I did Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) growing up and made a lot of amazing friends there. I spent my summers doing weeks of crazy intensive training to go out and do backyard Bible clubs all summer long. We usually did at least two different clubs each day and each club lasted a week. Kind of like a VBS. The most I ever did was four a day for a week. The friends I made at the training camp, I thought would be my friends for the rest of my life. They were just like me- on fire for God and willing to give up their summer to serve Him and tell kids about Jesus. These people encouraged me to grow all year round, even though we came from all over the state. This was before the days of Facebook, and even before MySpace for a while- we kept in touch through phone calls, letters sent in the snail mail, and AOL Instant Messenger. I counted these people as kindred spirits. At this time, I didn’t ever think that I would fall away from God, let alone straight up walk away from Him. I also never expected these people to not be in my life either.
When I ran away from God, I made more than a lot of poor choices. I made a complete and total mess of my life. When any Christian friend of mine talked to me, they made me feel like I was being talked down to. They reprimanded me for who I had become, and not in a way showing God’s love, but in a way that made me feel like I was more of a failure than I already thought I was. Only one of my CEF friends approached it in a way that didn’t make me feel attacked. For the sake of this story, let’s just call her Emily.
Emily kept up on my life through social media. She would message me or call me asking how I was. Just reaching a hand out. Emily did this for years telling me she was praying for me, and never pushed or made me feel unloved as a friend. To everyone else I always thought for me, I felt like an outcast just because I wasn’t the goodie-two-shoes Dana anymore. I felt like I’d imagine a leper to feel back in the days of Jesus. No one came near people with leprosy, except for Jesus.
As Christians, it is part of our calling to be Jesus to other people. Whether they are non-believers, strangers, or friends who have turned their back on God. Emily was the one Christian friend who had a heart very much resembling the heart of Jesus. She called me out several times. When I kept blowing her off, or ignoring her friendly gestures, she kept praying. Then one day, I told her I was trying to come back to Christ, she was so happy for me, thrilled even, but my attempts only lasted a few weeks. She sent me a message on Facebook, that I just searched for and am copying for this post.
“Dana, I hate to be annoying, but where are you spiritually? A long time ago we promised to be accountability partners, and through your Facebook- I don’t see the huge changes you were hoping to make this year. Dana, God loves you no matter what your flaws and short comings. He sent His only Son to die for you Dana…He has an unconditional love for you. I hope you are in a good place. I am praying for you- and even though we haven’t seen each other in a long time, I am still here for you.”
It took a bit for me to respond, and Emily had texted me and its been three phones since so that text is long gone, but she told me that she loved me and would be praying for me. Emily said that she was there when I was ready, but that until I got my life together, she didn’t want me to meet her son.
This was the tough love I needed. I needed a friend who for years, even though my life was a disaster and I was breaking her heart, she kept praying. She kept loving me. She kept showing me that she was there for me. She called me out in a way to just say that even though she cared about me, I couldn’t be around her son as she was trying to raise him up in the Lord. I cried for a few days because I had finally hit the rock bottom I needed to really turn around my life and come back to Jesus.
Emily has been a true friend. She still reaches out to me to catch up, pray with me, and encourage me in Christ. The only difference is, now I do the same to the best of my ability. I have come to learn what a blessing a true friend, no, a real sister in Christ can be. Miles may separate us, and we may not be as close as we once were, but I still cherish Emily as my friend. I am still grateful for the one friend who never gave up on me and truly, honestly showed me grace. She showed me Jesus.
If you have someone in your life who has made a mess of things, be an Emily. Be the one person physically here on this earth who shows them grace- let them see Christ in you. I am so grateful that God is a God of second chances and that I am finally in a place where I am not lukewarm spiritually.
Read 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 3:2; John 13: 34-35; Micah 6:8.
Listen to: “Do They See Jesus in Me” by Joy Williams.