Three Words

Toe ek jonk was het ek gehou van praat.
Ek was ‘n kranige debat kampioen.
My entoesiasme en naiwe goedgelowigheid
Het my gewild en geliefd gemaak.

Deesdae hou ek nie van praat nie.
Wat ‘n inspuiting was is nou ‘n ontrekking
en my woorde maak my bang.
Bang vir deelwees van dwaasheid.

Ek prober deesdae my woorde beter kies
Maar dis so moeilik en selfs onmoontlik,
Want elke paar ore luister so anders
en wat vir een sin maak is goedkoop snert vir ‘n ander.

Ek soek na nuwe vorms van praat
om die leegheid van preke en praatjies te vermy.
Hoe kies ek woorde wat stories en begrippe saamvleg
en eenvoud met diepte dek?

In pleks van sinne, bied ek dalk net woorde:

opoffering
paradoks
dapperheid

– sleutels na nuwe plekke
– grysheid kom die wyshied
– kaal voor onsekerheid

Sacrifice- sleutels na nuwe plekke
We sometimes get confused. The systems and voices around us infect us and taint us. Our worldview and fundamentals often make way for cheap popular constructs. It’s tricky to recognize when this happens. Do you have a plan, a way of realizing when your worldviews clash with concepts that can derail your belief system?
A myth that affects us is the concept popularized by Covey: win-win. Sometimes win-win is possible and advised. Often, it is impossible and an illusion. For many of the most important things in life we face an either-or. You cannot be faithful and have an exciting affair. You cannot choose family and work as your top priority. You cannot be friends with some people without neglecting others. You cannot spend money on education, holiday, toys, food, houses and investments without the one impacting the other. Budgets and hours in a day are limited. If I use a Rand on this, I chose a million things not to spend it on. If I use an hour on this, I chose a million other things not deserving of that time. Each choice kills a thousand others. And in the end we become the sum total of those choices.

Our culture shaped us into generally homogenous beings. We might differ on our brands or whiskey and clothes or the place we buy a house and car, we might differ in the number of kids we make, or the years and things we studies, but by en large, we try and live very similar lives. Lives constructed to minimize risk, maximize safety and predictability, while allowing for indulgences that make us feel good and alive. That is normal. We attach our self-worth to the appearance of our gatherings, be it stuff or achievements. This predictable path towards a specific definition of the good life makes sense and is good. If it didn’t make sense everyone would not be following along the well trodden steps. It makes sense, especially of your worldview places you at the center of the universe.

To escape the corridor of self, we have to unlock new doors we are not familiar with. Each of these doors have a key. And each key is a sacrifice. To discover a new room and a new world, we have to sacrifice something of our current lives. The magic of turning sacrifices into keys and unlocking new things is a skill you have to practice. There are no short cuts. These are not concepts to grasp intellectually and talk about. Words and what-ifs count for nothing. You either gain experience in walking and doing or you don’t. You create experiences by doing, or you don’t. Our culture is not big on sacrifice. Yet, every hero, every sport star, every icon reached their heights by sacrificing many things we tend to cling to. At least we can associate with heroes when we sit in the cinema, or at home using box-office, which removes the strenuous discomfort of driving to the movies, parking, buying a ticket and using public toilets. Tough world… Sell everything and give it to the poor

How many stories of sacrifice do you have? I’m not talking about loss. I’m talking about giving something up on purpose, something that you could have had and that would have made you happy.

