Why was I surprised? I shouldn’t have been, but I was. Perhaps I still don’t fully understand the power of the word or, should I say, the Word.
I am just back from Texas and it happened there at the retreat house where I was leading a weekend retreat. I had done this in the same place for the previous sixteen years and my group was a predictable one of 8-10 quite wonderful women. Not this year!
As I met them that first evening I realized that this was something different. They were 24 in total, men and women, very young (barely 17) and touching most of the decades through the 80s. There was a married couple and a gay couple, there were the widowed and the divorced, the separated and the single. By the next morning we had also learned that one of them was suffering from a terminal illness and several were carrying family problems that belonged in a book. They were mine to lead for the weekend.
I prayed hard for the grace to give at least some of them what they had come seeking. God responded. I simply opened the Bible to the texts I had chosen and that group came together as if they had known each other forever. It mattered little that they were Roman Catholic and Anglican, Episcopalian and Baptist, and some I do not know what. One thing united them – the Word of God.
Tying us closer together was the image of that Bible study in Charleston, SC, that led nine people straight into the presence of God. We had to speak of them, and we did, with love and admiration. We shared a powerful two days, one where everyone seemed to have heard God, in different ways and in different passages of the Book. The teenager, texting her friends, let them know what they were missing and they asked if they might come next year. Wouldn’t that be interesting?
In the meantime, as we gather across the country to study God’s Word, it has a power beyond human comprehension. We are humbled.