This week I had a conversation with some teenagers that upset me.
One of them shared how in their school, the girls must pull their socks up and under their skirts all day so that no part of their legs is visible. Apparently, the sight of their legs can cause their male teachers to be distracted. Really?
Why was I so upset?
If you cannot see it, let me explain. Why are we making fourteen-year-olds responsible for the behaviour of adult men? Why is it their responsibility, yet it is the men who should know by now how to control their urges? This story upset me because I heard the same thing as a teenager. At the same time, the boys around weren’t taught anything about managing their appetites until they were older.
Why do we make men’s behaviour the responsibility of women?
I understand that men are visual but are we saying they cannot control their appetites? To say that they cannot control the attraction and subsequent action is to say they are wild animals; that is not true. My experience has been that as we tell girls to be decent and control themselves, we are not telling the boys anything.
It is sad to hear boys put girls down or misunderstand their actions. As a result of this misinformation, when a girl says no, many assume she means yes. When she is assaulted and raped, it is her fault. If she wears a short skirt or form-fitting dress, she asks for something sexual. When attacked, the first question is about what she wore that day. Why?
This narrative must change!
We must teach our sons to be responsible for their thoughts and resultant actions. Man is created as the priest, protector, provider and leader so that the women are under his care. How can he demand that the one he should protect is responsible for his protection? How does he turn around, assault her and make it her fault? How can he say that she is the reason he did something so nasty to her?
Let us teach our sons their role; to stand up for their sisters and not gaslight them into shame and fear. Let us train the men to stand up and defend the women and girls before they are preyed on by others. It is time to make the men responsible for their actions and those of their brothers. They must hold one another to account for their appetites and the outcome of their actions.
Today I am just sad because, on this matter, very little has changed.
Do you know that the heaviness & sadness you are feeling could be grief?
We often don’t associate grief with anything other than the loss of life but there is a lot of grief related to other things. We grieve the loss of a job, work, lifestyle, faith, hope, love, friends, networks, communities, weather etc. in different ways. Many times it isn’t large or noticeable enough for us to name it as grief, but it is just that.
Let me clarify. The deep longing for that joint in your old neighbourhood that stops you from settling in well in your new hood…that is grief. The inability to move on from the broken relationship or friendship that makes you compare, judge harshly or remain frozen with fear…that is grief. The terror that everyone who comes your way will leave you like your parents did when they died…that is grief. The anger at anyone doing better than you since you didn’t get that promotion or lost that job…that is grief. The laughter and bravado even when everything is falling apart…that is grief. There are so many causes of grief but the current containment measures have brought a rare kind of grief to light.
Many are grieving the loss of Choice.
There is a new set of rules in place. The chips won’t fall in the places we know. The cards are all down and we cannot see a way out. Nothing is the same as before and there is no road map to the future. There is fear at every turn, uncertainty at all other stops, hopelessness under ever cover and tight smiles behind every door. The truth is…many have just realised how limited their choices are and have always been.
Was it always this way? Likely! Did we ever see it as so? Never! Why? There was an illusion of a thousand choices but in reality there were very few. Think about it; educated or uneducated, employed or unemployed, unliked or liked, unfair or fair, safe or insecure, sweet or sour, bad or nice, dark or light and the list goes on. We rarely looked at those doing different as really having an option to succeed.
Did you ever think that you would be at home but someone with a lower income than you would be out and about? Did you ever think your weren’t an essential worker in your company, now you are home and the cleaner is there? Did you ever realise that you would be put into jail for being outside after 7 pm yet the nurse next door can come and go at will?
Life as we knew it has changed and so must we.
People in the credit arms of many banks are stranded because their work meant they were on the road meeting clients but unless they innovate quickly they will be out of jobs. There are no clients to visit, no loans to give, no payments to collect and no growth for their departments. Small businesses selling imported goods from China have no stock, dead stock or no sales because people are saving for food and other essentials. Cab drivers have fewer customers at lower fares and work shorter periods but must still make ends meet. Yet some of the young people around are tired and bored because they cannot party.
When will they realise that life has changed? When will they understand that they cannot go on the same way? Who will tell them no? Who will stop their extravagance? When will they understand that we get exactly what we put into life back so unless they focus on good inputs their outcomes will be a big mess? Will they ever understand the correlation between their mindset, their current station and the future possibilities? They must if they are to survive.
Things must change if we are to find hope.
When the Israelites went into captivity in Daniel 1, the king ordered that the educated and teachable young men of noble birth to be raised as the leaders for the next generation. Many qualified but only four have stories told about them, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, later called Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego.
