When I was in junior high, my best friend was a guy named Josh, who was the most emotional, honest, real guy I’ve ever known. In the midst of inescapable junior high pretense, he was the guy who taught me that it’s important to be a real person even when everyone around you is fake. He once wrote the following quote from The Velveteen Rabbit on a piece of paper and slid it through the holes of my locker: “Once you are real, you can never become unreal again.”
That quote is one of those small comforts I carried with me through the trials of high school and college, something I wrote into my personal mission statement, and an inextricable part of who I am today. It’s also a quote that’s been at the forefront of my heart since bible study last night.
I’ve been a part of a lot of Bible studies. I’ve led them and attended. I’ve loved and loathed them. I’ve learned in them and been frustrated to learn very little. Last night’s Bible study, however, was one of my favorites.
Have you ever talked about God with someone for whom God is real?
To me, it seems that most Christians believe in a God who isn’t real to them. They’ve read the bible. They know the debates and have thought a lot about which stance they take on the issues. Can you lose your salvation? How can God be good if there’s evil in the world? How old is the world? Is the Holy Spirit a person? Is baptism necessary for salvation? …
Answering those questions is important, but it doesn’t take a Christian to answer them correctly. It doesn’t take a Christian to serve in church every Sunday, and it doesn’t take a Christian to call herself a Christian. Therefore, what I’m trying to write about is intangible – it’s that thing that separates the fakers from those for whom God is real. I know about the fakers because I was one of them; I was doing all of the above for 3 years before God became real to me.
At Bible study last night, I was struck by the realization that I was surrounded by women for whom He is real.
You know, Titus 2 has never seemed to work out in my life. It’s frustrated the living heck out of me because churches and pastors are constantly pointing me to verses 3-5: “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored,” (emphasis mine).
Pastors usually point out those verses for one of two reasons: they want me to find an older woman to teach and encourage me, or they want me to find a younger woman to teach and encourage. Of course there are always “younger” women for each of us to encourage – the struggle is finding the older woman. For most of my life, it’s felt like I’m in a room full of women who can answer the questions, but for whom God is not real. At 26, I’ve been the “spiritually mature” one who was to teach and encourage those younger in the faith, and I’ve tried my darnedest to be faithful to that command. I just wish my life was a little more like being in the middle of an encouragement sandwich. We should all be in the middle of encouragement sandwiches; unfortunately, it seems like that’s rarely the case.
Which is why last night was so good.
The women at my church are mostly my age; there are a few who are older and a few who are younger, but, for the most part, we’re pretty close in years and life stage. The difference I’m feeling, then, between past church communities and this one, isn’t a numerical indicator or even life experience. The difference is that I’m surrounded by women for whom God is real, and those kind of women are capable, available and willing to be Titus 2 for each other.
Last night, we talked about the differences in our lives from when we were alienated from God and now that we are reconciled by Christ’s death. We tried to answer the question: How do you personally experience “… the riches of the glory of Christ in you?” (Colossians 1:27) We talked about salvation, and how it’s not the point of Christianity because Christ is the point.
I thanked God last night for putting me into a group for whom He is real, and I thanked Him for making me into a real rabbit even though it made more sense to burn me up in the fire.
My church feels like exactly what I wanted and needed, but didn’t know to ask for. I’m always afraid to prematurely count my eggs, but maybe God will keep me here for awhile and maybe He’ll work on our little church plant to present to Himself, “holy and blameless and beyond reproach…”
Dare I settle into the Holy Cross community? I’ll let you know after I get a chance to evaluate their softball skillz 🙂