It surprised me every time, until I finally figured out what was happening.
Long day. Little sleep. A thousand small worries and of course, the usual big ones, my bad attitude chief among them. The only reason I was gathering my Bible and journal and a pen and laptop was because Katie would be calling me in 4 minutes for our time in the Word together.
I’d sit down in front of the computer, open Skype, and wait for her call. I’d wiggle around on the couch trying to get the light to be not-so-focused on the dark circles under my eyes. I’d doodle a few words in my journal half-heartedly. The day didn’t feel worth remembering. After all, who wants to remember failure?
Then Katie would call. I’d accept the invitation to Skype, and there was her beautiful face. We’d chat for a few minutes, or 30—about our day, week, and just why we were both so grateful for this time together in the Word because, boy, did we need it. Then one of us would remind us that it was time to actually open the Word, and we’d begin.
Always with prayer. Always feeling desperate and unworthy, and always, always…He showed up.
Suddenly the words would jump of the page just like they did that morning in North Carolina when I was 21. Something Katie would say would ring in my ears, the ring I knew was truth. Sometimes, as we talked, I would hear myself proclaim truth which I knew came from His spirit—because I’m a firm believer that every good gift is from Him and there is nothing good in me. Every single time we met together, He was there with us.
Finally I quit being surprised by this, but I never got tired of it. He made a promise when He was down here on this ground we walk around on that where two or more of His disciples would gather in His name, He’d be there. In the midst of them. He promises to be there when we come together for the purpose of seeking Him.
And so we did, and our time often looked something like this…We would read–sometimes a whole chapter, but more often just a few verses, and study the passage inductive-style where we explored the meaning and message of each verse with other parallel passages to give us insight and perspective. Sometimes Katie gave me homework–a question to explore further during my journaling time, or an assignment to seek God in a certain area of my life. And she always asked me what God was saying to me, challenging me to not just hear the words, but open my heart up to what God was saying to me personally in the passage.
That’s what discipleship looked like in my life, in that season. It has looked different at times since then. And I have had a chance to disciple others in ways not so scheduled or structured. But my point is it’s not so much what it looks like, but that it should be happening in every believer’s life.
Why Everyone Needs Discipleship
Discipleship changed my life–permanently. Although at the time I thought I was just in a season in which God felt closer, and I was expecting it to fade at anytime, that’s not what happened. Discipleship–having another believer walk along side me, helping me hear the truth and apply it to my life–had a permanent affect on my walk with God.
First, it helped me to see God more clearly--and once you’ve seen Him, you are changed. I needed Katie in my life because although I’d been reading my Bible for 25 years on my own, my perspective was warped. I needed someone who stood at a slightly different angle to help learn to see truth and walk in it. In the past my relationship with Him had been based on emotion and circumstances–I felt close to Him when life was good, and lost when life got rough. Now my relationship with Him is based on what I have learned about His character and what I have seen of His heart.
Secondly, discipleship provided that essential ingredient for growth: accountability. As a young mom in a very demanding season, I didn’t have enough self discipline at the end of the day to engage practices that were crucial to my soul health. Just like a jogging partner, or a health coach, involving another person to reach a certain goal significantly increases your rate of success. I sat down and made it happen because it was more than just me I’d be letting down if I gave up.
Finally, discipleship should be a part of every believer’s life because of the joy that it brings. John says in his first letter, “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His song Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (John 1:3-4) God designed us for community, and He created us to thrive when we are living authentically along side other believers. Fellowshipping with our Father, sharing with others what He shows us, and receiving encouragement and inspiration from other believers is a cycle designed to complete our joy. If we’re not partaking in this deeper sharing and fellowship, we’re missing out on a joyous gift from our Father.
Katie and I now live in different time zones, and our schedules preclude regular discipleship sessions. But my season of seeking God alongside my sister in Christ has given me a taste for gathering with others in Christ’s name. Sometimes this is pulling out my Bible in the middle of a conversation, more often it’s a willingness to go deeper in conversation, beyond the “fine and how are you” to asking how a friend’s heart is doing, and sharing my own struggles and glimpses I’ve had into the Father’s heart. Discipleship has become a way of life for me, and I’m so grateful for the gift that it is.
If you have never actually studied Scripture in company with one or a few other people, I pray that this glimpse into my experience with discipleship will inspire you to seek out opportunities to go deeper with the believers in your life.
Next time I’ll share how a conversation with an older mentor broke chains and finally set me free to fully embrace the work God was doing in my life. (For the full story of how God wooed a stuck-up pharisee into a joy-filled grace-clinger, read the whole All Is Grace series.)