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This week Joy Allan spoke at our City Women Lunch event.

Joy is the newly appointed Pastor for Young Adults at St John’s Church, Harborne, moving to Birmingham from Aberdeen, where she was working for her PhD on the Pentecostal / Charismatic response to depression.

Recently at work, in relationships, and beyond, she has seen some deep learning emerge from particularly tough circumstances!

To give a framework for facing conflict, Joy explored the story of Mary and Martha, which you can find in Luke 10:38-42. Joy doesn’t see this Bible story as an instruction to sit still and listen – indeed, she acknowledged that as a Scottish woman “I don’t do quiet and I rarely do gentle!” Instead, she explored three strands of the story.

 

  • CONFLICT:

Can you see Martha’s jealousy? Martha wasn’t wrong to be in the kitchen. But the conflict came when Martha expected Mary to adopt a different role from the one Jesus had called Mary to. Whenever there’s conflict, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • Did I think it was “all about me”?
  • Was the other person coming from a place of insecurity or pain?
  • Did I love myself enough?
  • Did I love the other person enough?
  • Can I still change the story?

 

  • IDENTITY:

Mary was going against the cultural expectation for women in her society: instead of serving, she chose to sit and listen and discuss. And Jesus recognised Mary for who she was, without requiring her to conform to the cultural expectations of her community and culture. So here, the question is:

  • Do you have people in your life who see you for who you are – looking beyond your work role or your culturally expected role, looking beyond the expectations of office culture, even looking beyond the expectations of Christian culture?

 

  • THAT WHICH “COULD NOT BE TAKEN AWAY”:

Do we recognise the thing that cannot be taken away, namely, that we are loved? Mary knew who she was because she knew she was loved. At the hardest times of life, when we are knocked out of shape by conflict, or when we lose our own sense of identity because we’ve done what others expected of us, can we come back to the fundamental truth that we are (flawed and imperfect and) loved?

In the words of someone at the City Women lunch, “Today was brilliant. I was very moved by the interpretation of the Martha and Mary story and painfully aware of how much I (or may be most of us women) mould into what’s expected of us rather than who we are. It was a beautiful session. I really liked the holding onto what can’t be taken away from us.”

 

A Blessing

Bless us as we claim the identities and stories that we and others live within.

Bless us with courage to reject identities and stories

which are imposed upon us or others

and do not fit.

Bless all who are truth-tellers, weaving life-giving stories,

giving space for others to claim their true identity and vocation and to thrive,

in our business community, in our city and in our world.

 

Thanks to Brewin Dolphin for hosting our City Women lunch. And thanks to Joy Allan for sharing with us tools to face life challenges, at work and beyond.