Being a Disciple
When Jesus left the Earth, He looked around at the people gathered there beside Him and He gave this command:
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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV)
Go and make disciples. These words of Jesus have been what has driven the worldwide church forward in missions and evangelism for centuries. However, being a disciple (and then making disciples), does not require a move across the world to share the love of Jesus--it happens in our own homes, with our own families, with the people that we do life with on a daily basis. It is found in how we love our neighbors, how we choose to spend our time, and how we care for those in need right in front of us.
After a conversation with my friend, Ebonee, who is on the podcast this week, I sat thinking about some words she shared that shook me a bit. She said that Jesus wasn't the only one who had disciples.
I knew this, of course. I had read about John the Baptist's disciples. I had seen how Paul had told his followers to follow him as He follows Jesus. I saw how he discipled young Timothy into mature faith. I have heard of lots of other people who had been discipled wrongly as well--from the tragedy of the cult in Waco, TX led by David Karesh to the Heaven's Gate cult. But perhaps more "mainstream" are many who are led by the words of prophets or "men of God" who speak words and whose actions are wholly separate from the Truth of God's Word.
But, I think what struck me the most was the thought that I could be easily discipled by so many other people and things other than Jesus.
I'm so easily discipled by the latest book I have read or movie I have watched, or the recent podcast I've listened to. I get excited about new ideas I saw a mom try with her toddler on Instagram or the latest teacher "dos" from a "teacher influencer"I may follow. It is so easy to "follow" others, to be discipled by others, and get stuck in a place that isn't healthy or helpful. But, when you are in a discipleship relationship that is real and healthy and full of truth, that can be absolutely life-changing.
Probably one of the most life-changing discipleship relationships that I have been in was during my college years. Priscilla Schuburt oversaw the Residence Life at our university. Her and her husband Joel, one of the most servant-hearted men of God I've yet to meet, even lived in the dorms with us for much of my time at Hope. Everything about her drew me in, from her boisterous laugh, her generous posture towards others, and her heart towards drawing others to the Lord. Throughout my time at Hope, she was a part of my journey, but probably in my final year there, I experienced real healing and hope in my spiritual journey and was so encouraged by my conversations with her as she pointed me to the grace of Jesus Christ again and again.
That final year at Hope was extremely pivotal in my relationship with Jesus and turned my life upside down. I had become really good at "keeping up appearances" as an RA (Resident Assistant) in my day-to-day life, when internally, I struggled with intense depression, suicidal ideation, and was making some really sinful choices in my secret spaces. That year, God pursued me with a love that just did not give up or slow down...it was relentless. In February of 2004, He fully freed me from my darkest places and set me free to walk in truth and hope and love and to live out the call He had on my life. Priscilla was a part of that journey, walking beside me and before me, encouraging me and challenging me, listening to me and pushing me forward, always pointing me to the truth of God's Word. Whenever I look back at that season of life, she is forever part of the journey that God placed me on.
A few years after I graduated from Hope, I was given the opportunity to participate in helping to put together a women's conference with the school and area churches as they welcomed in one of my favorite authors, Angela Thomas, as she spoke through one of her books that changed my life, "Do You Think I'm Beautiful." I remember in one of her sessions, Angela spoke about being in relationship with someone where it felt like everytime she had an encounter with her, it felt like bumping into joy. She was so full of the Holy Spirit, so full of the life that God had called her to, that everytime she engaged with her, she experienced this overflow into her own life. When Angela talked about this woman that she had experienced in her life, it was like she was describing Priscilla to me. Bumping into her always led to this overflow of the love of Jesus into my life. She was quick to tears as she prayed for me, quick to laugh and celebrate the joy of the freedom that God was granting me in that season of my life, and continually pointed me to the Word as I began to walk in "new life", helping me to understand fully who I was then as a daughter of the Most High.
There have been seasons that have been really hard in the years that have gone by since those early days. Priscilla's best friend and a man that was loved and respected by many people, her Joelie, passed away after a battle with cancer. I battled with my singleness and wondered at God's plan for my life. She faced transition in work and living situations. I faced transitions in moving away from Hope, and eventually out of the area and then out of the country. The relationship could have simply slipped away, but Priscilla has been so faithful over the years to connect, pour in, and continue to disciple through the little conversations we have been able to have when I come to town, conversations that have left us both encouraged and filled up to continue on in the work that God has called us each to do in our current seasons of life.
Discipleship is simply this. Living life with someone else. Watching how they love Jesus so that you can love Him that way too. Digging into the Word of God together and being pointed to the truth when things get a little foggy in our forgetful brains. It is following Jesus and His teachings, together. Even when it is in hard seasons. Even when the hard questions come. Even in the unknown. It is continuing to point to the truth and walk it out, together. Open-handed, open-hearted, and surrendered to the will of God.