Wednesday, May 13, 2015

She is not forgotten

Sitting in the weak, autumn sun, eating my lunch, I opened Facebook and saw a message from a friend, who had been in her garden and smelled the jasmine my mom gave her to plant. The occasion had been my own daughter's funeral.

And just like that, the old pain rose up in my heart, spilled out of my eyes; a pain so great it felt that my very bones quaked, my poor pressure rose so that My ears could hear nothing, my lungs could not draw breath and my heart quailed. The world seemed, once more, to stop spinning, to implode upon itself.

But like a wave that has crashed retreats back down the shore, the grief receded. And so, now I sit with damp cheeks, damp eyes, a runny nose, a clenched and raw throat, exhausted, yet alive, knowing that life goes on, and so must I.

And that, perhaps, is the hardest thing of all to bear.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Should I stay or should I go?

In recent weeks, SA has made both national and international news for all the wrong reasons. Firstly there was the #rhodesmustfall campaign, followed by the xenophobic attacks. Both gave me cause for pause, and for the first time I seriously considered whether it is time to start looking for jobs elsewhere and to consider emigration.

The #rhodesmustfall campaign at UCT was about the fact that 20 years on, South Africa is still in the grip of Apartheid. Yes, the laws have changed, but transformation has been slow. For some, the rate of change has been too slow. There is still a lot of anger about the fact that whites still hold the majority of the country's wealth, and still appear to enjoy much more privilege. 

Throwing poo at statues (which quickly spread from just happening at UCT to taking place in various cities and at various statues) that are symbols of colonialism and racism and Apartheid seems to have catapulted the discussion about transformation into the forefront of discussions in civil society, government and institutional powers in a way that previous discoursive attempts have not. I disagree with the the decisions made about the statue, but I sympathize with the sentiments. If nothing else, this whole situation has really made me think about what it is like to be your average non-white South African living in this country.

Yet, then anger that I have felt directed towards me has been disconcerting to say the least. If one listens to the news (despite the fact that only the extremists and their doings make the news), then one could be forgiven for thinking that we are truly on the brink of becoming Zimbabwe, where whites are truly in physical danger. If one believes the news, then it is time to get out, while we still can.

At the same time, because of poverty, gross institutional inefficiencies and some ill-timed (and ill-conceived) words by King Goodwill Zweletini we have seen repeated xenophobic attacks in the Durban area against the immigrants from our neighboring countries and further afield. So much has been said about how the whites are to blame for everything that is historically wrong with this country, that it is sometimes hard to believe the capacity for black-on-black violence in this nation. Yet, the human heart is the same no matter the colour of one's skin, and its capacity for fear, anger and jumping to in conclusions (as my dad always says) is the same.

As I said, as I have pondered these two climatic events I have, for the first time, given very serious thought to emigrating. Why, you may ask? Because of fear. I looked to the possible future and was scared by what I could imagine.

Yet as I prayed about it, as I prayed into these situations and asked God for his guidance, he has very clearly been telling me to stay. A decision made in fear is never a good one. If I allow fear to rule my decision-making process, I will make wrong choices. If I allow God to rule my decision-making process I will make the right choices. I am reminded now, as I write this, of the saying that the safest place to be is in the centre of God's will. From the verses I have been reading as part of my daily devotionals, Gid has clearly been telling me to stay put and to trust in him alone - not to look to the circumstances around me, but only to look at him.

Does this mean we will be personally and physically safe? No. Does this mean my children will have an easy life? No. Yet neither of those things are good reasons to leave - not when God has other plans and I am a part of one other plans. I simply have to trust that God is working in ways I cannot see, and that his plans are plans to give me hope and a future, not plans to harm me or my children.

And of course, things are not as bad as they seem - the vast majority of this nation's people are not extremists. They are not blood-thirsty lunatics. The majority are average people trying to go about their lives in peace. Yet, these events have given us a fresh opportunity for discourse and dialogue, for a real chance to move towards transformation. Once again this nation has a real opportunity to shine the light of Christ for the world to see - if only we would grasp it!