Tuesday, July 9
Thrown Under the Bus With Joy
When I began the new thing, I closed my eyes and picked a book and my finger landed on Philippians. And this was what I invited five women to begin with me.
We are twelve women now. We've been through Philippians, Mark, Ruth, Esther, Romans, Ephesians and John. Somewhere in Ruth is where it began for me -- the need to not just study and discuss, but to teach. And somewhere in Ephesians I remember exploding in frustration that I didn't have the opportunity to do so. Because by teach I really meant preach and those spaces are usually filled by experienced and commissioned people.
This summer, as we breathe in sabbatical rest, we are joining another community in weekly worship. I'm treating it like Lent: if I give up something (time with my community) then I take up something (time in another community). And it refreshes me to see other people walking in the way of Jesus.
Our first Sunday with them, being recognized by the pastor there, my husband was asked to teach in their series called Teach Us To Pray. He politely said, "Well, I'm on sabbatical." And to this I said, "Oh, but you love to teach. You should do it." Because I know that he does. Because I know that when he doesn't teach he gets restless. Because he gets to do work that is life-giving and I feared a little about what would give him life while he was away from preaching?
But I also know that in order to rest all things must stop. And so I apologized later and inquired, "Did I commit you to something you don't want to do?" He said, "We'll see."
The next week we returned to our interim community and he began the conversation again, but he said, "If you still want someone to teach, Debra can do it." And I laughed. It's not the first time he's thrown me under the bus. He did it last summer, when we were in India, suggesting I take some turns at teaching church planters because he knew that I could.
How joyfully I took that responsibility off of him! That thing I'd placed on his shoulders in the first place was now firmly on my plate. That thing that I'd been wanting to do, and he knows -- oh, he knows, was now opened to me.
I had the luxury of six weeks to read and think and pray and practice. The first version left my lips while walking along the Pacific at sunrise on a drizzly Oregon morning. When my voice was overpowered by the waves, nearby dog walkers oblivious to my vocalizing, I could move from thought to thought, circle back, start again, scratch it all. I could practice my own application. I could pray the way I was going to teach others to.
The last time I rehearsed it I was in my backyard in a quiet corner preaching to the fence, easily flowing thought to thought, grateful passion, submitting to God's grace.
And I discovered some beautiful things about teaching -- that it's actually not about who is hearing me in the way my ego would have me believe. Teaching is a progressive internal exercise: it's a turmoil of Midrash, a wrestling and refining. And as such, teaching does more in me than it does in anyone else. (How many sermons have ever changed your life?).
I know how I feel when my children repeat my teachings; when they've internalized something I've longed for them to grasp. How pleasing it must be to the Father to hear his children say the things he's been saying all along. Teaching is a sacred time when I get to say in God's presence all that he's taught me. And he can give me that knowing nod, that we're quite possibly actually getting somewhere.
Teaching is my confession. I do it with joy.
Here it is.