We love to see familiar faces here on Calling Over Comfort and I am so excited to welcome back Vanessa in our first follow up interview! We first met Vanessa in January of 2019 (post is available to read) stepping into new territory as she began to respond to God's calling on her life for worship. Since then, she has encountered a lot of new things: growth, new depths of God's character, and lots of questions she had about moving forward in obedience. The one thing she knew she wanted to tackle first was understanding what it meant to love people well and that is where our follow up interview began!
Vanessa recounts, "I didn't realize that loving people well was apart of the sanctification process. Loving your neighbor as yourself was just put into a new light and I wanted to live that out with the people I live with, work with, and just generally encounter. It's hard, though, to do that at work. That's another story. It's a battlefield and being virtually the only Christ follower there, it's just really hard. I want them to know that [following Christ] is not what they think it is; it's not judgemental or a bunch of rules. I just didn't know how to share that with them. But I'm working on it and learning practical steps to share the Gospel there. Walking with the Spirit is something I'm learning so I'm excited to know how to do that better and more often."
That's incredible y'all! Having the humility to know that she doesn't know everything, we can't know everything, and the process of sanctification is long and bumpy but it brings us closer to knowing the personhood of Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit to grow more intimate with God, the Father. I honestly have always been amazed to listen to her speak and see the heart that she has for wanting to cultivate intimacy with the Father and the growth that I have been able to witness as her sister in Christ, friend, and small group leader has been a blessing.
As we sat in (one of the many, thank God) local Starbucks, we went into more detail about what it meant practically to love our neighbor and do so well and how she felt her understanding of and approach to evangelism had grown or maybe had been stagnant. Vanessa had this to say, "I feel like I haven't grown much in the area of evangelism because I got scared to share the Gospel at work. But like you say, knowing that it's not my job to save people, and I can't save people, that's the Holy Spirit's job, that takes the pressure off and knowing that now really helps in my nerves to share the Gospel. When I'm with [our small group and college ministry] at church, I have no problem sharing it! I just used to be afraid that my coworkers would think I'm weird but now I know I can be more confident and intentional with my coworkers and I look froward to doing that in 2020. I want to be bold about my relationship with Jesus and I won't let fear hold me back cause, you know, I don't have that spirit. I have the Holy Spirit!"
Yes and amen!!! We were NOT given the spirit of fear, but we WERE given the Spirit of God! And that is such an important thing to understand as we go forward in whatever context we are sent to share the Good News with everyone we know. We cannot save people, nor can we open anyone's eyes. We are NOT the Holy Spirit. God does not need us to help Him be God. He is all powerful, sovereign, and has been moving since before humanity was ever created. He has been moving before us, is moving now despite us constantly falling short, and will continue to move after we are gone. But please hear my heart when I say this: despite God not needing us, we have been commanded to take part in what He is doing because He loves us and has made it very clear, especially through Him sending His Son, Jesus, that He WANTS US to partner with Him in building His kingdom! What other King would do that? Though we cannot save people, we CAN and have been called to share the Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John) and go out & make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20).
We then transitioned into talk more about community and its importance in her life. "I feel like I am beginning this year with a better sense of what community looks like than I did last year. I have women who have my left and there is a lot more accountability to spur me on and encourage me. It's just so nice to know I have a genuine and intentional atmosphere to bring my problems and go to for support." Vanessa reflected. She continued by saying, "I feel like if I were to encourage my old self, I would say submit every little thing to the Lord. All of your desires, feelings, fears, even your lack of faith. Submit it all to the Lord, no matter how much you want to hold onto it. It's not gonna serve you and you can't serve Him if you hold onto it. His love for me was there before I even realized my lack of love for Him was there. Even though I didn't love Him in the moment, His grace covers that."
Let me just take a pause here to tell you, as her sister, friend, and small group leader, it is SO ENCOURAGING for me to hear her say this because I remember a season where she doubted herself and questioned if the Lord was even working in and through her. But to see those lies and fears in grace where they belong and see the new Vanessa come out victorious because Jesus says she is free and new and victorious, I am here for this new energy to serve the Lord and live in Truth! We drew our time to a close by me asking her if she had advice for her new self and she had this to say:
"I am growing in boldness this year and it's really only going to come with total reliance on the Lord and not myself. I can't do it alone and I want to put my old self to death so I can love others well at work and home. For the non-believers and new believers, I'm surrendering everything more now and I am specifically giving over my discouragement to God. Surrender everything at the foot of the Cross and rely on Him even when you don't want to. Even when you think you can handle everything yourself, He is really proud of you for taking that step and loves you more than you could imagine. Especially when you feel like you've done nothing. Rely on Him and dwell on the sovereignty of God because there is a lot of freedom knowing that He has already won and already walked the path we are walking; living the life we couldn't so we can walk in freedom now."
Amen, y'all! I am hoping you feel encouraged by hearing Vanessa's story and catching up with her. I encourage you to check out the Calling Over Comfort Instagram page for daily encouragement and direction towards God. We do not exist for the sake of us, but we exist for the sake of the Kingdom of God and I am honored to be able to partner with Him and do so in community with women like Vanessa. It's a good day for salvation y'all! Go out and share the Gospel, be bold like Vanessa is being challenged to be, and I will see y'all next month with our February Woman in Ministry.