Waves of mercy
Tuesday 14th December
Her mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before her.
She bared her arm and showed her strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts.
She knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled survivors* out of the mud.
Luke 1:50 – 52 The Message version**
*”victims” in the original The Message translation
**with my own poetic insertion of feminine pronouns for God for the purpose of connecting with this song in a way that comforts and inspires. Forgive me if this doesn’t work for you, we are all seeking a way to connect to the great mystery of the Divine!
In the past few months I have had the very heart-breaking experience of hearing women, some I know very well, tell harrowing stories of “tyrants” in their lives, like the ones we hear Mary describe. These stories have been delivered in different forms, but each one carried with it deep pain and the very real fear that no one would listen.
We know very well that the stories and voices, often of women, are silenced in our society, in our churches, our communities and in our families. As I have thought on that image in Luke 1:50 of God’s mercy as a wave washing over those in awe of her I wondering as we enter this holy season of Advent how those of us entrusted with these stories of pain and survival might be part of that wave? And how might we experience mercy for those of us who identify as the survivors rising from the mud?
As an earnest Christian teenager I was inspired by the mission of being a “voice for the voiceless.” I saw myself as the kindly hero in an epic tale of rescue and redemption and healing. I would imagine myself speaking on behalf of those who could not speak for themselves, using my power and influence (what I now understand as my intersecting privileges) to change the world. These days that phrase, “voice for the voiceless”, along with a number of other hang-ups from my youth, has more of a jarring effect on my body and in my soul. I know to be kind to my younger Charlie-self, and am grateful for her for having journeyed me to this point, but the idea that I might speak on behalf of others, about experiences that are not mine, now has a rather unsettling effect.
The women I have heard speak in recent weeks and months have used incredible courage to take up space in courts, on whatsapp groups, in meeting rooms, to tell their own stories. They do not need me to speak for them, but to show solidarity in how their voices are heard and their stories received. Most significantly I have seen the impact of the response “I believe you” on the person who didn’t expect to be believed.
For those of you this Advent carrying your own stories of tyrants in your life, I hope that you may know waves of mercy in the form of affirmation, if and when you are ready to speak. For those of you who are entrusted with these painful stories may we show waves of mercy by listening well and holding the space with humility and to be sure of any tentative first words we utter in response are “I believe you”.
Inspired by the Breath prayers of Cole Arthur Riley you might like to join me today praying these words throughout the day. For yourself. For those you love. For the voices not yet heard. We believe you.
Inhale: The tyrants will fall
Exhale: The survivors will rise
Charlie Bevan manages a university scholarship and leadership programme with students from across the African continent. She enjoys play parks with her 2 young kids, wild swimming and generally being in the great outdoors. Charlie, and her husband Andy, are part of the Mustard Seed community in Edinburgh.