My Biggest Mistake as a Christian

I had worked with Kate at a restaurant waiting tables. We had classes together in college. We were even lab partners in biology.

Our friendship grew as we spent more and more time together. She shared with me about her boyfriend drama. I shared with her about church and God.

She quickly knew I was a Christian. Slowly, she showed more and more interest in this “church thing.” Before I knew it, Kate was joining me for my Thursday night college church group. She sat crying during service one night.

She began asking pointed questions about Jesus and salvation. Her own salvation seemed eminent. But then I messed up the whole darn thing and made one the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made as a Christian.

As Kate continued to attend church with me and ask questions, I tried to play it cool. I was available, receptive, loving. I felt like, “Yeah, I’m doing a good job with this whole witnessing and looking like Jesus thing.”

However, as time wore on and she kept returning to the destructive relationship with her boyfriend, I grew frustrated and discouraged. More than that, I got antsy and as it turns out, getting antsy is no way to display Christ.

One night after a college group service, wherein Kate once again cried and became quite emotional, we found ourselves in my car sitting in the parking lot. I started to ask her if she was “ready,” you know, “ready to accept Jesus.” She said “no.” I understood, or so I thought. She just needed more time, that’s all.

So, I gave her time…sorta. I gave her maybe a week and then found myself, once again asking the same question. This time her answer was different. This time she said, “Don’t ever ask me again if I’m ready.” I felt like I was punched in the stomach. I had the wind knocked out of me.

Where did I go wrong, I wondered. Hadn’t I been the perfect patient, loving, available Christian? Hadn’t she been emotionally moved by the Spirit on numerous occasions and asking the right questions? Wasn’t her salvation due?

I complied, of course and never asked her if she was ready to receive Christ again. Just thinking of it makes me shudder. How naive I was. How forceful and aggressive. How I blatantly disregarded the heeding from the Holy Spirit. This was the Nicole show.  I was going to bring her to Jesus, not Jesus bringing her to Himself.

I failed…huge. My friendship with Kate was never quite the same following that night. She felt somewhat betrayed and pressured, I assume. I felt shameful and embarrassed. Things became awkward.

Later, when I had the opportunity to redeem the situation, I once again failed. Kate called me one night and asked me to drive her to her boyfriend’s house. I refused. I found him to be so vile and bad for her that I flat out said “no.” Looking back, I wonder if that is really how God would have had me respond? I doubt it, considering my answer was all flesh and no Spirit.

Since my failure with Kate, I have learned a lot. I know that I do not have the ability to make anything happen, but I sure can mess things up. God turns hearts. The Spirit convicts men. Jesus woos. We have the opportunity to be available, obedient, and led by Him. I was led by my flesh and the result was a girl on the brink of meeting and intimately knowing her Messiah.

What resulted, thanks to my pushy attitude, was a broken friendship and a heart full of regret. I still pray for Kate. It has been almost 8 years and I still pray for her. I pray that she won’t give up on Jesus just because I gave up on her. I pray He finds her, despite my unwillingness to truly see her. I pray…

What has been your biggest Christian failure? When did you refuse or fail to see God, listen to God, or trust God? What was the result? What have you learned?

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18 thoughts on “My Biggest Mistake as a Christian”

  1. One of my closest friends cheated on his wife (also a close friend of mine). He was honest about it. I thought I was the one that had to fix everything. It took me too long to realize that the situation was beyond my control, and it was a brokeness only God could mend.

    Fortunately, both of them are still two of my closest friends. Everything isn’t fixed between them, but I’m learning be patient and allow God to do what He does best.

    1. Brian,
      I’m sorry you had to experience that alongside your friends. Watching friends relationships disintegrate is painful. I’ve been there. It can be difficult to know what the “right” thing to do really is.

      Like you said, we often try to control the situation and make things happen. Ultimately, we must realize we are powerless.

      Thanks for sharing Brian. I am glad to hear that you are still friends.

  2. Nicole, I applaud you for this post. It shows both a high level of maturity on a personal level, as well as keen insight into a problem that will probably always plague the evangelical world.

