And I thought about what we'll be doing in women's Bible study this fall. We call ourselves The Biddies, a name that came about in a fluke-y manner. I used to send emails addressed "Bible Study Buddies" and a couple of years ago (longer than that, now), one of our number sent a text to everyone which auto-corrected "Buddies" to "Biddies." The name stuck. We even have tee shirts.
I want to go back to Women in the Bible, a series I developed over what feels like a century, and one that we repeat every so often. When we do, new things always emerge.
And I started thinking about the three or four Courageous Conversations we attempt to have throughout the year, something that came about as we realized we don't always agree with each other.
The first time it happened, I said, "We're going to stop here and talk this through next week. Go home and think about your experiences with this. Look up information on it. Look up what the Church teaches." The subject was IVF (In Vitro Fertilization)
Note: there are 45 of us, and we stay in one large discussion group. Luckily, we rarely all show up at the same time.
Later, I sent them a list of topics to choose from for the next discussion, and, hands down, they chose "Women, Emotional Well-being, and Self Care." Close behind was "Hot Button Issues," which we tackled in May.
I got the idea for how to approach this from a Brene Brown workshop, which offers a safe, anonymous method of addressing touchy subjects, which most of our cultural stories tend to be.
We placed piles of sticky notes on the tables, (groups of 6-8) and the first question was simply, "Write one or two 'hot button' issues that really get to you and are difficult to talk about." We stuck our notes on a door. Next, we grouped them into categories, which looked like this:
Next, I asked them to move to a feeling level. "What rises in you that keeps you from voicing your opinion?" We were all in agreement: "The words "Fear" and "Anxiety" covered the door.
Next, by tables, I asked for responses. The best take away for the entire morning was from Mary: "We don't have much practice at this. What if we were to start having practice conversations with each other?"
So, in addition to following up with practice conversations, our plan is to proceed with some of the (above) topics we identified during our time together. We plan to use the same process. The safety we build around this is important. It preserves the love and trust we've established as a group over the past eight years.
All summer, I've played with different ideas about how to approach our topics. I think a good entry will be to (step one) Write one fact about this. (step two) What personal experience have you had with this? (step three) What is the good or the perceived good in this? (step four) Is there a call for you in this?
I think it will give us a lot to go on.
We also pondered "How to Tell the Truth" by Paul Williams, especially: When someone speaks to you and you feel yourself not wanting to hear it, try letting it in. You don't have to agree that they're right. Just take the risk of listening as if they could possibly be speaking some truth--and see what happens.
Listen as if. Listen as if you can't always tell what the truth is. Listen as if you might be wrong, especially when you know you're right. Listen as if you were willing to take the risk of growing beyond your rightness. Listen as if love mattered."
We don't usually come away from our conversations with "answers." Only understanding. The greatest of which may be that our love for each other and our unity are based on something more than agreeing with each other.
And it all takes practice.