The Fruit of Student Ministries
My husband Brian and I met Lauren in the fall of 2000. She was a homeschooled sophomore, the oldest of three children. Lauren had a sweet and playful demeanor. She and her best friend were eager disciples in our high school Small Group. Lauren carried some issues that, though they did not surface immediately, slowly emerged during her high school and college years.
Early on, Lauren stated very matter-of-factly that “guys are jerks.” Not knowing the context of this statement, I didn’t think much of it since, unfortunately, it’s not an uncommon view among teenage girls. Still, Lauren clearly avoided her male peers at church.
When our son was born, Lauren became our babysitter. She would not allow us to pay her, but generously volunteered her time and cared for our son while we attended an adult Small Group and went on occasional dates. She, her friend, and I formed a threesome that met throughout their high school years, eating together and nourishing our souls with studies on women of the Bible, the fruit of the Spirit, and more. The girls’ parents graciously shared them and also reached out to us, as we had no family in the area. It was a sweet, mutual blessing.
Toward the end of the girls’ high school years, we were invited to Lauren’s home for dinner. At this point, we knew each of her family members. However, it had become apparent that something was different about this family. On the outside, things appeared normal. Lauren’s parents were sweet, kind people. Yet, despite being married and living under the same roof, they were living separate lives.
Perhaps this was the reason the family seemed isolated despite being part of a homeschool community. This sense of isolation, coupled with Lauren’s uncle divorcing her aunt to be with a younger woman, gave Lauren a very unhealthy view of marriage. She watched with heartbreak as her aunt and cousin struggled through the aftermath. At one point, she told Brian and I that we were the only married couple she was close to that seemed “to like each other.” I began to understand why she thought guys were jerks.
Lauren did a gap year before entering college. When our second child arrived, she was such a trusted and beloved caregiver for our son that she kept him overnight while Brian and I were in the hospital for our daughter’s birth. My hospital admission occurred close to midnight, so out-of-state grandparents couldn’t arrive until the next morning. It was a huge gift to have Lauren keep our toddler, knowing he would thoroughly enjoy his time with her.
Eventually, Lauren decided that if she met a nice guy, she might consider dating him. After college, she did meet a man who was not only nice, but also loved Jesus. In the Lord’s lovingkindness, he’s allowed me to see Lauren over the years through seemingly random encounters—surprises that are not really “random,” but instead are clear evidence of his sovereign power and grace.
When I spoke with Lauren a couple of years into her marriage, I gathered that she and her husband were happy in their marriage. By now, her parents were divorced. But Lauren was joyful, content, and attending church with her husband. She commented then that she wasn’t yet sure about having children, knowing the long-term commitment required of a parent. I marveled at the wisdom God had granted her.
More time passed and I ran into Lauren shortly after her daughter was born. She was a glowing mama, thankful for the gift of motherhood.
Even more recently, I got to meet her adorable three-year-old at yet another “chance” encounter. Describing the exchange to a friend—who is also a former youth group student as well and now serves as a leader—later that week, I recalled how Brian and I had just been doing what we were supposed to be doing–in our marriage and family—while also spending time with students. We were unaware that the God of the universe was busily working in our midst to transform the heart of a young woman. Lauren is proof that God is awesome. His ways and thoughts truly are higher than our ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9).
“So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 1:8).