When I was a freshman in college, one of the women in my dorm invited me to a Bible Study. It was the first time I had ever participated in a Bible study.
What I remember most is feeling completely inadequate. There I sat in the grass with my “Extreme Faith” Bible and essentially zero knowledge (from my perspective) of Sacred Scripture. I was joined by the two leaders who invited me, a woman with a study bible and extensive knowledge of scripture (who I’m proud to say is now one of my best friends) and a few other women.
We read the passage, and quite frankly, I don’t remember anything about it. I’m sure I struggled to even find the passage, and I know I didn’t know the significance of what we were talking about.
A little into the discussion, we shifted from the meaning of the passage, and we started talking about our own journeys of faith and how God had answered our prayers. It was awesome hearing these testimonies, but this conversation was stopped when one of the leaders said we had gone off on a tangent.
Looking back, I can respect them wanting to rein the conversation back in, but at the time, I felt so discouraged. This was my first week of classes in college. I barely knew anyone. My pride was taking a hit because I felt so dumb. Just as I was starting to feel comfortable, we had to shift the conversation.
A few years later, a FOCUS missionary started inviting me to her Bible study. I had been to one other Bible study since the aforementioned one, and it had been just as uncomfortable (but that’s a whole other story). This was also during a very difficult time in my life, so I kept politely declining with excuses of being busy while assuring her I was still interested. She kept inviting me both to her Bible study and other events, both faith-related and not. Her efforts to get to know me as a person made me finally feel comfortable enough to go to her Bible study and to SEEK (which played a huge role in my faith journey).
I continued to grow as a disciple of Christ because another FOCUS missionary was intentional about spending time with me and centering our friendship on Christ. We’d get coffee and she’d ask me how my prayer life had been. She held me accountable for going to confession (something I struggle with greatly). But we also grew in friendship.
Our best friends from college literally live across the street from us. Obviously, we spend a lot of time together. Most often, it is playing nerdy board games or sharing a meal, but they are also the people we turn to first when we are facing challenges. Our friendship isn’t about proximity; it is about knowing that they are there for us. It is knowing that as I have grown in my own faith journey, my friendship with her has been blessed with discussions about faith and shared Bible studies. It is about knowing that when we share our worries with them, they bring our problems to God in prayer whether we ask them to or not.
One of the many blessings in my marriage is being able to talk with Ben about our faith journeys. We can share interesting things we read or listened to. We can pray together. We can encourage each other to seek out the sacraments. But we also just have fun together because we’re married and best friends (cheesy, I know, but also true).
I bring all these relationships up not to criticize the first Bible study but instead to affirm the importance of building a relationship (which for all I know they did at that first Bible study at later studies that I never attended). It’s great to proudly proclaim our faith, and people should know without question that we are Christians, but if we want to bring the people around us closer to Christ, we need to show that we care about them. We need to build friendships with them. We should be persistent without being overbearing. We should spend quality time with them, getting to know them as people and not treat them as projects. We should center our relationships on Christ, holding each other accountable and loving them genuinely. And, whatever our Vocation, we should live it full of love whether it is a marriage where God is put first, the priesthood, consecrated virginity, or religious life.
We should center our relationships on Christ, holding each other accountable and loving them genuinely.
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Your love for Christ may certainly draw some people closer to Him, but what really changes hearts is when Christ’s love shines through you with your love for your neighbor.
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