The thing that stood out for me is Daniel 1:8, ‘But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself…’ He made a conscious decision to remain true to who he knew he was no matter what. He went to pray even when he knew people were plotting against him to catch him at it so they could get him killed. He kept to his pattern regardless of which king was in place or whichever edict was declared.
He lost his ability to choose where to live, how to be educated, when to rise. He lost his freedom of movement. He lost his connection to the homeland. He lost access to his spiritual leaders, the scripture and community to fellowship with. He lost family and friends. He lost more than he ever thought possible but he never lost hope.
His hope for stability was in knowing whose he is and where he is going.
The hope for all of us is in knowing the things that anchor us. Am I harping on the need to know why you are here and what season it is? Absolutely! Why? There is no other way forward. If a man is only here to make money and be able to travel, he has nothing to lean on now. If a pastor only has tithe and offering as his support, he is baseless right now. If a mother has only her children and they are separated right now, she is restless and fearful. If a child only had the coming transition to the next level of education, he or she is lost for sure.
It is ok to feel the sense of loss and there’s no need to pretend all is well when there’s grief. Just don’t get stuck there. Rail, scream, cry and let it out. Lean on a friend and pour it out. Call on your Father in heaven and have it out with him. Then get back up and walk on dealing step by step. Take a step every day to deal with it, take a bite of the grief and digest it bit by bit. Make a pact with yourself to process the realities and feelings leaving nothing to chance therefore growing into true faith.
You can deal and stand strong through any season.
You don’t need the whole world on your side when you have a clear word from and stand in God. He will lead and guide you to the right people at the right time in the right combination to help you stand. He will also make you the right person, at the right time, in the right place and combination to help another stand. Like Daniel, when you have faced the challenge and connected to the reality of God, nothing will ever be impossible again.
You are assigned to this season to become an example of walking with God and changing your corner of the world. Make the choice to acknowledge where you are, deal with the situation and remain standing on His word for it sanctifies and strengthens because it is truth.
Earlier this year I wrote a post called ‘Unsettled’ that has come back to me so heavily today that I went back to read it. The crux of the post is that God messed with my life and took out everything I had allowed to take greater importance than Him.
I now know it was highlighted today because my heart is once again unsettled. In the midst of the current state of affairs, it is easy to be shifted into panic mode or extreme busyness or deep stillness and each on must choose. Up until today, I thought my choices were balanced but now it is clear they were slowly getting out of whack.
I needed to rethink it all
My work has increased since life changed because my people have time to write and think and develop and I am a supporting piece to their growth. It has also increased because doors that were slightly ajar have swung open and the foundations of these collaborations need to be laid and laid well. I have also been grappling with the fact that I need to hear before I move but the pressure to keep running has been steadily rising until today when like a police man at the traffic lights, Papa said, ‘STOP!’
This afternoon, after a marathon morning of meetings, webinars, online posts and pending work, I asked myself, ‘Will any of these things die or self-destruct if I put them down for a bit?’ The answer was no, so I put it all away. I placed my phone down, put my work on hold and took a two hour timeout. Yes, two hours. I just needed to recalibrate urgently because internally I was churning and unsettled.
You see, every time I am unsettled it means several things:
Papa needs to say something or clarify something
A change is afoot
I am off track and running the race on my own.
The one that scares me the most is the last one because I never want to be caught running the race myself. Why? I have done it before and it is never pretty. So I needed to grind life to a stop for a bit. I stretched out on my bed in the middle of the afternoon listening to music and trying to be still but my mind wouldn’t stop racing for a while. It took a little time, but eventually it all slowed to a stop.
All the things I was doing and working on were adding value to others and meeting my assigned role but the intensity they generated was throwing me off guard and balance. If I had been paying more careful attention, I would have noticed earlier how things were being reassigned and realigned because a change needed to be made. My mind needed to shift.
Those moments of stillness changed something in me.
These are the days of shifting and the adjustments will keep being made until I am running efficiently by God’s plan and standard not mine. I rest assured that I am not yet at peak and so I must recalibrate more often. So I have settled it in my heart that adjustment is part of my new normal. Moments to stop, breathe deeply, listen and change direction will be many more. I must keep on this track and run this race well.
What is making your mind race at this time? What is making your anxious? Do you realise nothing is ever going to be like it was before? Nothing will ever be the same so we must discover our new normal and hold onto that. Yet even though that discovery is harder than most of us thought possible it is possible and must be pursued.
So off I go to keep listening and shifting. You are free to join me.