I met a girl who recently started attending my church with her family. This family has taken numerous steps to ensure their children were brought up in the knowledge and fear of the Lord, yet their daughter still bucked against their leadership in high school, and only about three months ago did she rededicate her life to Lord. Since then, she has brought forth much fruit, not only in her previous church fellowship, but also in mine.
She is an attractive girl who loves the Lord, and I would like to begin pursuing her, but I'm concerned with the recentness of her conversion. Although she is bearing fruit, I can see there are areas of her life and walk in which she is still immature.
I understand that all of us have areas where we are immature, some more than others, and I'm not sure if I focus on them simply because I know that she is a recent returnee.
What advice can you offer on the timing and/or the spiritual maturity of a person before beginning the process of moving toward a relationship?
You've asked a great question, and I think you're wise to consider some of these things, not only for your sake but for hers, too. Spiritual maturity/immaturity aside, it might be that she doesn't need the distraction of a relationship at the moment as she gets her bearings with the Lord. The other side of that is if you hesitate too long, you might miss a window of opportunity that obviously won't stay open forever. So here's some guidance.
First, Scripture tells us what happens when true repentance takes place in a person's life: She bears godly fruit. The line in your letter that caught my attention the most was your observation that "she is bearing fruit." That's a key indicator that authentic repentance has taken place.
When John the Baptist saw the Pharisees approaching while he was baptizing those who were repenting of their sin, he rebuked the Pharisees for showing no signs of authentic repentance:
People went out to him [John the Baptist] from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:5-8, NIV, emphasis mine).
So what "fruit" is John the Baptist talking about here? At least one very specific list is given in Galatians 5:22-23: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…" When the Holy Spirit indwells a person, these are the things that begin to flow out of that person. The more the Spirit is given control, the more these things are a regular feature of a person's life.
We could add more spiritual fruit to this list from Scripture: humility, devotion to Christ, merciful, compassion for the lost, giving — to name a few. But you get the point. Anyone can decide to go to church, but only the Holy Spirit can bring about this inward, heart-level change. That's the gist of what John the Baptist was saying.
Is this the kind of fruit you're seeing grow in her life? If so, that's a good sign. Even though she has areas in her life where she needs to mature (as we all do), her change is real. If that's the case, I think you can check that concern off your list.
Besides simply observing the fruit in her life, you also have at your disposal the gift of spiritual discernment. This is hard to quantify, but discernment is that inward "knowing" that this is someone with whom you can connect at a spiritual level. It's more than shared hobby interests; it's a shared devotional interest that runs deeper than surface similarities.
Regardless of whether someone is early in this journey of sanctification, you can still discern whether she has a focused and resolute heart about the path she's on. As long as a believer has a humble and teachable spirit and a desire to grow, you can rest assured that immaturity will quickly give way to maturity.
Spiritual discernment comes from the Lord, and ultimately He is the One who will speak to your heart about this girl as you grow in friendship. My advice is to place yourself close enough to get a sense of her desire for spiritual growth. It won't take long to figure that out. If to the best of your ability you see that her heart is sincere before the Lord, I wouldn't hesitate. Take the next step of pursuit.
Copyright 2012 John Thomas. All rights reserved.