I have my list:
When I became a Christian at school I gave up drinking, smoking, secular music, dancing.
I sacrificed my dream of becoming a lawyer, going for theology which I thought God called me to.
Instead of doing a fancy gap year in the USA at Mel Gibson’s church, I decided to go and live in a tent on a missions farm in rural Mozambique.
Studying I decided to go to res, even if I was 21, I enrolled as a full first year and went through initiation, by people my own age.
At University I sacrificed the excitement of residence life and being Primarius of our residence, in my second year, I voted against myself so I wouldn’t be deputy Primarius. It was a big deal back then.
Then I stopped studying to make a theological point. I was in effect a varsity drop out.
I sacrificed a job at the ‘best’ church in South Africa to go and live in Mozambique.
I sacrificed my calling to be a preacher in a shift to being a servant, doing stuff without words.
I sacrificed being a Christian who wants to convert people, to become a Christian who helped people on their terms.
I sacrificed my time and ego and finished my degree.
I took a scary plunge and started a new direction of studies until had a Masters cum laude, not without hours of hard work and intellectual turmoil.
I gave up a title due to affirmative action
I gave up a cozy permanent job to start an uncertain project
I gave up that great feeling of a new car as I bought a second hand Jazz
I gave up my church because they wanted to stay Afrikaans and white.
I sacrificed my safe independence as I finally settled in a long-term romantic relationship
I sacrifice things to do and stuff to buy on a daily basis. I sacrificed my entitlement as a white man in Africa.

What’s next for me? Maybe sacrificing comfort and arrogance and learning to speak isiZulu. Maybe not going to restaurants so others can have food on the table. Maybe losing white friends as I refuse to indulge racism. Maybe sacrificing the integrity of grassroots training so I can do the corporate work our organization requires. Maybe I have to change my mind about certain topics like Afrikaans at university or sacrifice my views on land-reform.

Each sacrifice I have ever made opened a new door. I often got back the thing I sacrificed. Sometimes immediately, sometimes after years. Sometimes I never got it or anything back in return.

How do we know what to sacrifice? Again, no short-cuts. As we life an integrated life of integrity, we get glimpses. Glimpses that come from friends, glimpses we read or see, moments of grace when we feel a hunch that there is more, there is something higher and more beautiful. There was a guy that use to be the expert in these kind of things. Some say he took it too far. We were supposed to follow, but we efficiently placed him in a mythological box of irrelevance. We seldom follow. In fact, despite all our talking, we generally organize our lives in exactly the opposite way than what he advised. Which is fine.
If only we had the guts to be honest about it.

Paradox- met grysheid kom die wyshied

When I was young I was fanatical about the idea of truth. Relativism was the anti-Christ devil dragon I had to slay. The dragon made me scared, because it threatened all the mechanical handles I had on God. Relativism threatened the glasses with which I viewed God and it threatened the constructs that helped me to see an invisible Savior. It never touched God, it touched my tangible crutches. Most of us keep saying ‘don’t touch me on my studio’ until the day we die. The older we get the more permanent our crutches become. We lose the distinction between our interpretation and the principles and concepts behind our intent. The best things are not easy to grasp, they are impossible to measure and they evade us through constant flux. We as humans such at uncertainty, so we build things that represent the higher things. The golden calf becomes a service once a week, the golden calf becomes a verse every morning, it becomes defending a petty dogmatic technicality. We replace the uncertainty of connecting with the Creator of the universe with the conviction that no one says shit in church, that girls should not love each other romantically, that evolution is satanic or that everyone who doesn’t say the sinner’s prayer will burn in hell for all eternity.

I’ve stopped arguing about things I’m not sure about. We normally argue most about the things we are not sure of ourselves. Have you ever argued with anyone who said the earth is flat, that all Christians are healed when they pray, that blacks are animals or that slavery is defendable? No, we don’t argue when we are sure that something is silly. Like the kid who knew his dad’s Nissan Maxima was the best car and his dad the greatest. Do you remember the add? “And what did you say? Nothing dad I just smiled.”

The most important things are not black or white, but grey. In the grey areas of open mindedness we have to sacrifice certainty and arrogance in exchange for the humility of not knowing.

