I have a love-hate relationship with my Tuesday night routine. After the normal homework, taxi-cabbing, dinner, bath, & bedtime routines, I set my face like flint to get ready for the next morning.
I set my to-go coffee mug under my Keurig.
I put my Bible and keys beside it.
I set my clothes on my bathroom counter.
I crawl into bed and take a deep breath before setting my alarm: 4:35AM.
Have I mentioned that I HATE getting up in the morning, especially before 5? And yet, this has been the normal routine in my household for nearly 150 consecutive Tuesday nights.
Why would I put myself through this kind of torture? Because on the other side of that Wednesday morning alarm, when I’m grouchily finding my way to the Keurig, I remember that very shortly I will be having one of the most important meetings of my week. In just a few minutes, I will drive across town and find a spot on the couch, or on the floor, and we will have “church”.
It’s not the kind of church you’re thinking. It’s much more informal and doesn’t include singing or liturgy of any kind. My friend’s living room doesn’t have a communion table or an altar. Instead, we’re surrounded by a play kitchen and some dolls. But it’s no less holy ground. Ordinary lives have been transformed in that space. Sins and struggles have become words uttered out loud for actual ears to hear while shackles of shame began to break. Hopes and dreams have been shared and surrendered. Words of truth and grace have been proclaimed, one to another; and the Word of God has been powerful and effective in that space- living among us and within us as we share life together before the sun rises.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.Hebrews 10:24-25
3 years ago, the consistency of this kind of thing would have seemed like something that only super spiritual, super disciplined people from some sort of mega church do- not ordinary people like me from small town USA. With my job as a teacher, 3 kids busy in the evenings with activities, and a husband with a demanding job- I counted myself blessed to be a part of shorter women’s Bible studies that met (later in the mornings!) in the summertime when life had more flexibility. Those seasons were an oasis to me- the extra accountability to be in the Word and in fellowship with other women was something I looked forward to every summer.
But then August would arrive in all of it’s haste. Time for fresh school supplies, time to prepare for a new group of students, time to get back into a more rigid bedtime and morning routine, time to make room for another year of learning and growth. But along with that transition, a subtle shift in mindset: no more time for the luxury of consistent spiritual formation.
That changed in 2016. As our summer Bible study wrapped up and we did our usual switching of gears to ramp up for the school year, my friend, Alex, and I had an honest conversation about how we were afraid of our own “drifting” in the year ahead. We recognized the apparent fruit of the Spirit and activity of God so much more clearly when we had consistent time of study in the Word and in fellowship. We also reflected back on how, even though we had been very active in our church throughout the school year, we sensed that our lives were much less grounded in truth and the fruit of the Spirit somehow felt more quenched when we weren’t actively engaged in a fellowship of Bible study. We were certainly growing in the midst of the larger context of the church, but some piece was missing.
And so, the confession of a problem slowly morphed into a potential, albeit crazy, solution. Why can’t we continue to study and meet throughout the school year? The obvious answer was that we could, but with a few sacrifices: giving up a day of our morning exercise regime and forfeiting some sleep. As we counted the cost, we felt hopeful that the gains would be worth it in the end so we made a plan: Wednesdays @ 5am!
Looking back now, I’m in awe of how that small pivot of “making room” for more of God’s Word has nearly turned my life upside down and inside out in the most beautiful of ways. Only God knew the spark that would be lit as a result of that pivot into that plan. Only God knew how that spark would slowly burn into a holy fire, multiplying around our community and even around the world. God’s Word is like that.
Gradually over time, God has added to our group of 2- a hungry soul here and a thirsty heart there. Many of us weren’t even friends before our group, some I didn’t even know. Some had never studied the Bible before and now their homes are in the process of being transformed by its power. Many of us don’t run in the same circles or attend the same churches, but together we are The Church.
We have wrestled and prayed together through numerous pregnancies and births, marital and relationship struggles, family baggage, workplace hardships, terrifying steps of faith, difficult conversations, an international adoption, and the discipleship of our children. We have learned so imperfectly how to do life together through studying the Word, texting throughout the day, cheering each other on, and pushing each other off “faith cliffs” when needed. We mourn together, rejoice together, and lift one another when we get weary in the journey toward Jesus.
As I watch the landscape around me shifting slowly but surely, I see women coming together in the name of Jesus. I see women learning to love God- not just with their heart and soul, but also with their mind and strength. I see women serving one another and no longer getting distracted in their mission by competing against one another. I see the light overcoming the darkness- just as it was meant to do. I see God being glorified in individuals and groups who find Him more satisfying than the fleeting pleasures of this temporary life. Small armies of women are linking arms together around His Word & in His Presence and the kingdom of God is expanding here!