Why that tag line?

The question I wrote at the top of the page when I was journaling was “Who am I Father?” It went one to say “Help me craft an elevator speech, give me a download or do whatever it takes Lord to get it to me”

That was what I wrote down when I went to bed. When I woke up there was a sentence going round in my head. I made sure I committed to paper before I forgot it was.

I am the voice of those frustrated with the slow progress towards a fair society where the needs of the weakest are met in such a way that it strengthens them rather than weakens them further.

Umm interesting idea. I had not put it together quite like that and it made a lot of sense in terms of what I have done and have been wanting to do. The question is what exactly does it mean. I find writing things out helps me develop my understanding so this page really has a quite selfish motive. I wrote it so that I could get to grips with what this meant. On the other hand, once you read it you will see if we have the same concerns.

Weak, what does that mean?

This is where I decided to see what ideas I could find in a dictionary or two. There were some ideas that were quite irrelevant as they referred to particular situations related to the way English is used or how arguments are developed. However, there was still a long list of ideas that provided me with food for thought.

  • lacking physical strength
  • lacking in moral or mental force
  • not able to support or sustain a great weight
  • not functioning effectively
  • liable to give way
  • easily overcome
  • frail
  • lacking health
  • lacking power
  • dropping in value (especially in commerce but this idea also speaks volumes about our attitude to people)
  • tending to go down in price
  • feeble of mind
  • wanting moral or mental force
  • yielding too easily to temptation
  • easily led
  • lacking full flavour (for example weak tea or coffee but it also speaks to me about people who are not reaching their full potential)
  • having little of the important ingredient (Could this be courage to go forwards?)
  • defective in some way
  • being insufficient in some way

In one sense I am pleased it spoke of the weakest. There is the idea that women are the weaker sex. That may well be true in terms of physical strength but they do have other advantages over men.

Who could the weakest in society be?

What about those who have faced huge challenges in life and found that this has led to mental health problems? It could be due to the unkind behaviour of others towards them. This can add so much of a weight to their heart and mind that they have some form of mental health breakdown.

What about people who need extra help developing basic skills like reading and writing because their brain works in a different way to other people? Or maybe they had health problems as a child and missed out on education.

What about people who are not doing what God created them to do because they have been discouraged from doing it? What about people who believe that there are many things that they cannot do because there is something wrong with them?  Notice I say believe because the reality is other people think it is possible for them to do whatever it is but they that they cannot do it.

Those are just a few examples that spring to mind but there are many more people who could be seen as weak in one way or another. I suspect that you read that list and realised that the term weak could also apply to at least some of the people you work with or want to work with.

Who is frustrated by this slow progress?

Ever compared notes with teachers or nurses or even dentists and found how many of them are frustrated because they cannot help the people that they really want to help? They can do so much in the system that they work in but they feel that their hands are tied in some way or other so that they cannot do what they want to do to help others.

Maybe they have mountains of paperwork to tackle. Maybe they have so many rules to consider that they feel that they cannot do their job properly. Maybe they have ideas on how best to help people that they simply cannot put into practice.

There are many ways in which we come into contact with various kinds of need. I used to help run a mental health drop in and I came across a wide range of needs. There was the lady who struggled to manage her money so asked for help from others who she should have been able to trust but who had led her down badly. Others struggled to read and write and this added to their problems. Some had had accidents that had left them less able physically or had seriously damaged their memory. Some had health issues early in life that left them less able than others for example hearing impaired.

I became frustrated that I could not do more to improve the situation. That was the impetus behind my journey towards setting up church-based community projects to meet the needs of those outside the church. One of my frustrations has been trying to do this despite not having the support of the church.

Many people are frustrated because they have experienced a need themselves and see that there are more things that can be done to help those still in that situation. for others it might not have been their own experience but one they had seen as a carer or neighbour or friend or family member.

