Almost four and a half years after making the decision to give my life to Christ and to dedicate my life to Him, I find myself in a new room and a new country, with new friends and new lessons. As a second year in University, there was no way I would have guessed how one decision would have lead me here. But looking around at older believers in my life at the time, I thought my life would look similar to theirs. I would be a leader in the faith, a guide to younger generations, with a clear understanding of the gospel and the implications it has on every person and nation. In summary, I would have a better grip on what it means to be a follower of Christ and I would be building in skills rather than taking beginner courses. As I stepped into this new role of being a cross-cultural campus minister, I thought the same principle would apply. I figured I was already pretty good at this whole Christian thing by now, so it was my turn to share the word and guide those who were called into the faith. At this point, you can probably tell where I am going with this. I was wrong… mostly.
The part of me which had it right was how I am called to share the gospel and to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). I am called to be an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). These will always be true, and I hope I continue to live my life by these principles.
However, after a series of unforeseen circumstances, obstacles, and just straight-up mistakes, I became incredibly frustrated with myself.
Why was I still struggling with adjusting to this country even after six months?
Why was I failing to have a quiet time every day?
Why is this sin area still in my life?
Why don’t I understand how to effectively share the gospel?
Why can’t I understand the issues my friends are having with church or Christianity?
and on and on and on…
Ultimately, I was asking why I wasn’t perfect. Looking back, I can see that now. However, at the moment I was just mad. Whenever others were trying to encourage me or calm me, I kept hearing the same thing: “Zoë, you have to show yourself grace. You have to be patient with yourself.”
Now, anyone who has known me for more than a day, knows I am not good at being patient in general and it extends even more so with myself; its a pretty difficult concept for me to grasp. But grace, I understood grace.
Grace is receiving good which I don’t deserve.
It’s the love and mercy I received when Christ entered my life. Romans 3:24 says, “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”.
I began thinking about what grace looked like when I had first accepted Christ.
Before Christ, I was building my own kingdom, and I was stressed about it. I worked hard to be the best in school, in activities, and even among my friends. But no matter how hard I tried, everything seemed to fall down around me. I was weak, I couldn’t control anything or build anything on my own because no matter how hard I tried, it would fall. Then Christ became my solid foundation, He was the one my life could be built on. What he did in and through my life would stand strong and would stand for eternity. And yet, here I was four and half years later, still thinking I could do it on my own. Still thinking I had to perform to be perfect in order to present myself to God.
So, because I knew my past, I had hope. Verses like Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this that he who began a good work in you will carry it out unto completion until the day of Christ Jesus” allowed me to breathe. I wasn’t finished, God was still transforming me. But this still wasn’t the full picture. I was still mad at myself for being weak.
Yet, every time I go back to those first days when I started following Christ a memory rings out.
At this point, I had been following Christ for about a year and my parents were visiting me at university, we had just finished hanging out with the director of the student ministry I was involved with. Driving away, my dad observed, “Zoë, you used to be this stressed-out kid, but now you are really happy and you seem to have peace. I thought I taught you this through the way I lived my life, I didn’t realize you had to hear the gospel.” The biggest testimony of the transforming power of Christ in my life was evident in my own dad’s words.
I cherish this memory but I also saw it in contrast with later memories.
I had begun trying to lead a bible study in my sorority house, and I was telling a younger woman in the house a little bit about my life before Christ. She was surprised, she had not known me before following Christ, until then she didn’t fully understand the transformation which was to take place upon accepting Christ.
One thing this taught me was my testimony is an essential tool in sharing the gospel.
More importantly, it also reminded me how God is a transforming God, He intends to transform us more and more into his image until the day of glory. I wanted this truth to be evident in the way I lived my life and in what I said. But how could I do that if I was trying to be perfect all the time?
If I was working on my own strength to be righteous then how would others see how God’s transforming word and power is what makes me righteous before Him?
I came across a verse in my reading which struck a chord with me more than ever before, Luke 5:31-32.
“Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but the sinners to repentance.”
Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees, who were law-abiding Jews, and they counted on following the law perfectly in order to be righteous. In the end, they missed out on grace, the great and fullness of grace which is found in trusting your life to Jesus. They turned from the free grace Jesus offered them, to rely on their own righteousness.
In order to be healed, I need to recognize I am sick. In order to be refined by the perfecter of my faith, I need to recognize my own sin.
By acknowledging my own weaknesses and shortcomings, I am able to share Him who is my strength and who fully forgives me.
In this role, I have a tendency to think I need to appear as if I have it all figured out. But what the girls I lead actually need to know is we follow a God who is continually healing us. If our weakness overcomes us and we fall into sin, He is still calling us deeper into a relationship with Him. He is calling us to repent so His grace transforms us, and He is our strength who keeps us from falling, and He is the grace which picks us up when we do fall.
Going forward, my hope is when I do fail, when I do fall, instead of hiding it or trying to pick myself up to be better, I will fall at the feet of the Father who says,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” and therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9.