She does not sleepwalk through life

“He does not talk simply to hear his own voice, or pick arguments just to win them. He understands honour but does not boast of his own…he has studied the world without despising it. He understands the world without rejecting it. He has no illusions but he has hopes. He does not sleepwalk through his life. His eyes are open, and his ears for sounds others miss”

This could be a quotation from a book of wise sayings but is in fact from Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies. She is describing the sort of man at Henry’s court, who can be trusted and valued (see page 284). They are a rare commodity!

What a time for women and men who have understanding of the world, a humble sense of their worth, and an abiding hope, despite all the despicable things happening around them.

How we need to have our eyes and ears open: to dissect fake news, to recognise hate-filled words, to speak with gracious truth when we are bullied, and to keep hope.

As Jesus advised his followers, when he sent them out to take good news and healing to the towns and villages of Israel, we need to be “as wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Mathew 10:16)

Wise to understand the world and prepared to be unoffended in our response.

An insightful young woman in the Kyria network, Dorcas Korsah, was telling a discussion group the other night that young people under 25 don’t seem to see their personal experience of racism as part of the whole structure of injustice that threads through history.

And so their understanding does not get beyond personal pain and blame. But if we identify what can be changed in our culture and build on the contributions of others, we can achieve big things AND keep our hope. 

Dorcas has written about three of the black female pioneers of the NASA space program (who were featured in the film, Hidden Figures).

You can find her article here.

Dorothy Vaughn, one of pioneers, said, “I changed what I could, and what I couldn’t, I endured.” Dorothy understood the times and refused to accept that change was not possible. She tackled each obstacle in her workplace to become the first African American manager at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (later NASA).

What is impressive is that she endured – she had no illusions about the prejudice she faced but she never gave up hope.

She advanced to become an expert in the applications of digital computers in NASA programs. She trained herself to become proficient in early computer languages. And she humbly created space for other black women to advance their careers too.

She could have sleepwalked through life, accepting that things were too hard to change; she could have cynically given up on an unjust institution. But like the gentleman at Henry’s gossiping and treacherous court, she chose not to despair.

I know we could all easily choose a quiet life of ignoring or accepting injustice with a weary or pessimistic shrug. We could be like the writer of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, who when faced with the world’s pride, cruelty and selfish ambition, cries out to God that everything is meaningless. Life makes no sense and certainly seems to crush kindness, thoughtfulness and goodness.

But if we choose that path there is no light, no good thing to pass on to the next generation.

So in the face of coarseness, prejudice and even violence, we must do all we can to rely on God’s goodness, truth and hope.

Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, concludes that God is in control and that if we follow his wisdom and ways, we CAN overcome the fears and frustrations of the world.

PS. If you are interested in ideas and encouragement on Christian women in leadership, checkout Kyria

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