    One criticism I’ve heard of Rob Bell’s book on Heaven and Hell is that if the church buys into a more inclusive understanding of the hereafter, that it will diminish “the urgency of evangelism”. I’m not sure that would be a bad thing. I think that way too often our urgency drives away more people than it attracts – and also perhaps that it causes a lot of premature new births – folks who make a commitment to Jesus before they are really ready to make any such commitment, and who then quickly fail in their attempts at living the Christian life and go away defeated.

    You said, “This was the Nicole show. I was going to bring her to Jesus, not Jesus bringing her to Himself.” Wow! How often in my life have I been put under condemnation by evangelical pastors for not being more of a “soul winner.” Too many. I am who I am. I talk about God to people who I feel comfortable talking about God to.

    Plus, Jesus promised that he would build his church. Sometimes I think we keep trying to pick up tools and “help out” and end up making messes that he has to come along an clean up – which is a waste of his time.

    One of the things I am learning at this point in my life is to not get ahead of God – to allow him to orchestrate the designs that he has planned out, as opposed to trying to make things happen myself. It’s a lesson that is long overdue. Things that just fall into place because all the pieces are divinely ready to fall into place is a wonderful experience. Things that are forced are never fun to participate in.

    I guess if I had to illustrate my point with a personal experience, it would be in regard to trying to build a video production business more quickly than it was intended to grow. The net result is that now, years after the business ceased to exist, I’m still paying off the credit cards from that era. Somehow I failed to learn to trust God’s pacing, and his provision. I really don’t know exactly what went wrong, but it didn’t work as I had hoped. Part of the problem was that it was (as in your illustration) “the Ed show” and that I was going to do great things “for God” instead of letting him do things through me.

    I grieve with you, Nicole, over the things in our lives that should have gone better – had we been more in sync with God’s plan.

    1. Ed,
      So well said. I agree that many times we feel pressured to evangelize and thus muck it up. When what we should really be doing is living our lives for Christ, which by default is an evangelistic lifestyle. Sure, there are times we need to specifically witness, speak, share, etc, but always remembering that God is responsible for the results.

      I think the example you gave from your own life is a great one. I can certainly relate to trying to take the reins. You seem to have left that experience more determined to listen for God and accept His timing. I feel the same.

  3. This is good Nicole — I am a huge into this right now. I wrote an article not long ago, called personal awakening “why we should let jesus build the church”

    basically talking about the whole process you are describing here. I have learned through similar experiences that Jesus cares more about the lost then we do and he is more actively seeking “lost” people more then we are. I am gonna leave it up to him in the future, and just be friends with people and love them.

  4. Nicole,

    No shame in your game. You were impetuous, immature, and a little obnoxious.

    Who among us cannot relate to this? Who among us cannot say, “hey, that sounds like me when I was first saved!”

    I myself was a holy terror when I was first saved and I really wish my brothers would have locked me in a closet for a year and not allowed me to talk to anyone! However….they did not, and my fire and boldness, while not thwarting His will for the lives of others, probably did cause Him to do *facepalms* quite a bit. (Oh no. There’s Donald. Oh no, he’s talking again! What am I gonna do with this guy?!) :)

    The good news is there is nothing we can do that He cannot undo and vice-versa. But you know this already. :)

    1. I would have loved to see new believer Donald in action. I’m sure it was a site! Gosh, I love the image too of God doing a face-palm at our behavior, yet loving us endlessly regardless.

  5. Can’t tell you how many times I feel like I’ve messed up a perfectly good witnessing situation. I always tell God I’ll do better next time, if he just puts me back in the game. But I probably won’t. But God probably doesn’t hold me responsible either. The one thing I’ve learned about God is that He is so big that we have a hard time frustrating his plans.

    1. Matt,
      You are so right that our actions, as foolish as they might be sometimes, do not in any way limit God or prevent Him from accomplishing His will. I find this comforting and humbling. I’m humbled He chooses to use me at all, especially when I fall flat on my face. Thankfully, I’m a lot easier on myself than I was back then. Grace is a glorious thing.

    2. “Can’t tell you how many times I feel like I’ve messed up a perfectly good witnessing situation.”

      “Good witnessing situation” and “back in the game”? Matt, um, what would these mean, exactly?

