So, yesterday I was invited to lead the December Bible study at one of the Women's Circles.
They've been inviting me every December for many years, but I always feel honored. It's their annual pot luck, so I get to share lunch with them as well as lead the Bible study. They all make salads and Christmas goodies. They always begin by standing in a circles and holding hands, singing "Be Present at Our Table, Lord."
This year, at lunch, someone passed around old pictures they had found from almost 20 years ago. The Circle was much bigger then. Some of the women have died, and others have moved; a couple of them simply don't come any more. I remembered how there used to be two tables set for lunch, back when I started coming to their December meeting. So we spent some of our time during lunch remembering some of the people we missed, and sharing stories.
When it came time for the Bible study, the few of us moved to a sofa and chairs. Two of the women in our group have macular degeneration now, and can't share in the reading of the scripture. They listen, and participate in other ways.
Our Bible study yesterday was from Acts 4, the end of the story about Peter and John healing a man and then brought before the authorities, who demand that they stop talking about Jesus. In the very end of the story, the disciples all get together and they pray: and they ask God for boldness so that they can continue to tell the good news they know. At the end of the prayer, there's an odd detail: the apostles actually can feel the earth shaking beneath them.
For what it's worth, I don't think of the word "Bold" when I consider this group of elderly women, some of them frail. They are quiet Lutherans, and they don't seem the type to make waves. I was wondering just how this Bible study, with several questions about "Bold Speech", was going to go.
At one point, though, I asked them to tell me what was something really important about their faith, about God, about Jesus. They all said, mostly in their quiet way, about how their faith keeps them going, about how they couldn't get through the days without it. One woman ( the youngest in the group) got a little more specific by saying it was the unconditional love and forgiveness of God that was most important to her.
I thought: this may not seem like a big deal, but it is. If you aren't old yet, you may not realize that growing old is not for sissies. When people say that the unconditional love and forgiveness of God for them gets them through each day, they are actually saying a lot. Older people are dealing with a lot of things: they are grieving the deaths of family and friends, they are going blind, they are dealing with pain. And it is the unconditional love and forgiveness of God that keeps them going.
That's what they said.
I said, you know, that might just be the most important thing to be bold about. Because in this world, love and unconditional forgiveness, unfortunately, are not the first words most people think of when they think of Christians.
Growing old is not for sissies, that's the truth, and I could see it in the lives of the women gathered in that circle. I suspect that every age has its pains, though. Life is not for sissies. The truth worth sharing is this: we need all of the unconditional love and forgiveness we can get.
It's worth being bold about, at any age. It might even be earth-shaking.