Oh, the Places We Go: Field Trips & Faith
BY CARA HOWARD, WOMEN'S EDITION SMALL GROUP LEADER & GRACE ATTENDER
We signed up for Bible study, hoping to grow in our relationships with God. And we did. We found His character, purposes and love for us woven throughout the sacred text. We encountered Jesus in the pages of the Bible and even took detailed notes in our study guides. But our lessons didn’t end there.
Our small group jokes that we’d prefer to study in the classroom and skip the field trip. But the field trips allowed our head knowledge to travel down into our hearts. The curriculum has to veer off the printed page and seep into our everyday lives. Application is a prerequisite for transformation. Until our faith is shaken, we can’t know if it’ll hold. We learn to trust God by trusting God; there are no shortcuts.
In our ten years together, my small group friends and I have traveled over all kinds of terrain. Wandering through complex inner labyrinths, we’ve walked between overgrown hedges in search of promised clearings. Some of us boarded rollercoasters that whizzed and looped while we all held our breath, praying for the ride to end.
Others embarked on hunts for hidden treasures, expectant adventurers on a quest of discovery. All of us punched time clocks and accumulated dirt under our fingernails in the daily grind of life. And when a detour led one of our own down a dark and lonely path, the rest of us followed close behind, flashlights in hand, shining light on her way.
We’ve shown up for one another, often in person and always in prayer. Oh, the places we’ve been: stress centers, hospitals, funeral parlors, counseling offices, workout facilities, courtrooms, preschool classrooms, prayer closets, foreign countries and hometowns. At kitchen tables, back porch confessionals, wooded retreat lodges, crowded restaurants, food pantries and coat drives: we’ve listened, questioned, comforted and served. We’ve taken turns being on the receiving end of grace.
We have been loved and we have loved. Dropped everything to care for each other’s children or to feed harried families home-cooked meals. Sifted through the junk in our homes and in our heads. Wrestled with disappointment and admitted our insufficiency in all stages of parenting. Tended to one another’s wounds and watched God heal. Identified our callings and fostered one another’s budding gifts. Together, we've broken free from destructive thoughts and enslaving habits. We've practiced choosing forgiveness again and again, setting boundaries and releasing bitterness whenever it reared its ugly head.
Real life forced us out from behind our tidy desks into the unknown. Growth happened when we rooted ourselves in the love of God and let it flow through us into the lives of others.
Whenever field trips take us into unfamiliar territory, our community makes us braver, reminding us who God is and who we are, helping us find our way.