Today is Wednesday, and one of the blessings of not taking a regular job is that I get to stay in my Bible study. I can’t believe that I didn’t even know these ladies just five months ago; they are becoming some of my dearest friends.
In the fall we had around sixteen women every week; now, because many of our gals flew south for the winter or have chosen not to brave the wintry roads, we are down to about nine or ten. The size of our group is different, and so is our study. We spent the fall studying 1 and 2 Thessalonians; now we are getting up close and personal with the Sermon on the Mount.
What hasn’t changed is the sense of belonging and community that I felt from the first moment. These gals look forward to seeing one another. We pray together, study the Bible together, laugh together, and sometimes even cry together. When one shares a burden, others offer encouragement. When one celebrates, all celebrate. And all kinds of partnerships have formed within the group. Some have partnered to collect funds for missionaries, or toiletries for the homeless, or to gather books for inner city children. Others meet for coffee, or lunch, or to go walking. One calls on another who is lonely. Another stops by to check on one who has difficulty getting out. True community.
Today in our study we discussed our failures in life — how we regret them, how we have learned from them, and how God has used them to draw us closer to him. One woman, reflecting on her life, expressed wonder at the fact that God has shown her mercy — he didn’t give her what she deserved. The teacher in our study shared that when we do wrong, we pray for mercy, but when others do us wrong, we pray for justice. Ouch, that hurt. How powerful would it be, if each of us who had been shown mercy would pay it forward and show mercy, overwhelming mercy, to those who have wronged us?
As the teacher shared those thoughts, the nods and knowing glances, the conviction and the desire to change were shared among the women. These women, not one of them younger than I am, acknowledged their need to grow, to change, to repent, to draw closer to God.
The power in that is phenomenal. The encouragement is undeniable. What if nine women in a small town in Michigan decided to go about showing mercy to those in their lives — their spouses, their children, their neighbors, their pastors, their leaders, their coworkers?
I left Bible study, ran a couple of errands, and found myself at my desk in my house by the river. I picked up my personal devotion book, which today, using the metaphorical language of battle, encouraged me to Arm myself for battle (with the Word of God), Stay on course (with God’s purpose as my goal), Stick close to my battalion (my girls, of course), and to Stay alert (for opportunities and for hindrances). When I got to the part about ‘sticking close to my battalion’, I smiled. My sweet ladies are quite the battalion — I wouldn’t want to oppose them. They are strong in number, united in purpose, and fully armed for battle. I am proud, and blessed, to join their ranks.
I Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.