My newly-wed, 80 year old Baptist church friend, Dixie invited Thomas and me to come to a 12 week Bible Study at the Baptist Church. Well, Methodist don’t do 12 week Bible studies and needless to say as a born and bred Episcopalian, those events are only attended if there is some wine and cheese attached to the occasion. Crawford, Dixie’s amazing, Godly, hubby asked my Godly hubby to be a table leader….yes, Thomas.
So I switched teams, as it were, to become 12-week Meth-Baptist. Kind-a sounds like a drug without the high.
When we walked into the Baptist Church Fellowship Hall for the first time, Thomas made the following announcement: “We are Methodists.” Like this was come kind of emergency. (“Quick, someone, get the baptismal fountain ready before we lose him.”)
Thomas is a born and bred small town, Johnstonian…. Needless to say, this was not breaking news. (Oops, I said it anyway.)
I noticed that some Baptist Church Deacons gave me the look. If you are from a small town, you understand. We had been engaged in that friendly, though competitive, game called: who can be the first to get the new people in town to visit your church. We all race to reel-in the fresh newcomer meat. When approaching these prospects, Thomas has his spiel about the Godly people in our church, our wonderful minister….blah…blah.
My talking point gets the most traction. “We get out at 11 AM and are first in line at the Sunday buffet.” Appealing to the flesh will sometimes help to quicken the Spirit to worship with more vigor and faster.
Once settled into the Bible study, high school memories flooded my mind. Mainly this was because I had not done my homework for the Bible study. I leaned over and asked Thomas for his workbook. I needn’t have bothered. I could hardly make out his answers. Before she passed, our hen, Henrietta, scratched out more legible text, God rest her…
Basically, I was cheating.
Methodist cheat and tell anyone who’ll listen how, when, and why they cheated. Methodist have made breaking rules and sinning an outreach ministry. “You a cheat? Me, too! You should visit my church. You’ll feel right at home.”
I did not feel at home in the Baptist Bible study. I felt like I was about to get called on and busted in front of a room full of Baptist. For the unprepared, maybe hell feels exactly like a Bible study.
Years ago I sat by the class brain, who later became a doctor, and could not read her answers either. Thomas is no doctor or brain surgeon. I’m not sure what his excuse is. Anyway, my point is, I couldn’t read my husband’s answers. That’s my main point.
Here’s my other point.
Remember choosing your table where to sit in school? From social advancement perspective, this was always a game-changer and could, often would, affect your class rank. I’d often struggle with this decision. Do I sit at Penny’s table? She’s so organized and has a poster in the center. She even made cookies in the shape of Bibles. Everybody loves Penny. But her table was full! There’s no room in the “inn” with the in crowd.
In school I stressed a lot about being liked, but I got over it. (Not really. Please like me.
Since I kind of cheated from Thomas’ workbook I settled on Sara’s table (Sara’s real name is Margaret but I changed it here to protect our relationship). Just like in class, the first thing I did, was to pass Margaret, I mean Sara, a note. I wrote down three words, “I will behave.” I knew this was not true. Marg… ah, Sara also knew this was not true. She wisely sat me by the preacher’s son.
Ahhhh, the preacher’s son… precious, handsome and Godly. His workbook looked like Thomas’ workbook except there were actual words on the page that even our hen, Henrietta, could have read, God rest her….
In addition to being smart, godly, and possessing calligraphy-quality handwriting, the preacher’s son also reminded me of that super-cute minister I dated in High School. He even drove a sports car and… deliver me, Lord, flashed a smile that curled my toes. Our relationship came to an abrupt, head-on- collision halt when my mother warned, “Think of OUR reputation.”
My reputation was good, but God help us, there was the rest of our kin to consider.
Sara Margaret began the lesson by sharing a heart-felt story about listening to a Sandi Patti tape during a hard time in her life. My thoughts drifted to the time Sara found another tape in her car that her husband was listening to, this one entitled, “The Power of the Tongue.” Sara, God bless her, soon discovered the tape was filled with ways to improve your wild turkeys hunting calls.
Just like in Junior High or high School, our dear, sweet Bible study teacher called on everyone to say something relevant to the week’s lesson. Predictably, I talked about how on a recent flight I’d sat by a guy who was one of the original Gerber babies. Also predictably that story had nothing to do with the lesson. The girls laughed. Sara Margaret did not.
I have been trying to do better on my Bible study homework. This next unit begins with the story of Abraham’s obedience to the Lord, his willilngness to sacrifice his only son into the wilderness, tying him up with a rope…
I just pray I won’t launch into the story about how that over-served redneck cousin of mine, Lester, also took his only son with him and the pair trekked off to North Georgia to hunt. The trip ended well enough. Lester sobered up and the pair didn’t shoot each other. I hope Sara—my dear sweet Bible Study table leader who after this is published will still be speaking to me — but maybe she won’t call on me in class.
At the close of the evening, the group shared prayer requests. Ironically, just like I’d endured all those many years ago in Charleston at First Baptist Church School, when called to share a prayer I offered up same prayer I always spouted. Y’all pray for me. This Bible study homework is killing me.
The Baptist Bible Study reminds me of my many failures growing up, but God loves us even when we don’t do our homework, talk too much and are not invited to sit at the cool table. And this is the sweetest of all sweet tea lessons learned at the Baptist Bible Study.
Jane Jenkins Herlong is a Southern humorist and featured on SiriusXM Radio. She is the author of five books. Jane’s newest release is entitled, Sweet Tea Secrets from the Deep-Fried South.