Blessing of bifocals

I’m involved in a Tuesday evening Bible study at my church. I honestly went into the experience skeptically. This fall I had to switch from the Thursday morning study to a Tuesday night group, and I wasn’t so sure about the book.

So far, the book has been amazing. Well, more specifically the timing of what I’m learning from the book has been amazing. I’ve cried more and wrestled more and been more reassured during this study than in any other in recent history. And, that is because this study is unfolding exactly on schedule with what I need to hear. Like eerily on schedule. The author will ask questions like, “When was the last time, you experienced…?” And, the margin of the book if full of responses like, “Right now!”

My blog readers will have to forgive me for keeping the specifics a little vague, but I can’t help but talking about how closely this study parallels what I’m going through. I find myself right now in a season of life where waiting and uncertainty are defining words. As I started the study, I was hanging right on the edge of uncertainty about to plunge deeply into it, and I read, “Etham [where the Israraelites were when it became apparent that God would lead them in a direction opposite to the promised land] is the place where you don’t know all the details of the life God is choosing, but a quick look at the tumbleweed blowing across the landscape lets you know it will be dry…God is mysterious and his ways unusual. When seen against the backdrop of our own standards, thoughts, and expectations, the road God chooses to lead us as we travel into a life of abundance with Him is most assuredly not the road we would have chosen for ourselves.” The following week and the weeks thereafter the uncertainty became a constant, and just last Friday I decided to pull back.

Generally when I prioritize who I will talk to about an issue, there are about 5-10 people and then God. That’s not a good habit, but it’s my pattern nonetheless. However, God reminded me last week of another time in my life when I just pulled back and stopped trying to hash out my uncertainties with people. I committed to just seeking God for a set period of time, and God provided clarity. Now seemed a good time to do that again (and I hope this blog isn’t breaking the rules! I’m leaving out the specifics). And, it was amazing. Right after making that decision, I got to the week of the study where God brings Israel to Mount Sinai, and he makes them stay there so he can give them the 10 Commandments and reveal more of himself to them. I just read last night, “When I’m in the wilderness of uncertainty, the last thing I want to do is pitch my tent and camp. I don’t want to settle in and get comfortable with that part of the journey. My inclination is to escape…God’s guidance, run ahead of Him…But notice that when the Israelites come to the mountain of God, they ‘camped’ out to experience all that God would have for them there (Ex. 19:2). I’m camping now (and maybe cheating just a little bit with this post) and being quiet, so I can see what God wants.

And, remember how I said I was dreading that move from Thursday morning to Tuesday night? That meant leaving the table of women who were just one step ahead of me in life’s journey. They had given up careers to have babies, were dealing with young children, etc. So, I felt different from them but still had common ground. I got to the Thursday night table, and there were three ladies. One with a grandchild in college, and the other two at least in their late forties. When we’re reading and talking, their glasses are constantly on their face, then in their hands, then pushed back into their hair. They get ready to read and have to pause to put them on again. I thought it was going to be a disaster with me just looking like a dumb kid trying to be my act together. But, it has turned out to be wonderful. The leader at our table asks me how I’m doing, and she waits. She won’t let me get away with, “Good.” They don’t look at me like a dumb kid in my 30s trying to figure out life. They look at me as someone that God is teaching. They say consistently, “Oh, I read that story in the book, and I immediately thought of you.” And, tonight, when I admitted that I’m really struggling with James 1: 5-8 because I’m asking for wisdom but I have to honestly say that I have my moments of doubt that God will provide it, one of those women turned to me and articulated the heart of the matter far better than I could at this point. I’ve only known her since the beginning of this study, and it was like she could crawl inside my heart and mind. She didn’t have answers for me, but she could label the rock and the hard place that I stand between, and that is a gift of insight in itself. And, so, I find myself surprised, though I’m not quite sure why, that there is so much beauty in bifocals and that once again God has landed me in a good place where women who have cried the tears, paced the floors, and said the prayers that lead to wisdom can give me such good glimpses of it.