No, God. Not doin’ it. I am not studying the Word with a complete stranger.
Genuinely, I had only talked with this woman two times prior to the Spirit’s nudging on that Sunday morning and the first time I had introduced myself, I was absolutely and utterly SHOCKED when she turned around. Decked out in an adorable, super-trendy outfit, ankle boots to kill, skinny jeans that actually looked good, a feather necklace and earring combo, and locks that had more body than I could shake a hairbrush at; she was a knock-out from behind. So when she turned around after the morning message, I was fully expecting to be standing face to face with a 23 year-old millennial.
Oh. My. Word.
Sister turned around and ended up being the hottest middle-aged, dirty-blonde bombshell I have ever seen in the sanctuary of a church. EVER.
I was shocked.
And because I’m super awkward and feel the need to be honest about every expression that crosses my face, I said something along the lines of, “Wow! Standing behind you, I genuinely thought you were straight outta college!” And because she’s all kinds of super gracious, she didn’t take offense to my potentially offensive comment, but instead smiled and said, “Awww… thanks!”
Our second encounter was slightly less awkward but ended up a tad uncomfortable when I blurted out, “I really like you, and I’m thankful our paths crossed. I’m not sure what God has in store for us, but I’m going to pray that if He wants this to be more, then He will make that known.”
What in the world?!?! It sounded like a DTR (defining the relationship) conversation between two, awkward teenagers!!!
Genuinely, I’ve said all kinds of awkward things in my life (just ask my husband, family, friends, and anyone else who has been in my presence for any length of time, including strangers in the checkout lines of Target, Kroger, and Taco Bell), but I have NEVER, EVER said anything like this to someone I have only small-talked with twice! Truly, I have no clue why she didn’t take her cute self and switch churches ASAP.
Now rewind back to that morning in the middle of the message on Ephesians 1 (I can still remember it) when the Lord whispered to my spirit, You need to study the Bible with her.
Ummm…no, Lord. I don’t even know her. I’ve talked with her twice. She is nothing like me, and that is way awkward, even for me.
Jessica, I want you to study the Word with her.
Lord, no!!!! I don’t have time to do this, and I don’t even know if she wants to study the Bible. I am not doing this. I have two little kids, a part time job, and I’m already studying the Word with another friend. No.
Jessica, I want you to ask her.
Fine! I’ll study the Bible with her if she brings it up!
Notice how I avoided His “you ask her” suggestion.
The message went on, the pastor continued his sermon, and the Spirit seemed to quiet down in the ears of my heart. But when the message was done, and I turned around, I stiff-armed her and said, “Hey! Good to see you! I gotta run and grab my kids!”
I was literally trying to escape her JUST IN CASE the Lord was capable of having her ask me anything about studying the Word of God.
And what does this middle-aged woman with millennial style do when I try to run away? She grabs my arm (yes, she very literally tugs on me) and says, “Real quick! Do you know where I can study the Bible?”
Hopers, I kid you not. This is as real as my coffee is cold.
And because our #1 and #2 conversations were apparently not embarrassing enough, I started crying and said, “I think I’m your answer.” Oh, I wish you could have seen her shocked face, and then I really wish you could have heard me attempting to explain to this total stranger how I was trying to evade the Spirit’s promptings to meet with her. CAPITAL AWKWARD.
Hi, the Spirit told me to study the Bible with you, and I am trying to run. But by the way, I’m your answer.
From that quick conversation, we set up a coffee date where we met to talk about her story, her needs, and a potential plan for studying the Word together. And in the middle of that coffee-snob shop (their pour-overs are served in glass beakers), I learned the following:
She was 47, divorced and single, had two grown kids (had her first in college), had been in a very abusive marriage, grew up in the Catholic church, and had just come to know the Lord two years prior to our meeting.
Genuinely, I felt like we had absolutely nothing in common.
I was 32, married, had two small children, had never experienced any kind of abuse in my life, grew up in a Baptist church, and had professed faith at the ripe-old age of 6.
The duo of our discipleship was diverse. WAY diverse.
But God, in all of His beautiful ways, uses radical and unassuming people to fulfill His plans and seemingly-random relationships to accomplish His purposes.
He didn’t need us to be the same age, share the same denominational upbringing, have the same relationship history, be in the same season of life, have the same faith journey, or share the same Myers Briggs letters. And He certainly didn’t need us to share the same affinity for fashion (this girl loves her some flats and maxi shirts and doesn’t own a single pair of short, suede boots or a pair of skinny jeans). Nope.
He needed willing hearts who had a desire to go and grow, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.
In Matthew 28:18-20, the Lord says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Friends, His heartbeat isn’t for earthly same-ness; His heartbeat is for heavenly citizenship of all peoples.
Discipleship: Fellowship, Accountability, Evangelism, Bible Study, Training, Community with other Believers.
Notice that none of those descriptions of a discipleship relationship involves same-ness?
Our Messiah not only set the stage for the very first discipleship relationships, but He also epitomized the above list. And not a single one of His disciples was chosen because of their same-ness or like-ness to Him.
He discipled fishermen, tax collectors, women, prostitutes, the rich, the religious, the blind, the poor, scholars, and those who were smack-dab in the middle of their sins.
Jesus’ discipleship relationships reflected the very diversity of His mission.
All nations… all peoples… all dipped in the blood of Christ.
Hopers, I don’t know how the Lord is moving in your heart and who He might be bringing to mind, but can I encourage you to follow His promptings and listen to His leading… no matter the disciple?
It’s been over two years since we first met and since then, we’ve studied the books of John, Romans, Isaiah, Hebrews, and Revelation; we’ve laughed, cried, processed, and spurred one another on toward love and good deeds; and this “once-a-stranger” has become my soul-sister, fellow heir, and forever friend.
All because I got over myself, looked past our differences, and obeyed His call to make disciples of all people. Awkward or not, I hope you do the same.