IN OUR HOUSE, there is a cozy room with four Manhattan-style leather chairs positioned in a circle around a small coffee table. It’s our favorite place to go for writing, thinking, daydreaming, and visiting with friends. Grasping oversized mugs of hot chocolate or chai in our hands, we sit across from each other and enjoy glimpses of the majestic Rocky Mountains in the distance. It’s a peaceful room, one that invites intimate conversation. Eric and I have spent hours talking in those overstuffed chairs, exploring truth, recalling funny memories, and recounting life’s many adventures. We’ve also shared many wonderful moments with others around that circle of chairs, playing games, telling stories, and laughing, crying, and praying with our friends and family.
But one of my favorite experiences in that cozy room happened last fall, when a group of four young women met there for a time of prayer, encouragement, and exploring the message of Authentic Beauty
together. They were the first members of the Authentic Girl Ministry Team, four girls who had rearranged their lives in order to move to Colorado and join me in ministering to today’s young women.
None of the girls knew one another before moving to Colorado to share a house, a life, and a ministry. They all had different backgrounds, different personalities, different interests, and different dreams and desires. But there was one thing that each one of those young women held at the center of her being: a passion for the set-apart life. Each one longed to build her existence fully and completely around Jesus Christ. And because of that mutual passion, there was an instant, eternal bond that was formed among them. Instead of feeling alone and isolated in their set-apart journeys, they now had the encouragement, support, companionship, and prayers of five other young women on the same path.
The first time I sat across from these four young women in our circle of chairs, I could sense the significance of what was taking place. It was as if a “Fellowship of the Set-Apart” was being formed, a sacred circle of friendship, trust, accountability, and unity in Jesus Christ. As we began discussing the message of Authentic Beauty,
the girls shared their own stories of how God had called each of them to a set-apart existence. They spoke of their struggles, doubts, fears, and victories along the way. And everyone in the room was uplifted, comforted, and strengthened as each girl spoke. We met together every week, and through those precious times of fellowship, each member was challenged and equipped to pursue Christ even further into His endless frontier. Each of the girls encouraged and motivated the others to remain rooted and strong in the set-apart existence.
Today, when people look at the lives of these four young women, they see something that makes them sit back in wonder. They see radiance, mystique, and selflessness. They see a passion for Jesus Christ that far outweighs any other pursuit or desire. They see “the few” in this generation who have chosen to follow a completely different path than the rest of the culture. They see lilies among thorns.
It is my hope and prayer that as you explore the message of Authentic Beauty
–whether individually or with a group–you will not feel you are on this journey alone. I invite you to join our Fellowship of the Set-Apart; to hold your mug of hot chocolate and sit across from me and the other girls in those cozy leather chairs; to be encouraged, inspired, challenged, uplifted, and, most of all, equipped to live a set-apart existence for Jesus Christ.
Becoming a set-apart young woman is not an easy path to walk. There will be doubts, loneliness, discouragement, and even ridicule from the world around you.
But a life fully yielded to Christ is the only life truly worth living. It is the most fulfilling, adventurous, exciting existence you could ever experience.
As you go through this study, I encourage you to allow God to personalize it to your own situation. Not all the suggestions or ideas may apply to you, but I hope they will serve as catalysts for the unique work God wants to do in your own life. If you find there is a particular question or story that speaks to you, I encourage you to spend the majority of your time there rather than feel a need to get through all the questions in a particular section. The important thing is not to complete this study guide but rather to allow God’s Spirit to direct you through this journey in a personal way. To get the most out of this experience, you may find it helpful to have a Bible and a writing journal with you as you read.
Please know that even though I may not know your name, you are in my prayers as you embark upon this journey. I pray that through this study you will draw closer to Christ than ever before and that your life will never be the same again.
A NOTE FOR GROUP LEADERS
If you are taking a group through this study guide, here are some things that may be helpful to keep in mind.
Questions are divided into three sections within each chapter. The first two sections–“Opening Up” and “The Next Level”–are designed to facilitate meaningful group discussion. Many of these questions are general, but they get progressively more personal, so be aware that some people in your group may not feel comfortable answering all the questions out loud. I’ve included a few scripture suggestions that correspond with many of the questions. You can choose to incorporate them or leave them out, depending on the needs and dynamics of your group.
The third section of questions–“For Personal Reflection, Prayer, and Study”–is designed for individual focus and meditation. You could encourage group members to tackle these questions at home each week, or you might want to carve out some time during your meeting for each person to spend some time alone with God going over these questions. It would be helpful for each person to have a Bible, pen, and journal as she works through this section.
The “Overcoming Roadblocks” section at the end of each chapter addresses some of the most common questions that young women ask about living a set-apart life. These sections can be used to facilitate group discussions, or you can encourage group members to read these sections on their own at home each week. Similarly, you may want your group to read the boxed sections of each chapter during the week, or you may want to use one or two of the pieces as a springboard for further discussion.
Just as this book needs to be personalized for an individual, it will be most effective if you personalize it to the needs of your group. You will probably find that the dynamics of your group change as you progress through the book, so feel free to adjust how you use the questions and other sections throughout the course of the study.
For additional resources on living the set-apart life or to find out more about our ministry for today’s young women, I would encourage you to visit our Web site, www.authenticgirl.com.
Excerpted from Authentic Beauty, Going Deeper by Leslie Ludy. Copyright © 2007 by Leslie Ludy. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.