Recently our family had supper with another Christian family, and during our conversation they mentioned a young lady who had crossed their path. They had a season of interaction and ministry with her, part of which she actually lived in their home. Now they see her only rarely, and wonder how she is emotionally and spiritually – and may, perhaps, wonder a bit whether they had much of an influence on her life.
I’m willing to bet that they did.
A decade or so ago, I was in what was probably the darkest trial of my life. Only one other season – during my childhood – comes even close to the depth and intensity of the pain and struggle. This was definitely the darkest season in my adult life. I was a prodigal who – though back in the arms of my Heavenly Father – was in so many ways ignorant, naïve, worldly, and selfish. I was half-drowned in the mire and half-convinced that the slightly different colored and more shallow mire was the goal. The smallest step towards the path of righteousness was laborious, excruciating, and exhausting. This was in part because I depended far too much on my own strength rather than on Christ, in part because there was so much I didn’t know or didn’t understand, and in part because I just had so much baggage and remaining consequences from my waywardness.
There are many lessons from that season that I could share, and many testimonies of God’s work of grace in my undeserving life. One of those gifts He gave me was the gift of fellow believers.
Not just other people who I went to church with, either. Not just people I saw on Sunday…or even Sunday and Wednesday and small group. No! In His amazing grace and wisdom and mercy and love He blessed me with people who opened their very lives to me, put up with me, loved me, and taught me. They listened to my rants and the burdens of my heart – even the trivial and the annoying. They welcomed me into their homes and lived out true Christianity in front of me. They invited me to join their family for dinner and for outings – not only group church activities, but meals and activities their household so graciously opted to include me in. They rebuked me and corrected me – even when it made me mad. They were loving and compassionate, yet uncompromising and willing to speak the truth. They helped me with my temporal needs – even during the times that my situation was my fault. All of this while I behaved, well, quite bratty, really (when I reflect on it). I was that annoying immature church member that no one really wanted to be around — and they loved me anyway. They may not have felt love towards me in a touchy-feely “she’s so great” sort of way, but they sure did love me in an agape/love-is-demonstrated-in-our-actions/true Christian sort of way.
Probably the greatest thing any of these people did was constantly direct me to the Word of God. From every direction I was given books, invited to Bible Studies, given pamphlets, taken to special services, and personally counseled. As Aquila and Priscilla with Apollos, they took me and explained to me the way of God more accurately. The women taught me to love my children, and to love my husband. To be a keeper at home.
I was slow and stubborn. Years of quasi-feminist upbringing, lack of discipleship, emotional wounds and poor doctrine formed my tight, illogical, selfish worldview. In my gut I wanted so badly to please God, to live the whole of my life for Christ, to love Him with my heart and soul and strength. Yet far too often my experience and acceptance of lies as truth left me seemingly unteachable.
After a few years our paths parted, and I wonder if at that time they could see any difference yet. I wonder if they questioned their impact on me. It may not have been apparent at that point.
Nine years later, I can tell you with absolute certainty that they indeed had an impact on my life. A tremendous impact. An indescribable impact.
Because, through God’s grace, they cared. They obeyed. They persevered. They loved. They taught.
Their impact took time, yet it is far-reaching. Some lessons rang in the ears of my understanding years after the words were actually spoken, but the seed had been planted and it grew. By God’s grace, power and mercy – and in part by the influence of these faithful few – I am no longer who I used to be. At all. And I am thankful beyond words.
You may never know how greatly your life affects someone else. No one crosses our path on accident. Whether it’s the encouragement of a smile and a passing word, the sowing of the Gospel into an unbeliever’s heart, or true hospitality and love shown through the opening of our home and life to our neighbors and brethren, what we say and do really does affect other people.
Oh, that God would allow me to bless others even a fraction of the ways He has used others to bless me!