I may have said this before, but I often feel like I am stuck in kindergarten. I sit in the audience and learn the same elementary lessons over and over, week after week with no hope of graduation, because women aren’t allowed to graduate.
I don’t belong in the audience listening to the laughter at the opening joke and receiving a weekly dose of shallow truth. So some weeks I stay home and do my own Bible study. Dig deeper than my pastor dares to go. Like this week. I stayed home on Sunday and my hubby went without me. “Sorry, Honey,” he said, “but your husband is in leadership.”
“Yeah, see if you can do anything about that sinful misogyny, wouldya’?”
I didn’t skip church altogether, though. I went Saturday night. To a different church. Donna called and said the women from the island were going to have a little reunion at her church for the Saturday evening service. She invited me to join them.
When I got there I discovered only a few of the island women. Instead, there were three rows of her friends, there to celebrate her birthday.
I sat next to Ronald. He asked me if we were in a church because it sure didn’t look like one. It looked like an auditorium. He asked me why he wasn’t invited to the island. I told him he wasn’t pretty enough. He sang along and leaned over to say, “I bet you didn’t know I could sing like that.”
Afterward I was invited to join the group at a nearby restaurant for dinner. Twenty five of us. I sat next to Donna and asked how she had met each person at the table. They were a varied group, collected over many years of street ministry. Many of them were part of a newly formed Bible study that was meeting at Brenda’s house.
As I said my good-byes, Ronald asked, “Will we see you again?”
“I hope so.”
“Why don’t you come to our Bible study (which meets clear, clear, clear across town)?”
“Maybe I will sometime, if I am invited.”
Brenda spoke up and said, “Yes, come. Everyone talks and shares. We’ve become very close. We pray for one another, anoint one another.”
I sighed, “I wish church were like that.”
Ronald said, “Yes, come hang out with the misfits.”
I smiled, “We’re all misfits in one way or another.”
Jesus was a misfit. He wanted to talk about His Father; the Pharisees wanted to talk about the Law, more specifically all the tedious man-made things they had added to the Law. I’m not saying that I am like Jesus. I’m not saying the leaders in my church are like the Pharisees… well, maybe I am. A little.
This is Brenda’s story, told in a quiet, halting voice:
Hi my name is Brenda. I came from a rough life that was …um… but God has changed me. I was gang raped at the age of fourteen and I ran away from home. My life went down from that point. I became a prostitute and I started using crack cocaine.
I wound up going to penitentiary… several times, I stayed in somebody’s institution – mental institution – rehab, mostly prison, so locked up. In the process, when I was in those places, God was still speaking to me. Every time I went back to the institution, He was speaking to my soul each time.
Whoever this is helping today, God is a deliverer. No matter what you’ve been through or whatever challenges you’ve ever had in your life, it will be easy when you turn your life over to Him. Well, my walking hasn’t been that easy, I still struggle in a lot of areas, trying to get myself together. When you’ve been in bondage so long, and caught up in yourself and the things of the world, you lose sight of what is real and what’s not. But today I am saved by grace, and I’m loving my new life, there’s nothing compared to it. I’ve found so much joy now.
Where I really want to help someone is, I’ve been in a lot of abusive relationships, too. Be always careful about who you let in your personal space. Men will deceive you and lead you to the bedroom so quickly. And you lose sight of yourself and they start taking control of you and tell you stuff that you don’t believe that you are…. um… what I’m really saying is, they start working on your self-esteem and breaking you down. And when you start thinking less of yourself you don’t care what you do. But I’ve been delivered from that, too. I’m just grateful to God today that I am here, where I’m at, just praising Him, just thanking Him for the change that He has given me in my life. I’m just grateful to be alive. I put myself in a lot of dangerous situations and I’m grateful that I didn’t die out there in the streets. I know I was covered by the blood of Jesus. Thank you.
Afterward, Brenda shared that her boyfriend – her very first boyfriend – was among the gang that raped her. He set her up. How do you recover from that kind of betrayal?
Seeing Brenda Saturday night so full of joy, inviting me to the Bible study at her house, only God can do that.
© The Reluctant Baptist, 2014