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Women of all ages chatted their way into the church fellowship hall and found a seat around one of eight tables for our current Bible study. Asked to facilitate one of the groups, I'd studied and prepared all week. With twelve women in my group, I couldn't wait to hear what each had discovered from the week's lesson. But when I asked if someone wanted to share their answer to the first question, one young mother said, "I didn't have a chance to read the chapter."
Another woman added, "I read the lesson, but didn't have time to answer the questions."
"That's okay," I said. "Sometimes that happens." However, most of the women responded with similar reasons, not enough time, too busy … We ended our discussion with prayer and gathered our Bibles and study books to leave. "I'm sure we'll all do better next week," I said and encouraged them to dig into God's Word.
As I studied the next lesson, I prayed for our group and expected better results.
When next week came, again the women gave various excuses around the table for unfinished lessons. My cheery attitude turned to gritted teeth behind a tight smile.
"I don't know what's wrong with these women," I said to my husband that night. "This is a rich study. Some of the women work, but so do I. And some have young children, but I raised three kids. I understand the demands of motherhood. I just don't get it."
With his arm around my shoulders, Loren gave me a gentle squeeze. "I think you need to be patient."
"You don't understand," I said. "They signed up for this study. Is it too much to ask that they come prepared?"
Loren smiled and said, "I'll pray for you."
Week after week I struggled as we waded through each chapter, while God read the depths of my ungracious heart. And He knew the cure for my judgmental attitude.
Midway through the twelve-week study, our daughter moved home with her three children under five. My well planned, middle-aged, life received a good dose of the unexpected interruptions, and near catastrophes that take place when toddlers arrive on the scene. You know, like when a four-year-old wonders what it would be like to watch your sea shell collection swirl down the toilet. Years of beach combing treasures disappeared while water rushed over the sides of the disabled toilet, flooding the floor.
One day my daughter had an appointment and I needed to take the kids with me to Bible study. "No problem," I told her. "That's why we have child care during study time." With everyone dressed and ready to go that morning, I started the car to warm it up. A few minutes later I checked my watch and zipped three-year-old Kaylen's jacket. I slung the diaper bag over one shoulder, placed my Bible and study notes under the same arm, then scooped seven-month-old Chase into my other arm. I turned to herd my brood out the door when I felt a warm ooze seep through the sleeve of my favorite blouse.
"Oh, no. You girls sit on the couch."
Kaylen and Charity flopped onto the cushions. I tore down the hall to the bedroom where I yanked off Chase's wet clothes, changed his diaper, re-dressed him, and put on a fresh blouse. Back in the living room the girls had taken off their coats and Kaylen had kicked off her shoes. Fifteen minutes later, out of breath, the four of us made our second attempt to leave the house.
At church, I scurried down the hall to drop the kids at the nursery. I slipped into Bible study part way through the groups' worship time and slumped into a chair. I smoothed my hair with a sweaty palm and tried to gather my disheveled thoughts. The morning felt like I'd been shoved through an old wringer washer, squeezed and pressed. I'd forgotten the pressures of motherhood and how much energy it takes to get out the front door for a trip to the store or even to the mailbox.
The Lord showed me Bible study is as much about relationships as it is about what I learn from His Word. First my relationship with Him, and then my interaction with others.
Thrust into my own refresher course on young motherhood gave me a new view of the women in my group. I realized most of the women looked forward to the two-hour break once a week to visit and gain insights from like-minded friends. Reminded of some of the challenges they faced, I relaxed.
We continued to discuss the lessons, and managed to cover the highlights of each chapter. But I also took time to listen to the stories the women shared of their day-to-day lives, and point them to God's Word for answers to meet their individual needs.
I graduated from God's "Refresher Course" knowing ministry is not just about jotting down answers to questions in a book, but also about how we can support and encourage one another through His Word, and pray for each other.
**Note: "The Refresher Course" appears in the February 2014 issue of LIVE, a Gospel Publishing House publication.
© 2012 Kathleen Kohler