One to one Bible reading isn’t just for those in professional ministry or those with spare time on their hands. Let’s meet Kathryn who made a number of life changes so she could meet with other women to read the Bible and then was helped by her Bible reading through some of life’s unplanned changes. This is yet another woman who has inspired me by her love for the Word, her faithfulness and her godly example.
Me: Kathryn, first of all tell us about you and your Christian background.
I had the absolute privilege of growing up in a Christian family. I can not remember a time when I didn’t know that Jesus loved me and had died for me. That unswerving knowledge has always been a wonderful stability in my life. I grew-up immersed in Church-Stuff and Christian ministry – if we hadn’t just come home from a church thing, then we were on our way there, or Mum was preparing something for a Church function while Dad did the cleaning or maintenance at the church property! It was a great demonstration of discipline and dedication and I don’t in anyway want to criticise the excellent example shown me. I grew up in the same vein and became very busy at church and for church.
Me: About 8 years ago now, you came to a new realisation in your Christian faith. What was that and how did that change your relationship with God?
Yeah! I had this realisation that I was so busy at church that I hadn’t actually been in church!!!! So, I looked around for an evening service of another church where I could slip into the back seat and just listen – didn’t have to sort out the photocopier, look after kids, set-up the tea and coffee, vacuum the hall etc, but just sit there anonymously and listen … and the more I just sat there and listened, the more God revealed to me that I was “working” my way to Heaven – somehow I’d missed, forgotten, obliterated, run-over, shut-down and ignored the wonderful gift of God’s grace!
Being saved is this wonderful free gift from a generous loving God, not something I had to earn. It was quite a shock to realise that the work had all been done by Jesus on the Cross and it was offered to me for nothing!!! The joy that followed that revelation was amazing – I don’t think up until that time I had ever realised how much joy my relationship with God could bring.
God is good, loving and kind – not someone I have to appease, impress or gain the favour of. Service flows from that wonderful grace not in order to get it! What a marvelous relief!
Me: When and where did you start doing one to one Bible reading?
I think it was the beginning of 2011. I had heard the virtues of one-to-one Bible reading extolled, but I didn’t really know how to go about asking someone. I didn’t know who to ask, what to say, which part of the Bible to choose or what to talk about. At the Women’s Dinner for Church, some women who had been sharing in one-to-one Bible Reading talked about their experience and at the end of the evening we were invited to indicate if we were interested in participating. We were then “matched” with another interested woman and given some suggestions for going about it. It was a little bit awkward at first, but became a great time of learning and sharing. We started reading Colossians using the COMA (Context, Observation, Meaning, Application) method. This first experience showed me how natural it could be. Two Christian women of a similar age and situation yet with a lot of differences too, sitting reading and discussing the Bible together. It was a familiar passage, yet there was just so much more that God could reveal to us both.
Me: A few years ago you qualified for long service leave from your public service job. Tell us how you used your leave.
I decided to invest in a year at Bible College. BEST thing I could have done!! I just loved it. It was a quite a undertaking for me – to move from my own comfortable “place and space” to living a college environment – sharing every meal with others, joining the queue for the washing machine, remembering to take all I needed from my room to the showers!!!! … and writing essays again … it was a long time since my undergraduate degree!!! But to be immersed in God’s Word everyday … for my job to be to read, think and discuss the Bible was SUCH a privilege. I’m glad I didn’t try to study part-time, because then, for me, it would have been another thing I had to do in addition to my employment responsibilities and the other requirements of my “usual” life … this way, study was a total break from my “normal” life … and such a blessing.
Me: Do you think going to Bible College was necessary in order to read the Bible one to one?
Absolutely not! Reading the Bible can be an academic exercise, but the great thing about God’s Word is that it is for everyone. That was one of the things that really struck me while studying at college – the accessibility of God’s Word. The other blessing was seeing the cohesiveness of God’s Word … and hence the confidence I can have in this wonderful gift of the Bible.
Me: What opportunities have you had for one to one Bible reading since you finished college?
I’ve read the Bible with such a variety of women – a non-Christian skeptic, an inquiring Catholic, someone with mental illness and a younger Christian girl. Sometimes it been organized and orderly, sometimes it has been chaotic and completely unpredictable! Sometimes I’ve offered, sometimes I’ve been asked, sometimes it has been over a long period, other times just a few short weeks. I try to make the most of any opportunity because God’s Word is available, accessible, useful and necessary for everyone.