Some people want to attack a problem by working with those with the initial problem e.g. the person with the medical issue. Others want to attack a problem by working with the children of those with that medical issue rather than those experiencing it first hand. One problem can be approached from a number of directions. Some people see a problem that is being approached from one direction but are frustrated because they see the need for it to be approached from another and no one is doing that yet.

What is a fair society?

This is one phrase that surprised me. This was I why I looked in the dictionary again. Here is what I learnt that fair could mean.

  • just, not using dishonest methods of discrimination
  • in accordance with the rules
  • quite good, reasonable
  • fine weather (in other words comfortable and pleasant weather where it is a pleasure to be outside)
  • free from blemish
  • pleasing to the eye
  • prosperous
  • reasonable
  • favourable
  • a general expression of commendation
  • pleasing

When you are talking of the weakest in society the idea of being just and of not discriminating makes a lot of sense. There are many people who see that those in need have been discriminated against and want to change the situation.

I find it interesting that most of these definitions have a considerable amount in common with my interpretation of the Kingdom of God on earth. For me having a society that is run in accordance with biblical principles is one that I would see as being in accordance with the rules and that is free from blemish.

A fair society is not the same as an equal one. An equal society would mean that everyone has the same type of house, the same type of car, the same everything really. Yet we instinctively know that this is unfair.

If everyone had the same kind of house no matter how hard they worked and no matter what they had sacrificed to get to that point then most people would see that as being unfair. However, if some people had achieved more because they had worked harder or done whatever else was necessary to reach that point then that would be seen as fair. On the other hand, if some people used manipulative or illegal tactics to get ahead then that would also be seen as unfair.

Equality in the sense of everyone having the same no matter what is not seen in the Bible. Think of the parable of the talents where some were given more than others and they were rewarded for what they had done with what they had. Think of the parable where some labourers worked all day and some part of the day yet they all received the same reward. Think of the idea that we are all part of a body and have different parts to play.

Yes, treat people fairly because we are all equally valuable in God’s sight. Yet as we are all different what is fair reward for me might not be the same as a fair reward for you

Another way that I try and understand words is that I check a thesaurus to see what other words could be used instead of the one I am researching. Here are some that I found when I looked up the word society

  • civilisation
  • culture
  • humanity
  • mankind
  • people
  • populace
  • population
  • social order
  • the community
  • the general population
  • the public
  • the world
  • the world at large

Initially, I found the idea of a fair society somewhat strange. It reminded me of the childish cry that is not fair. It seemed an odd choice of words. After reading through what the dictionary and thesaurus say about the words fair and society I am a lot happier using those words.

What does it mean to strengthen others?

My dictionary was not particularly helpful to strengthen is to make strong but what does to strengthen someone mean? My thesaurus was rather more helpful.

Some words had the sense of giving new life to someone or something

  • animate
  • energise
  • freshen
  • give a boost to
  • give new energy to
  • invigorate
  • rejuvenate
  • stimulate
  • vitalise

Others had the sense of coming alongside

  • bolster
  • brace
  • buttress (add an extra support to hold something up)
  • encourage
  • reinforce

Then there were the rest including

  • confirm
  • consolidate
  • enhance
  • establish
  • fix
  • fortify
  • harden
  • hearten
  • heighten
  • increase
  • intensify
  • justify
  • nerve
  • nourish
  • recruit (add more soldiers to the army)
  • restore
  • stiffen
  • substantiate
  • support
  • sustain
  • toughen

Some of these seem to be direct opposites to the things in the list for weak. Well, that is only to be expected. The thing that struck me was that one of the words I found in the list in the thesaurus was restore. When you look at the page on Why use the name God’s Lily you will see why this resonates with me.

I had written about the idea of strengthening others in one of my books. In chapter 2 of “The Manifesto that is NOT for Wimps” there is a section headed Shepherding the community. It is based on Ezekiel 34:4 where the spiritual leaders are being criticised. The first complaint in this verse is that they have not strengthened the weak. This is what I wrote in that book about strengthening the weak after I had done a word study using the meanings of the words used in the original Hebrew.

