“Float like a Butterfly, sting like a Hebrew Midwife..”


The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.’  The midwives, however, feared God and didn’t do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.

Exodus 1:15–17

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is where the flapping of a butterfly’s wings weeks earlier can trigger a major weather event such as a tornado – where a very small change in initial conditions can create a very different outcome.

So like an unarmed man carelessly murdered by Minnesota cop; or someone, somewhere eating an infected bat – or Hitler falling asleep on D-Day, the ripples run ever wider.

Ray Bradbury wrote ‘The Sound of Thunder’ in 1952 about the long term consequences of the death of a single butterfly.  There is comfort for Christians in knowing that even our tiniest actions can be magnified by history. That even chaos can be part of a plan..

The right to justice. The gift of hope.

Small people, insignificant people have often changed history.. But they don’t show up alone.  Take Moses, the leader whose calling by God to speak truth to power has inspired Christian movements for liberation throughout history.

Moses is born at a time of infanticide. Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, wanted to control the Hebrew immigrant population by killing all male babies and effectively ending their family lines. Under this brutal terror, the midwives received a chilling instruction: kill the baby boys. Instead of obeying, however, they resisted. Their actions saved the lives of many Hebrew sons – one of whom grows up to become Moses, the liberator of his people.

Small people. Those Hebrew women are not what we imagine when we think of what it means to change the world. It’s tempting to think that it takes power (political, economic, influence) to  make a difference. But these women were able to have an impact right where they were, in acts of resistance which shaped an entire generation. The resistance movement to an evil regime (and ultimately Moses’ victory) began in a tent!

The task of resistance lies with all of us, whether we are the ones to stand in the place of power, the ones who have a role to play in someone else’s organisation, or in the simple relationships of family and friends.

There are groups of people out there right now – and at my charity Off The Fence Trust, we’re working with them – who, like the Hebrew babies, are vulnerable and threatened with violence and oppression. Here today in Sussex there are people whose futures are at stake because of the choices and agendas of those more powerful than them. Perhaps we, like the butterfly, like the Hebrew women, like Mother Theresa, like you, like me, can act with the courage of those unnoticed, footnote midwives to protect those unable to defend themselves.

The soundtrack to go with the article on The Whole Nine Yards broadcast on Seahaven FM 96.3 2.7.20

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