I think what turned me off the most was the hair. It was just so ... big. And the scrappy “don’t mess with Texas” vibe. And the fact that evangelical moms all over the country were fans. As a third generation New Yorker, cynicism and snark have been bred into me, along with an affinity for black clothing and pretentious coffee. So it has surprised everyone — including me — that I have spent the past year going through (and recommending) Beth Moore studies.
How did it happen? Well, I moved from my hometown of New York City to Washington, D.C., and while I was exploring various employment opportunities, I had a lot of free time. The wife of the former associate pastor at the church I’d started attending invited me to join a “women’s Bible study” that met on Friday mornings. They were doing a Beth Moore study called Breaking Free. It seemed fishy to me — who are the only women who have free time on Friday mornings? Moms. And Beth Moore? I had spent six years attending and four years on staff at a church in New York that got super famous because of its own rockstar, hyper-intellectual, and somewhat post-modern teaching. We prided ourselves on not being ... well, like Beth Moore.
Still, I was trying to be open to life in my new city so ...
I walked into the group a couple of minutes late wearing gold sequin pumps, skinny jeans, and a red leather jacket — what I would normally wear to bum around town in my old life. I could not have been more out of place amidst the yoga pants and baby blankets. But I met some of the most awesome women I’ve known in D.C. and more importantly — I met Beth.
Well, let me rephrase that. I attended the group faithfully and took notes during the video presentations of the study. But like Hansel in Zoolander, I thought I was too cool for school and didn’t do my homework (but news flash — I wasn’t). I liked what I heard but wasn’t particularly sad when the study was over.
Then a year passed. A very difficult and painful year of wrestling with God and failing, yet continually coming back for more. I seemed inexplicably hell-bent on attempting to build that proverbial wall that was so big that it could keep God out. I emerged at the beginning of 2013 battle-weary, scarred, and so tired of myself. I needed to learn how to be less well, like myself. So I picked up my Breaking Free workbook and started doing the homework I had avoided the year before.
Beloved (as Beth would call you in her study), it changed my life. Submitting myself to her teaching was sanctifying. It made me less of a snarky, cynical person, someone who counts all of her smart-ass tendencies as a loss compared to knowing Christ.
Once I was done with Breaking Free, I found myself missing the way she’d write about Jesus. So I took the advice of other Beth Moore converts and started in on 90 Days with the One and Only. I am pretty sure that for the last few weeks of that study I cried every morning because she just made Jesus so beautiful that you wanted to give up everything to know him. Before I even finished the study I bought Living Beyond Yourself which is about the fruit of the Spirit. And now that I’m on the last week of it, I’m already wondering what study I’ll do next.
Beth may not look or sound or write the way a sarcastic Gen-Y woman would prefer. But when you are trying to learn how to have a relationship with Jesus, being snarky and cynical is a liability. Sure Beth Moore might have big hair and use church-ladyisms, but she knows Jesus (I swear she knows his favorite color). And while I’m busy doing my very best imitation of Daria and shutting God out with my attitude, she’s happily communing with the God of the universe AND then taking the time to write studies so that we could know that God too.
Being snarky and cynical, while generating a lot of great material for writing and holding court at parties, never got me very far with God. Beth Moore helped reintroduce me to the “One and Only,” (even writing that made me cringe) and taught me how to make myself vulnerable to that God. And that has softened my cynicism and tempered my snark. Thank you, Beth. Thank you for your faithfulness to share what — and Who — you know.
Juliet Vedral is the Assistant to the President at Sojourners.