  6. I love the fact of how brutally honest you are. So often your candid words make me cringe, but this time I kinda had a bit of a revelation.

    I’ve ‘only’ been a born again, spirit filled, church going (bla,bla,etc,etc) Christian for 3 years. And although God has taken me on a turbo boost journey where I learned, experienced, saw and heard 10 years’ worth of Christianity, I realized that in my “baby Christian” zeal I’ve made a huge mistake (and 100s more, but this one’s the biggy)!

    Without really being disturbed by it I’ve immersed myself into a Christian bubble. Volunteering, small groups, services, working at an all Christian workplace and starting a path leading towards working in full time ministry (yay). I’ve found (and sometimes still do find) it so comforting and safe…which I guess is just a side effect of getting saved in your early 20s and having had all your childhood and youth to get messed up. ;-)
    But the consequence of it is, that I’ve lost touch with nearly all my friends from high school/college. People that have stood by my side, that fought for me and sacrificed what they had to get me through life… Some of my closest friends, and I can’t talk to any of them anymore. After months and years of not calling back and not making it to appointments with them they have given up on me and consider me to be the opposite of the person that all my Christian friends know me as.
    I never was able to connect my faith and the impact it had on my life to how their lives were going…and it doesn’t look like I can get them back. I love my Christian friends, but I’ve seriously messed it up with those people who knew the pre-Jesus me.
    I was being selfish and wanted to have my miracle of Jesus saving my dirty bum off the back allies of life all to myself – my own personal Julia show!

    1. Julia,
      Thank you for being brutally honest. It ain’t easy. Thank you for admitting that your immersion into the Christian bubble lost you friendships. That is a difficult reality to face. Although, as I was reading your comment it sounds as though you are convinced that those friendships are lost forever. I would admonish you that they may not be. God can certainly resurrect a friendship, if He can be raised from the dead Himself.

      I will be praying that you are able to reconnect with friends and that the Lord would supernaturally direct and intercede on your behalf.

  7. I’ve made a TON of mistakes! Probably too many to list here. One that feels like a mistake (but probably isn’t) was sending The Case for Christ to one of my best friends with a heartfelt letter for her to just read it. She was super offended that I would think she could go back to God after all of these years. She assumed I thought she took unbelieving in God lightly, which was not the case. Our friendship nearly ended over it. It was never the same, regardless. We talk less. I wasn’t in her wedding (although I guess it’s possible I wasn’t going to be anyway). She’s supportive of my blog and stuff now, and even comments once in a while, so I’m hoping it makes some kind of impact. But I had a relationship with her where we maybe could have had a meaningful conversation at some point, and I blew it.

    But I have to remember that when I mess up, it doesn’t make God look bad. It just makes me look bad. And feel bad.

    1. Rachel,
      I so empathize. When our good hearted intentions are completely misconstrued it can be startling and painful. I have…well, I guess had a friendship very similar. She chose to not be in my wedding. Ouch. But like I said to Julia in another comment, it may not be over or always on life support. God is big enough to change it.

      I don’t think we always look bad when we mess up either. Your intentions were not to harm or hurt, but to bless. It was out of your control as to how she responded. Now, however, you get to look good as you continue to pursue Christ. That is what your friend sees. Thanks for sharing Rachel.

  8. FWIW, when I read your paragraph about not driving her to the bad boyfriend’s house, I didn’t feel like you failed there. It seemed to me more of protecting her from a bad situation and that’s more like what Christ would do IMO. But YMMV.

    As for my biggest failure? Not dealing with my porn addiction when I found Christ. A lot of damage to the Kingdom could have been avoided had I done that.

  9. So, I’m replying to this one a bit late. I just found your blog because of your post on Laura Parker’s blog.

    Many of us Christians do struggle with how to handle situations with unbelievers, especially when their life is a wreck and they know it and we know it.

    I used to be quite the Pharisee, and I think I’ve turned a few people off from the faith due to my small-mindedness and my unwillingness to consider anything outside of the Religions Right’s way of thinking.

    Now I’m somewhere in between Pharisee and heretic, and I’m still learning a lot.

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