In my last article, I talked about how we are a part of the Body of Christ regardless if we feel like it or not, regardless if it has the people that we like or not, and how we rejoice and suffer with each other. We need each other, and are stuck with each other! When we decide to be an active and interactive member of the body, we will see more of how God designed us to live in freedom. I truly believe that the biggest part of us being interactive with each other is shedding light (truth) into other's lives, and allowing others to shed light into our lives as well. When we do that, I truly believe we will live freeing lives to be the women God has created us to be in the mission He has called each one of us to live.
In my journey towards living in the light, here are 7 area that helped others shine light into my life (and, hopefully, vice versa):
1. Complete openness to my husband
For me, this one was the easiest because I can't hide anything. And Malcolm knows that!! He can read my face like a book - sometimes a very confusing book, but he keeps reading. Malcolm is my first ministry, and I'm his. We are one flesh under God, and two broken sinners saved by grace walking towards Jesus together.
After hearing horror stories of couples that ended in divorce from affairs, I noticed one of the biggest issues (maybe not the main one) was lack of honest communication. I want to know all the gritty details about Malcolm so he knows he can bring anything up with me and I will accept him. He doesn't have to go elsewhere for a listening ear, and he doesn't feel like he has to hide anything from me. And the same is very true for me too! Complete honesty, even if it's harsh, is better than years of built up bitterness due to lack of communication.
Not only that, but Malcolm also provides a perspective that I don't naturally hold. He helps me see situations more clearly and proceed in better communication with others.
2. Honest and descriptive answer to, "How are you?"
So often we treat the question, "How are you?" more as a greeting than actually taking the time to see how that person is doing. It's easy to respond with, "I'm good" or "Just fine thanks." But is that truly how you are feeling? Most of the time, I bet not!
For me, I saw this as an area of being fake to people. I was ready to stop being fake and share how I was actually doing. Some responses I use often now (that you are welcome to use too to get you started) are:
- "I'm okay. It's been a draining week."
- "It's been a battle this week - let me tell ya!"
- "Good. Super busy, but actually good!"
- "I'm exhausted!"
What I found as encouraging was that people would actually ask clarifying questions and thank me for sharing with them! I have had people pray for me on the spot and at home throughout that next week. And they would ask me about specifics next time we saw each other! It showed me just how much people actually did and still do care about me specifically.
3. Fully utilizing my accountability group
My three closest friends and I make up an accountability group, and they are the most encouraging group of ladies I know! But for some reason I have a hard time bringing up the things that I really struggle with. I don't naturally enjoy sharing details about my relationship with Malcolm that I'm embarrassed about. I especially don't like bringing up repeat issues! But I have realized that the more I share, and the sooner I share it, the more I can actually be kept accountable to the things that need to change.
One thing that has been hard for me, that I've been sharing on and off through this blog, is my struggle with not getting pregnant. Last fall I was really struggling to where I would almost start crying just looking at pregnant women! I didn't want to keep telling the girls how I kept struggling trusting God in this area. I felt so silly every time I brought (and still bring) it up, that I didn't want to keep sharing. But I did. And within an hour of me posting my message in our Facebook message, 2 of the three girls called me on the phone to pray for me!
It has meant so much to me to have these ladies walk through this process with me. And I in turn get to walk with them through their trials and pray with them and ask them the hard questions too. There is no judgment or condemnation from them, but love, truth and full acceptance.
4. Vulnerability in one-on-one discipleship
My vanity really wants to look good in front of other people. And I especially want to look like I have everything together in front of the girls I work one-on-one with on campus. But I has this epiphany a couple years back. When I was in college (and actually still today too), I wanted to know the truth of people's struggles so I could learn from them! I wanted to know what they did in my situation. So I started sharing my victories in Christ and a lot of my failures as well. I'm honest about the doubts that I deal with, the confusion I feel, the areas that I need to trust God in, how I don't always have a quiet time or pray the way I should be, etc. I don't share everything at once, but I try to set the pace for where they are at vulnerability wise. The more we grow, the more I share and invite them to share as well. I don't try to put on a facade of being Penny Perfect Christian. I just share who God has made me and where He is taking me next.
