Jesus gave “the great commission” to His followers in Matthew 28:19-20: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
He said as we do this, He would surely be with us. I am no expert in discipleship. However, by God’s grace its value clicked for me in college. Jesus said to do it, I trust Jesus. Therefore I did my best with what I knew and went for it. Here’s a highlight of what God did through one relationship.
“Hello?” I answered a call from an unfamiliar number on the way back from Missouri.
“Hey…” it was Domonique Smith. I had been her summer camp counselor and each week I told my cabin: I don’t do social media but you can have my number if you want to call me. She called.
We’d had a handful of “real talk” during her week at KAA3 and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see her face or hear from her again, so I was thrilled to get that first call. Dom was in high school in West Palm Beach and I had just graduated college in Tennessee. I knew I couldn’t really “disciple” her from a distance, but the Lord was clearly at work in her life. He’d rescued her. He was using His people placed around her in Florida to meet needs and pour into her life. But what could I do? Very little. Calling her house phone (yes, house phone) to chat, making sure she was up in the morning for school, and encouraging her to read the bible was the bulk of our relationship for a couple years.
“I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…” Philippians 1:6
A little green Honda pulls up to my apartment and there was Domonique. It had been two years. She was officially enrolled to start college the next week and we’d be living two blocks from her dorm at Carson-Newman University. Woot woot! Now I could REALLY disciple her. My extent of understanding discipleship at this point was inviting her to my bible study, keeping her accountable in reading the bible and praying more, and getting all up in her business to “help her sin less.”
CNU is where both my husband and I went to college and he was still coaching football there. As she began life as a college student, I called her and her friends “my daughters” and enjoyed time with them. We did the bible studies, hang outs, and shared laughter and tears. I watched her as an actress in theater and saw her study – or not study - for tests. Precious time was shared. Domonique does CNU round one.
Somewhere along the way I did that thing I sometimes do. I idolized an imagined outcome or “ending to her story” and that idol was the lens through which I viewed her circumstances. Let me break it down. Maddie thought things should look the way Maddie wanted them to look. Therefore I felt frustrated about this friend, or that choice, and about 723 other things. Domonique is an excellent writer and the details of her story are hers to share but let me share this: Love does NOT insist on its own way and it bears all things and endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13)
“So, I’m going to take a break and stay home next semester,” Dom broke the news to me after her second year at Carson-Newman.
Outwardly I kept it cool, calm, and collected: “Okay, what’s up?”
She filled me in as to why she needed the break, but inwardly I was freaking out. Surely she was not supposed to leave. I was crushed and believed I didn’t do enough to encourage her, tutor her, or love her. Or something.
When Domonique stayed home that year and took a break from college, God showed out. He provided a home for her to live in community with believers and a job in ministry. If I remember correctly she DIDN’T EVEN TAKE THE INITIATIVE TO OFFICIALLY APPLY FOR THE JOB. Our phone calls were different now, I missed her but was consistently blown away at how God used HER to show ME His provision. He was writing her story and healing her heart. Her faith grew leaps and bounds that year and so did mine. Great news: she really did come back.
“Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” -1 Thessalonians 2:8
Domonique does CNU round two was when it got real. We had an actual house with an extra bedroom available and this girl moved in with us when we had 2 kids under 2 and one on the way. When I say we shared life, I mean we shared LIIIFE. Honest confession: I was pumped to have someone else to share the household chores with. Ask her, I didn’t clean bathrooms again until she graduated. I am extroverted and probably talked her introverted face off, but it was beautiful.
The remainder of her time as a college student was less a formality and more like family. She heard me fight with my husband, saw us reconcile, and watched me be a mom to a newborn. I found her hair in my carpet and felt stressed about her GPA. She was a theater major and wrote and directed a play and my husband played one of the main characters. More deep conversations were had than I have words for this blog post because WE WERE WITH EACH OTHER
“Helper” was our menu for dinner once. That is, I made hamburger helper with no meat when there was more month than money…so I put black beans in it and made it happen. We went to different churches. She did bible studies with other people… BUT WE WERE SHARING LIFE AND SEEKING JESUS AND AS WE WENT ALONG, I ENCOURAGED HER AND SHE ENCOURAGED ME BECAUSE I GOT A FRONT ROW VIEW OF THE LORD AT WORK IN HER LIFE.
There is so much more to say about Domonique but my space is limited and my aim is to make a point: there is never a perfect time to make disciples. Jesus said to, so at least try. It’s not for everybody to open your home, but it may be for you. Pray about it. He is with us when we take action to obey His great commission no matter how jacked up our motives or mindset may be. I never had a sister. With each year that passes, I understand more and more that Dom is my little sister. Jesus let me meet her when she was in high school and He gave us a chance to share life during her college years. It has been a priceless treasure to laugh about our memories and to continue to hear from her as she has grown and matured in the faith and is living a life surrendered to Christ. Maybe one day she will guest post her side of the story…