By Ann Smith
One of the prayers I frequently pray is, “God, make me a contagious follower of you. Remind me that my task is not to defend you, but to reflect you.” In the early days of my faith journey, I felt the main task of a Christian was to defend God and, as a result, I became an abrasive Christian. What a relief it was to discover God was big enough to take care of himself and did not need my defense.
It was Lloyd Ogilvie who first raised the question for me, “What would have happened to the prodigal son if it had been the elder brother standing at the gate instead of the father?” The prayer of my heart is that no one will remain in, or return to, the far country because they meet me before they meet the Father.
I believe it is easy for us to be so concerned about having the right theology, right doctrine, right beliefs, that we fail to realize that the right spirit is perhaps far more important. While those things are crucial, it is the right spirit that opens the door to new insights, to growth, to greater effectiveness, to sensitivity to God’s guidance, to honesty about our journey, to willingness to change, to the ability to live with unanswered questions. After all, God calls us to be full rather than complete. There is still so much learning, discovering, stretching, and becoming to do. He is increasingly shaping us into the image of Christ.
I believe having the right spirit makes us more aware of how important questions are. Too many times in the past I have been so eager to give answers that I have not taken the time or opportunity to listen to the questions inside of me, the questions that come from God or from others who are also on a faith journey.
For me, I have found that honesty and reflection are necessary elements of my growth process. Here are a few questions I am asking and I invite you to use these if they are helpful but also invite you to ask God to bring to your mind the questions that are unique to your spiritual journey.
1. Am I basing my position on a specific proof text, rather than the role of women throughout the biblical narrative?
2. Throughout our life, we wear all kinds of labels. Which do I know better—my label, or who God called me to be?
3. How aware am I that it is possible to be sincere and wrong at the same time?
4. To what degree do stereotypes determine how I relate to others?
5. It is possible that sometimes my attitude or positions grow out of my desire to control?
6. How do my ego needs show up in my words and actions?
7. How does my privilege and power inform my response to the words and actions of others with less privilege and power?
8. Do our words and actions create barriers or build bridges?
9. Do I honestly admit that opposition to women in ministry is found in both men and women? Is it more of a heart problem than a gender problem?
10. To what extent does the individualism of the society in which I live hinder my understanding of the biblical concept of the body of Christ and how it should function?
11. Do I sometimes try to take over God’s job?
I have many more questions that I ask myself. I encourage you to make your own list and deal with them as honestly as you are able by God’s grace.
How grateful I am for the various opportunities God has provided for me to be involved in ministry over many years. Hopefully it has made a difference in the people’s lives. It is a wonderful feeling to look back over ninety-one years of life and honestly feel that if I could live life over again, I would not change the direction. It has been an ongoing process of discovery of God, self, relationships, and how God wants to use me. The discovery continues! What a journey! Thanks be to God!
Ann Smith is a former Church of God missionary and longtime speaker and friend to countless. Article originally published by Indiana Ministries. Republished by permission. Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.