Think of a pair of old jeans that have worn at the knees and you add a patch to them to strengthen them. That is the picture that is expressed in the original Hebrew, Something that has been rubbed or worn until it has been left weak. The word used for weak here can also be translated as sick (i.e. to feel weak). Other words used include ill, sore, wounded and even grieved. The verb to strengthen is seen as meaning to be courageous, be resolute, to be secure, to sustain, to encourage, to repair, to hold up, to withstand, and to make firm.

When you read that section you will see that when I looked at this verse in detail I saw it as a step by step process. The first step in helping people was strengthening the weak. Many of us just want to jump to step 5 i.e. seeking the lost. We then wonder why we struggle with step 5 when we ignore steps 1 to 4.

What does it mean to be a voice for others?

In one sense it is obvious what a voice is as we use our mouths to make sounds that we can communicate with on a regular basis. yet this is rather different it is being a voice for others. A voice can be

  • a tone of speech that reflects a particular emotion.
  • a means or medium of expression
  • an expressed wish or opinion or communication

Does that mean that being a voice for others reflects a particular emotion and uses a particular medium of expression like a blog or a book to express a particular opinion.

Curious though that term being a voice for others. Why a voice for those who are frustrated when it might be better to find a way to relieve their frustration.

What does being frustrated with slow progress look like?

Words that could be used instead of frustrated include

  • disappointed
  • discontented
  • discouraged
  • disheartened
  • embittered
  • foiled
  • irked
  • resentful
  • thwarted

According to my dictionary to be frustrated is

  • to have a feeling of agitation and helplessness at not being able to do something
  • to be disappointed, unhappy dissatisfied
  • to be unfilled in one’s ambitions for oneself

Whatever way you put it, it is a sense of wanting more to happen but whatever that more is, it is just not happening. In fact, the idea that there is even slow progress is better than no movement at all.  Problem is that is is not enough.

The frustration is painful. You want more and you believe it is right to have more but somehow you are just not achieving more, being more, doing more. More needs to be done and it is just not happening. Oh boy, do I  know what that looks like and feels like!

I once got so mad about my inability to move forwards that I literally screamed at God that I was stuck and that I wanted to get unstuck so that I could serve Him better. It had suddenly dawned on me that I would be in the same position when the world came to an end and that it was closer then I thought it was to the end of the world. In other words, unless I got unstuck I would not be able to do what I thought I had been called to do. Many people would struggle and suffer as a result. (You can see just how many on the Why use the name God’s Lily? page).

That scream led to huge changes in my life. Looking back it was really only those things that it is tough to change that did not change. I still had the same parents and siblings. I had still done the same things as a child. Some things you take with you wherever you go. I still had some of the same possessions like books and clothes. After that it was  a fresh start that put the majority of my adult life to that point behind me. This included a new home in a new location and a new job. All I had to do was love those who had made themselves my enemy and God took care of the rest.

After that rescue  mission I started again and found that doing what I felt called to do was tough. I faced loads of challenges, some from unexpected places. I found it was hard to keep going. I kept trying to find ways around the obstacles that came up in my path but then that made it hard for others to recognise what I was doing. They saw you doing one thing to get around the obstacle and struggled to believe that I was really trying to do something else. They only saw me going in the direction I needed to go to get around the obstacle and that looked like a very different direction to the I would need to go to get to my destination. See what I mean I know what frustration looks like.

Once I started thinking about this I did a brain dump using a mind map of the various reasons why people end up frustrated with the lack of progress that is being made to help the weakest in society. Then a stream of ideas crossed my path and it was oh bother God is feeding me more ideas on this topic.That really is a sign that this is a topic that He wants me to write more about.

Time to give up. This time instead of doing starting with a  book. I have done enough of them for now. There is now a new category of journal entries on handling frustration.