I’d told no one of my intention to leave the church. Or the faith.
For six months, I’d quietly handed over all my ministry leadership roles, until I eventually slipped out of what would be my last worship service for a long time.
My former mentor was worried by how I’d uncharacteristically disappeared. I knew she could tell there was a gaping hole in my story about how I was “burnt out”. But she didn’t judge or pry. She simply remained in touch, giving me just enough space to feel free yet not forgotten.
She was the one I called when I hit rock bottom, and she listened as the truth tumbled out. The sexual assault by a senior church staff. The anger I felt towards God. The unhealthy relationship that I’d since gotten into and was clinging onto as a lifeline. I was stuck. I knew I couldn’t carry on like this—I was fast heading for depression—but I struggled immensely with the idea of trusting God again.
It was a lot to throw at a person. But that evening, I would encounter someone who knew how to use the gifts that God had given her (v. 8) to build up a broken person (v. 12).
When God saved us, He didn’t leave us to flounder into spiritual maturity alone. By His grace, He blessed the body of Christ with spiritual gifts to furnish us with what we need to become spiritually mature and stable, to the point where we are able to build each other up to reach “the fullness of Christ” (v. 12-13).
That evening, using her gifts, my former mentor wisely perceived the issues at hand and the godly response that each one required. She offered compassion and unequivocal support to help me receive justice for and healing from the assault (which I eventually did). But she also spoke the truth in love about the unhealthy relationship I was in by highlighting the consequences of my choices. Her insights helped me find the anchor I needed to begin trusting Him again.
Having been hurt by someone in church, I’d thought the best way to cope was to self-protect in isolation. But after that conversation with her, and later when I opened up to a few other friends who have an active relationship with God, I experienced the beauty of being part of the body of Christ, “joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grow[ing] and build[ing] itself up in love, as each part does its work” (v. 16).
My spiritual community helped me heal in ways that I couldn’t possibly have done for myself. With their different but equally rich experiences of God, they deepened my understanding of who He is. But it wasn’t just their gifts or knowledge that was helping me “grow in every way… into Christ” (v. 16). Their very persons—all, in their own ways, reflecting aspects of who God is—drew me once more to the loveliness of Jesus, and helped me reconnect with God. As I healed, I began to support them where I could, eventually re-discovering my spiritual gifts, through which I then served the larger body of Christ.
God’s design of growing us into spiritual maturity in community, by mutually serving each other, reflects that we were never meant to do it alone. Some of the wonderful truths about Him can, in fact, only be discovered through our relationships with others. Indeed, one of the greatest forms of grace He has given us is not our own spiritual gifts, but each other.
—By Nelle Lim, Singapore
Questions for reflection
Father, thank You for Your grace that saves and restores me. Help me see Your loveliness through my spiritual community as we build each other up into the fullness of Christ. May I willingly receive Your grace and share it with those around me.
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