The pre-reading for this (should you choose to do so) is easy—just scroll down, then work your way back up. The relevant entries are as follows:
Lay Down Your Circumstances
Lay Down Your Ambition
Lay Down Your Boundaries
Lay Down Your Weakness
Lay Down Your Self-Consciousness
For this session, you’ll need….
• a DVD of the movie Fried Green Tomatoes. (Note: You can still have the discussion without viewing the clip, but it’s a good way to set the mood/get everyone relaxed.) Cue the movie to 1:21:02 (DVD Chapter 27), where Evelyn is cruising into the parking lot.
• a 6-8’ strip of masking tape. Before your session, place your tape strip across the floor of your meeting area. Make sure there’s room both in front and in back of your tape strip.
Laying Down Your Day (10 minutes)
Watch your scene from Fried Green Tomatoes; stop the DVD at 1:23:08, where the two young women are left dumbfounded and crying. Then discuss the following questions:
1. How do you normally react when you’re irritated? How long do you hold onto your reactions afterward?
2. What’s one circumstance or behavior that truly “sets you off”? How do you react? Why do you think that particular circumstance or behavior sets you off?
Ask someone to read the following:
“Our circumstances reveal who we are and what we really trust. The situations we face each day—especially the bad ones—tend to bring out what we’re made of, whether we want them to or not. We may be shocked by what our circumstances reveal about us, but God isn’t. And He wants us to stop being shocked, too, and instead put our trust in Him rather than ourselves to get through them.”
Then say something like: We all have our triggers—things that upset us, anger us, or make us anxious or fearful. They might be trivial, or they might be so serious that we feel justified in the things we say and do as a result. But all of these triggers indicate places where we need to develop a deeper trust in God and in the work He’s doing in our lives. Let’s look further into that.
Laying Down the Word (30 minutes)
Ask for one or two volunteers to read the following excerpt. Then discuss the questions that follow:
“Often without even realizing, we place limitations on what God wants to do in our lives, who we’ll reach out to, when we’ll make ourselves available, where we’re willing to go for His sake. And once God’s done laughing at our plans, He gently—or sometimes quite abruptly—pushes us past the boundaries we’ve tried to impose upon His infinite plans for us.
“It’s OK to realize how insufficient we are, or for that matter how truly little we love the people around us. God already knows it. But it’s not OK to resist God’s will because of our insufficiency, as if He won’t provide everything we need to perform His will.”
3. In what ways do you feel you’re unqualified to represent Jesus? Explain.
4. On the other hand, in what ways—or with what kinds of people—do you just not want to represent Jesus? Why?
Have someone read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31. Then discuss:
5. Think again about your answers to questions 3 and 4. How does this passage address the issues you brought up? How should it affect your responses to those situations?
Take turns reading John 17:1-26. (Review the bullet list in “Lay Down Your Self-Consciousness” also, if it’s helpful.) Then, discuss these questions:
6. What has Jesus already done for us? What does He expect us to do with what He’s given us, according to his prayer for us here?
7. Which parts of Jesus’ prayer are easiest for you to receive? Which parts are hard to understand, or maybe even accept? In both cases, why?
Laying Down Your Life (20 minutes)
One of your challenges this week was to find a Christian friend or mentor to whom you can “confess your weakness” and be accountable. You’re still encouraged to find someone to do that with. But for the remainder of this study, we’re also going to do that informally within this group. Let’s take a few minutes right now to stand up and find a partner. Try to pair up with someone you don’t know so well, if possible. Stay standing when you’re done.
Allow up to three minutes for group members to pair up. If people are hesitant to find a partner, help facilitate this as leader. Also, if you have an odd number of people, it’s OK to have a third member, but have no more than three people together. Read the entire italicized piece that follows:
In your pairs (or triads), read Matthew 18:18-20 and James 5:13-16. Then discuss between yourselves:
8. What promises do you find in these passages?
9. Where do you most need to take hold of those promises in your life right now? Put another way: What “triggers” do you most need God’s help in overcoming right now?
When you’re done reading and talking, pray for one another about what you’ve shared. Also, set aside a time each week when you can touch base with one another, whether that’s in person, by phone, e-mail, texting, whatever. Again, from now until this study is over, these people are your partners in growing together, so let’s get started.
Give pairs 15 minutes to talk and pray, and then bring your group back together, keeping them standing in their pairs. Guide them to the masking-tape line you set up before your session. Have one of your pairs step up to the line, then say something like:
Think again about what you’ve just shared together over the past 15 minutes. Then, think of our tape line as those triggers you’ve shared about—the ways you’ve restricted yourself from stepping in what God has for you next. Take a moment to quietly reflect on that together, and how you can help each other get past that boundary you’re each facing right now. Then, when you’re ready, cross over our line together. You don’t have to hold hands or anything—unless you want to.
Give each pair (or triad) time to reflect and cross over; maybe even give them each a round of applause as they start this commitment together. Close your time together in prayer, saying something like:
Lord, we thank You that You bring people and situations into our lives to help us grow. Help us to begin seeing the people You’ve paired up with in that way. Help us to learn from each other… to inspire each other… to pull each other up. And help us to be faithful in finding ways to connect with each other outside of our time here. We thank You in advance for what You’re going to do with these spiritual friendships You’re creating between us, and we ask Your blessing upon us in Jesus’ name. Amen.