“When I met them, I was in a season that I didn’t have anyone to guide me,” Leigh Hamlet says about the couple who first discipled her. She was in high school at the time, full of questions and unsure how to fully live out her Christian faith. That’s when she met Dan and Lisa (you can read more of Dan’s story here), and their relationship has been pivotal in her life as a disciple of Jesus.
Leigh says her discipling relationship with Dan and Lisa did involve formal, structured time, as she read books or Scripture passages and brought questions to discuss. But her relationship with them was much more than that. They welcomed her into their life and their home and modeled what discipleship looks like in everyday life.
“They opened up their life to me,” Leigh remembers. “Much of our time together was spent with me just hanging out at their house, doing daily life with them.” These moments in everyday life became opportunities to explore what it looked like to follow Jesus and to see whole-life discipleship in action. “They taught me how to live out a Christian life every day, not just on Sundays, and how to let my relationship with Jesus affect everything I do,” Leigh says.
Leigh acknowledges that discipling her in this way did require a special sort of sacrifice and vulnerability. She says, “Inviting me into their lives was no small thing. But I grew exponentially because of their vulnerability.”
And now, years later, as that mentor-mentee relationship has shifted into a friendship, Leigh is thankful for the ways Dan and Lisa equipped her to pursue a life of discipleship on her own. “I’ve grown up. My faith really is my own. Now, I don’t need to run things by them or ask what they think—I can go to the Bible or to the Lord in prayer myself, because they helped me put the steps in place to know how to process and pray about things I encounter.” They equipped her to grow towards maturity in faith. And now, she’s able to pass that on to others.
As Leigh shares about her faith and her frontlines, it’s evident how Dan and Lisa have impacted the way she approaches relationships. “They gave me spectacles,” she says, “to watch out for people and for opportunities to ask good questions. I have the relationships I do because they taught me to be sensitive to these things.”
Leigh finds herself in friendships with others who are at various points in their discipleship journey. In some of these relationships, she acknowledges the responsibility of being the only Christian in that person’s life. “I want to be faithful in that,” she says.
Leigh describes one of these friends as a “person of peace.” As they developed a friendship during their undergrad years working on homework together, Leigh found “she was so open to talking about profound things and asks good questions.” Over time, they shared what they were learning and thinking about, and Leigh was able to share more about her Christian faith. As this friend became compelled that Christianity was real, doors opened up for much deeper conversations about the Gospel. Now, years later, they’re starting a Bible study together.
Leigh is a civil engineering PhD student, and she acknowledges that her occupational frontline in academia presents unique challenges. “It can be disheartening to be by myself doing computation work and coding,” she says. “Sometimes I equate the work of the Lord with relationships. And pursuing a PhD makes you a bit of a recluse, so I keep wondering how I can be faithful in this time I’m using to do my research.” In this season, she’s learning to pray for God’s help as she gets stuck on a piece of her code and how to view her graduate work as an opportunity for worship. “I can recognize the presence of Christ with me,” she says.
But these challenges, or even her tendency to be more introverted, don’t undermine her ability to live faithfully as a disciple of Jesus in every aspect of her life: “Discipleship is not this grand thing where we have to have everything together. It’s not limited to people who are extroverted or who have a lot of time on their hands. There’s not a stage of life (or personality) that I’m waiting for until I can do discipleship. I can’t shirk that responsibility for any number of reasons. The Sylvias did that for me. They didn’t wait for a ‘better’ time.”
And Leigh’s life has been forever changed as a result.
Diana Gruver (MA, Gordon-Conwell) writes about discipleship and spiritual formation in the every day. She is the author of Companions in the Darkness: Seven Saints who Struggled with Depression and Doubt. You can find her online at www.dianagruver.com or on Facebook or Twitter. Diana originally published this work with the Vere Institute (Oct 2014 – May 2021), which was founded to empower Christians to integrate their faith into everyday life. The Vere Institute’s legacy lives on through our Vere Library.