Me: Things haven’t been easy for you over the last few years. What would you like to share with us about this time? How has your time in God’s Word help you process all that has been happening?
I’ve developed an auto-immune inflammatory disease. Sometimes I’m in so much pain, I can’t get out of bed. I have waves of debilitating fatigue and haven’t been able to do all the normal things I’ve taken for granted. There have been great stretches of time when I haven’t been able to get to church … I’ve spent days in bed, in a darkened room, with either horrid pain or the mental fuzz of medication to alleviate that pain. I’ve had numerous tests and investigations; been prescribed several medications and experienced their side effects. In seeking to work out with my Specialist what caused this illness, he responded: “Well when it comes down to it … it’s just bad luck” … very clinically encouraging (NOT)!!!!!
The objective reality of the truth of God’s Word is what I hold onto. The Bible tells me God in is charge and has a plan for this world. It is a fallen, broken world where sin is rife BUT this life is NOT all that there is … If it is only about what I can see, taste, feel and do … then given my recent limitations it would be pretty disheartening.
I might be disappointed, upset … even angry if I had to face this situation without knowing God is in control. In His Word He shows it is not all about me, nor do I exist in isolation … uncared for by our Lord and Saviour. He is in charge and He knows and He cares and this pain will not last forever. When I can’t read the Bible, I can listen to it being read, I can listen to helpful Hymns and Christian music – much of it Scripture in song! That is a real blessing.
Recently I have been listening to the Psalms being read aloud – no commentary or questions, just God’s Word. The real-ness (if that is a word?) of the Psalmists’ experience and his anguish and joy is so clear … as is the recurring theme … God is my salvation – not God will faciliate/provide/plan/give/bring about my salvation … but God Himself IS my salvation. What a wonderful truth!
Me: What are some of the highlights for you of one to one ministry?
….oh so many!! Reading through one of the Gospels with a non-believer was amazing – she had so many questions about God and Science and Church politics and denominations and Christian attitudes to a whole range of moral issues … and at first I was overwhelmed attempting to answer them … but I suggested we read a biography of Jesus, an eyewitness account. It was wonderful to just let the Bible do the talking – I didn’t have to think of the right words! In reading the Bible together she saw Jesus going about His business and the claims made about Him – both by others and Himself. It was wonderful to see her developing some understanding … away from any claims of an institution or organisation.
Reading with a Christian sister was wonderful … we took time to slow right down to read – really read and digest – verse by verse. Sometimes in Bible Study, the aim is to get the general idea of a passage or locate the specific answer to a question … and neither of those things is wrong, but in reading a well-known passage slowly and carefully in a one-to-one context gave such a wealth of opportunity to savour the words and allow them to impact us.
A personal blessing has been being reminded of the sufficiency of Scripture. Reading with a younger girl who had some interesting thoughts about a particular topic and being unsure how to correct her in a gentle but effective way, we read a relevant passage and I watched her answer her own questions from it. God’s Word in action before my very eyes!!!!!
Me: What are some of the challenges?
Also so many!!!
Reading the passage about Jesus death with a women experiencing mental illness and with a history of physical abuse, was hard – she became extremely upset. I didn’t want to soften the reality of what Jesus went through but at the same time I didn’t want to increase her distress. I just had to trust that God is good and caring and understood her situation better than me.
A problem I continually experience is that I get impatient and want the woman I am reading with to become a Christian immediately!!!! I have to remember it is God’s work, not mine … I just keep praying that God will work through His Spirit in the lives of those I am reading with!
A general challenge is making sure you actually read the Bible … sometimes it is easy to let the meeting-up time become a social catch-up or a de-brief about life or a counseling session!!! Now each of those may have a place in the relationship, but discipline is important to actually ensure you read the Bible.
Me: And the big question – why would anyone with a great job give up a day per week of paid employment to read the Bible with other women?
Because God’s Word is so good! It is for everyone! I feel as if I have been given a special gift of joy in knowing Jesus and I want to share that with whomever I can. Paid employment is only for this lifetime, but the truth of God’s Word lasts forever.