Guest post by Cara Blondo
“You need to know your identity in Christ!”
I was a freshman in college, still recovering from a severe eating disorder. As a new Christian, one Sunday after church I asked for prayer. I don’t recall the specifics of what I shared or why I asked for prayer that particular day, but the pastor’s reply proved to be life-changing.
I had never heard of finding one’s identity in Christ. I asked the pastor’s wife if she would help me grow in this understanding.
For the next few years, she and others from the church invited me not only into their homes but into their very lives. I joined them while they ran errands and mopped their floors. I observed their marriages and their mothering. Each and every day spent with these women were centered around the Word of God, and specifically what God’s Word taught concerning my identity, worth, value, and what it meant to be His child.
Their very presence in my life – their willingness to give of their time and energy – communicated to my young, hurting heart the very same message they were hoping to instill from the pages of their Bibles: Whose I was and who I was.
They showed me how to read my Bible and to believe God’s Word to be true, even when – especially when – my thoughts and emotions said otherwise.
Slowly, my mind was renewed. Slower still, I began to change from the inside-out.
Old thought patterns and habits faded away. I was finally experiencing the newness of who I truly was the moment I placed my faith in Christ a few years prior.
Making All the Difference
During my battle with anorexia throughout middle and high school, I had a tremendous team of doctors and therapists. I am so grateful for how the Lord used them to help me get physically healthy.
However, nothing had changed inwardly throughout all of those years. I believed the same destructive thoughts that I had always believed. It was not until God’s Word was poured into my life and lived out in front of me that I began to change. This occurred because of the local church community.
It was through the relationships built with lovers of Christ that I came to know His love for me. It was through the dedication of His children that I learned what it meant to be His child. And it was as the women in the church served me that I caught a glimpse of the greatest Servant of all time: Christ Himself.
My life was changed by the Spirit working through the Word of God shared and lived out by the people of God.
While the ministry of these women began within the four walls of the local church, it extended far beyond those walls. I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthians when he said that even if they had ten thousand instructors in Christ, they only had one spiritual father: himself (see 1 Corinthians 4:15).
Relationships: The Power of the Local Church
We can find teachers and their messages online, through podcasts, and in books – and God often uses them powerfully in our lives for His glory. But true relationships, where a mature woman of Christ can know you and speak into your struggles, doubts, and day-to-day life – and whose life you in turn can watch and eventually imitate, as Paul exhorted the Corinthians (see verse 16) – is where we find the key to tremendous growth and transformation.
The local church matters. Your presence in the local church matters. There is simply no substitute.
God is God. He could have accomplished His work within me in any way He chose. He chose, however, to use His children, the local believers found within my very own home church.
And I wonder: what might He wish to accomplish in you through the relationships He has waiting for you in the church?
Equally important to consider is what might He wish to accomplish through you – as His vessel – in the lives of those sitting next to you, those you pass in the hallways, and those whom you would never meet without having been brought together in the context of the local church?
Remember Paul’s message to the Corinthians: there’s no shortage of those who can impart information. But to experience the transformation that the Holy Spirit can work in a life through the power of His Word, He will often choose to use His people.
Will you receive this blessing or respond to its privilege? Only God knows what awaits you!
*This piece is part of the “Reason to Return” blog series to discuss ideas within the new book, “Reason to Return: Why Women Need the Church & the Church Needs Women” by Ericka Andersen.
Read more from this series: