“Forge ruined me for good.”
That’s what I told Ryan Hairston during one of our early gatherings when he asked about how we were doing with all the information and Forge so far. When I first heard about Forge, I was at a place in my faith where I felt like a compressed spring; I absolutely couldn’t wait to be with other excited Believers who were seeking God whole-heartedly and longed to be obedient to the Great Commission. I needed that community of people to help me stay the course, especially since I was a little new to literally and tangibly loving my neighbors. Months and years before that, I had been spiritually drowsy, and God began to slowly and gently wake me up like a kind Father would when it’s time for school. It was definitely time for me to learn more from my Rabbi, that is for sure!
It’s always entertaining to go back to old journal entries and see how I have come out of the situations I was in before. For funzies, I flipped back through the pages of my journals over the past two years, and I can’t help but thank God for being so unbelievably gracious and patient in how he constantly draws me back to him and helps me become more like his Son. It is absolutely astounding to see where I struggled before, what I thought was impossible, and what I didn’t even realize I had backwards. As a result of going through the Forge residency, the biggest change in my life is that I have become more deliberate with my interactions with those in my community. The Spirit has chipped away at my heart of judgement and has been replacing it with one of compassion and empathy. I see people not as projects but as allies; sharing my faith isn’t about a conversion but about building deep and vulnerable relationships with others.
Forge has also helped me better understand my spiritual gifts and how to use them for the Kingdom and not just for the church. I’ve also become more outspoken with other Christians and less concerned about what people will think if I talk about the chasm between how we act and what Christ asks us to do.
Over the past two years, my husband and I have slowly reshaped our schedules to be less busy and more careful about how we spend our time. Something Forge taught us is that we can help answer prayer requests; if there is something we know we can do to help, we ask if it is okay to help in that way. It’s awful to admit, but in the past, we would merely pray like the person had asked us to and never give much thought to the idea that perhaps God wants us to help answer that request. Our society can lean toward not wanting to impose, which means people don’t ask for help, and we don’t offer. This isn’t how I understand the Kingdom now. We see far more opportunities than we used to, and I’m ashamed at how selfish I have been.
Praise God that he doesn’t give up on us. He wants every bit of me and will stop at nothing until he has it. George MacDonald puts it this way, “He who will not let us out until we have paid the uttermost farthing, rejoices over the offer of the first golden grain in payment. Easy to please is he - hard indeed to satisfy.” Thanks be to God!
If I could go back and talk to pre- and during-Forge me, I would tell her, “Hang in there, because tangibly loving your community will go from being overwhelming to being the most fun you’ve ever had in your life.”