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19 May 2017

The master of time: for when change is too slow

The master of time: for when change is too slow

Gemma Brown lives in Northern Ireland where she works for Tearfund. 

 As I’ve flicked through my Twitter timeline and watched the news this week, I’ve been filled with a sense of urgency. Trump and Russia, Brexit, hospital deaths, child abuse, hunger in East Africa: each story seems to scream for my undivided and immediate attention.  

This passage from Micah 6 may be familiar to you: "act justly, love mercy, walk humbly." I particularly love the "act" part. As a ‘doer’ and an activist, I want something to sink my teeth into…now. 

However, I’ve been thinking about how change happens. Political, social, even personal change…it seems to take time. 

Speaking of time, travel with me: when you were growing up, what did you want to be? A doctor, a teacher, a unicorn? Let me tell you about some of my heroes - and surely the phrase ‘I want to be like them when I grow up’ isn’t reserved for childhood! Recently, I’ve been taking inspiration from heroes like William Wilberforce, Rosa Parks and the Suffragettes. 

William Wilberforce is one of history’s most celebrated abolitionists. He, along with his allies who referred to themselves as the Clapham Sect - a group of Church of England reformers formed by John Newton - is credited with making slavery illegal in the United Kingdom.  

Rosa Parks is often referred to as the ‘first lady of civil rights’. She famously refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white person on 1 December 1955. This bold act was an integral part of the Freedom Movement in the US which fought for black people to be treated as equal members of society.  

The Suffragettes began their campaign for women in the UK to be allowed to vote in 1909. They believed that men and women were created equal, and women today owe much of the democratic privileges we enjoy to their tireless efforts.  

These heroes achieved great things. But what we can forget about their journeys is that they were long. Progress is rarely linear, and it is never quick: despite what Twitter or this morning’s new bulletin tries to make us think. 

Wilberforce achieved his goal in parliament in 1807 when his Slave Trade Act received Royal Assent – that was only after 30 years of climbing uphill. Rosa Parks writes in her autobiography that she had spent years in the process of awakening to injustice prior to the day she finally stood up to it. The Suffragettes campaigned for women’s voting rights from the beginning of the 20th century until, through a chain of tact and sacrifice and persistence, women won the right to vote in the UK in 1928: more than 20 years after the founders began to cast their vision. 

As people of faith, we hope for things unseen. We value patience and follow the example of one who has promised to complete His work in us. I believe that God prompts us to act, and wants us to pay attention to what is happening in the world. But He is also with us when things seem to be taking too long. He knows our frustrations and our worries about the future. He hears our cries when we’re faced with uncertainty or injustice. He is in the big moments that bring about visible change – and He’s also in our daily decisions to honour Him in the small things

So let’s pay attention to the news, to what is happening around us. Let’s act when we can. And let’s remember that, when change is slow, the master of time is there too.  

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. 

Isaiah 40:31