23: to the girls of gcbi
When we were first married, my husband and I spent three years as site coordinators of a non-accredited Biblical studies program designed to train students in the study of the Scriptures. The Great Commission Bible Institute was founded by Dr. Randall Smith and a team of men and women dedicated to making Biblical studies a priority for the collegiate crew. The ten-month program highlights discipleship and accountability in an intimate environment - no more than fifteen students in a given year. To date, GCBI has equipped nearly 100 students with tools and resources to encounter the Word of God on their own and develop a Biblical worldview. We were part of the program from 2008 to 2011 and it shaped us in countless ways. This open letter is to the young women who attended GCBI in that timeframe.
I have SO MANY THINGS I want to tell you.
Things I wish I would have known before I called myself a discipler, ways I wish I'd approached my role and your time as students. Some of you came with hands open, no expectations, ready to receive. Some of you came with expectations I couldn't meet. Some of us clicked perfectly well and are friends to this day. Some of us clashed and limped through our time together. But I want you to know something: all of you have shaped me and refined me. All of you have been used of God to grow me up, to encourage my heart, to challenge my assumptions, and to effect change on a deep relational level. And I am profoundly grateful.
Our first year at GCBI, Cam and I were on the phone with our marriage counselor (if you don't have a counselor or spiritual mentor - get one - you'll always benefit from submitting to godly counsel outside your family/friends) and as we struggled through some points of conversation, our counselor laughed softly and said, "Sarah Beth - we'll make a lover out of you yet." And I laughed uncomfortably, but I knew it was true and I knew you were seeing it: you girls were watching a transition as God healed my heart and began to turn me from a wounded fighter into a patient lover.
Some of you were experiencing that same process in your own lives - your wounds were deep and loud and named you, just as mine did. And though sometimes I wish the Lord had allowed a perfectly whole, tenderly healed version of myself to be your sister and mentor - instead He used the at-times painful process of allowing you to witness the transformative power of grace to work in my heart. I'm so grateful for those of you who were able to see that and extend such grace to me as the Father worked. I pray you were a recipient of that same grace from me.
The thing about Church is that it is hard. It is hard because the Church is people and we are all, at some point in our lives, the walking wounded. And I am so, so thankful that our years at GCBI together were the same in which God began to work mightily in each of us, to administer healing to our hearts and minds and lives as we studied the Word of God together, prayed together, had tea and biscuits and served chili and volunteered with teenagers and learned the unforced rhythms of God's incomparable grace.
I've watched with astonishment as God has released you from bonds of shame, of pride, of low self-worth. I've watched you go on to pour into other young women out of the overflow of the work going on in your own hearts. I've rejoiced as you've become missionaries, nurses, teachers, scholars, wives, mothers and I've delighted in the expression of Christ through you.
I'm grateful and humbled to have been part of your lives and am so thankful you are part of mine.
I'm glad to have memories of you in my kitchen, on my couches, in my office talking nonsense or talking real life.
I smile over our quote books, our kerfuffles, our long-standing inside jokes and deliriously late night games/movie nights/scavenger hunts etcetera.
And I am confident that, whatever your experience has been since your time at GCBI, that the gracious Father who first called you to Himself will be faithfully completing His work in you, as you walk with Him, submitted to His voice. The Lord is faithful, sweet women. Don't leave your first love.
I am so thankful for you all...