The Book Club
A few years ago, I found myself in conversation with a few women about books we were reading, our favorite authors, and the insight we had received from them. That led to the forming of “The Book Club.” Now, we are all ladies with busy schedules and many responsibilities, but there is something that draws us together week after week to discuss assigned chapters. We have collectively been on a pretty amazing journey of revelation, doubt, clarity, and an openness to hearing different ways of thinking. I have grown from the voices of the authors and fellow readers who have spoken into my life.
We are living in an age of social isolation. Technology has made it possible for us to have limited face-to-face interaction. From making a bank transaction to filling our tank with gas, we do not have to have any person-to-person contact. We can place our opinions on Facebook from the comfort of our couch, which provides some protective distance from any repercussions, but there is something to be said about rubbing shoulders with others. There is a need for hearing voice inflection, seeing facial expressions, and having a visceral response to a living, breathing human bean. It’s an investment of time, effort, and emotion. My time with these ladies teaches me that life can be messy and wonderful at the same time.
Broadening My Perspective
Week after week, as we show up to The Book Club, our perspectives are sometimes poked at, stretched, questioned, and reassured. I have some of my values challenged. It has been healthy in either underscoring what I believe or broadened by another’s viewpoint that strengthens my need to listen to others.
Some of the subject matter of the books we read takes us to delicate areas of discussion, causing us to talk about lessons learned through difficult situations both past and present. The Book Club has become a safe place to land when old wounds surface. Yes, we often joke, “What is said at Book Club, stays at Book Club,” but this secure community can be such a healing balm. Our discussions highlight the fact that we are not alone in some of our feelings, which is hugely important. Just being heard and given space to share an emotion without judgment is good for the soul!
I am not only challenged by the perspectives of those in the room but by the authors we have read. I have not agreed with everything I have read, but reading differing outlooks helps me to glean what is edifying and allowed differing opinions to broaden my point of view, and deepens the grace and mercy in my life. Hearing other viewpoints has taken my “head out of the sand.”
Different Ways of Learning
There are basic ways that we learn; we learn by seeing, listening, or experiencing. We all have our default way of learning. The Bible is filled with hundreds of voices, and they all call at once to get our attention. “Some of the voices are shouting, like Moses’ voice, so all Israel, all the world, can hear, and some are so soft and halting that you can hardly hear them at all, like Job with ashes on his head and his heartbroken, like old Simeon whispering, ‘Lord, now let your servant depart in peace.’ The prophets shrill out their frustration, their rage, their holy hope and madness; and the priests drone on and on about the dimensions of furniture of the Temple; and the lawgivers spell out what to eat and what not to eat; and the historians list the kings and battles, the tragic lessons of Israel’s history…” (Fredrick Buechner – A Room Called Remember).
The women I fellowship with week after week come from eclectic backgrounds and stages of life. They are teachers, IT specialists, professional musicians, youth workers, and businesswomen. We are in stages of life that range from women soon to be wed, young mothers, moms of teens, and a couple of very hip grandmothers! What draws us together week after week is that our time in fellowship stirs us all to want to do the next right thing, and we’ve got a cheering section to spur us on to do just that!
Listening and Speaking
There is an ancient proverb that says, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” (Epictetus) In many ways, I have grown from this amazing give and take during our sacred time together. As a “Baby Boomer,” I need to listen to the “Gen X” and “Millennials” in the room. These younger women have taught me more than they will ever know through their fresh insight and awareness of the world around them. As I listen, I am reassured that God is still in the business bestowing wisdom and discernment on succeeding generations. There are those moments when those of us who have more years under our belts can give a perspective that might ease some concerns or give guidance to the younger generation. What a wonderful give and take!
We are people of rhythm as Solomon so aptly states in Ecclesiastes 3, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh…”. There is a time for us to have quiet communion with the Lord, sitting in His Presence and drinking in those moments of sacred intimacy, but we must also be in community. We need to hear other voices, and it is okay if they don’t think the same way that we do.
“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community… Let him who is not in community beware of being alone… Each by itself has profound perils and pitfalls. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Here’s to the ladies of The Book Club!
written by Major Lauren Hodgson, USAEast SLD