I began to lead a group of single women a year ago, but the group eventually dissolved. Leading people to Christ gave more pressure on me than pleasure. I should have felt more privileged because it is indeed an honor to be used by God for the expansion of His kingdom. But I was trying too hard back then to please people. I was more concerned with trivial, unimportant things like wanting to be liked or be more eloquent in my speech. The focus was on me and not on God. It came out to be more like a burden than a gift.
Then a year later, God gave me another opportunity to lead a group of single women from a retreat. This time, I made sure that I brought with me the lessons of last year’s failed attempt to disciple. So I let God move, stepping one level forward or backward as He commanded. I tried to shrug off of my mind the pressure of discipleship and of wanting to have good “fruits”. I learned that bringing people closer to God is all about building relationships.
After the retreat, our group took off. It fared well, I guess, for a few months. God provided plenty of rooms to improve our relationships. But the thing with relationships, everyone is vulnerable. Pretensions can only go too far. Sooner, your true character will fill in the holes and eventually you will be known for who you really are, no matter how hard you try to hide your flaws and character defects. Too bad for me, my bad temper found me.
I haven’t given much thought about how people from different backgrounds with different attitudes and struggles may clash with one another. I was all on cloud nine, thinking what a fresh start it was for me. I didn’t think of the cost it’s gonna take for me to protect and care for my group.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?“ Luke 14:28
So it happened… That while my disciple and I were exchanging e-mails about her struggles, we got into a heated conversation that spiraled out of control because I yielded to my impatience and irritability.
It started with me giving her an advice,which she took the wrong way, impelling her to retort in a manner that was rather rude to me. I felt in me a very strong urge to fight back. So without considering how God wants me to handle the situation, I replied tersely, allowing my irritation to get the best of me. I even suggested that she consider moving to another group. I was rationalizing my reaction by citing Scriptures that will prove how right I was and how wrong she was.
But does it really matter who’s right and wrong? Does it matter how many Bible verses I support the argument with? What was the most important thing I should have considered while dealing with the situation? From giving the advice to fighting back? What did I miss?
I consulted a friend and through her, God channeled His wisdom, gently rebuking me and pointing out what I did wrong. Over the phone, she recited this beautiful verse from 1 Corinthians 13:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails…When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
How can I have missed on love? When I shot that angry e-mail at her, was it driven by love? Was any of my action rooted from love? When I gave her an advice, did I do it out of love?
Honestly, I felt obligated to give her an advice; I was afraid that she will see me as an incompetent leader who couldn’t even shed light to her problem. These thoughts and feelings only lasted for a brief moment but little did I know that these little “wickedness” in me have began to pile up, becoming a hard-bound book that influences my actions.
I failed to count the cost…And what is the cost that I must be willing to give to every person that God brings into my life: the cost is love, patience, humility, self-control, gentleness…
From the onset, my focus on myself shows how absent love was in my hopes to sustain my group. I am reminded by what Dannah Gresh said in her book Get Lost: we don’t win people by being right. We win people through love. It is all that matters.