I was not sure what discipling was supposed to look like, but I was certain it did not look like what I was doing.
“I must have it all backwards,” I thought as I closed the door behind the poor sister who had given up an hour of her life to come and be discipled.
“I am a mess. I have no idea what I’m doing here. There certainly wasn’t any ‘teaching’ going on with my crazy hooligan children and my heart in a bad place toward my husband. I shouldn’t be teaching anyone. I’m the one who needs discipling! God, what would you have me do?”
I mumbled all this half aloud as I walked back into the kitchen to finish making dinner.
FINDING STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS
Little did I know how God would use this situation, along with many other similar ones, to teach me a great deal about his purposes in my life. Little did I know how God would turn my weaknesses into strength. During this season my husband and I, both in our thirties, found ourselves thrust into the category of “older people” in our church. I searched for a woman who might be able to encourage me spiritually as we muddled through some challenging times, but God had other plans.
Instead of granting this desire, he grew my passion for discipling. Gradually I learned that it was less about me doing the right thing and more about me obeying God’s command to “teach the younger women” (Tit. 2:4). I found God frequently brought women into my life who were younger in either age or spiritual maturity and who were desperate for someone to help them learn how to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deut. 6:4-9).
TEACHING BY BEING WATCHED
As much I desired to be discipled, I often found myself in the discipler seat, feeling deeply insecure and inadequate. I felt like Moses in Exodus 4, saying, “Oh God, please send someone else,” for which God would rebuke me in a number of different ways. As with Moses, I sensed God saying, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (Ex. 4:11-12).
In discipling these women I tried to instruct and question them, discuss books together, and pray, but they would tell me later that often the best teaching came from simply watching me. They watched God use my weakness in fighting for patience when the day had long since worn me thin. They watched me struggle to love my husband after sharing with them my own struggles of feeling second place to his work.
GOD WILL SUPPLY WHAT WE NEED
I came to better understand the words of Paul when he said, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Cor. 4:7). These ladies got a front row seat to see the true jar of clay that I am. Since we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, sometimes we need to allow others to see God’s strength shine out of our feeble attempts to serve him.
God does not call us to be all that we can be on our own. Instead, he calls us to pour ourselves out for others like a drink offering. For it is in emptying ourselves out of love for him and love for others that he can use our frailty as the perfect platform to display his strength. Every day God gives us life on this earth, he gives us everything we need for life and godliness. This means that he will be faithful to supply everything we need in order to disciple the women he brings into our lives.
OUR CONFIDENCE: GOD IS AT WORK
Years later, God brought a new friend and sister in the church who would come over to hang out for a while on a Saturday afternoon while Brad was busy preparing a sermon. It seemed as though every time she came over something was going wrong, from the worst fit of rage from one of my children to the toilet overflowing! It was during one of those times that I looked up at her with a smile, confident in the Lord’s perfect timing, and said, “You know, God must really love you to let you see all this.”
That is our confidence: not that we have the perfect home and well-behaved children, but that in the muck and mire, God’s Spirit is at work. Even in our weakness, God uses our words to warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, comfort the weak, and show patience to everyone, all for his great glory.
Erin Wheeler is a mother of four and a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, where her husband Brad serves as associate pastor.
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