Things happen

“Strange things happen when women get together.” A man said that. Strange? In my experience, when women get together they talk. Yesterday I chanced a cup of coffee only to discover that distancing rules left me without a seat, and I needed to sit! A woman beckoned me to share her table, with an assurance that she had been tested and was virus free. By the time she left to keep her massage appointment we were friends. Talking with her had gifted me with a spark of joy that helped me come to terms with a situation in my own life.

Mary, known to us as the mother of Jesus and Elizabeth as the mother of John the Baptizer, each experienced a situation where they needed to talk to a friend. They knew each other as kinswomen, now they were linked through pregnancy. Pregnancy wasn’t going to be easy for Elizabeth, not only because she was about to become an elderly parent, but she was having husband problems as her husband Zechariah had lost the power of speech. Husband and wife both had a deep relationship with God, but they lived it very differently. Zechariah was learned in the Law, able to solve knotty religious problems and faithful to the requirements of his priestly duties, while Elizabeth had lived a childless life quietly and joyfully attuned to the God within her.

Mary was young and pregnant and it’s possible that she needed somewhere to stay for a time while her young fiancée came to terms with the situation. She does not go to her father for protection or to the priests of the Temple for vindication. She goes to another woman, an older woman, who can do nothing to save her, has no power to make the social situation better, but a woman who recognised the wonder and the mystery of God at work when Mary came to visit.

tropical-deckWhen women gather, whether as a twosome or as a larger group with shared experiences and interests, they talk about their lives – about their children and yes, sometimes about their husband or partner. They laugh a lot and swap decorating ideas and share on-line addresses for places to purchase must-have whatevers. If they cry then it’s a safe place to do that too. There’s something about meeting with a trusted friend or friends that has a whiff of freedom about it, a space to give voice to whatever would feel better for putting into words.

I’m not saying that women’s get-togethers are always models of solidarity and support for each other, just as the story of the visitation isn’t a pious tale about Mary and Elizabeth either. It’s a story of two women standing together in the loneliness of an unexpected pregnancy. They shared their story and in the sharing each found the courage and strength they would need in the months – and years – that lay ahead.

God’s storyline, then and now, is woven through women. One of my go-to books, Midwives of an Unnamed Future, says this: “When women come together as women, stories are told, dreams are birthed and conversations pave the way for change.” Women are life bearers and nurturers and pregnancy, birthing and nurturing come in many shapes. As the world gradually comes to terms with the changes that Covid-19 is trailing in its wake, there are emerging opportunities for women’s friendship circles, formal and informal, to bring to birth possibilities for society, and Church too, that are more inclusive, more just.

                                                      Judith    (judith@judithscully.com.au)

Opening doors

It’s June, officially winter, and delightfully for me, the gradual easing of Covid-19 restrictions means I can once again finish my weekly food shop with a cup of coffee and, space permitting, sit down to drink it. For an oldie like me, somewhere to sit and sip and watch the passing parade is one of the small joys of life that I have missed during the last couple of months.

Everyone has an ongoing covid-19 story. Mine is tinged with guilt – I haven’t had to work from home or educate my children online as did millions of young parents. I didn’t exactly stockpile for an uncertain future, but my pantry was pretty full all the same. I don’t know anybody who was infected with the virus, and I’m not facing a future of tattered dreams or lost opportunities. This pandemic would not interrupt my education or steal my livelihood.

Opening the doorNow the world is carefully, gingerly, beginning the long journey into what we are constantly being told is an uncertain future. Most of us don’t do uncertainty very well. We’re like Martha, we worry about many things, most of them like the days on the calendar, they come and they go. Jesus took what I consider was a courageous step, and suggested she might handle her need to have everything under control by being more like her sister Mary – stick to what is important and let the rest go. It’s an interesting little snippet in Luke’s Gospel and more than once I‘ve I wished I could have been a fly on the wall and not only heard it, but watched the faces as well.

Time spent inside our homes without regular social intercourse and recreational opportunities has given us the time and space to face the fact that our peopled world, like the natural environment, is broken. There’s no them and me. We face a future where it will be up to all of us to find a common way to mend the brokenness, to lay aside the ugliness that underlies race relations, to work for a world where justice is a given.

During these closed in months, in newspapers and online I’ve read many, possibly too many, writers sharing the ups and down and twisty bits of being unable to fully control their present, let alone their future. They were reflective, occasionally humorous and consistently upbeat, but with a few exceptions, they didn’t touch the deepest part of me, the part where God gets to hear how I’m handling the shocking details that endlessly stream from the world news channels.

Christians, whatever their denomination, come from a Martha background. They spearhead peace and justice institutions, heal the sick in world-class hospitals, volunteer in op shops and food vans across the world. It’s a big job, which takes me back to Martha and her sister Mary. The Marthas of the world need Mary.

The Marys take time out to – I was going to say pray, but that sounds too wordy. It’s more like sitting, or walking in the kind of silence that pushes aside everyday worries and concerns, leaving room for the real me and God to have a moment together. Mary time is space to recognise that not everything can be fixed, that Jesus knew all about weariness, that the women and men who people the Gospels lived in a world where the there was a steep divide between the haves and the have nots

Over the next few months I’d like to revisit some of those women and men, many of them nameless. Maybe one of them will hit your ‘me too’ spot, be something of a role model in the months and years ahead as you and I struggle to live the lessons Covid-19 will leave in its wake.

And just in case the Martha and Mary story has slipped your mind, here it is:
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Judith Scully