surrender your spiritual expectations
Kyle and I went on our first date at Empire State South in Midtown Atlanta. The restaurant was dimly lit and filled with the perfect level of noise for a first date; not too quiet, yet not too loud. We sat down at our table for two and I remember thinking to myself, I can’t believe I’m on a date with Kyle Johnson. If you would have told me a year earlier that we would go on a date, I think I would have either laughed at you or rolled my eyes. Yet there we were – enjoying a romantic, tasty meal, talking about our families, our college experiences and anything else under the sun.
Kyle and I spent almost three hours at the restaurant, and I left with an odd feeling that I was starting to really like him. I use the word odd because I never in a million years thought I would fall for him! He had 19 tattoos, remember? But the judgments I held tightly to at the beginning of our journey slowly started to slip away as I began to learn more about his character.
Also, it didn’t hurt that one of my friends bluntly reminded me, “There are plenty of jerks out there with no tattoos. Give the guy a chance.”
So, I did.
After an entire year of knowing each other, Kyle and Mandy finally became a thing!
Over the next couple of months, Kyle continued to grow in his faith as we continued to grow in our dating relationship. We spent hours on the phone asking each other questions, telling stories, and connecting as much as we could. My favorite part of this phase of dating was having a front row seat (over the phone and via FaceTime) to the work God was doing in Kyle’s life.
Kyle’s curiosity and excitement toward Jesus was genuine and heartfelt. He began attending church in D.C. and joined a men’s group that met every Wednesday night. The long-distance between us was difficult, but we soon realized how much of a blessing it truly was; we were able to freely pursue faith without having each other around as a distraction.
I’ve never believed in “missionary dating” and certainly didn’t want Kyle pursue faith just so I’d date him. However, the long-distance eliminated that fear for me. Kyle didn’t have to go to church, but he did. He didn’t have to join a men’s group, but he did. Kyle’s actions helped erase any questions in my mind about his sincerity.
As I witnessed Kyle’s contagious, childlike faith continue to grow, my own faith was moved as well. Kyle brought me back to the basics of what Jesus was all about – love God, love others, show kindness, gentleness, forgiveness and more. I grew up attending church and remember learning about Jesus, but I lost sight of the most valuable (yet challenging) commands. Kyle viewed me as spiritually ahead of him, but candidly, I needed to be reminded of the simplest, most important truths.
At times, it was tempting to feel self-righteous, impatient and frustrated when Kyle didn’t live up to my unsaid expectations concerning his spiritual growth. I was tempted to quickly jump in to try to teach Kyle instead of letting God speak to his heart. In those moments, I felt God repeatedly humble me with this line:
Like a teacher in a noisy classroom trying to gain the attention of his distracted students, God was kindly prompting me to look up. God reminded me that maturing in faith takes time. Lots of it. But God (not me) was going to take care of maturing Kyle; the seed had been planted. My job was to face Him, and reflect through my actions what a true Jesus follower looked like. Surrendering your expectations for spiritual growth means trusting God will complete His work in you, and in those you care about most.
Whether you’re a new believer or you’ve known Jesus for years, I want to encourage you with two truths I felt God press into my heart during this time.
1. The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
When you are in Christ, you have His favor regardless of where you are in your faith journey. He loves you because you are His child, period. The Lord convicted me in my pride by constantly reminding me that spiritual maturity is not about how much you know or long you’ve been a Christian, it’s about how closely you walk with Jesus. If you catch yourself feeling prideful and self-righteous, or disappointed and low, always remember our equality in the eyes of Jesus.
2. Progress is progress, no matter the pace.
The tortoise and the hare both made it to the finish line! Sometimes God asks you to take baby steps in faith, and sometimes He asks you to take big, scary leaps of faith. God isn’t up in Heaven holding onto bitterness when you don’t take those steps; He’s waiting with patience and grace, ready to celebrate when you do!
If you and I are moving toward becoming like Jesus, we are making progress in our faith journey no matter the speed. The goal of faith is not to be at the same level as the person next to you; it’s to continue making progress in the way He has specifically called you to move.
As a bonus to today’s post, I’m sharing a link to Kyle’s version of our story that he shared last summer (we remember it differently!) HERE!
Love y’all – see you next week for part 5!
The ground is level at the foot of the cross – what does this specifically mean to you?
Do you need to surrender your desire for control over someone else’s spiritual walk? If so, what are ways you can practice letting go?