26 Jul A Woman of Influence
When I think of what it means to be an Ezer, I see a face. None of the core capacities of our calling as women resonates with me more than that of inviting because of how simply but profoundly that face impacted my life.
My family stopped attending church during my late elementary school years for a variety of reasons. I was in the beginning stages of a relationship with Jesus Christ and at a point where I wanted to know and grow more. It was also near that time that I was old enough for the youth group, so I continued going and became a regular attendee. Because our church had a gym that was a popular place for teens to come and play basketball, the focus was more about outreach to the boys who were required to stay for youth group if they used the gym. For me, that meant hearing the gospel a whole lot, but having few opportunities to understand how to pray, how to study Scripture, how to live a life a biblical integrity, or how to pursue Christ. I was a number in a big group and slipped through the cracks in terms of actually being known by any of the leaders.
The older I got, the more insecure I became as I started realizing that the other church-goers knew what words like discipleship and missions meant and could flip to a book of the Bible without looking in the index. With no influence at home, being a wallflower on Wednesdays, and never attending on Sundays, I had nothing more than a surface-level understanding of the gospel. I started experiencing hardships at home and didn’t feel like I had a safe place or person to take those things to. I just hid things, stayed silent, and learned the art of pretending that things were different than they actually were. No one other than me and my journal knew all of the struggles that I was hiding.
“I just hid things, stayed silent, and learned the art of pretending that things were different than they actually were.”
But then a new music minister came to our church. I had been irregularly attending at that point, but one Sunday morning the new minister’s wife, Cyndi, came to share her testimony with the senior high group. I was struck less by her actual story and more by the passion with which she spoke and the genuineness of her words. She wasn’t using church words or Bible stories that I was unfamiliar with; she was just sharing about her life and how God had worked in it. Something about her demeanor and personality felt safe, so I intentionally put myself in situations where I could be around her. It wasn’t long before we realized that we lived just a street away from each other, and she asked if I would be willing to help watch her younger daughter and hang out while she did some cooking. Her daughter didn’t need a babysitter, but Cyndi saw a lonely teenager who was craving something more and she gently invited me in. “Babysitting” her younger daughter or “hanging out with” her middle-school daughter or “helping her” with some random job in her home provided many opportunities for discussion and real life discipleship.
Cyndi was the first person that I shared my home struggles with and for a long time was probably the only person who really knew me. Because she opened the doors of her home, offered cookies and tea while we chatted, and provided a comfortable and non-threatening environment for me to be myself in, I was able to experience discipleship for the first time in my life. I learned more about pursuing Christ in my last year and a half of high school than I had in all my years of being in church prior to that. She was the first church leader in my life that I wasn’t intimidated by because her ministry to me didn’t happen within the walls of a Sunday School room where I felt insecure. Her ministry to me happened on her back porch. I watched her be a mom and a wife and a friend. I didn’t grow because we spent a lot of time in the Word or in prayer; I grew because I saw her live it, and she was real, and she provided a safe place for me to be real.
“Because she opened the doors of her home, offered cookies and tea while we chatted, and provided a comfortable and non-threatening environment for me to be myself in, I was able to experience discipleship for the first time in my life.”
The summer before college she prayed for and with me to make friendships that would be encouraging and influential. She helped me to see the beauty of being authentic and allowed me to realize the confidence I have in Christ. Our friendship was a catalyst to me realizing that there was more to my walk than rededicating myself over and over. College turned out to be a rich season of spiritual growth for me, and the relationships that were formed during those years were influential in shaping me into who I am today. God used Cyndi to help me to see that I could take that path.
She invited me in, and it changed my life.
Natalie is a mom of four who enjoys writing whenever she can find a few quiet minutes. She is passionate about foster care and adoption and loves connecting with women who are in the trenches of this hard and beautiful calling. Coffee, college football, and guacamole are a few of her favorite things. Natalie attends our Spartanburg campus.