Have you ever asked yourself who you are? You might be an amalgam of so many constructs that you are finding difficulty in locating your ‘real self’. Or you might find that you have become a stereotype that you no longer find valid – a member of a clique, a group, a tribe that practices ‘groupthink’ and pressures you into following its precepts. You might find at times that you have become a caricature of who you set out to be and are deeply dissatisfied with certain aspects of your being. Your discomfort is better than self-satisfaction, which is often a sign of complacency, when rigorous introspection and self-examination would be more appropriate. Perhaps you feel that you have taken the wrong fork in the road and would like to retrace your steps. We all make mistakes, and in learning from them, we achieve growth, with the Lord’s help. In that we are blessed. We have a reprieve so readily at hand that we will be amazed. The Lord has promised:
Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11: 28-30
By renewing our vow to become a child of God we are given clear signposts to forge a new identity. We can follow Psalm One in overcoming scorn for those who are unlike us; we can release our love for others in practicing the Golden Rule. We can obey the Ten Commandments with a new intensity when we work on those that we find difficult to follow. We can try to measure up to the rigours of the Sermon on the Mount in ‘doing good to those who despitefully use us’. We can try, knowing that ‘the truth will set us free’, to become the best possible version of ourselves. Instead of living in a reactive haze, we can become liberated, proactive, and protected to the core of our being. We can invite the innocence of wisdom by willing ourselves to be obedient to the truths that are anchored in good. We are promised that we can be as joyful as children in becoming who we are meant to be in the Divine Design.
And the truth shall set you free.
I’ve said this all my life long with great satisfaction and with very little evidence. I’ve thought that the truth could set us free to choose something and oppose something else. We can choose good in all its forms, or evil in the multiplicity of its seductions, and the temptations of compromising evil spirits. It is a lifetime’s work which will continue throughout eternity. We will not be good in a flash. I remember attending the funeral of a prominent member of another denomination. It was said in the eulogy that what he was most looking forward to was sharing in Christ’s glory. And I thought, ‘No, no, it doesn’t work like that.’ And I was happy that we had doctrines to protect us against such distortions of the truth.
What I had not anticipated was the unwelcome intrusion of pain, and its entitled claims on my life. After all, we are born, not for ourselves, but for others, and here was my pain , insisting on its claims to my time and attention. It was alarming, to say the least.
Let me explain. Two years ago I had a foot reconstruction. Doesn’t sound like much, but it involved four operations in one – one to insert a stainless steel plate with eight screws, one to fashion a bone bridge on the top of the foot, and one to cut chips of ankle bone away to insert in the bridge to keep the foot steady. The fourth one merely cut and extended a tendon. This all took two and a half hours to make me a new woman. I woke with a woozy hoorah that it was all over and stepping it out would be my new normal. Wrong! The surgeon performed a very good operation, but he was no match for the arthritis and gout that attacked the damaged bones. He admitted to me afterwards, ‘I can do the operation, but I cannot control the healing’. He is a lovely man and most times he wins through. But this time he didn’t. I confess that I entered the ‘poor little me’ zone and succumbed to that most unpleasant zone of being – self pity.
Continue reading And The Truth Shall Set You Free
It’s a strange world we live in, growing stranger by the day. It’s a skewed world too, skewed by tweets, soap operas and reality shows where melodrama and charisma count for more than truth and integrity. And in this overheated milieu, where our blurred perceptions become our realities, we are obliged to vote for leaders, to invoke the vital power of the secret ballot. I believe it to be a privilege and a sacred, prayerful duty.
To judge by the outcome, we often miss the mark. Increasingly, I feel that leaders far and wide are chosen for their entertainment value over their gravitas and their ability to exercise sound judgment. The ultimate absurdity occurred in the Ukraine where the populace voted for a clown – a real one – to tackle rampant corruption and the sinister stranglehold of the oligarchs. Here, in South Africa, we suffered for ten years under the kleptocracy of a man who was a loss to the stage – who danced and sang ‘bring me my machine gun’ with gay abandon, to the delight of his tribe and followers. The older democracies, too, make unexpected choices. Join the dots.
It could all be so different. If we looked to the Word for guidance we would find it in abundance. In Psalm 15 there is a vivid description of the character of those suitable for leadership:
Continue reading Thy Will Be Done
Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;
He who does not backbite with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbour…
He who does these things shall never be moved.
I heard over the news, on this southern tip of Africa, that Kylie Jenner had become the world’s youngest teenage billionaire. And it’s all done with make-up. I thought how appropriate it was that her cosmetic business and celebrity status should make her a star for the age. It really is a sign of the times that she and her family should be so ‘successful’. I’m not detracting from her business acumen and the penchant for publicity that her family displays, or the number of ‘likes’ that she scores on social media, but I think that the whole scene needs interrogation.
It reminds me of Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, in which Daisy, one of the shallowest characters ever created, said that her ambition for her daughter was that she should grow up to be ‘a beautiful little fool’. Except that Kylie is nobody’s fool, but a product of this century, nearly a hundred years later.
We need to ask ourselves: ‘What do we find admirable?’
Whatever happened to humility, the love of use, and attributing all the good things of life to the Lord? They do exist, but finding them in popular culture is becoming exceedingly rare. Strutting self assertion has taken centre stage.
Continue reading On Admiration