I remember the overwhelming confliction of being renewed, yet not knowing what to do with that truth. I remember feeling the conviction of who I was now — a child of God — but not sure what that meant. I had been saved by God’s grace alone, but I was alone, without community. I pushed through the next year stumbling over that reality.
The person I was trying to leave behind was caught up in the reckless allure of immediate satisfaction — like many of us — and chased holiness with worldly definitions. My mind was warped with toxins from rebellion and desolation. A tormented way to live. But is that not truly the world we live in? The flesh we fight? The sin we were born into?
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Jesus met me in that dark pit. This is what I knew: for by grace you have been saved. But I didn’t understand what the next step was. What was I supposed to do?
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ’If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” (Matthew 16:24)
The craving was there. The desire was there. But the passion to take this newfound grace-filled identity and make it useful was often met with defeat. Met with more questions and more wandering. It wasn’t until a year later, after I moved back home and got plugged into a church community, I started to truly see. A woman took me in. She prayerfully considered who I was and my place in her life and then invited me into it.
She intentionally pursued my heart with a kind of capacity I didn’t know existed. She poured into me the gospel and held me accountable for my thoughts. With patience and grace she walked me through the structure of this thing called faith, taught me the tools and, most importantly, lived it all out in front of me. I was a part of her family. I found a community of faith. I witnessed firsthand the daily walk of a believer, and then the daily walk of a wife and then a mother and a leader. Her vulnerabilities, past and present, were open to me. I remember feeling safe and loved despite the dark history of my previous identity. She guided me through it all.
Here’s the beauty in this story: Jesus was our example. His disciples lived moment to moment alongside Jesus — learning, failing, and growing. They watched Him handle the questions and persecution; they heard His truth and saw Him love unconditionally. They watched Him stand firm, go to the Father often, and cry out when needed. The disciples followed Him so one day they could lead — lead others in pursuit of understanding and growth. Teach others the Word and the light and the way. But could they have done so without the intentional and intimate relationship they had with Jesus, walking with Him?
I could have kept fighting to understand, kept hanging on to that little desire inside my heart — but without guidance it would have been a long journey.
Without a community to learn from, I would have fallen into complacency, more than likely slipping back to my old ways because it would have felt like the only way to move forward. And then suddenly I would have been someone claiming Christ without knowing Him. Without loving Him. Without following Him.
There is a reason Jesus walked with people the way He did. The great commission calls us to do the same, to follow in His footsteps (Matthew 28:19-20). To take new believers and bring them to the fold of Christ, helping them understanding their responsibility and daily walk as believers. We need community to teach us, hold us accountable, pray with us, carry our burdens. I needed a discipler to help me understand why I needed to walk away from my past, and then practically and prayerfully help me do that. I needed to know I wasn’t damaged, despite the grace that I knew was overflowing.
We are a Body for a reason: because we cannot do this all alone. We are designed for community, to all be a part of building up the Kingdom. So, isolation is not an option. Fighting alone is not an option. Immerse yourself in the undeserved gift of family bound by Christ’s blood at the cross. Let yourself be loved, and in return learn to love. See firsthand what it looks like to step away from old identities and truly follow Jesus.