My husband has on occasion accused me of thinking I have a superpower: the power to identify what’s wrong in someone else’s life and the right to tell her what she should do to fix it. But we all know that’s not a superpower—that’s a know-it-all.
But I must confess. My know-it-all nature has reared its ugly head more than once in my DNA group. (A DNA group usually consists of three people—men with men, women with women—within a particular community on mission, who meet together regularly to be known and to bring the gospel to bear on each other’s lives so that they grow in and live out their gospel identity.) Some gal mentions that same ole situation or sin pattern, and I want to say, “Hello. You’ve said this before. Actually, you’ve said it so many times I could say it for you. I’m pretty sure what you’re doing isn’t working. Aren’t you ready to try something new?”
Yet, by the grace of God, I refrain myself.
One reason I’m thankful I’ve refrained is because I’m often that person. I already know I’m living the same bad story on repeat. I’ve badgered my husband into a fight—again. I’m beating myself up for not doing X, Y, and Z—again. I’m clutching for control—again. And I don’t need someone to condemn me for it.
What I need is someone to remind me of the good news—again and again and again. I need “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” that I “may be filled with all the fullness of God”—again (Ephesians 3:19).
DNAs for Know-It-Alls and Know-Nothings
Even though God has given us the Spirit, He has called us to be a part of communities in which we encourage and build each other up. Although this is a ministry of the church as a whole, DNA groups provide safe and intimate spaces where this kind of gospel encouragement can take place. Saturate’s DNA guide Growing in Christ Together says that the purpose of DNA groups is to “bring the gospel to bear on each other’s lives so that [we…] become more like Jesus.” This means that DNAs are places where we submit ourselves to the “Word of God [that] is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12), “confess [our] sins…and pray for one another” (James 5:16), “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:25), and together “hold fast to our confession” in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14).
Committing to this kind of community changes know-it-alls like me and know-nothings as some others deem themselves to be. First and foremost, DNAs require us to posture our hearts toward Jesus. We have to be like Paul who decided to know nothing “except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Secondly, we can’t trust in our own abilities. If we can’t change our own hearts at the snap of a finger, we shouldn’t expect to change someone else’s. Thus, we have submit to the process, trusting that God changes people.
Grace in the Process
In the seven years I’ve been leading a DNA group, I have often wondered if the process works, if people are actually becoming more like Jesus, but I have been reminded that change occurs in the context of Gospel + Safety + Time, a maxim coined by Ray Ortlund.
We always begin new groups or new seasons by sharing our stories. This means I’ve told my story and listened to other people’s stories many times. These stories are never exactly the same, but it’s in the differences where I hear conviction of sin, acts of repentance, and signs of healing and deliverance. I rejoice when I hear the lady who first glossed over her relationship with her mother first recognize how that relationship influenced a pattern of people-pleasing and when she later shares about a healthy willingness to disappoint someone.
Although people in the groups have varying degrees of Bible knowledge, repeatedly going through the four questions (Who is God? What has He done in Jesus? Who am I? and What should I do?) in response to a passage of Scripture shows people moving toward a life of living into their gospel identities. When people first start answering these questions, it’s like a recitation of facts, but over time as these truths take root, people move toward a life of enjoying who are they are in Christ. I have witnessed women go from struggling to believe they are beloved children to being able to live like beloved children when someone rejects them or their own sin threatens to stricken them with shame.
I have seen a lot of different reactions to vulnerability in response to nurturing the heart. Some people show up physically but never really show up emotionally. They never let their guard down. Others show up and just want to drone on and on about their problems. They don’t come as humble learners/lead repenters. Other people are fully present and engaged in the process, but it’s hard to see dynamic change in their lives.
Or, so it seems—until I step back and ask the Holy Spirit to show me what He’s doing. It’s then I can celebrate when the “quiet” one reveals her struggle with jealousy, the “loud” one takes time to listen and ask questions, and the “together” one says nothing, trusting the Spirit to work without her intervention. It’s then I become aware of the ongoing transformation in all of our lives—growth in marriages, faithfulness in parenting, love for neighbors, sacrifices for the kingdom, awareness of self, and ongoing satisfaction in Jesus.
I may not always see the evidence that someone else is becoming more like Jesus. That’s when I have to wait for the Lord in hope (Ps. 130:5). And sometimes He graciously lets me see His work. For example, I was aware of a friend’s financial irresponsibility. I wanted to talk to her about it, but I never sensed the Spirit giving me permission. When she moved away, I felt guilty for not helping her more. Later, I learned she was convicted about her spending habits by a finance class her new church offered. At first, I begrudged the fact, wondering why God chose to use them instead of me, but the Spirit reminded me that He doesn’t expect this recovering know-it-all to fix it all. Jesus is the one who completes the good work He began in us (Phil. 1:6).