It was the start of another scorching summer day in Austin, Texas. I was sitting on the stairs of some ridiculously large tower in the middle of UT’s campus, listening to Erik Fish* animatedly tell stories about the all-importance of disciple making. Erik was doing that thing that spiritual dads do best – persuading us that we are more than we think we are and managing to soundly kick our butts at the same time.
When the dust had settled, and the weight of his words had just begun to hit the small crowd of college students to my right, I watched with swelling admiration as a handful of my friends, some long-time and some brand new, began to dart about. They grabbed the shoulders of those experiencing conviction, commissioning them to make disciples just as Jesus commanded. They hugged the crying students, and joined the laughing ones. Not a person present could withstand a grin at the sight of the few students who couldn’t even stand up under the joyful pressure of the Presence of God. My friends are courageous little freaks, all very young twenty-somethings who have encountered the power of God and His Family sometime in the last few years, and have boldly stepped up to lead their peers down the Path of Life. The whole crowd next to me that morning was a sea of tears, and slobber, and hugs, and dancing. The kind of mess that makes every lover of Love truly happy.
But rather than join in the fun, I was chilling out on the sidelines, throwing myself a royal pity party. Erik’s anointed teaching had the usual affect on me. I was struck to the core, and all I really wanted is to follow Jesus 100% for the rest of my days. After I whined for a bit.
Waaah. Waaah. Waaaaaaah. I suck at making disciples. I can’t do anything right. I shouldn’t even be here right now. I should have had more boldness in that situation last spring. I didn’t love that girl this summer well enough. I’ve only ever failed and there is no hope for me to ever…
In the middle of my whine session, I noticed three Asian-looking girls had wandered over to the far side of the portico where we were located and were observing the slobbery-hug fest happening amongst the students. I had an inkling I should go over and speak with them, but as soon as the thought came I saw a few students go over and strike up a conversation. “Great, they’re covered,” I thought and went straight back to my pity party.
I’ve only ever failed. All I do is fail. I don’t even know if I am a real follower of Jesus.
Meanwhile, Holy Spirit Friend was completely disregarding my pathetic little shin-dig.
Maybe no one I invest in will ever become a true disciple. Maybe I will never learn how to love right…
“Right knee. Lindsay, right knee.”
Seriously, Holy Spirit? Right now?
“Right knee. Right knee. Right knee.”
So I meander over to the Asian trio, and casually ask if any of them had any pain in their right knee. After a few quizzical looks and head shaking, I began to clumsily explain how sometimes I hear things that God wants to heal for people and then how sometimes I think I hear from God but I just made it up. The girl with huge movie-star sunglasses piped up. “I used to play basketball and I have an injury to my right knee that comes and goes. It doesn’t hurt right now, but a lot of times it does.”
Classic, Holy Spirit… classic.
So I asked her if she’d like to be healed so she would never have to feel that pain again. I squatted down on the ground next to her, laid my hand on her right knee, and commanded it to be healed in Jesus’ name. After my brief prayer, I realized that the girl was fascinated by the scene going on behind me. “Do you know what all these people are doing?” I asked her. “No,” she exclaimed, “Do you?”
I laughed a little. “I do actually! All these people here are followers of Jesus. They are brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of God.” I was pretty sure that meant absolutely nothing to sunglasses girl, and she looked intrigued enough to listen to more, so I just went for it. “Have you ever had any experiences with God?” I asked. She shook her head, “I’ve been to church a few times, but now I have to work on Sundays so I can’t go.” I loved the slightly-confused look on the bottom half of her face that wasn’t covered by her cool shades when I told her that most people in the crowd next to us also didn’t go to a church building on Sunday mornings either.
Ohhh let the fun begin. If I didn’t rub my hands together in gleeful anticipation, I surely wanted to. I opened my mouth… and out it came. I laid out the whole story of God for her, how He’s invisible and we can’t see Him but how He wanted friendship with us so much that He became a Person to show us His character and personality. How that Person healed sick people, raised the dead, and caused a ruckus with religious folks everywhere He went. How He came to teach us how to rightly relate to God and to each and to the whole world. How He came to make all that is wrong with us right, and make it possible for us to be in His Family.
I couldn’t see her eyes because of those darn sunglasses, but I soon noticed big tears sliding down her cheeks and I knew our words were hitting home. I say “our”, because most of the stuff that tumbles out of my mouth in situations like these definitely does not originate in my brain, but is the overflow of the Holy Spirit inside of me. We’re a team, me and ol’ HS.
The tears on her face stoked the fire burning in my bones, and I began to passionately describe to her the ways that Jesus has changed my life, how He rescued me from the place where I was convinced I was completely alone forever and proved to me that He is always with me. “Look at these crazy people!” I gestured towards the students behind us, who by this point were nearly all dancing, laughing, and worshipping their little hearts out. “You can see for yourself the joy on their faces. They’ve met the God of Love.”
Just then all the student began to gather around Erik to pray for him. He was getting ready to leave town, and they wanted to send him off with a blessing. In the middle of my sentence, the young woman in front of me rose to her feet and headed towards the students with their hands all stretched toward Erik. I had to bite back a giddy laugh as I scurried to join her… This girl wants IN!
When the prayers had subsided, she turned to me with all sincerity, “I want to learn more about Jesus. I have only one thing holding me back. My mom is a Buddhist.”
I wasn’t daunted for a second. I immediately began to point out various people around the room who had parents of differing faiths. I motioned for my friend whose dad practices Buddhist values. She came right over, and soon they were chatting it up. We quickly discovered that the girl was heading to Denton for her first year at the University of North Texas that very next week. And wouldn’t you know it, my friends’ highschool buddy just happened to be a student at UNT already and had just told my friend a few weeks prior that she wanted to start a simple church on her campus.
Classic, Holy Spirit. So classic.
I gave her my Bible. My friend swapped phone numbers with her. The girl with the movie-star sunglasses was heading off for college with the stories of Jesus tucked under her arm, a vision of love, and the potential of friendships at a strange new school. And, I believe, the promise of a place in God’s eternal family finally within her reach. I walked away… no, maybe I was skipping or twirling… Well anyways, I left BRIMMING with joy inexpressible.
I am so glad Holy Spirit Friend disregarded my pity party.
Anytime, any time at all You want to interrupt my days, You just go for it Holy Spirit Friend. Your ideas are waaaaay better than mine.
(*Erik Fish and his wife Jen have been coaches, mentors, and dear friends to me for several years. They train young people all over the nation and world how to plant simple churches and make disciple of Jesus. You can find articles by Erik at his website: www.erikfish.com. You can find the nearest Student Church Planting Experience at www.scpx.org.)