I known earlier the effect of that on the hearts of the broken, I might have spent more time doing it.
I know there are more things I wish I would’ve known or done back then just because I know I made mistakes, you know? I know I hurt people in my immaturity and naivety, and I know I brought hurt on myself too. I can only praise God for His goodness and faithfulness to complete the works He begins in us, and His unfailing love that just continued to pursue me, guide me, and protect me in my stubbornness, knowing He had a plan all along. So like I said, He works it all out for His glory and for our good. I’m not complaining, I’m just sharing, hoping it might encourage someone new to the faith to more wise choices than I made or make someone mature in the faith say “Amen” or hey – even giggle, because we know we’ve all been there.