When I clicked on the “Publish” button on my latest post back in August I had no idea that it would be months before I came back. A year ago I would have been shocked to hear that I would have an extended period of time when I didn’t write. It’s funny how life happens when I arrogantly plan my own future.
I knew that the fall would be different. One of my kids was starting at a new school. Another one was starting the adventure of graduate school. I wasn’t going to get to see a couple of the people who had often inspired my writing as often. The winds were blowing. Change was inevitable.
The summer had found me immersed in the comfort of Bible study with some of my favourite people–a couple girlfriends and 2 of my precious nieces. And it was comfortable. I love going through a Bible study. It keeps me in the Word while directing me. I am not the type of person who seems to be able to pick up my Bible and just start reading. Give me a great teacher and I am in.
This summer Bible study, though, really challenged me to change it up. We had been doing “Counter Culture” by David Platt and I was convicted by my comfortable lifestyle. I was convicted by my “safe” habits of just reading the Word, living it, but not sharing it. God started stirring something in me. It was time for a change.
I have been part of a Bible study with a wonderful group of women for a few years now. I love them. I have known some of them for years. Others are new friends. We can meet and share our lives in a way that was safe. They are prayer warriors. Encouragers. “Real” women who aren’t afraid to expose their weaknesses. September we were to reunite for “James: Mercy Reigns” by Beth Moore. There are people out there who not Beth Moore fans but I love her. I learn so much every time I study along with her. So I was a little surprised when I got the feeling that I was not supposed to be part of this study. I had left this group before and had felt very humbled and contrite when I asked if I could come back. I didn’t want to do that again.
So I didn’t.
I reasoned with God. “This is Bible study! I am trying to learn more. It is a good thing. Why shouldn’t I be part of it?”
And I rationalized. I would go to Bible study but just for the friendship, these wonderful women that I got to share life with. I just wasn’t going to do the homework. That way I would have the time to do anything that God wanted me to do without having to give up anything.
And so I went.
The very first week Beth offered us a challenge (via DVD) to push ourselves that one step further than we normally would. Watch the videos. Do the homework. Write out the whole book of James. Memorize it. And that was it for me. I couldn’t go and skip the homework. And I wrote out the book of James. I stopped short of memorizing it but I don’t think my aging brain could have anyways. And all the while I thought that it was okay to disobey that still small voice in my head that said that it was time for something different.
That is not to say that I didn’t keep up with the other challenge that I felt God was calling me to. I started training at church to become a leader in a special interest group. I had the privilege of working through Andy Stanley’s video series “Starting Point” with a group of precious people that I would never have met otherwise. And it was good. Very good.
There were weeks when I cried at the stories I heard. There were weeks when I prayed and prayed, broken-hearted, for the wonderful people that let me into their stories. There were weeks when I asked God why I was there. There were weeks when I wondered if I would ever be able to make a difference to anyone. But I was blessed. So blessed. Maybe God could use me after all.
But things had to suffer also. I didn’t have the time to write. I also felt like I didn’t have anything to say. The little glimpses of inspiration that powered most of my blogs had disappeared. I felt empty. Done. I wondered if I would ever write again.
While I learned a lot from the book of James, I struggled to attend the meetings. Bible study got a lot harder than it had ever been before.
I was out with a friend before Christmas and I was trying to describe this time in my life. I also mentioned that I felt that I had to stop doing Bible studies and start walking it, speaking it, sharing it. My friend asked why I had stayed in the study when I felt that God didn’t want me there.
That was it. I had to stop.
1 Samuel 15:22 (HCSB) even says that.
Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
Look: to obey is better than sacrifice,
to pay attention is better than the fat of rams.
In my own estimation, God should be really pleased with me. I was studying His Word. I was doing something good.
But good was not what was His best for me.
He wanted me to obey.
I called one of best friends, someone from the study, and told her that the next week I was going to tell the group that I had to leave. It was time to obey. I knew that if I didn’t have her holding me accountable that I would not have the courage to do it. But when I did, I felt like I was finally making a step in the right direction. I felt a burden lift.
I thought that I would be back to writing right away. It took a little longer than that. Life happened, demanding my time and energy. But I am back. God has taught me something during this time of “silence”. Not only about obedience but also about being bold. I may expose my heart and my hurt in a blog that anyone can read but it is also pretty safe. Speaking it out loud to someone who is trying to figure out grace and mercy and faith is entirely different. Crying with someone who is hurting is much harder. But it is also blessing my life in ways I could never imagined.
The Bible says in Ephesians 3:20 that God “is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us ”(HCSB). The King James version has gone further and translated “above and beyond” as “exceedingly abundantly”. I want that. I want God to be able to use me in ways I could never imagined on my own.
So, I’m back.