This weekend was unforgettable. Why, you ask? I loaded up with twenty other ladies, all middle-aged just like me, and headed to see my favorite Bible teacher in a neighboring town. We borrowed a bus and talked one of the ladies into driving us. The bus ride is always one of my favorite parts, we laughed, we cried and we sweated when the air didn’t work like it was supposed to. But, mostly we shared with our seat partner or someone close by the joys and difficulties of our lives.
And, of course, showed each other pictures of our kids.
There’s just not too many things much better than a bunch of church ladies headed to a Bible retreat. We come in all shapes and sizes, from all sorts of backgrounds and from all over the area. We come expecting a blessing and carrying our Sunday morning Bible, a pen, a highlighter and wearing anything from dresses to jeans and, of course, comfortable shoes. You see, we’re almost professionals when it comes to Bible retreat etiquette. You come to enough of these things and you know the ropes.
And comfortable foot apparel is a MUST.
Once I wore the wrong type of shoes, don’t get me wrong, they were so cute. Trust me, many of you would’ve appreciated their trendy style and neutral color. They were the best of both worlds, except they were the exactly the wrong thing to wear to a conference with thousands of other women who were smarter than you and wore shoes that didn’t make their feet feel like they might fall off. You see, at these events you walk thousands of stairs, stand in lines hundreds of feet long and park miles and miles to get to the conference center. (Maybe a slight exaggeration there, but you get the idea.) Cute, neutral, trendy wedge sandals are not meant for these type of Bible retreats. Trust me, I know this to be true from previous experience. So this time I wised up and wore cute, neutral, FLAT sandals. Much better choice, but honestly, I secretly envied those ladies wearing sneakers.
Those ladies or the ones in Dr. Scholl’s, they were the smart ones, and for sure the comfortable ones.
Once we arrived at our destination in our borrowed bus, all twenty church ladies piled out and headed to our hotel rooms to freshen up and then back on the bus and down the road to get a burger before the opening service. It was a Friday night and many of us had worked that day and then we had hopped on the bus for a couple of hours. By the time we sat down to eat, we were exhausted, and hungry.
But, we were also thrilled to be together and excited for what we were about to experience.
There were literally thousands of women there, women just like you and me. They too had come to participate in something bigger than themselves; something life changing, something worth walking and standing in line for.
Once we finished our burger, we were on our way. We pulled up in our bus, like every other church bus group, in front of the huge building that would accommodate a group this size, and piled off a second time. Then we headed into the auditorium to find a seat. Just us and nine thousand other women trying to do the exact same thing at the exact same time. It was a challenge to keep us all together, but by the grace of God we did it. We made our way to the nose bleed section, found seats and proceeded to nest, getting ready for an amazing evening.
We were not disappointed.
The music started and larger than life screens lit up with words to choruses and hymns both new and old. I wish you could’ve heard it. The sound of so many voices raised in praise to our Lord. Some sang loud, some you couldn’t hear and others just closed their eyes and listened. We sang songs of praise, and songs of worship. I think my favorite, well, my two favorites were “My God is Awesome” and “The Blood of Jesus Speaks for Me.” Right before we sang the second song I mentioned, the worship leader gave the most impactful introduction, really explaining the lyrics and what they meant in our personal lives.
“You know, when Satan comes to you and reminds you of all the terrible things you’ve ever done, all of your regrets, and fears…just mentally look him in the eye and agree with him, ‘yes, I am nothing, and I cannot defend myself, BUT the blood of Jesus speaks for me.’”
Yes, I have made terrible decisions, hurt others, acted selfishly, BUT I don’t speak for myself, the blood of Jesus Christ who redeemed me, speaks on my behalf. And you know what He says, “You’re forgiven, and you have great value.” THANK THE LORD FOR HIS GRACE.
And that we don’t have to answer for ourselves, Christ has paid the price and He’ll do all the talking.
By the time the speaker got up our hearts were so ready to hear the message. She didn’t waste a minute, she dove right into Proverbs chapter eight and began a compelling case for why we should choose wisdom over folly. I know what you’re thinking, “of course we should choose wisdom over being foolish, that’s a no brainer.” And yet, even KNOWING what we should choose, we still struggle with doing the “wiser” thing. For example, I KNOW I am to forgive, but I choose to hold onto that grudge because I’m not ready to let go of my hurt feelings. I KNOW I should not be involved in that gossip filled conversation about that very difficult person, but, I do it anyway. I mean, after all, if they weren’t so difficult…
You see what I mean?
Most of us are not purposely choosing to be foolish or as the dictionary says about folly, to lack sense, but we aren’t purposely choosing wisdom either. Maybe you’re like me, I don’t do the really bad stuff, the more obvious foolish stuff, but I find myself more often than I would like to admit falling into the smaller, seemingly less of a big deal foolish stuff. And it never leads to anything good. Foolish behavior, whether intentional or not, big or small, is still foolish and the Bible says that foolishness leads to death.
Death?! Man, talk about cutting right to the chase. But, here it is in the Word,
Proverbs 8:35-36, “For those who find me (wisdom) find life and receive favor from the Lord. But those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death.”
If you have time read the whole chapter, it is so rich with a good word, and who doesn’t want a good word?
We ended up getting back to our hotel late that night and then up very early the next morning. You can imagine how early when you think of three women needing to share one bathroom. It was a challenge, but we pushed through. I guess it could’ve been worse, we could’ve been camping in a tent. I know some of you just gasped because you LOVE camping and can’t imagine anyone NOT loving it. But, I am of a firm conviction that if I can’t plug my hair dryer in somewhere close by, then I probably don’t need to be there.
Sharing a bathroom with several others is as close to a camping experience as I want to come.
These types of weekends are so special to me. Not only do they encourage me to press on and to make good decisions, they remind me I am not alone, not even close. There are so many of us out there trying to live out what we believe, and working hard to soak up the Word as if our life depended on it.
Wait, our life does depend on it.
And that is why as long as the Lord gives me strength, I will seek out retreats like this one and gather some church ladies to go with me. It’s a weekend full of laughter, tears, and, usually some sweat. It’s so worth it. Even if you have to borrow a bus, cope with intermittent air conditioning, and share a bathroom, I strongly encourage you to find one to attend.
It makes for some great worship, compelling teaching and lots of great memories.
Just don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes.