Last night I looked up in my small group at Bible study and realized, of the six of us present, I was the only non-African American member.
It was a totally cool moment.
This was not an intentional thing. In fact, our Bible study is still majority Caucasian overall.
But this year, when we arranged the small groups, it just happened that, as one person invites another sometimes, we ended up with almost all of the African-American women in our group.
We were being led by a substitute, our associate teaching director. She is an African-American woman married to a Caucasian man. They have two beautiful adult children.
The other four ladies in our group have become my friends over the years, one at a time, in different activities related to our Bible study.
I didn’t meet them all at the same time and I haven’t gotten to know them all in the same way. They are diverse ladies and, accordingly, my friendships with them are diverse.
I love that about our coastal Virginia area. It is Southern enough to have a good balance of Caucasian and African-American people to begin with. It is enough of a commercial hub to have had lots of Asian and Hispanic people thrown into the mix over the centuries.
Then Eisenhower totally integrated the military back in the 1950’s and produced even more diversity in this area with three major Army bases, a major Air Force base, two Marine Corps bases, and a grand total of eight major Navy bases.
We all say the military was the great bringer of a level playing field during and after the Civil Rights movement. That is very much the case! When you share a tank or an aircraft or a submarine or a ship 24/7, you tend to have the barriers come down. Praise God for that!
When I was younger, I sought out Bible studies that had African-American majorities on a couple of occasions, as I liked to hear the way that African-American groups around me prayed out loud. Corporate prayer can be very fervent and lovely in these groups. I wanted to learn from them. I especially did that early on in my tour in Germany. The groups were readily available through the base chapel when I was staying on base, waiting for my housing to be ready.
But, to be honest, I like it better when such friendships and associations arise, unsought, because God just happens to bring them into existence. There is something so natural and wholesome about being the only Caucasian in a small group when no one but God intended it to be that way.
We studied John 11 last night. Our group had a wonderful time in the Scriptures, discussing the raising of Lazarus from the dead. We totally got that Mary and Martha, along with their brother, were probably surrogate siblings to Jesus. We understood why He let both Martha, then Mary chew Him out for not arriving in time to heal Lazarus before his death. We also thought that the reason Jesus wept was probably a sympathy cry when He saw His dear friend Mary crying. We have all done that. There may be some deeper theology to why He wept, but we thought the sympathy cry was certainly part of it, too.
And, when Jesus stood there, ready to raise Lazarus from the dead, we envisioned Him turning to Martha and Mary, like a younger brother, saying, “Ya’ll watch this!!!” His relationship with them seems to have been that warm!
What a wonderful Bible study to bring six diverse women together around such a great passage!