“Let’s read…” The Bible Study teacher, Jessica, said, but her voice faded to, “…Oh, hi, Mari. Have a seat.”
I turned halfway in my seat. “Hi, Mari.” I said. Late. By ten minutes!
Mari walked across the room toward the seat next to mine. She put down her new Bible and the book we were studying, The Women of Christmas. The chair scraped against the floor as she pulled it away from the table and sat down. Her dark hair hung free of the braids down her back. She dug in her black purse and took out a pen. Everyone smiled at Mari. Their Bibles were open.
“Mari is new. She just moved to the area and works at that clothing store downtown.” Jessica said, her face shining with joy.
The women’s Bible Study was growing. The Garden of Eden is spread out and a lot of the members of the church are ranchers and farmers, or they work in town. Jessica wanted to reach some of the women in the outer regions. She came from missionary parents, and the missionary spirit was still in her heart.
“Let’s read Luke 2:36-40.” Jessica flipped through the pages of the book. “Go to page 191 in your book.”
Mari opened her book. From my peripheral, I saw the pages were unmarked. I opened my Bible and volunteered to read.
“And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher (she was of a great age, having lived with a husband seven years from her virginity, and she had been a widow even unto fourscore and four years), who departed not from the temple, worshiping with fastings and supplications night and day.” Anna was one of my favorite stories of the New Testament. After I read the scripture, Jessica continued her teachings.
“It says here, ‘We all have seasons when we’re on our own and could use that solitude to deepen our relationship with God. Even those of us who share our lives with others have a few moments entirely to ourselves in any given day. How do you usually spend that time? What portion would you consider giving solely to God, and how might you do so?’” Jessica looked around the room.
Mari squirmed in her seat. The pages of her Bible trembled and moved in the rush of heat from the vents in the ceiling. “I work a lot. So I don’t have time to do much, much less read the Bible. But I listen to a lot of praise music on the way to and from work.”
“I like to take long walks.” I said. What I was going to say was, S.M. and I read the Bible together, but I didn’t want to make Mari feel bad. Yet, I wanted so badly to turn around and say something. You can’t have a relationship with someone unless you learn about their history and spend time with them. You can’t know what you worship unless you know scripture. Otherwise, we’re worshiping ourselves. So I remained silent. Not an easy thing to do for me.
“Reading the Bible is so important though.” Another said.
I forgot her name, but she’s older than I am, a grandmother with ten grandchildren. A halo of white hair caught the light.
Mari shrugged. “I know, but I have a Mormon friend who meets me for coffee sometimes, and I tell him all about God. Plus, someone mentioned all of my Jesus stickers on the back window.”
Jessica moved the conversation forward and the subject changes much to everyone’s relief, including my own. You wish you could point out that, if you have time to meet someone for coffee, you have time to hang out with God, but I don’t want to be judgmental. Mari has a history, and perhaps she was a new believer. The grandmother made her point delicately, and I am glad to see that God brought Mari to our Bible Study. The fact that she made the time to attend it shows a desire to know God better.
I lifted up a silent prayer for Mari as Jessica starts on question two, and others answered those questions. More scripture was read. My mind drifted as I think of that Mormon friend who hangs out with Mari.
A believer who doesn’t feed her faith with scripture is vulnerable to a Mormon’s advances. A believer who doesn’t have strong, Christian friends to answer the questions is also vulnerable to the whirl of emotions that shift what a person believes. The heart after all is deceptive.
I left the Bible Study knowing God put Mari in my heart to constantly remember in prayer. But I also know that Mari’s situation is similar to a lot of Christians frame of mind. There are three kinds of Christians: Cultural, Nominal, and Evangelical.
Cultural are people deeply involved in the church of Christianity. They love the culture of Christianity, but are not really believers, but are unaware of this. Nominal are believers who are not committed Christians, barely read the Bible or do read the Bible and don’t put their belief into their every day actions. Evangelicals are those who put telling people about Jesus as the most important thing above everything else in Christianity. They are committed Christians.
But we are all vulnerable to what feels right, not necessarily what is right. What feels right may not go along with what is right. That’s why the Bible is necessary to our prayer life and to our growth. I am worried about Mari. But from this distance, how can I speak truth into her life?