Episcopal priest Becca Stevens is founder of Thistle Farms, a social enterprise run by survivors of sexual abuse, trafficking, and addiction. We share part of her story:
My mother’s example of showing love through practical means gave me the wherewithal to open a home for women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction more than twenty-five years ago in Nashville, Tennessee. It was a small house for five women. I said: “Come live free for two years with no authority living with you. Live free.” . . . I figured that’s what I would want if I were coming in off the streets or out of prison. . . . I did it because sanctuary is the most practical ideal of all.
I wasn’t interested in repackaging charity in shiny, new boxes with the latest words. I was bored by trendy cause-hawking that left me feeling disconnected. I was disillusioned by a bifurcated political system that numbs compassion. I wanted to do the work of healing from the inside out. And that begins with a safe home. . . .
From its humble beginning, Thistle Farms now has thirty global partners that employ more than 1,600 women. . . . The mission to be a global movement for women’s freedom is broad and is growing exponentially.
Rev. Stevens’s story reminds us of Jesus’ parable (Luke 13:18–19) about the kingdom of God and a mustard seed’s growth from tiny plant to large tree:
Initially, it seemed a bit ridiculous to me to think that by starting a small community, we could somehow change the world, but now, it seems more ridiculous to me to think that somehow the world will change if we don’t do something.
Now, I can see that one loving gesture is practically divine. We have to do small things and believe a big difference is coming. It’s like the miraculous drops of water that seep through mountain limestone. They gather themselves into springs that flow into creeks that merge into rivers that find their way to oceans. Our work is to envision the drops as oceans. We do our small parts and know a powerful ocean of love and compassion is downstream. Each small gesture can lead to liberation. The bravest thing we can do in this world is not cling to old ideas or fear of judgment, but step out and just do something for love’s sake. . . .
There is no secret formula to experiencing the sacred in our lives. It just takes practice and practicality. The deep truth of our lives and the fullness we are striving for don’t happen with someone giving us the code to deep knowledge. Meaning and faith are not secret things. Sometimes what we need most is to remind one another of how the divine is all around us, calling us to see and taste it for ourselves.
Becca Stevens, Practically Divine (Nashville, TN: Harper Horizon, 2021), xv–xviii.
Explore Further. . .
- Read about the medieval Beguines as a movement of faithful and courageous women.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Claudia Retter, Three Fish (details), photograph, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge the image.
This week’s image appears in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: We might find ourselves swimming against the current, but we’ve made a conscious decision to practice something different in response to an inner call.
Story from Our Community:
Reflecting on ‘ways of seeing’ reminds me that, as we move out of pandemic, it will be helpful if we all try to see reality from a different perspective. We need new ways of looking at things. Weighing up traditional pros and cons, liberal vs. conservative, etc., will not bring about change. We need a third force, a third way that can amalgamate all three forces and produce a better way. —Ross P.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.