Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Louder Listening

On Monday I was with a friend and we had just set off to go out for her birthday lunch from her house. We stopped at the top of her road, ready turn right so we could turn around in the side road and head back the other way. My friend was waiting patiently as a man with a dog slowly crossed the side road. The man got to the other side. 

As I thought we were going to turn I heard a noise; the distinct sound of a motor vehicle's engine running. It got louder and louder and louder. The seconds went slowly, and my immediate thought was "there must be a motorbike and it's being stupid and is going to go round us before we turn". I trust my friend who is a great driver (I am a nervous passenger so it takes me a lot to say that) and knew she'd wait as the motorbike went past. 

However, the next thing I knew was that the 'motorbike' didn't go past, and instead, because of the swift and effective actions of my friend who had seen the approaching vehicle in her wing mirror, we ended up in the (very helpful) hedge. 

And as I looked around at her, and then looked where she was looking, I saw a huge tractor with a trailer full of earth that was facing into the side road with the wheel half off. I don't remember the impact where the tractor hit our backside, and I was surprised to be in the hedge, but I do remember that sound that I swore was a motorbike....

I heard what I wanted to hear. 

I have never expected to be shunted by a tractor, but I have had motorbikes overtake me. I never expected a tractor to get so close I could hear the workings of the engine as it arrived not far from where I was sitting in the passenger seat, so my instinct was to believe in what I thought was possible. 

I heard what I wanted to hear, and sadly, for my friend's car, it was not what it was. 

My friend and I are OK (a narrow escape). The car is no more. The tractor owner fixed the tractor at the roadside and later drove home.  The motorbike was always and only in my head. 

How many times do we do that? Do we hear what we want to hear, because the consequences of it being what it actually is might leave us sitting in a metaphorical ditch with our bonnet in the hedge. How often do we only hear what we expect to hear and miss what is actually coming our way? 

My choir MD sometimes will say "sing what you hear, not what you think you hear". 

Expect the tractor, not the motorbike perhaps. 

If we go through life only expecting to hear what we think we know is right we will miss so much. We find ourselves in a bubble where the only truth we hear is one that is comfortable to our own bubbly existence. We get angry when anybody suggests that our bubble might not contain all of the answers we might like to think it does, and as we hear only the voices we want to hear we continue onwards with blinkers that miss the real picture. 

As we continue to battle at the moment with what is true and what is fake, then it is so easy for our ears to get muffled by our self made limitations that we fail to look beyond personal experience to see that what we need to hear is not necessarily what we think we hear. 

I don't need a hearing test, as one friend suggested when I said I thought it was a motorbike, but perhaps I do need to expect more (although I'm trying not to expect that a tractor will ever crash into me again). Perhaps I need to expect more as I listen out for God's voice. 

Perhaps we all need to expect more. We won't see or hear what God is doing in the world if our expectations are limited by our own bubble. What can be true will become a smaller subset of truth if we are not open to being challenged. 

Sing what you hear, not what you think you hear.

Search out and believe in actual truth, not what you would hope the truth would be.

Expect beyond your experience - because what you think is small could be something far bigger.

Try not to get hit by a tractor. 

"This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it - the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."          Jeremiah 33:2-3

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Carry on Crunching

I went to uni in Leeds and had the privilege(!) of being in Bodington Hall. This meant being part of a community of students in a studenty enclave with its own shop and bar and culture just north of Leeds ring road four miles away from campus. This meant that to make a 9am lecture I had to set off stupidly early because the road from Bodington to the Parkinson steps was the notorious traffic jam that is Otley Road. I lived in Bodington for two years and for the last six months I gave up on the bus and walked..... Bodington is sadly no more and I think the morning bus journey may have something to do with it. 

That early start is not good for not-a-morning person like me and I rarely managed breakfast before I got on, so on my last minute dash to calculus lectures as I arrived I would nip into the maths coffee bar and buy a bag of salt and vinegar McCoys and a Diet Coke. Then sitting by the door in one of the Roger Stevens building lecture halls I would try and eat my (man) crisps without making a sound. A technique that involved breaking down the big crisps and sucking the flavour off as they melted in your mouth. 

How I would have loved to be able to buy quiet crisps.

Now, nearly two decades later, my dream has come true. My sixth or seventh favourite type of crisps, Doritos (but only the really hot ones please for me), it was announced this week are releasing quiet crisps, especially for ladies like me who struggle with the crunch of the crisp and the cheesy fingers that Dorito loving men value and celebrate so unshamedly as they crunch and savour those crisps that have been letting women down for so long. 

Lady crisps. For ladies. The right size to fit in our delicate hands and our hand bags and the right level of noise to make us inconspicuous and able to fade into the background as the men eat the proper crisps in the proper way. Real men eat real crisps. 

@Sarcasticluther shared this on twitter last week. It reminds us what true ladies are like. If this was written today it would have 'eats lady crisps' on the bottom.

The thing that riles me about lady crisps are the same things that rile me about this list and the same things that cause me to explode when I get called a lady-vicar and cause me to sound like a steam train when I  read or hear things that refer to ministers as solely male (and she, and she, and she....)..... it puts us in a subset that is to be seen and not heard. Or not even seen.... 

Women are the quiet coach on the train, the ones in the corner taking minutes, the ones who are only there to make up the numbers, the ones who have no opinion of their own, the ones who cannot teach men, the ones who must listen to what their husband says before they can vote, the ones who don't need equal pay, the ones who are told they are making a fuss when they work up the confidence to declare #metoo when they are very aware that they will be shot down within minutes. 

It's 100 years today since some women in the UK finally got the vote. It was a significant victory in a long and ongoing battle for women to be seen as humans with their own voice and opinions. I can't imagine what life was like for those women, I know that life is so much better now, and I am grateful for all that they did. 

Those women were heard when they disrupted - when they began to stop people from continuing with the status quo. They were seen by many as troublemakers and criminals. They were sent to prison for their actions.... yet they kept on. Where they felt like nobodies they stood up and screamed at the top of their voices - no, this is not good enough - I am somebody and my voice matters. 

Whenever I hit a barrier. Whenever I am told that I should not because I am female. Whenever I am spoken over, written out, ignored.... I think back to people like the suffragettes, like the women who paved the way to enable me to be ordained, like those who have fought for equal rights, for justice.... and I will not become a nobody, because I know that my voice, my vote, my call is something that is given to me because I am me - a human being, made uniquely beautiful, uniquely strong, made in the image of God. 

By all means, leader of Doritos, make quiet crisps, but make them for lecture halls and libraries and theatre shows (there is definitely a need there!) but not for those quiet delicate ladies that some people, still, 100 years after women's voices were valued in such an important way, think we should be. Because we're not and we will keep on standing up and fighting for justice, just as our ancestors did, and just as our descendants will, so long as inequality exists.