Tag Archives: space

82: Bullying

82 Piggy_karate-763350

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

It seems right to think about yesterday’s text from Peninnah’s point of view as well, since we might argue that being a bully is just as much a way of suffering in our human condition as being the victim of such behaviour. Bullies are suffering in a way that causes them to inflict pain. More often than not, I wonder if they feel disenfranchised or impotent in some way, so that they desire to gain power or a sense of belonging. Bullies often work in groups, as a gang of cruel girls did to me at school, and are also very ego-driven, building themselves up by bringing others down.

Peninnah feels threatened by Hannah’s piety, and by her husband’s clear preference for his other wife. Perhaps it is hardly surprising that she lashes out at her rival for his affections. Doubtless she is frustrated and feels powerless to change anything about her situation, so she uses the one thing she can lord over Hannah, the fact that she has had children. When we are hurting, and we feel the need to lash out, we use the weapons we have to hand, and the weaknesses that are in plain sight, rarely considering the pain we might inflict.

We also pass on traits from one generation to another, and I believe this fact of life is what the Bible calls curses “from generation to generation.” And we also learn behaviour from our parents and guardians. If we have been abused or bullied at home, whether by adults or siblings, we are far more likely to become bullies ourselves. We’ve learnt that this is the way to get what we want, or to feel empowered. As one of my favourite tv comedies, Blackadder, would have it, the Prince insults the butler, the butler kicks the cat, the cat chases the mouse, and the mouse bites Baldrick.

I remember that as a child when I was going through a phase of having spats with my elder brother, I used to take this out on the boys at school, karate chopping them at every opportunity in the style of Miss Piggy. It made me feel like I had some power in a situation where I didn’t, because my brother was much bigger than I was. Fortunately, I remember one of the boys sticking up for himself and asking me how I would like it, and then showing me how much it hurt! Perhaps if he hadn’t made me stop and think, I might still be being a Muppet.

Adult bullying of course is harder to change, since those opportunities for mind-changing are tougher to bring about, and the behaviour is ingrained. “I’m hurting,” says the ego, “and feeling small, so I’m going to take it out on other people and make myself seem bigger than I am.” Bullies do need to be held accountable. It’s the only thing that will help us, in the end, to see the error of our ways. Truth is our way to freedom. But they also need to be heard. Perhaps expressing themselves in a free and non-judgemental environment where anger and frustration are given space rather than immediately condemned, might be helpful. Of course not everyone wants to give that space, and not every bully would be able to take advantage of it, nor are many people prepared to change. But accountability done with love feels like the way forward. “What is this really about?” and “How are you feeling?” can be powerful breakthrough questions asked from a place of generous vulnerability and grace.

Perhaps if Elkanah’s two wives had sat down and had a real heart to heart, they might have discovered that their common enemy was the patriarchal system they were enduring, and helped one another somehow to bear their various pains. But injustices, like stones dropped in water, send out many ripples, and it is only grace that can truly heal such wounds.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt


Image used under creative commons as advised by Yahoo image search

38: Untameable

38 wild  npclark2k mf

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,

     2“Who is this that darkens counsel

           By words without knowledge?

     3“Now gird up your loins like a man,

           And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!” Job 38:1-3 NASB


We serve a wild God. From the depths of our suffering we might call out to him like Job only to have him visit us in a tornado, showing us who he is and demanding to know who we think we are! This is deeply uncomfortable for our egos to handle. We want a predictable God, one we can put in a box so we can keep him there. It goes against our hardwired longings for control to think that God might have loftier thoughts than we do, that he might be greater than we have the capacity to imagine, that he might even encompass she as much as he, for example.

But one tiny photo taken by the Hubble telescope must convince us that our God is pretty big, and pretty wild. To create spiralling swirls of stars and stir them into galaxies, takes an astrophysicist and artist with knowledge and heart far greater than we can even begin to fathom.

When we decide to serve this great God, we have to know that we don’t know what we are letting ourselves in for. We have no idea what he might do with our puny lives. People with any sense will be scared by this, for the fear of the Lord, as Proverbs and the Psalms tell us, is the beginning of wisdom. But they will also have some clue that as well as being enormously, unknowably great and wild, the Living God is also good, constant and trustworthy. Every atom, every molecule, every flower, every beetle, every sunset and every smile tells us that beauty, truth and order are also at work in creation.

In this way, the Lord is far from unpredictable. Indeed, although we cannot know what he will do or say, or how or when, we CAN know that it will serve his ends and that they will be good ends. In other words, we can trust God to always do the right thing, and to act out of his great wisdom, goodness and loving kindness. That is who he is and in his character, he never changes.

Once comprehended, this leaves us in the realms of grace, able to allow God into every part of our lives. Once the goodness of the Lord has been taken on trust, tasted and seen that it is good, encountered, known a little in the feebleness of our kinds of knowing, there is no room for fear, even of the unknown. This is why encounter with the presence of God leaves Job satisfied, despite having seemingly had none of his questions answered. They were in fact, all answered, simply by the knowing of who God is. Wild, wonderful, beautiful, stunning, limitless, eternal, inconceivable, creative love.


©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

photo from Morguefile

187: Observatory

187 by Sinoca MF Observatory

Hubble, your universe is lovely, and how we long to travel there. But the distance between our feeble eyesight and yours is just too far. For now, we must stay in our blue-green marble playpen, tiny toddlers that we are, just beginning to learn one or two things. We cannot be let loose in the vastness of God’s cosmos yet, the total perspective vortex of beauty would crush us.

First we must know how to float in the amniotic fluid of star spangled space, gazing across a Kubrik panorama. So we sit in our spherical classroom, transfixed by the blackboard dotted with white instead, till we can be trusted to poeticise about galaxies and paint galleries of nebulae.


© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2016

Photo from morguefile.com


126: Expanse

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As the landscape rolls out with red carpet welcome, so vast and so sublime, there is no one thing to draw my gaze but your face. Your face filled with nebulae, dotted with novae, dusted with constellations, formed from the angle of my seeing behind the clefted rock by galaxies, and the sight is dulled and unconsummated, my being too small, my eyes too tiny to take in even one squinted panorama. Such wonder, such enormity (for size is unimportant when it is immeasurable), such an indescribable beauty that nevertheless wrestles in my brain, in my heart for recognition, even after my inner retinae have given up.

Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2015