by Joanie Butman
I could never talk about Life After Labor Day without including my ‘soul sistas,’ a vital component in the post-summer spiritual fitness regimen I mentioned last week. Thursday marked the beginning of a new year of Community Bible Study following our summer sabbatical. Wikipedia defines a sabbatical as a “period of time during which someone does not work at his or her regular job and is able to rest, travel, do research, etc.”
In reality, there is no sabbatical for devotees of the Bible as our lives should be a reflection of that which we study wherever we find ourselves. Sadly, during the summer, that’s not necessarily true in my case. I find it difficult to maintain a disciplined spiritual life – not because I don’t read devotions or the Bible, but because I’m adrift without my ‘soul sistas’ with whom I study the Bible during the year, as well as the fellowship at my church and the evening Bible Study associated with it. I admit, I’m a Bible junkie. I suppose if you have to be addicted to something, studying the Bible might be considered a wise choice considering the other options readily available.
When I am away from the routine and fellowship of weekly Bible Study and worship, I become undisciplined on many levels. It’s similar to when I was freed from the tyranny of Catholic school – girl gone wild!! It’s exactly this kind of behavior which makes fellowship so integral to anyone’s life. Can’t we all use a group of individuals for encouragement and support to help keep us grounded? Mine just happens to employ the Bible to accomplish this connection.
My husband has often asked whether I will ever ‘graduate’ from Bible study. “You haven’t finished after 19 years?” “It’s a big book,” I reply, “and I’m a slow learner.” You don’t need to be part of a group to study the Bible, but as I said, it keeps me focused. Plus, I find it more fun and enlightening as you hear many different perspectives, and the homework forces you to think more deeply about what you’ve read.
The reason I enjoy this particular Bible study is because you’re not allowed to discuss religion. How refreshing is that? The attendees are a cross-section of women from every walk of life offering unique insights and life experiences to enrich our study and conversations. The importance of fellowship and community can never be underestimated, and I am reminded of its value every fall as my girls welcome me back into the fold with open arms and loving hearts. The same can be said about my church and evening Bible Study group. I suppose you could say, “I’ve got peeps.” They may not be the kind that can get me prime seats at concerts and sporting events or finagle coveted internships for my children, but they bring me closer to Christ, which is infinitely more valuable.
Without a doubt accountability helps us adhere to a certain level of dedication towards any goal. Christ might be my steadfast partner, but the importance of fellowship in the life of a Christian is crucial. Nowhere is an accountability partner more integral to success than in our Christian walk. From the beginning God recognized that it was not good for man to be alone. Isn’t mutuality the basis of The Golden Rule? Love your neighbor as yourself – the one tenet on which all world religions can agree. I don’t think anyone could argue that we all benefit when we choose to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thes 5).
One of the highest of human duties is the duty of encouragement.
It is easy to laugh at men’s ideals;
it is easy to pour cold water on their enthusiasm;
it is easy to discourage others.
The world is full of discouragers.
We have a Christian duty to encourage one another.
Many a time a word of praise or thanks
or appreciation or cheer
has kept a man on his feet.
Blessed is the man who speaks such a word.
There is always someone in need of encouragement; you don’t have to look far. Who will you choose to encourage today?