by Joanie Butman
Thursday was the closing day of Bible study for the year. My husband keeps asking when I’m going to graduate, and I keep reminding him, “It’s a BIG book!” Our last session is called Sharing Day. 100+ women enjoy a delicious potluck meal, which seems to be an integral element of fellowship. Never underestimate the power of sharing a meal. There is more than one way to be fed.
Anyway, along with breakfast, we are given an opportunity to stand and speak (if we so desire) about how God has worked in our lives during the past year and what we learned through the study. It’s a moving time as women share their stories through laughter, tears and with overwhelming gratitude. The power of this Bible study is all about the fellowship. Members add diverse perspectives, new insights and challenge each other to think more deeply; but above all else, they reveal attributes of God by describing His personal involvement in the details of their lives. Anyone can read the Bible, but witnessing the Word applied to people’s lives makes it come alive in a unique and intimate way. This phenomenon illustrates one of Benjamin Franklin’s familiar truisms, "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."
There are those who consider the Bible antiquated and irrelevant. I disagree. The beauty of it is that mankind hasn’t changed much. Technology may have evolved, but we haven’t. That’s what makes the Bible so applicable. It is filled with stories of ordinary people – some used in extraordinary ways, but more in small, quiet, sideline ways. These aren’t perfect people, just the opposite, which is why their stories resonate so strongly with us. It’s easy to recognize our shared humanity in them. We can relate to their struggles and failures, and their victories give us hope. They are vivid examples of the transforming power of God’s love.
I have a friend who jokingly calls me Joanie Moses. I don’t have the heart to tell her my middle initial stands for Marie. Her nickname makes me uncomfortable because I don’t feel like a messenger from God or capable of leading anyone anywhere. I am spiritually and directionally challenged. However, through the study of the book of Acts, I’ve learned to embrace her moniker because I have more in common with Moses than I thought, and so do you. Aren’t we all messengers from God as those in Acts? Isn’t that a calling we all receive? God simply wants us to boldly share our stories about how He is working in our lives. Who knows? You might be the vehicle through which He chooses to reveal Himself to someone. It doesn’t matter if you are talking to 5,000 Israelites or just one person. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you’re talking at all. It’s our actions that speak volumes. We can’t all be spiritual giants, but each of us has the ability to quietly come alongside someone, take them by the hand and lead them out of despair and offer hope. As Brené Brown claims, “The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle? Me too.”
Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “First she compares her friend to Jesus, herself to Eve, her husband to God and now she’s like Moses? She’s delusional!” Maybe, but I think we can all recognize aspects of ourselves and others in many of the protagonists in the Bible. For example, if I had to pick a biblical name for my friend, it would be Barnabas because she is an excellent encourager. And what woman alive can’t relate to Martha’s moaning about having too much to do and having to do all the work herself? Is there a soul out there that hasn’t experienced being a “doubting Thomas” at some point? The list is endless, but it’s their authenticity that makes these stories and characters timeless. My aspiration isn’t to be a great leader like Moses. No, my spiritual goal is to be like John – to be able to fully embrace the truth of John’s self-proclaimed description as “the one who Jesus loved.” We all are, but too often our own feelings of unworthiness prevent us from owning that reality.
Moses hid for forty years trying to avoid his destiny; he tried to convince God He picked the wrong guy, he was a stutterer and couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag. It took him 40 years to arrive at the Promised Land – a journey that should have taken a couple of weeks. He did not have an overwhelming resume nor did most of the individuals in the Bible. So I suppose I can live with the nickname. It’s a lot better than my brother’s favorite, “Gastank.”
So when am I going to graduate from Bible study? Probably never, because these familiar personalities have become my life-long companions. Their stories feed me in a manner that is more satisfying and longer lasting than any meal I can recall. Sharing Day may be our season finale, but you don’t have to participate in a Bible study to celebrate sharing day. Choosing to open up and share our stories connects us in ways that can’t be achieved any other way. They open the door to authentic relationships. Plus, our stories are part of His story and as such they inspire, comfort, strengthen and encourage others; but most importantly, they provide hope.
Why not choose to let every day be sharing day?
Our closing song:
Sister, let me be your servant.
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace
to let you be my servant, too.
We are pilgrims on a journey.
We are sisters on the road.
We are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.
I will hold the Christ-light for you.
In the night time of your fear.
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.
I will weep when you are weeping.
When you laugh, I'll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow
till we've seen this journey through.
When we sing to God in heaven,
we shall find such harmony
Born of all we've known together
of Christ's love and agony.