Studying Romans with a group of “senior saints” on Thursdays has been a great joy to me. For the first time in my 24-year career, I’ve had the flexibility to be in a women’s Bible study during the morning. In case you didn’t know, that’s where these senior saints are—not at the night studies when they have to leave the safety of their home for evening risks. I had been missing a treasure trove of morning wisdom.
There’s something special about being among women who have walked long and close to Jesus. There’s a special grace indeed, but also a special humanity that comes out in their stories. I often long for their tales of perceived failure more than I do their trophy successes. I know their victories are hard won over time and tribulation. And I long for the sorority of the strugglers.
So, when we got to Paul’s circuitous confession in Romans 7:18-20 that he doesn’t do what he wants, but instead does the very things he doesn’t want to do, there was a collective, “Yes!” If we’d been Baptists, there would have been a thunderous “amen!” and maybe a “preach it, brother!” with hankies a flying.
The women had joined their extensive experience with Paul’s voice: We are wretched! We can’t make our flesh do the right thing! Try as we might, we’re powerless!
I often wonder why we don’t offer our solidarity in the struggle more often. Why don’t we “yes” and “amen” and “preach it, sister” all the daylong? If one of my sisters admits defeat, it ushers me more quickly to my own reality. It’s in that common humanity that we come to the end of ourselves—individually and collectively—and we find our rescue:
“Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (24b-25).
–Judy Nelson Lewis