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The first time I attended an All Day Ministers’ Seminar as an ATI (Advanced Training Institute) student, a kind lady approached me. “Are you an ATI student?” she asked. “Yes, I am,” I responded. “What do you think of this passage of Scripture?” A perfect stranger was asking me for counsel on biblical topics just because I was in ATI. I felt so important. Because I had no answer for her, though, it became apparent to me that I needed to live up to the expectation others would have of me as a young person wearing blue and white.
I realized that most of the world had no idea I was supposed to have lots of wisdom. That’s okay. I’d share it anyway! After going to the Basic, Advanced, and Counseling Seminars, I would have so many answers ready to share.
Now I cringe at the advice I, an inexperienced youth, gave to people.
I instructed married couples in the proper times they were to abstain in their marriages (Advanced Seminar Textbook pp. 170-183), including the completely extra-biblical concept that Bill Gothard taught us that we were to apply the guidelines for abstinence after the birth of a baby to miscarriages. I greatly regret putting such rules on young parents going through the pain of losing a baby.
When a newly-converted single mom came to me for discipleship, I focused on areas such as getting out of debt, the need to homeschool and which articles of clothing that she had were “eye traps.” She ended up quitting her well-paying job and taking only jobs where she could keep her young child with her. Getting out of debt was her focus, but it was hard with the job choices she had. She kept changing jobs, trying to get out of debt, and she took jobs that kept her completely out of fellowship. She walked away from the Lord. Oh, how I wish I could go back and encourage her to just love Jesus and not worry about all that extra stuff.
One piece of Gothard-inspired counsel that I gave I’m especially ashamed of now. A friend confided in me that she had been sexually abused. After trying to comfort her, I mentally went straight to the seminars I’d attended and started spouting the things I’d been told to say in a situation like this.
Had she reported it? Until she did, she was just as guilty as he was. Had she forgiven him? He had only hurt her body, but her bitterness would hurt her soul.
I can’t believe I was so calloused.
I’m happy to be able to say that in spite of my horrible representation of the compassion of Jesus to this friend, she has since come to Christ. She’s told me how horrible it felt to share that with me only to be told she was at fault. Thankfully, she has forgiven me for my “counsel.” I was recently talking to her about how I’ve had to change my wrong views of God since coming out of ATI. She told me that she’s had to do the same thing since coming to Christ, because she obtained her view of God from me. She encouraged me to “just ask God to show you His love and He will.”
I may have given her horrible counsel, but I’m so glad that she can now give me such wonderful counsel and point me to the God who is Love.