Again, moving from the abstract to the concrete, let me share some of my examples of grey paradox:

As a white man I learnt that I will never be at home in Africa, yet as a traveler in Africa and on earth, I can live a satisfying and rich life, full of meaningful connection.
As a Christian I cannot judge other faiths, and decide who goes to hell, I live with the knowing that Jesus is the Way for me, but that each individual, tribe or nationality have to find their way.
I believe that all my money belongs to God, not 10%, yet I chow a huge chunk of that every month to indulge myself instead of sharing with my needy brothers and sisters. Give away that second coat.
I’m uncertain about the future of our country, yet I live in a way that shows I have hope and ownership.
My faith and doubt are two sides of the same coin and they feed on each other.
I believe that evil exist, but I regularly doubt satan, deamons and and little ghosts that sit on our shoulders to whisper temptations.
I try to have an open house where a diverse range of people are welcome, but my hospitality often makes way for my sense of deserved privacy.
I pray, but I pray only at certain times and for certain things. I invite God, into half my life.
Every day I face a midlife crisis as I struggle with extreme nihilism and existential vanity at the same time!
I feel happy with myself and proud of myself, while simultaneously, I doubt my impact and my success.
I want to be fit and in shape and I make some effort, yet sitting in front of the TV and eating sugary nonsense compromise my so-called value of health and being in shape.
I resist modern culture and consumerism, yet I’m a die-hard fan of the Bulls and Arsenal.
I say that Environmentalism is important to me, yet I choose not to recycle, to fly, to buy things I don’t need, I buy imported veggies and I walk past litter every day without picking it up.
I sacrificed preaching, yet, here I am writing this blog.
I believe in forgiveness, yet some people have been maneuvered out of my life in cold ruthlessness.
I’m good and I am bad.
I’m learning and I’m stagnant.
I’m hopeful and in despair.
I love and I’m selfish.
I speak yet nothing is said.

Courage- kaal voor onsekerheid

These grey areas and sacrifices that plunge us into uncertainty, requires unknown strength and courage. It requires a courage and braveness that we don’t see modelled around us that often. Mandela had it. Many other unknown people have it, but we ignore them. Their courage doesn’t fit our story of blame, victimhood, entitlement and diversion. If you find a courageous person that embrace a life of sacrifice and uncertainty, don’t let them go. Friendship with such every day heroes is the greatest gift you can ever gain. But do you even have the ability to identify these individuals? It takes one to know one. Before looking for one, ask yourself if you are one? A mirror can be a terrifying thing.

Uncertainty requires courage, not to face the world out there, but to face the world and the thing inside of you. Surely, the struggles out there are very real and can be extremely testing, but how we handle those battles all depend on the substance you have in yourself. When I see someone choosing against adventure, when I see someone too scared to take a chance, I have some sympathy for their situation, but I also learn of the sad storyline that writes their biography as a struggle of self-love and self-doubt.

The weird thing about courage and taking plunges is that they are self-perpetuating. Momentum can be your greatest ally, except when you are stationary. To learn a new habit can be very difficult. The habit of being okay with not knowing, with being uncertain is one of the hardest to learn. In order to really learn we sometimes have to admit that we were wrong, that we thought stupid things in stupid ways. We instinctively avoid vulnerability. We instinctively crave security. Not just physical and material, but also emotionally and psychologically. Those who have experimented with the journey with conscious vulnerability and embracing of uncertainty, have learnt that the scary thing is only scary until you face it. First, we get used to it, we see we stay alive, and later we discover that it is not only doable, but indeed a guarantee to safety and peace. Vulnerability carries its own reward. It is not just an exercise to try and be mature or advanced, it is a way of being that advance happiness and fulfillment. Why? Because vulnerability enables connecting. If you are hardened, your human connection options are limited. Every bit of vulnerability you cultivate allows for more connection. Attempts at pseudo-strength is therefore an activator and indicator of loneliness.

I suppose I have to also now list some things I feel called to engage with, things I need courage for because they make me feel vulnerable and naked.
To drive into a township and try and be friends with poor black youths.
To commit to a romantic relationship beyond dating.
To share my struggles with racism.
To speak about my doubts about the faith.
To learn a new language.
To face and show my body without being shy.
To ask when I don’t understand something.
To forgive and speak to someone that hurt me.
To share money instead of saving for my retirement.
To sing or dance, which I hate.
To drive up to Beitbridge Border post and Zimbabwean roadblocks.
Walking through Windsor suburb.
Confronting people who act unethically.
Conflict in general.
Telling a friend if they are engaged in destructive behavior.

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