Recently, I sent a truly terrifying text:
“I THINK I WANT TO JOIN YOUR BIBLE STUDY.”
This text has been locked and loaded in my mind for months. I’ve wanted to join this group of women for their weekly Bible studies ever since we moved to Los Angeles. The women in leadership are kind and smart and welcoming. I can tell from the newsletters that they’re also thoughtful and, I suspect, a ton of fun. So, the group itself, I’m not too worried about.
It’s the studies they chose.
Every single quarter when I get their updates, I find out that they’re doing yet another popular and polished Bible study.
You know the ones I’m talking about: The six-week studies with videos and SUPER PRETTY workbooks. The teachers are always gorgeous and rock the perfect pair of riding boots. They’re funny and passionate, and I’m pretty sure they were high school cheer captains the way they pump you up for Jesus!
I’m not allergic to them, quite the contrary, I’m drawn into them, and this worries me.
So, every time I get an an invitation to join, I reach for this text in my mind and wonder: “Is now the time?” And because I’m still worried, I tell myself, “Not yet. But soon.”
The truth is, me joining this group and doing this study is pretty much a far gone conclusion.
I love me some Bible.
I’m a sucker for a group study.
And they always reel me in with candles in Mason jars, a quirky couch and a barn.
But still, the studies, like I said, I worry about them. I worry that I’m (as Sarah Bessey admits she’s) “liberal to the conservatives and conservative to the liberals.” I worry that when we talk about atonement that we’ll lean into a picture of God that makes him wrathful and exacting, not loving and victorious. I worry that when we talk about evil in the Bible and the suffering in our lives that we’ll attribute it to God’s blueprint, instead of acknowledging the brokenness of free-willed entities, angels and demons included. I worry that we’ll get patriotic, and so help me God, I need the kingdom now. The great and beautiful and progressing-against-the-darkness kingdom of God. Not some picture of a “flourishing” U.S. of A. I worry that when the study takes a turn toward a landing point that offers me no stable ground on this walk of faith, that I’ll hold the group back because I’m unable to go forward. I’m worried that they’ll leave me behind, reminding me, once again, that this Third Way is odd and more than a little isolating. If I join the study, will I be left by the group standing at the crossroads because I’m too much, too little, too skeptical to choose? I don’t want to be “that girl” — the one with big thoughts and big words and big feelings and big potential to offend. I worry about walking into that room with this gumbo of theological positions and experiences and convictions, and realizing that I don’t fit in.
And therein lies, I think, the crux of it all. The desperate need to fit in. The desire to have a side that will claim me. Is it so bad to want a group of women who will stand behind me and, yes maybe, validate me? I want to know to whom I belong when I crack open the Bible and let it crack open my heart.
But I sent a text, and I’m going to Bible study. I’ll drink coffee and mark up my pretty workbook, and take living room design notes from the video. I’m going to do this because I realize something that I’m going to hold closer to my heart than my pet theology.
I know to whom I belong. I do. I belong to Jesus.
The author and perfecter of this growing faith of mine. He’s the one before our group, guiding us through the Scriptures. His Spirit is ready to show us landmarks and ebenezers of the love of God. I don’t have to be worried. I don’t have to be afraid. I belong to him. We all do. And so, I have to trust that this morning when I go in there, he’s gone before me. When I disagree, his Spirit will guide me with words of peace. I have to trust that God was in the emails and relentless invitations and that his voice is saying,
“COME. I’M HERE. I HAVE SOMETHING FOR YOU. JUST TRUST ME, OK?”
I don’t wanna trust the spirit I cannot see because I like the black-and-white text of Bonhoeffer, and Moltmann, and Bessey. I get those words. I love those perspectives. They’ve centered me in so many ways. But they’re only words on a page. They’re not living, breathing face-to-face community. They’re not the embodiment of Christ in a circle of chairs in a church sanctuary. And that’s what I need right now. That’s why I stayed on the mailing list and that’s why I sent that text.
Are you like me? Are you holding out on joining a small group, or Bible study, or weekly gathering because you think your particular gumbo is too spicy for the crowd? Maybe, it might be. I won’t lie there are some communities who are simply not safe for someone unwilling to be either/or. They call it the messy middle for a reason, right? But, I’m confident there’s a spicy Bible study for you. A safe, spicy and waiting group for you. So, I want to ask to do a couple of things for me, ok? First, pray for me, because I want to stick this study out through the end. I know Jesus is calling me to go. I know he has truths he wants to share with me in this study. But, I’m scared. So, pray for your girl, ok? And then seek out a group to join. Use your good senses and take your time to find a kind community. But once you’ve found them, join. Lord knows, I took my time — one whole year of praying and wrestling and keeping a text ready to send, but I sent it.
And I’m going.
Jesus and the rustic chic video are calling.
Osheta Moore lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three kids. She considers herself an Assembly-of-God-Methodist-Southern-Baptist-a-terian turned Anabaptist. This first appeared on her blog, Shalom in the City.
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