When my oldest son was little, he would often want to help me make dinner. I can still picture his little hands trying to open up a jar with lots of effort but no success. After giving it his all, he would hand it to me, with a look of defeat on his face and ask me to open it for him. After twisting off the top with little effort, I’d look at him with reassurance and say, “You loosened it for me.” Those five little words always seemed to heal his bruised ego enough that he’d still continue to try the next time. 

I had completely forgotten about those struggles he faced until the day came when I myself couldn’t get the lid off of a particularly stubborn jar of spaghetti sauce. I handed it to my son, who now stood taller than me, and asked for his help. After he opened the jar with little effort, he handed it back to me, and with a smile and a wink, repeated the same words I had always said to him… “You loosened it for me.” The images of my little boy came flooding back into my momma heart.

As I think about these five words, which didn’t seem very significant at the time, but remained in my son’s mind, it makes me think of how God views us when He calls us to be his disciples.

I tend to sometimes get overwhelmed with the thought that it’s my responsibility to lead people all the way to a full-blown relationship with Jesus. Not just accepting Him, but guiding them all the way to the point where they are discipling others as well. Instead of being okay with just planting a seed, my mind goes full speed into making sure a mighty oak is formed.

I put so much expectation on myself to see someone’s salvation all the way through, that I miss the beauty in the part God actually intends me to play. My part is loosening the lid and then trusting the Holy Spirit to do the rest. I know that my own faith walk will always be a work in progress this side of Heaven. So why should I expect to see the end result of someone else’s.

It was on our very first camping trip with our skoolie when God reminded me of this. In addition to packing and making the necessary bus preparations prior to our trip to Eagles Peak Campground we spent time praying and asking God to prepare our hearts for our first skoolie ministry opportunity. Our prayers included asking God for courage to share His truth in a loving way with whoever it was that we were supposed to meet and also that He would be preparing their hearts as well.

I knew that the purpose of this ministry God placed on our hearts was to love people to Jesus, but I had no idea what that would actually look like. I, as usual, went into it wondering how we could open up the whole jar for someone in such a short period of time, but God, in His goodness, didn’t waste any time showing us how His plans would unfold.

We arrived on a Saturday, and the first thing our kiddos wanted to do was go to the pool. But this wasn’t just any campground pool. The thing that had been holding their excitement leading up to the trip was the colossal water slide feature that the campground’s website boasted about. They couldn’t wait to try out every single one of the ten slides. As I was watching the joy on my kiddos faces, while hearing the constant call of “Mom, watch me do this one!” I saw another mom following her own younger kids around the slides.

But she was the one calling out to her kiddos instead of the other way around. Her pleas with them to go down the slides instead of climbing up them had me chuckling. I was honestly so amazed at the braveness of such little kids to be climbing up these supersized slides as water was rushing down them.

She looked at me and apologized in the way that we moms always feel we need to do. I simply replied, I have kids of my own, I get it… no apology needed, and admitted that I was actually pretty impressed. 

We started chatting and our conversation somehow led to the fact that they had also arrived that day but didn’t get to the camp store to purchase firewood before they closed. Since it was the off season, their hours were shortened. We happened to have extra, so I offered her some of ours. I gave her our campsite number so she could stop by for the firewood once her kiddos got all their energy out from climbing up the slides.

Later that evening, her husband came over to see if that firewood was still up for grabs. It turned out their campsite was right across the street (or should I say gravel lane) from ours. We shared some small talk in addition to the firewood and God gave Matt and I both a little nudge that these are the ones we had been praying for. The next several days we continued to chat and get to know each other, mostly sharing small talk among horseshoes, shuffleboard, and pool time.

Then came Tuesday evening. Their last night of camping. As we sat around our campfire, just chatting about life, our new friend said to her husband, “We really need to get back to church.” I honestly don’t recall what we were talking about before that. I think we may have been chatting about our kids, but I know it wasn’t anything “churchy.” What I do remember is thinking, wow that came out of nowhere, followed by another one of God’s nudges, and then a silent prayer in my head that He would guide the conversation from here.

She went on to explain that they had left their church because of past hurts, which it turned out were the result of man-made rules. What followed next was a wonderful conversation about the difference between religion and relationship. Something that Matt and I had discovered after dealing with church hurt from our own pasts.

So many of us get caught up in religion that we lose sight of what the Gospel is really all about. Trying to keep up with all of the man-made rules, or even just the appearance of being a “good Christian,” causes us to miss out on the beauty of the most important relationship we’ll ever have.

We shared with them that, while we do belong to a wonderful church, what has truly been life changing for us is reading our Bibles every day. What started off as a checklist a few years ago, turned into a wonderful habit of seeking God with all our hearts. The result of which is God jumping off the pages at us, revealing his true character and incredible love for us, and us growing closer to Him in the process.

As I was lying in bed that night, all up in my thoughts about having to help them find a good church where they live and making sure I have a good Bible reading plan to send them home with, I heard God say, “You did your part, you planted a seed, now step aside and let the Holy Spirit do the watering and nurturing to help it grow.” In essence he was saying, “You loosened it for me.” 

It’s not within our power, nor was it ever intended to be our part, to open the lid on a relationship between others and the Lord. That’s God’s job through the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility as his disciples is to loosen the lid so He can be the one to open it. We never know which stage God will use us in during someone else’s faith journey. It may be planting a brand new seed, watering one that has already been planted, or discipling someone after they have accepted Jesus’ gift of salvation. But what I do know is that His desire is for us to be ready and available whatever our assignment may be, and the more we are involved in our own relationship with God, the more we can be used to help others begin or continue their own relationship with Him. 

As I think about these moments and the opportunities that God gives us, I pray that when I get to Heaven and see Him face to face, that I will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I pray that He’ll be pointing to those who I have been blessed to cross paths with and that, with a smile and a wink, I’ll hear the words, “You loosened it for me.” But mostly, I pray that as I continue to grow in my relationship with God, that I’ll do my best to listen for His guidance and step out obediently in faith so that I won’t miss any opportunities to “loosen a lid.”

So, what about you? Is your faith still in the lid loosening stage? If you’ve never accepted God’s gift of salvation, my hope is that you’ll get to truly experience Jesus’ incredible love for you. If you’re feeling even the slightest nudge in your own heart, I’d love to invite you to read about who Jesus is, what He did for you, and how much you are loved

If you do already know Jesus as your Savior and friend, who has been a lid loosener in your life? Today might be a good day to give them a call or send them a text to let them know that you’re thankful for them. I know I have so many of my own to be thankful for.