Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Truth and Grace: A MOPS Bible Study

So today I stepped back into time, just for a couple of hours.

(Not because today is "Back to the Future" day either! If you didn't know, Marty McFly flew into the future arriving at our date today. I know, huge news.)

I was asked a couple of days ago by a good friend if I could sub for her bible study she leads.  She was substituting at a local elementary school that day, and she wasn't going to be able to be there. I was glad to help, and met her later that day to go over any details about the study.

It was a MOPS Bible Study. Even those words bring warm feelings to me, because they are part of my story. The story of how I came back to faith in God. It all started with MOPS.

The subject of the study was "Let. It. Go." After reading through it, I found the books author informed and funny--a good combination. She talked about our need for control and set up a structure of ways we can get at what "drives" control in each of us.

I sat down early this morning in the conference room.

That morning, I had a somewhat "last minute" email request to attend a video conference call about a college retreat before the bible study started. (Kudos to iPhones and cool apps--literally downloaded the app that morning so I could use my phone for the video conference, instead of having to sprint across campus to my office).  I was feeling frazzled and felt the well-oiled levers of control want to take over. I always like "being the boss" when I feel overwhelmed. I think it's how I convince myself I'm okay, or something?

I don't know but the "Boss" needs to not show up, particularly at the outset of a women's bible study group (that I was subbing for a good friend!) and on the first conference call to colleagues I had yet to really meet. So I took two deep breathes and joined the conference call.

The video conference call went great, ending just in time for one of the women to arrive.

Deep breathes must work, I whispered to myself internally. I felt at ease. Peaceful, even.

The study went along well as two more ladies arrived.

MOPS was helping them, and that brought waves of memories to me. Good ones. Sweet, difficult memories of my kids, as preschoolers and infants. The days where I thought I'd never make it the next MOPS meeting without going insane.  I listened to these women and was thankful for MOPS. What it did for me, and what it's doing for these women.

We kicked off the video that went with the curriculum, and it was really good, applicable information. I wrote notes even.

Then I heard two words rise up inside my heart--truth and grace.  They were strange to hear in that moment because the video was filled with lots of good information and stories, but nothing about those two terms, together.

I heard it again, almost audibly in my head. Truth and Grace.

So I am an orderly person, usually, and I wanted to follow the process that my friend had laid out for me. There was an order to this study. Video, then group questions. NOT Video, then Heather sharing something irrelevant to the video. I could have ignored it. But I didn't.

Truth and Grace. I had no idea what I was going to do or say about those two things, but I had a sense that it was all going to be fine.

Over the past several months, God has been teaching me much about my need for control, my need to be seen, and my fear of failure. And so much of my growth has been about getting truthful with me, and more graceful with others.

I walked up to the dry erase board, completely sure that I was supposed to do this, but not totally sure of what I was going to write even. Then as if God was drawing it out for me in my brain, I began to draw a large heart. And then a line down the center of the heart.

In the left section, I wrote TRUTH and in the right section, I wrote GRACE.

I then reminded the ladies of the author's teaching about our controlling roles--enabler, rescuer, victim, etc.  And then I began to write under the title in each section, how we can tend to behave in our roles, when we lean too far to the left or right.

For example, I tend to learn toward TRUTH. Where "rules", "process" and "law" tends to dwell, and what I label as being a "DOer". Controlling behavior from a TRUTH side, alone, can come across as very directive and dictator-type. Productivity, efficiency and effectiveness are key words for me, in this role, and I want things MY WAY.

And someone else I know shared she tends to lean toward the GRACE side. Where relational need, kindness and mercy tend to dwell, and what may be labeled as "Giver". Controlling behavior from a GRACE side alone can come across as enabling or rescuing behavior.  This person tends to look at the world from a place of compassion, from mercy, from a place where second chances are really important (all good things by the way!), but it can easily create problems with self-worth, self-care and even enabling negative behavior of a loved one.

Now, when I drew this heart, NONE of this was in my head. I just began to label each section and then I said now God desires us to be in the center of the two, and I drew a PLUS sign. When I saw that PLUS sign, I realized that that was to be the Cross.  The bridge between Truth and Grace, where the two MEET IN THE MIDDLE.

Staring at that +, I was stunned. I realized that God had something to say to me this morning, and to those women. That I though I was pre-wired to be a DOer, and my friend a GIVer,  Jesus had come, and saved us, through the cross, enabling us to be BOTH, if we chose to respond to his guidance through the Holy Spirit.

This journey is about TRUTH & GRACE. Not one or the other. Jesus embodied the two in his actions and in how he lived, and died, providing for us a way to be made whole again.

So the choice to live in the center of my heart is my new motto. It may require me to lean into the grace side of my heart, in order to grow; while my friend may need to lean into the truth side of hers, in order for her to grow.  But we are both growing in Christ.

What a day. And it's only 2pm.

Perhaps this is what God means when he reminds us that we find our living and our being completely in him.

Truth AND Grace.

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