July 31, 2013

I Stopped Teaching the Bible and Started Living it


It really started last summer.

Jeff, Luke, and I planned a summer get-away to Minnesota. I never had given a thought about going to Minnesota. For me getting away means the mountains or the beach, and it doesn’t involve an airplane. We had some vouchers that we were going to lose if we didn’t make a reservation to somewhere so we bought Luke a ticket and booked a cabin on a island near a small town up close to the Canadian border. The cabin came with a small boat with a motor, a canoe, and an outhouse. (Yes, an outhouse.) There was a cedar-lined sauna in a little building near the cabin. Being Southerners, we weren’t sure how to use it, but at least there was a shower out there. (Thank you, Jesus.) 

The cabin was modern otherwise. Sparsely furnished, it was clean and had big windows on three sides overlooking a cold lake and trees that were unfamiliar. No cell service, no television, no landline. There was a radio that we tuned to the songs of the seventies. At night we shut it off, rolled open the windows and listened to the loons. 

Jeff and Luke took out in the v-hull boat most days without me. I pulled out my Bible and my study books trying to get discernment about the direction God had for me as a Bible study teacher in the fall. I had my yellow pads and I was writing some, praying a lot. During those days of solitude, every time I picked up the Bible Study book to study, I sensed a resistance. Finally, I gave up, read the novel I brought, wrote in my yellow pads, and played with some watercolors on the dock.

A month after I got home, I invited ladies who were my friends, some of whom had come to my classes, some who lived life with me, to speak into my life. I told them that I could go ask the questions, lead Bible study again in the fall, but I would do it in my own strength. It seemed to me that God had taken the wind. I could do it but couldn't discern the wind of the Spirit behind me.

I anticipated those who sat around my living room might tell me, “Dea, don’t turn back from this, you are just having a mid-life crisis!” But they didn’t. They heard my heart and each one of them said the time had come to let Bible Study go. 

They helped me accept letting go of something I had done for years and years. It was my time to let go of Bible Study as a leader. I was not giving up on the Bible or the One who inspired it. But my time at the front of the class had ended for the time being.

That experience last summer was hard and it was freeing---a paradox, an opportunity for the new to come. I feared I might have my identity tied up in leading. Maybe that fear was valid, maybe more than I wanted to admit.

Since then, God has continued to chip away at me. It has been a very humbling experience. And one that is hard to explain. I tried to do just that, explain the whittling away to a friend. I told her that if I had I known the chipping away would continue, I would have written all the ways that God has challenged me to trust him, to stand in who I am in Him, to believe I am worthy because He is worthy, and that my value is not in what in I do but in Whose I am. 

There have been times over the past year when God asked me to step back when I wanted to step forward, clear incidences when I knew His will and found obedience to be difficult at first. Peace came with obedience and I knew that what I perceived was true.

The discernment---the hearing and the knowing---has been humbling as well. I have asked and contemplated, sought understanding and clarity---the answer to why? 

I suppose it could be the most simple of answers: that I needed to be humbled. Of course, I know God gives grace to the humble. Though I haven't put it all together yet as to what this all means, I am certain understanding is not the point. 

I don't want use this time of surrender as an excuse to not do---an accusation the enemy throws my way at times. I really don't believe surrender is the whole of God’s plan for me. It is part of the plan He has for me, a part of my journey on this side of the kingdom. Only he knows the future and some day, I believe, I will have greater understanding and even more gratitude for having walked this path. 

On a cool cloudless night out there on Bear Island Lake, I slipped out the door to hike the steps to the outhouse. I looked across toward the water’s edge and it was if the stars were hanging from the tree branches. I turned my gaze to the sky above me. I had never seen such wonder. The vastness, the beauty caught my breath. Thousands of stars I had never seen before blanketed the the heavens.

Every day I open the Bible and find the inspired words of the One who named the stars, the ones I see with my eyes and those I don’t. And I am filled with wonder at the God whose very words live, breath, feed, instruct and give hope.

The Word of God is opening fresh in new place in my life. I stopped teaching the Bible and started living it.

When has God asked you to step back when you wanted to step forward? Have you experienced peace after obedience? Has change brought new wonders you hadn't expected?

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