We are bombarded with so much that is weird, dangerous or fake, I thought we might need some quiet and positive stories of women and girls who are getting on with life in all its wonder and mess (back to the bad and dangerous next month).
It’s the time of year for exam results in the northern part of the world – so much pressure to achieve straight As (or maybe A*s) to get into the most prestigious courses.
Three daughters of my friends did extremely well but maybe not as well as they were dreaming. That final A* eluded them.
But these girls are all incredibly passionate about life. One was school captain, they all study music, they are involved in youth groups at church, they speak fluent German or Russian, and they all care about politics and justice.
One woman in our prayer group, Naomi, whose children are all now in their 20s, wisely wrote, “Achievement is a fickle thing. Much better to be happy in one’s own skin, take the opportunities life presents and not be afraid.”
I don’t think that is a Bible verse, but it should be! God told Joshua, “Don’t be afraid”, Jesus told the churches in Thyatira and Philadelphia, “Hold on!”
Jesus says, “Hold on to what you have until I come…I will not impose any other burden on you.” Rev 2:24-25
When we are under pressure to crave success, high achievement, money and ….straight A’s, God reminds us through Naomi’s words that God’s opportunities are varied and strangely wonderful – we should say yes and not be afraid. Good news indeed.
My second story comes from Rwanda via Australia. My friend Nicky has been a counsellor and academic in Sydney for over 20 years, and has, through those years of faithful and Spirit led counselling, become an expert in dealing with people who have been damaged by abuse inside the Church.
Nicky’s patient defence of victims (overwhelmingly female) and mending broken lives have opened the way for her to train pastors and bishops to be aware of abuse, to deal honestly with perpetrators and work humbly with survivors.
Nicky is not welcomed by some church leaders in Australia, but she is so respected and experienced, she cannot be ignored.
How does she hold on? It can only be God.
And in God’s wonderful wisdom, Nicky has been using her skills in places like Indonesia, the Pacific and eastern Africa to heal wounds of exploitation. She was part of a training team on Biblical gender justice in Rwanda last week. The meeting was covered on national TV in a nation which is way ahead of many others in encouraging women to fully participate in public life: 61% of parliamentarians are women, as are 50% of the judiciary.
In the midst of life’s challenges, sin and pain – the ordinary ups and downs and the huge barriers – God is always quietly at work through any of us who are willing to ‘hold on’ and not be afraid. Thank you to Naomi and Nicky, and young women like Elena, Grace and Katya who inspire others to flex their muscles of bold faith.