5. Finding someone to be a "mom" to me
After a year of being married, Malcolm and I started praying that I would find a mom - someone to talk to in Durango who can do mom things with me and talk to me with good, honest mom advise. I was so scared to ask anyone because I didn't feel worthy of "adopting" as a daughter - especially if they had their own real kids of their own. Close to Thanksgiving, I was trying to do a sewing project at home and it was a disaster! I asked a lady at my church who said if I needed help she would help me to help me. After an hour I broke down weeping. My mom used to do sewing projects with me, and though I wanted to learn more how to sew, it just showed me how much I missed my mom and was needing a mom in my life. Denise, looked at me and said, "Leah, sometimes I feel like I'm not very good at many things when it comes to discipleship, but I do know how to be a mom. If you need a mom, I'm here for you."
Denise has brought salve to my wounded soul! She rebukes me when I'm being a turd to Malcolm, worries about me working too much without breaks, rejoices in victories on campus along with sympathizing in the difficulties. She gives me tons of hugs and gives me the time to listen. And, the best part, she tells people that I'm her daughter! Denise can't replace my mom - or my step mom who doesn't live here - but she has certainly been my Durango mom that I've needed!!
6. Engaging in a bible study I didn't lead that also had older ladies in it
Full-time ministry is different from any other job, and can be super draining. There have been times where I felt super depleted because I was giving so much of my time, energy, money, resources and mind. It hit me once I got married that I encourage the girls I work with to be a part of bible study, so why I am not getting involved in one?
I love the bible study at my church! It's a beautiful mix of women from all different stages of life. They have such rich insight into God's Word, along with a beautiful simplicity that brings me back to the heart of God. And I see each year how they are also becoming real in the struggles they face.
Can I take a second to talk to you older ladies? You have such a huge impact on the younger women around you!! Do you know that? Do you believe that?? As a younger woman, I need your honest on life struggles. I need you to be real about the world, and specifcally about your doubts, your eating habits, your issues with your kids, your hard times respecting your husband, your body image. The more you're real with me, the more real I want to be. If you are unwilling, you are setting the pace for the younger generations to not talk about their lives, and all that does is create secrecy which leads to isolation. As a younger woman, please set the pace for me! I am dying to share the real things I deal with you.
7. Asking real questions to facilitate others to live in the light with me
I realized toward the beginning of my journey in walking in the light with others that if I wanted others to be real with me, I had to set the pace with being honest. If I wanted to work out an issue, I would need to bring it up to someone I trusted. If I wanted to stop walking into the same sin, then I would need to tell my accountability group. If I felt like I was going to explode from too many life issues, then I would need to seek help.
The more I brought up stuff and shared how I was really doing, more people would start sharing with me. It didn't matter who it was - Malcolm, students I was working with, ladies at bible study, my accountability group, my in-laws, the barista on campus - if I took a (appropriate) step of being real with others, the more they were real with me. And the more real I was with people, the more free I felt to be who God made me to be, the accepted I felt as a member of the body of Christ. Not that I was any less of God's creation before, or that I was not as much as Christ's Body than before (which I brought up in the last article), but the truth was confirmed in my life in those areas.
These are just areas that have helped me, and maybe you have other areas that have helped you. Please share! I encourage you take a moment to ask God what you should do next to take the next step in living in the light toward others. My article will be hopefully wrapping up this series of living in the light - unless God teaches me another aspect before then!
Leah works with Master Plan Ministries at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. Other than watching college students' lives change, she enjoys getting her mind blown by God and His Word, watching sci fi, baking cupcakes, and spending time with her hunky husband.
If you'd like to read more from this contributor, type her name in the search box on the top right.
Sharing this over at these awesome blogs