If I got to relive my life all over again, I would change just one thing: to fully participate in the church life sooner.
I grew up lukewarm in the church, with sparse episodes of spiritual revival. As a result, I went to college with very little intention of being with other believers; they were an afterthought. But the students and serving ones at UCLA prayed for me.
One college brother, same year as me, would faithfully visit me in the dorms at the start of every quarter. I now realize that the Lord visited me in his visiting me. Another brother encouraged me to read the New Testament with footnotes from cover to cover, which I had never done before. Reading the Bible everyday was one of the major factors that preserved me through my freshman year, even when I chose to avoid the saints. The Lord visited me in the Word. The footnotes made it much easier to access the life in those words. That life sustained me and softened my heart for an entire year before I finally decided to have regular contact with other college Christians. Once I did, I realized all the wonderful experiences I had been missing. I missed being with a group of young Jesus-lovers. I missed having a habit of praying on my own and with others daily. I realized that I actually truly had a human spirit, and that God, in fact, lives in me. I missed the joy of talking to my classmates about the Lord. I missed a ton of awesome singing, for hours at a time. After leaving a student prayer meeting one night, I distinctly remember thinking to myself that I must be the luckiest and happiest person on my entire campus. I wanted all of my friends to have what I had. I wish I had found this even earlier in my life.
Fast-forward to 2019. By this time, I had attended the Full-Time Training in Anaheim for two years, gotten married, and finished graduate school (which was rough). I had also lived in 6 different places in 5 years. At every major juncture in this formative period of my life, I sought out my fathers and mothers in the church. When I was expecting major changes in my education or professional life, I turned to them. When, at times, I felt that my life was falling apart and just needed to a place cry, I went to them. When I was offended or really bothered by something I saw in the church, I went to them. When I felt stuck and had doubts about how to go on in my Christian life, I went to them. They became the stabilizing factor, the safety net, for me. They never told me exactly what to do in each case. Instead, they asked questions, listened, prayed with me, prayed for me when I couldn’t pray, and checked in periodically to see if I was able to make any progress. They also never joined me in my self-pity or offered a judgment on my situation. Often, they were wise to keep silent when they realized that I just needed to take a matter directly to the Lord. They dared not overstep what the Lord was doing in me. Even when I stopped meeting for a stretch of 4 months, I stayed open to them, because I knew they simply loved me.
In my city, I am blessed with at least 5 such fathers and mothers, without whom my Christian life would be derailed and weak. It is such a mercy to have fathers and mothers in the church. They are patterns to me of what the Christian life, as revealed in Philippians, looks like.