Say hello to our girl, Amanda! She is our March Woman in Ministry and I was so excited to be able to sit down with her and chat about what the Lord is doing in her life and how she is seeing growth happen.
When we sat down, I asked for some insight into her walk with the Lord; what did it look like, how did she spending time with Him and what did it look like to stay disciplined? She started out by saying this,
"I try to draw very close to Him; it's so easy to get distracted by the world. Practically speaking, this looks like spending time journaling and in prayer, being disciplined. I know that now but really, everything started to make sense as a sophomore in high school; it was no longer just going to church on Sunday, but I was asked to go deeper. There is more, so much more, and I learned the difference between real intimacy with the Lord and going through the motions in high school. That is when the real desire to be in Scripture and prayer started. But I did not start journaling until a couple of years ago; as someone who is very emotional, it is very practical to do write it out so I can process the way that He has knit me together. Putting together the words really helps give clarity. I think it depends on the person of course, there is no one way to have that alone time with Him. He just wants to meet with us, so if that looks like journaling or deep diving in Scripture in that moment, then do it. If it means worshipping to music for a few hours another day, then do that!"
I think something we often do is compare our quiet times to other people because we want to be the Bible journaler or the writer or musician but the thing about serving a creative Father is that He gave us guidelines to worship Him properly in Scripture but then left the rest up to us in His creative nature. It is such a blessing to be able to glorify and honor Him in so many ways and as a body, we should value all ways of bringing Him glory. If you are a singer, then sing, a writer, write, a painter, then paint, being in nature to admire His creation, then do so. He is innovative and we as His image bearers also get to experience Him in many ways. I then asked her about the kind of advice she had for new Christians who may not know where to start when it comes to intentional time with the Father.
"For the baby Christians, you want to find something in your quiet time that is practical to begin with; start with something small and maintain it, be consistent. Then grow from there! Try new things, so long as you are worshipping and spending time with the one true God who is described at length in Scripture, you cannot go wrong if you are truly seeking Him. Having deep intimacy with the Lord is important. If it is His will, you will be saved! So, in that space, it is possible for people to have that deep intimacy and if you are experiencing that right now, that is ok. Sometimes it takes literal years for people to find it; surrendering things and growing takes time but His timing is perfect. Be consistent and persevere! He may want to work some things out in you before He shows a new depth of Himself. You have this opportunity to look at yourself and where you are at and see what He is trying to show you. Then run with it towards Him."
Such a word! We have to realize that we are not all going to be in the same kind of season all at once as a body and this is ok. We were all once baby Christians, not knowing much other than the fact that we were newly saved. And then we graduated from milk to soft foods, then soft foods to food of more substance. Everything is in His time and as Amanda said, His timing is perfect! So, don't worry if you are not where you think you should be, He has you right where He wants you in this season.
We then shifted gears to discussing leadership and intimacy with the Lord. Amanda is a wonderful serving leader at our local church; she does musical worship as well as lead a group of girls in our middle school ministry. Though still young, I have gotten to see the Lord grow her in a lot of ways and many of which I remember going through as well as a developing worship leader (of course, we never stop developing, especially as a worship leader). I got to ask her what she felt it looked like for someone in leadership to be growing in intimacy with the Lord and she had this to say:
"When it comes to leading, you want to have depth with the Lord prior to leading people but with serving before you step into a leadership role, you can start anywhere and grow as you serve. With leading, there are places that you have to have gone in order to lead people there as well. It is ok to not be ready for that though but know that you can get there. We all need wisdom itself and to grow in wisdom; there will never be a day when we know everything. And if anyone thinks they do as a leader, there is definitely room for discernment there."
I then asked for her to expand on this and what it looks like in the American Church. "It's probably super common for people to be sent into leadership prior to having developed that intimacy with the Lord and this could be a really bad idea. There is a unique American church culture issue we have with installing the “qualified” instead of the “called”. It should be a requirement, if not just ideal, for people to be just as in love with the Lord as they are skilled to do the job. We see David communicate this often in the Psalms; he wanted to grow in both skill and in depth with the God! It does not matter if you are the best singer, if you are not saved, you cannot lead worship. Period. You cannot lead people to worship someone you do not know or have intimacy with. But on the flip side, you cannot be saved and not have the skill to lead worship because that lack of skill could be a hindrance and you want as little obstacles in leading corporate worship as possible. There needs to be a balance; just because you are not doing great in one area does not mean you are not valuable or skilled at all. You simply need time to learn and grow! Don’t be discouraged, it just means that for now, it may not be time, but your time will come according to His will."
As we ended, I asked her if she could have a conversation with baby Amanda, what that conversation would look like. After having some time to stop and think on it, she had this to say.
"Oh...well there are so many things I wish I knew at 16 or 17 years old. If anything, I would say: yes, community is important, but develop your relationship with the Lord more. Go to the throne first, not phone first. As cheesy as it sounds, it's real and as a high school girl, you wanna go to your friends first with everything and that’s great you have people to go to but wow if I would’ve known all the things that the Lord could’ve shown me then in those moments. I would also say learn as much as you can, read your Bible a lot, soak in all of the things because in reality it is not about you and people need to hear the Gospel. If you are not in a deep relationship with the Lord and being filled up, you cannot help other people they way you may want to. From a skill perspective, just keep practicing and try new things. There is so much time, do not be so disappointed in the failures you may be experiencing in the moment. His timing is perfect so just because it is a "not yet", does not mean He does not have something for you at all. I remember all the times I got my feelings hurt for the things I had passions for, the things I really loved about music and worship, but the skill was not there yet. But I did not realize how ok that was! I did not have to be so discouraged. When the timing was right, it was so much sweeter to experience the things He was calling me to because it was something I practiced for and tried to learn for so long. I was called, but I thought "not yet" meant "no" and I was confused. But God, right? God knew and He kept me and now I am in a place I never thought I'd be and I'm so grateful for it."
Sitting on my couch, she pondered one final thought, and this is what I will leave you with for today. She said, "the thing about being a Christian is that I am where I thought I'd never be and I'm getting to learn so much in this new season about community and being close to Him and experiencing Him in the body. He is wrecking me in new ways, and I get to experience that for the rest of my life which is pretty cool! But I have so far to go, I mean...I am only 19. I can only imagine where I'll be when I'm your age ."
What a great sit down! I love doing life with Amanda and I hope more people get to see her the way I have gotten to. She is so right, we are the most spiritually mature we have ever been in this moment, but we are also the most spiritually immature we will ever be again. So why not cling to what we know to be true which is that God has just begun to do a work in us, and He always completes the work He started. Selah!