Tag Archives: abuse

83: Injustice

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When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” 1 Peter 2:23 NIV

Turning the other cheek, as Jesus counselled us to do, is a difficult teaching for many of us. As a former doormat, I used to let people not just walk all over me, but grind their muddy boots into my soul as well. It took me a long time to realise that this was not what the Lord was recommending. We should not seek out suffering, nor is it wrong to protect ourselves from hurt. Boundaries and self-defence mechanisms are necessary tools for getting through life. But when we are insulted or treated badly, it is our reactions that should mark us out as different.

The reason for this, as I have come to understand it, is that whatever is happening to us in the earthly, we maintain as God’s children, our integrity, which is eternal. Julian of Norwich saw in her understandings from the Lord that our true selves are incorruptible and stay close to God’s breast all the while we are alive. Nothing can touch or harm them in any way that will impact the eternal, the true and manifest wholeness and perfection of them. So although suffering hurts us of course, it cannot hurt that unreachable self whom God keeps close. This is why Paul (or whoever the writer of Hebrews was) said “What can man do to me?” echoing Psalm 56 amongst others. It seems we might answer, “Well, quite a lot, actually,” but when we remember that this same man had been beaten, stoned, jailed, shipwrecked and persecuted for following Christ, we must take these words seriously.

For my own part, I think that any kind of insult or abuse loses its power over us when we bear it with gentleness. So yes, we call injustices what they are, and as far as possible we protect ourselves and others from ill treatment, and from inflicting it. Systematic abuse must be escaped and challenged whenever possible, this righteous anger and action is also part of following Jesus: we stand up for widows, orphans, and speak for the voiceless. But where it is appropriate and we are able to, turning the other cheek can be an effective tool for the gospel. It was certainly when I bore the bullying silently and without redress that my school peers got bored of tormenting me. “For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God,” says Peter in his first letter (chapter 2, v 19) and he is talking about the severe injustices borne under slavery.

This bearing with the sorrows of today with quiet dignity because we live in the knowledge of eternity (whilst owning our own wholeness and integrity kept safe within the bosom of our God) is the heart of gospel living to this man who walked closely with Jesus. It might rankle with us today, but there is a deep and precious wisdom and a powerful witness in patient, gentle endurance, especially when paired with forgiveness, and Peter, for one, believed it changed those hurting us.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

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81: Bullied

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Because the LORD had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.” 1 Samuel 1:6-7 NIV

How to talk about the hideous pain of bullying? It is one of the worst things a human being can do to another, because it singles out a specific weakness or area of hurt, which it then needles over and over again until the wound grows and festers and becomes unbearable. When we talk about bullies, we usually speak of children taunting one another in the playground, but whilst it certainly happens there and in increasingly terrible ways, we should not for a minute imagine that it is left behind in the schoolyard.

Some of the worst bullies run workplaces, stand for political office, become teachers, seek out seats of power (however small) and attempt to make certain people’s lives a misery. They are nearly always out to get those of whom they are jealous, or whom they secretly admire. This also happens in the dating game, so that the little boy who pulled plaits when a youngster, will negate and bully women he finds attractive. This, as I know you can imagine, leads to some horrible, unbalanced and abusive relationships.

Bullying, like all abuse, is about power. Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, knows that her only claim to status is her children, and that it is also Hannah’s one weakness. A careful reading of the text, seeing the word “rival” and how Hannah is so loved by her husband, getting a double portion of sacrifices, and clearly has a close relationship with the Lord (it is not a coincidence that Peninnah’s worst bullying happens whenever Hannah goes to Temple), shows us that there is a nasty jealousy present. Polygamy is such a bad idea (more on that later) and causes deep and dreadful competition. Peninnah buoys herself up and knocks Hannah down, the best way she knows how, by taunting her about the one thing she has that Hannah does not. The bullying is so painful that Hannah can’t even eat.

Power games seem to be less frowned upon in the west than they used to be, at least for adults, but whilst bullying in schools seems to be taken more seriously, it is certainly rife and far more about sexuality and bodies very early on, and this is extremely worrying. Difference is the thing we always pounce on. Any sign of oddness, of wavering, of feminine in the masculine or vice versa, and there is perceived a vulnerability, an uncertainty that can be pounced on with fierce mockery.

Valuing difference, embracing the whole spectrum of humanity, gender, shape, colour, culture, history, intelligence, the way we process the world, is the way forward. Our God is one who clearly loves great ranges of difference. He made us all unique and if we foster and husband that amazing truth, we will be well on the way to talking down the name callers and being an integrated and whole society where everyone is deemed precious.

Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

If you are a victim (of any age) of bullying in the UK, you may find this website helpful: http://www.bullying.co.uk/

 

25: Rotten Fish

Trigger warning for abuse victims.

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Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?” Luke 11:11 NIV

Sadly, as Jesus well knew when he said this, there are some fathers who would do just that. In this corrupted world, relationships that are meant to be precious and true are sometimes instead violent, abusive or destructive. And fatherhood is one of the most vile things once it becomes a travesty.

Just as our living God seeks to turn bad things on their heads and preaches to us an upside down kingdom for a gospel, so his enemies seek to turn the finest and purest things to darkness. With this in mind, I am moved to share a prayer picture given to me this morning, which may give us hope.

I see God’s love as a bright blue, ever flowing, all pervading, yet gently patient force, a kind of liquid grace that will not be deterred. It seeks to seep in everywhere, knows no boundaries, fears no dark places, endures and will never give up.

I see the enemy as a small charred demon clutching a soul to its chest and that the difference between love and hate, light and dark is that whereas hate wants us for itself, love loves us in order to set us free. The Father’s love aims to release us into love, that we might experience it, see it, know it and seek to join it, adding to the flow. Love does not seek to gratify or glorify itself, it loves outwards, whereas darkness “loves” (in its travesty of what it thinks love is) only itself and inwards. Real love cannot fail because it will eventually arrive everywhere, whereas darkness will fall in on itself, imploding.

Evil is, I am given to understand, like a black hole, trying to take everything with it, it wants all to suffer the fate it suffers; but the universe will keep birthing more and more love, like matter, to love and embrace. In short the difference is that between embracing and grasping.

Even if we have been victims of the darkness, and been captured by those greedy, grasping hands, that would laughingly give us a snake instead of a fish, or a stone instead of bread: poison instead of sustenance, hardness instead of softness; even if we were or are one of those who allowed themselves to become perpetrators of such darkness; we can still, with the courage given us by grace, open our hearts and beings up to the waves of real parental love which are waiting to engulf us in their sweet veracity.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com