The Study With Friends community includes a team of bloggers who bless us with authentic and honest musings about how their faith informs their life, and how life informs their faith. These blogs offer insights and advice from the heart. They are experiential. For instructional insights, visit our bible study page.
One night, I decided I was going to attend a Bible study at the campus ministry house. I was so excited to go, I even left my dorm room extra early. I looked everywhere for the campus ministry house. At this point, I was already late, so I gave up looking and called my youth group leader back home with tears rolling down my face. I reached out to her because I needed help. I was frustrated and I needed somewhere to go. I expressed my feelings to her and as soon as I hung up the phone she googled “Christian Churches in Quincy, IL” and the first one she told me about was Madison Park Christian Church. Little did I know at this time that Madison Park would soon be my home.
But what I cherish most is my mother’s passion for caring for the poor of our community. For years, Mom made deliveries of food and basic supplies from the food pantry of our church, to indigent families nearby. I have often wondered if the bread, milk and meat she always included were purchased from her own pocket. The deliveries were often made well after dark, sometimes in the dead of winter, in crime-ridden neighborhoods, to families she did not know. But when she received a call from Social Services that a family was in crisis or a father had lost his job, my mom responded.
This was physically the hardest thing I have ever done. I couldn’t stand up for more than a few minutes at a time, and had to use a shower chair. I used the walker for even the shortest trips in my house. I knew underneath it all that God was certainly at work, but the pain was so brutal that I couldn’t even try to see Him. I reached a breaking point many times, weeping into the night. God didn’t take away my pain. He didn’t fix it. I knew better than to ask why He was allowing this, as I knew there would be no ready answer.
Six months after we moved, I remember having a really long talk with God. I was honest with Him, like Job was. My husband and I were scared we had made the wrong choice. It was a leap of faith after all, can’t those things go wrong? So my husband and I pleaded with God for many weeks. We pleaded with Him to show Himself faithful and true to His word. We asked Him to take care of us, to prove to us that we had made the right choice. After all, we had uprooted our entire life, everything we knew and everyone we loved, for this move.
We’re very fortunate to live in a neighborhood which was once the site of a tree farm. Our property is inhabited by a variety of very old, very tall trees which cover everything in a blanket of shade. I’ve learned after 20+ years of living here, not to waste time trying to grow sun-loving plants. The only exception is the single corner of our house which gets the right amount of direct sun to keep a purple wisteria vine happy and flourishing. It has enthusiastically climbed all the way up the side of the house, sending its pendulous blossoms cascading elegantly over the roof.
I recently had the privilege of listening to a series of lessons on the Israelites: From the Exodus to the Promised Land. The teachings highlighted how God delivered his chosen people from slavery in Egypt, led them through the wilderness to the Promised Land, and then His dealings with them as they wandered in the wilderness another 40 years for their lack of faith. (I remember reading these stories when I was a kid and marveling that these Children of Israel never seemed to learn from their mistakes and how they kept repeating them; and how they complained!) The teacher of the series commented on their ingratitude and posed the thought, “I wonder how that made God feel?” Then he challenged us to consider how WE make God feel in our lives, and how we can be just as ungrateful as the Israelites were in the desert.
Sid has wanted to be a “baby doctor” since she was four. She often wore a set of scrubs. She donned a surgical mask. There was an oxygen mask that she had fashioned out of another toy for a completely different purpose. She was like MacGyver in her bedroom turning her toys into medical equipment. She performed many operations in her bedroom. I am happy to report that all of her patients survived. She never lost a baby on the table. Following an operation, I often had goldfish crackers and chocolate milk as a snack for her.
But sometimes I get to meet these kids in their tough places and make an impact that lasts forever. Recently, I was working with a kid who was stuck in a low spot. She mentioned that she got her Bible out the other night to read to help her find faith. We started talking about our favorite verses. From quoting John 3:16 to Proverbs 3:5-6, to quizzing me on the shortest verse in the Bible (“Jesus wept.” -John 11:3), this 10 year old knew her stuff. She told me her favorite character in the Bible was Solomon. When I asked her why, she said that ‘Solomon prayed and prayed, and could have asked God for anything, but he chose wisdom. I told her, I thought for a 10 year old who got dealt a pretty cruddy card, she sure had a good handle on wisdom.
When I was brand new in my faith, I met an older woman named Margaret. Margaret’s face always seemed to be lit up with the love of God. The light of the resurrection, new life, and hope came glowing through her when she entered a room.
In my youthful naiveté, I assumed that since Margaret was such a joyful person, she must surely have a wonderful and easy life. Imagine my surprise when I learned that she was married to a confirmed alcoholic, a difficult man. I began to look more closely at her face and listen more closely to her words and I could see small signs of her suffering from time to time. I heard it in her prayers for her husband. I saw it in her compassion and activism on behalf of others who suffered. She wasn’t hiding her suffering.
So I started thinking about what God would say to all of this. My knee jerk was to think of the passages of Nehemiah on social justice, because societal discrimination is at the forefront of this intersectionality conversation. But then I quickly realized what a stunted vision I had taken, to look only at Nehemiah for the counsel of God’s Word on social justice. Isn’t the Bible full of intersectionality? And furthermore, isn’t it full of God’s favor for those who experience discrimination?