Tag Archives: power

Lent 7

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This is not some witless nothing, weak and insipid, a god with rheumy eyes and brittle bones. This is a power, raw and mighty, a majesty undreamt of and a fist, if it chooses to curl, that could shatter the earth with one blow. Do not mistake slowness for indecision, it is gravitas. Do not imagine frailty, there is a core of fibrous strength that reaches across nebulae without blinking. This is not a feeble God, who holds together all that is.

Art and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2018

Veil of Tears 92: Indispensable

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And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.”

Matthew 5:36

Oh my dear ones, you imagine your worth is above rubies, and so it is. But all is accomplished by God’s hands, not ours. We sometimes push ourselves beyond our own limits because we have made ourselves indispensable in our heads.

Do we not realise that God’s plans carry on regardless of our abilities? For just as our faults are nothing to him, so are our strengths merely gifts to be used. It is good to do the work set before us by the Lord, but there are also others able to do it. If I don’t write this blog which is fast becoming a book, the world has lost very little, and if it were God’s will, people would read something else far more edifying.

I am willing and I work hard when I am able. But there are lots of days in a sick person’s life, when that ability is just not there. There is no strength, no cognitive energy, the hands and head will not co-operate to bring the words to the paper or the paint to the canvas. And God knows this, and he is patient with me, and all is done according to his will, purpose and timing and not at my behest.

When we are sick or burdened or weary, the Lord promises us rest. He does not sell us a 24/7 work ethic where we must push through barriers of pain and fatigue in order to accomplish a task. Always we must build into our lives and careers the possibility of delegation and understudy. This is, I think, especially necessary in the church, where so many ministers push themselves into breakdowns and health problems. Other people can do the work, whatever it may be. Other people are willing to do it. Other people chosen by God to shine and help.

Let us then cultivate a kingdom where when the eye is weary, another eye can do the seeing. If we are truly all one body with many parts, then we can uphold and encourage one another. We can learn to shadow and mentor closely so that when there is a stepping down or a sabbatical or a time of ill health or of maternity, there are others trained and eager, not to take our place, but to give us the respite we need.

How I wish I had learnt this hard truth earlier in life, the value of rest and of play, the knowing of my own smallness and my identity as one of many in the kingdom. Let us not now be so foolish as to pay the price of Marthadom or misplaced humility, or even of disdainful pride, in breakdowns of heart, mind or body. Instead let us watch out for one another and offer help and support before it is asked for, before it becomes a last resort. And let us ask for it early too.

Always do your best, and always be replaceable. Plan for it, even, so that God’s kingdom, which is so precious, need not falter because you asked too much of yourself and set yourself up for a fall, or because you refused to allow yourself the time to breathe and to drink the living water you are always recommending other people need for life. Let us allow ourselves to be human and weak, and see how much more God can do with that truth, than with our illusions.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

Veil of Tears 89: Impotent

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“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6 NIV

Powerlessness is a horrible feeling to begin with. It seems particularly hard when it comes as a shock, as with the realisation that you have no control over a certain situation or relationship, and also especially hard for men. When a man is made redundant or struggles to find work, it is utterly devastating in our society which still places much of its value for males on career and purpose. It’s terrible if you are female as well, I don’t deny, but women tend to be more adaptable on the whole simply because we’ve had to learn to be, and because our very biology leads us to a different way of balancing career and home. I’m generalising of course, but impotency affects far more men than it does women, sexually and culturally. Men are far more motivated by the need for power and control, because in our patriarchal societies they are taught (sadly) that this is their role, to lead and be strong and be the breadwinner, the motivators, the top dogs, the alpha males.

When that illusion comes crashing round our ears, it is horrendously painful, confusing and frustrating. Often it causes deep wounds in our self-confidence and self-worth. When the one thing society says you ought to be able to do by virtue of your very gender, is something you cannot do, you are bound to feel like a lesser being, worthless and small.

Human power is, in the eternal, illusory, and in the earthly, fleeting at best. So when reality begins to break through into our worldly lives, it can actually be a good thing. As with any brokenness though it hurts! It leads to feelings of disenfranchisement, failure, emasculation and anger. It often leads to misogyny (as though women were to blame for the direction that society has taken) and a resentment towards both women (who remind us of the sexual power we feel we should be wielding) and those in jobs or leadership (who remind us constantly of our “failure”). We feel that everything we should be doing, indeed are entitled to do, sexually, culturally and economically, has been unfairly taken away from us.

But more and more, I feel that what the world calls failure is the beginning of a new understanding, a deeper and more spiritual way forward. Patriarchy is crumbling, manufacturing industries and traditional male roles are changing and becoming areas of equality and co-operation, and sadly some men feel they need to protect the old ways at all costs when we could actually be moving on into a new way of being manly that is far greater and more satisfying all round.

Men who have fallen from the heights can be humble, gracious, and they can be stronger for it. They can be wiser, gentler, more rounded people. They can think outside of stereotypes. They can be (this is so important) true to themselves. They can be more resistant to foolish expectations and mockery. They can find new places to stand and new ways of expressing their masculinity and their sexuality, that never belittle women.

They can relax into the knowing that God is the one who ought to be given all the real power, and bow to that, becoming a meaningful part of the Lord’s purposes. Power without purpose is just self-serving after all, and rather frustrating and boring itself. To serve a greater end, that of love, of justice, of a different kind of everlasting kingdom, that is really something. In God, men can find their true calling and discover that it is about being a whole human being, and be freed from feeling the need to try to fulfil the harsh and constricting expectations of an antagonistic, backwards looking culture.

 

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

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/