Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Aly and the Whale

I have an awesome friend here in California. She is my neighbor, but I became friends with her through the Bible study she led at our neighborhood community center last fall. She has brought me cough syrup late at night while JD was out of town, she has checked my scalp for lice, she has dropped everything to lend me cinnamon when I was in the middle of baking, and she has spent countless times praying with me, counseling me, and mentoring me in the Lord, all while mothering her own 4 daughters. She has such a servant's heart and is a huge inspiration to me.

Whenever she asked me for a favor though, for one reason or another, I never could help her out. It sucked. I wanted so badly to repay some of her acts of kindness toward me. When I got a text from her one afternoon in February that read, "can I ask you a huge favor?", I wanted to help. I prayed, "God, please let me be able to say yes to whatever she's asking." In my heart, I committed that whatever she needed - a babysitter for the night or $500 - I was going to say yes.

"Can you teach the next Bible study? It's a 12 week series and I feel like you're the right one to lead it."

Ummmmmm, gulp.

Leading a Bible study was nowhere on my radar. I have been a learner in countless studies, but I definitely didn't feel qualified to facilitate one. I'm goofy and awkward and snort when I laugh. I say the wrong thing at the wrong time. I make jokes that no one laughs at. I am not comfortable with public speaking. I wanted to say no. I wanted to delete the text and pretend I never saw it. I wanted to cry. But I already committed to saying yes to whatever she needed and asked God to hold me accountable, it was a difficult situation.

"I don't feel qualified to lead the study, but I want to be open to an invitation from God," I wrote back. And just like that, I was leading a Bible study.

Except it didn't go that smoothly. As quickly as I agreed to do it, things became difficult. There were obstacles and delays with receiving the study materials, I began having doubts about my ability to be available for the group, and I started to panic about the public speaking. I developed a really bad attitude about the whole thing and set about looking for ways to back out.

I emailed my friend and told her I was not the right person to lead the next study. I came up with a ton of legitimate reasons on why I couldn't do it, but I felt so guilty. How do you say no to God after you asked Him to keep you accountable? I was having a total Jonah moment and I knew it. I was running from God, and fast.

I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat. I was so afraid of not preparing enough for the meetings, of sounding stupid, but mostly, I was afraid of letting God down. I told my friend all of these things and she encouraged me not to act in my fear, but rather be obedient to what God called me to. I apologized to her and repented to God for going back on my word. Once again, I was leading a Bible study.

And I led it. It was hard and scary, I was late a lot (I blame my kids), and my discussion questions were often met with the sounds of crickets, but I trusted God and learned that even when I suck at commitment, He is faithful. I learned that I can trust Him. He used my awkwardness and strange sense of humor and translated it into enthusiasm that infected the other ladies to keep returning. For 12 weeks, we dug deep into the Word of God and sought a fresh revelation of Jesus Christ. We studied Beth Moore's Revelation study called Here and Now, There and Then. So, so good.

Yesterday was our last meeting. I'm both relieved and sad that it's over. There was a lot of preparation involved that I really enjoyed, but the public speaking never got easier. I wasn't great at redirecting the conversation when we got off track, but I thrived in sharing the truths that we were learning with the other ladies, my friends. My faith was stretched, my capacity to serve was stretched, and my comfortable, safe Christian existence was stretched. I became very limber throughout this experience, spiritually speaking.

This is not a story about me facilitating a Bible study though. This is not even a me story. It's an account of taking a leap of faith where I wasn't qualified, of learning to trust God and meet Him in His Word, and kicking fear in the teeth while declaring, "I will not be defeated by you!" And it's about being used by God. I can't tell you how humbling it is to be considered for His purposes, especially after spending so many years being so rotten.

What happened to me was a setup. God knew I would find a hundred reasons to say no, so He used my sweet friend's kindness toward me to lure me into committing to whatever she asked before knowing what it was. He knows I have trouble committing and have issues with acting in faith because of fear. He's knows me well and He still used me. He's too much, too generous, too good. Oh how I love Him!

I have no idea if I will ever lead another Bible study, but I know how to respond to God's invitations in my life now: boldly, unafraid, and full of enthusiasm toward Him and His Word. How are you responding to Him? 

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