During the recent Olympics, US Ski Team member Lyndsey Vonn waited at the bottom of the ski hill for her friend and fellow competitor Maria Riesch of Germany, who was racing down the mountain for Gold. When Riesch got to the bottom, she skied over to her good friend and began explaining a mistake she’d made on the run. Vonn, in response, lifted her ski pole and playfully tapped Riesch and said, “Don’t do that!”
I immediately understood that the friendship between Vonn and Riesch was indeed genuine and true. Why? Because Vonn, instead of saying something like “No no, you did great,” or “think positive,” or “don’t be so hard on yourself,” said to her friend, “Don’t do that!” In those words, Vonn accepted and heard what her friend was saying, and did not coddle or try to feed Riesch’s self-esteem. She did not deny Riesch’s own admission of a mistake, but instead agreed with Riesch that a mistake had been made.
How different than what I, and many others, experienced throughout life, where we were coddled by the self-esteem movement. My parents and teachers never called me on bad behavior, and my liberal church was more concerned with pushing a women’s liberation agenda (we sang “I Am Woman” in Sunday school) than it was with giving us true liberation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I was given high grades in high school I didn’t deserve, and in college I read books by love gurus and Taoists who told me to just love myself, regardless of what I was doing to sabotage my life and relationships. Friends sympathized with me in my victim mentality instead of leveling with me in how I’d brought about my own problems.
And then I met a Christian woman who took me under her wing. For the first time in my life I was held accountable: My statements and behaviors were questioned and I was asked for support for the opinions I spouted. This Christian mentor especially called me on the things I was saying about the Bible (which I had never really read). And instead of saying I was wrong (although clearly it was implied by her on several occasions) she challenged me to go to Scripture and come back to her with proof for my false claims. Had this woman cajoled, cradled, “loved on” me (meaning no judgment calls on me whatsoever), I would not have become a born again Christian when I did, if ever.
This woman showed true love by holding me accountable and speaking honestly. Nobody had ever done that before! Did I like it? No. The first time she corrected me was in front of the entire Bible study we were both in. I had said something (which I can’t remember now) and she responded, very matter of fact and without emotion, “Maybe that’s because you’re always late for Bible study.” I felt stung as if by a hundred bees. I remained fairly quiet rest of the hour, and as I drove home that day I vowed that this Bible study was over. Done. Never again.
As the week progressed, and as I continued in my newfound exercise of reading my Bible, God convicted me that she was right. Not only was she right, but being late had been a debilitating sin in my life; a realization I was just coming to. As much as my flesh wanted to never speak to this woman again, the Holy Spirit in me convinced me to swallow my pride and return to the Bible study, which I did. And I was never late again (that carried over to the rest of my life, to where at least it began to bother me to be late. I can say that today, I err on the side of being early). Our mentorship continued and I am a Christian today in large part because of the way God worked, and admonished, through my mentor.
Robert Rayburn, senior minister of Faith Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, Washington, said in an article he wrote on pride,
“We think so well of ourselves; it is very hard to think that God should not as well.”
That’s what I grew up with and took with me until I was born again at 39 years of age: the idea that God was okay with whatever. But the self-love and self-esteem that everyone, including myself, was promoting contrasted sharply with my inner misery, depression and addiction. The more I tried to love myself, the harder it became to even get up in the morning.
Yet I persisted in the belief that I was in charge of me and no “loving” God would ever judge me or ask me to do things differently. In that regard, God was not God; He was reduced to being the great enabler. I thank God every day that He led me to someone who was not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who shared its power to save, and who gave as much weight to obeying God’s command to admonish as she did to the other commands to teach, serve and pray.
It is because of my Christian mentor’s obedience in loving me the Biblical way (not in the easy and worldly way) that I have been healed of so much and now know what it means to be born again in Christ. Her willingness to risk offending me with Gospel Truth is an example of being other-centered; of really laying one’s life down for a friend. I’m so glad she did.
“Love must be sincere.” Romans 12:9
“Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10
“Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.” Romans 14:22
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…” Colossians 3:16
“For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.”
1 Thessalonians 4:7-8
“Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13