A couple of months ago I shared here that I would be trying something new. Today I’d love the opportunity to tell you briefly about my adventure and what made it so golden.
As a pastor’s wife for 25 years, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly sides of the church. But for six Saturday mornings during this January and February I witnessed the stunningly beautiful. Like knock-me-off-my-feet, had-to-go-home-and-meditate-on-what-I-just-witnessed kind of beautiful.
For six Saturday mornings four humble, imperfect, average, ordinary older women of God gathered a little before nine o’clock at one of the women’s homes and prepared to greet six lovely, sweet, soul-hungry, eager and grateful young women. We lavished them with hugs, strung accumulating gold beads around their necks, asked about their weeks and handed them cups of piping hot coffee or glasses of cool water. They sat on kitchen bar stools or stood shoulder to shoulder where they could see as two of the older women demonstrated how to assemble yummy dishes: Italian soup, colorful salads, rich quiches, decadent brownies with fudge sauce, hearty meatloaf, flavorful green beans, roasted vegetables, simple appetizers, pork loin, chicken enchiladas, flan.
When the final pan was placed carefully in the oven to bake or the saucepan was set to simmer, we retired to the living room with Bibles and pens and lesson books in our laps. We sat comfortably in plush chairs and sofas and were challenged to the point of holy discomfort with Bible lessons on kindness, loving your husband, loving your children, submission, purity and hospitality. We taught what the Bible says, shared what we have experienced and what God has taught us and then we listened…to their questions, their concerns, their hearts. We opened up. They opened up. We admitted our mistakes; they breathed a sigh of relief and let us in. They expressed their fears; we breathed into them hope and perspective and grace. We laughed. We cried. We reached across the generations and became sisters.
For the final hour each week we gathered at the beautifully set table, complete with crystal goblets, fine china, silverware and cloth napkins. We passed the dishes family style, offering the sister beside us the opportunity to break bread with us. Or we gathered on the back porch and ate on wicker trays picnic style, grabbing colas from a cooler and chicken from a bucket. Or we served our plates from an overflowing buffet and sat down to a Mexican themed table, wiping our hands and mouths with colorful bandannas. Each meal was an event.
We continued our conversations at the table: lively, honest, open, gentle. One woman commented that it was the first time in her 30-something years that she had ever sat at a table with a group of women and had safe, respectable and honest conversation. That both broke my heart and melted it, too. At that moment I knew our six-week commitment was worth every minute, every dime, every sacrifice.
Each week we closed by going around the table and sharing prayer requests. Close to home, vulnerable, humbling, life-and-death, hurts and blessings, struggles and victories. Then we prayed. And over the six weeks, God answered. Not every prayer was put to rest, but many were. And we rejoiced with those who rejoiced, and wept with those who wept.
More beautiful than the carefully set and decorated tables, the women gathered around those tables sparkled with dazzling brilliance. Some are single, others married. Some have children, others do not. Some are military wives, some are college students, some live with parents, some live far from “home.” They were born in Arizona and Georgia and Kenya and Germany and Florida, among other places. They have a variety of skin shades and accents and eye colors and challenges. All are followers of Christ and seeking to know Him and make Him known.
It’s funny to me how we resist the good plans God has for us sometimes. He tells us in detail how to be the church, how to share His love and disciple one another. He tells us to fellowship regularly, to share our struggles intimately, to bear each others’ burdens, to pray for one another, to break bread together, to study His Word diligently. He tells the older to mentor the younger. He tells the younger to respect the wisdom of the older.
He tells us these things in His Word, in the epistles–the letters–to the churches. They sound like good ideas, fun even. But we are busy. We are consumed with our culture. We are wary of getting too close, becoming too involved, giving too much of ourselves away. And so we miss the blessings that follow His directives.
The beauty of the Apples of Gold program for me was simply that it was the Body of Christ in motion. Fluid, graceful, uninhibited motion. Breathtakingly, stunningly, gloriously beautiful. Each Saturday as I drove home from our mornings together, tears surfaced in my eyes and flowed down my cheeks as I praised God for what I had seen, what I had been a part of. It felt so much bigger than me, even bigger than the ten women who had gathered together to give and take, and take and give. And I knew then that if we could somehow continue…by doing it again, offering it to others, staying open and available, engaging at any risk, grabbing hold and not letting go, committing to one another even at huge cost…then we would continue to see the beauty, the stunning beauty of the bride of Christ, His body, the church.
When have you experienced the stunning beauty of the body of Christ in motion? I’d love to hear from you.