We were all sitting in an apartment living room, crowded together on chairs, couches and the floor. We met together once a week for months and months. Our time together was typically followed by some late night grub at the local Applebee’s. I usually went for the mozzarella sticks. I had been praying alone in my dorm for just a group like this one.
I desperately wanted a solid group of Christian friends around the age of 19. I had grown a lot in my faith since getting baptized at 16, but knew some Christian peers would make a significant difference in my heart. I prayed and asked God to provide.
Soon after, I was invited to my church’s young adult small group. Nervously, I went. For about the first 2-3 months, as soon as the “spiritual” discussion began, I would go silent. Thoughts swirled around my mind like a whirlwind, “They know so much more than me.” “What do I have to offer to the conversation?” “Who would listen to me anyways?”
I knew I wanted to speak up and it was driving me crazy. I eventually told one of my friends to call me out if I didn’t say anything during the next group. I was so afraid that my friend was going to embarrass me that the next group I finally opened my mouth. After that point, it was almost like I never stopped talking in group!
We did a particular study that rocked my world. The group read a book on spiritual gifts and it was a pretty foreign concept to me. As I read, and learned, and chatted, I gained so much clarity on why I had certain tendencies.
I had always seen myself as a sensitive, non-competitive, mushy gushy person and often wished I was tough, in your face and bold. But as I studied with others by my side, I learned I had the spiritual gift of mercy and things started to make sense. Things started clicking and I began to appreciate more of the way I was wired.
It was a game changer for me! I felt freedom to be more and more of who I was and to live that out daily. I had the opportunity to show people love through mercy, essentially meaning to empathize with their situation, to see them as an individual with a story and to offer compassion.
And ten years later, I’m a counselor. Imagine that! I’m thankful God led me to the group, to the study and to a career that helps my gift flourish. And as Paul encourages me to do in Romans 12, I have this great opportunity to show mercy, in a cheerful way!