This week saw the end of my Bible study’s trek through Lysa Terkeurst’s “Becoming More Than Just a Good Bible Study Girl”, and of course, I felt I needed to dedicate an obligatory blog post to my critiques of the study (in case anyone was interested in picking it up themselves).
My initial response: It’s a good Bible study starter. Terkurst covers a variety of topics, such as how to follow God with your heart, in your thoughts and relationships, in your actions and in your calling (I personally think Jennie Allen’s “Restless” is a better study if you are feeling lost in your calling). The book focuses on stories in the Bible, the lessons those stories teach, and how we can enact those in our everyday lives. Lysa has a video session, a study guide, and the book to serve as the instruction and conversation throughout the study.
What I got out of it: The premise of the study is to look at how we can extend our knowledge of God from the Bible into our everyday lives and actions. I think we have two different kinds of religious people; we have those who are really good at the Biblical application, who can spout off any story, any verse at anytime. And, we have those who are really good at the practical application, who are really good at living out those messages, even if they can’t quote their exact place. I’m definitely the latter; I’m really good at reading my life, and seeing how God is working through it, and I’m getting better at paying attention to how He is instructing me to live. But, I couldn’t tell you if Ruth comes before or after Thessalonians, and I could tell you there is some passage about God having a plan for us, but I couldn’t recite it from heart. However, as it turns out, we need both those who know the Bible by heart, and those who know life by heart, to interact. I can help bring context to those who know scripture well, and those who know scripture well can help ground my interpretations.
My favorite part of the book was looking at how we can be more Christ-like in our thoughts and relationships, especially relationships with other women. So often, we focus on our spousal-relationships that we neglect to discuss how we should be interacting with other women (and, women really are the worst). At the time I was reading the book, I was grappling with how I filter gossip and judgement out of my life. I didn’t realize the negative effects of gossip until I took it away from my life, and magically, I had more energy. I was more productive. I cared less what other people thought of me. I accomplished more of my goals.
There are a couple of issues with this new lifestyle shift. First of all, everyone else wants to engage in gossip all the time. Second of all, when you start living a more Christ-like life, you start noticing all the other corrupt behaviors in other people, and you start wondering why they are not punished for those behaviors. Here’s what Lysa taught me: I have the power to change conversations. She mentioned in order to distract herself from gossiping, she would go into a social commitment with three other topics in mind they could discuss if the conversation steered into dangerous territory. We train people how to interact with us. If I engage in the gossip, then I am sending the message that I do talk about those kinds of things, and they will continue to follow me. If I steer the conversation away, then I am sending the message that I do not talk about those kinds of things. Lysa also reminded me that it’s not my responsibility to seek justice. People do corrupt, power-seeking, malicious things all the time, and God is taking care of them, even if I am never witness to it. It’s my responsibility to worry about myself.
My disclaimer: Bible studies only work if you are willing to share about yourself. As humans (and especially women) we are REALLY bad at sharing stories about ourselves. I’ve been in Bible studies before that are really awkward, because no one ever talks, and no one ever shares anything. I think this is partially because we are trained to think “sharing about ourselves is selfish”, and “selfish is non-Christ like”, so we just never say anything at all. Or, we think that “having problems” makes us inferior people, and as “missionaries”, we think we have to always be “saving others” that we forget we all have our own problems. I really enjoyed the group of women in my study, because no matter what walk of life they seemed to be from, how long they’d been married or non-married, or what kind of career they earned, we all shared very common struggles, which just goes to confirm that we are all actually human after all (read more on how I think religion screws us up).
I think the other problems with Bible studies is we don’t do a good enough job of aligning the word of God with our own practical experiences. We might discuss why fulfilling ourselves with material items is bad, but then we also need to ask ourselves WHAT material items do WE fulfill ourselves with, and how can we curve. We might discuss how insecurities play a role in our lives, but then we also need to ask ourselves WHAT insecurities are limiting us from accomplishing our goals, and how might we try to solve those. We might discuss how gossip can lead to disastrous ends, but then we also need to admit to ourselves moments we, ourselves, participated in gossip, and how we could have derailed the conversation (in psychology, this technique is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT); you go back to look at situations, and re-frame them, in hopes the next time they come up, you react differently).
All in all, I would recommend it as a Bible study.
“Too many of us live with an uncontrolled thought life. It is possible to learn to identify destructive thoughts and make wiser choices. Instead of letting those thoughts rumble freely about in my mind, I make the choice to harness them and direct them toward truth.” -Lysa Terkeurst