Be Bold at the Bottom of the Class

I’m welcoming my friend Lori Roeleveld to the #BeBoldGirl series today.  Lori is on the faculty of the ReNEW writing retreat for Christian writers.  Here is just a peek at the fun and wisdom you’ll get from Lori if you join us on the retreat.

Through all my years of school, I’d been a straight-A student, a winner of contests and scholarships, a leader, but the six years I spent at the bottom of the class revolutionized my life and my approach to evangelism.

I was forty the year my friend Diane asked me to tell her karate friends about Jesus during a casual get-together at her home. Several of them decided they’d like to study the Bible but I had to agree to take karate so we could meet after class. That required a long conversation with God and a lot of insisting on His part for me to agree.

I’d never been athletic. I’m overweight, uncoordinated, and awkward but I was emboldened by the opportunity to lead a weekly Bible class with these amazing women. At first, I expected God would somehow supernaturally empower me to be adept at karate but through my six years at the dojo, I remained forever at the bottom of my class.

Whenever there was a new move to be taught, the instructors would gather in the corner and debate who would have the daunting task of teaching it to me. Sometimes, one of them would decide I was a challenge and would take me on as a project for a few weeks. Eventually, they would weary and adjust their expectations to the one tiny step at a time method of growth.

Having to work hard and be satisfied with progress measured in inches toward a goal made me ask what else I could do if I had the courage to be bad at it at first.

I made steady progress but it was agonizingly slow. The week our class was introduced to weapons (the first being the bo, a long broomstick handle-like pole) I nearly pierced our instructor’s forehead when I sent mine sailing across two classrooms.

Never in my life had I known what it was like to be the slowest learner, the one who needed remedial instruction, the person making everyone else wait and it was humbling but in countless ways, it also set me free.

My weakness on the dojo floor made the karate women compassionate toward me and more open to learning when we opened our Bibles in the hours after class. It made the experience reciprocal and helped us to have spiritual conversations on a level playing field. It brought home to me God’s passion for working through our weakness.

God helped me see unique illustrations for biblical truths through martial arts and the pursuit of black belt excellence. The fresh perspective of these skilled martial artists on the gospel stories inspired me to see the stories in a whole new light. And through the process, God showed me how much I’ve geared my life toward activities and pursuits that come easily to me.

Having to work hard and be satisfied with progress measured in inches toward a goal I eventually did achieve (I earned my black belt after four years), made me ask what else I could do if I had the courage to be bad at it at first.

Physically and emotionally I stretched in ways I didn’t think possible. I was as dependent on these women for help with my class assignments as they were on me for biblical instruction. It gave me a new avenue for outreach – seeking help and instruction from others as I share biblical truth. There were times I wrestled with discouragement or frustration and the women from my class repeated lessons I’d taught them in order to keep me going. There’s nothing like having your own words or Bible verses you’ve taught others spoken back at you to drive home the truth that God is the One doing the real work of evangelism!

Friends still laugh when they talk about me teaching the Bible at a karate studio. God never did transform me into an athletic person. I remain a klutz, except now I’m a klutz with a black belt. I’ve always been a remedial evangelist, too, but now I don’t let that stop me.

I’ve learned I can be the worst evangelist in the class but if I’m open to God’s working through me and forget about being best in class, there’s no end to the ministry possibilities.

What could God be asking you to do badly but boldly to serve others?


roeleveld-headshot-2015Lori is a disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. Passionate about Jesus and the church, she speaks and writes with humor, transparency, and authority about the long journey from the ground to glory. She writes an unsettling blog and has authored three innovative books. Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus) and Jesus and the Beanstalk (Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life) are non-fiction; Red Pen Redemption is her provocative Christmas novella. A retired homeschool mom with a day job and a husband, she’s also a part-time dragon slayer. Not available for children’s parties. She’s prone to reveal too much about herself at www.loriroeleveld.com


Read more #BeBoldGirl stories and receive a copy of Prayers for Mothers and Grandmothers, adapted from prayers in my mother's journals.

Linking up with Kelly Balarie at #RaRaLinkup and Holly Barrett at #TestimonyTuesday

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