Sometimes it is hard for me not to be overwhelmed. I hear about the xenophobia going on in my birth country and I see the images on Facebook and I cringe. I read about child prostitution and my heart shudders when I think about the children being exploited by lustful and sick adults. My mind just can not comprehend how adults, who are supposed to protect children get turned on by it. I have to hear from loved ones how they have to try and stay positive despite crime being rampant, despite the value of their money dropping, despite their electricity being cut because municipalities have not applied good bookkeeping practices. I am bombarded by terrorists butchering innocents just because they do not believe as they do. Somedays I am struggling to see the light because the darkness truly is threatening to dim it.
It is on these days that I fight with Him. With God. On these days I say to Him that I really struggle to keep on believing. It is very difficult for me to keep on proclaiming his love and his goodness while what we are seeing and what we are hearing is so contrary to what I believe.
Oh, I know all the theological answers. I know the advice that the self help books will recite. I read the fluffy evangelical stuff that Facebook posts so regularly. And it leaves me empty. It does nothing for me. Because it is not from Him. Not from Him to me.
Yesterday I was talking to a couple of ladies sharing how the cruelty of things are ripping me apart and making me question Him more and more. In South Africa they are butchering people to death – whether it is the foreigners or their own countrymen. In the Middle East the terrorists are butchering Christians, Yadzis, fellow Muslims, Atheists and who ever does not agree with them. People are ripping people apart because they are angry, because they are scared, because they are filled with hatred, because they are drawn along by herd mentality. And I keep finding myself with the question, “God, where are you? Are you blind? Are you deaf?”
There is so much wrong in this world. So many places where help is needed so desperately. So many people who need something. Where do I start? What more must I do? Surely it can not be only me who feel…guilty and so absolutely helpless when I am confronted by all of this? Am I?
Another theme that keeps repeating itself these days is the one of the starfish. You know the one. A man is talking a walk on a beach when he sees a girl who looks as if she is dancing. When he approaches her he sees that she is actually throwing back starfishes (is that right?) into the ocean. He, like I am now, is overwhelmed by the many starfish in need of saving and tells her that she is trying in vain, that she will never be able to save all of the starfish. She bends down once more, and smilingly tells him, “To this one, it makes a difference.” We do not know how many she threw back, we do not know how many survived, we do know that while she was doing it she was at peace, because she was doing what she could do. She knew that she was contributing to the one in her hand. That one could become the parent of many more.
And here I am, asking the questions, “Why the butchering? How can I make a difference? Where do I start? How much must I do to feel that I am indeed making a difference?” The temptation is strong to down the tools and say that I do not want to do this any more. This faith thing is too difficult, too challenging, too much. That I am only one, that my love is not enough, not strong enough, not deep enough.
That is however not the truth is it? It is a very good excuse. Not a valid one though.
Because I believe in a Man that was butchered beyond recognition, and his Father chose not to step in and stop it. He knew the bigger picture. He hears the blood of the righteous calling from the ground. He understood that love hurts. True love hurts deeply.
This is the lesson that I have been battling to learn for the last few weeks – The past… is the past. You can not get it back. Not the ignorance, not the failures, not the successes. The past is only valuable when you can learn from it and not repeat the mistakes. The future… the future is only a promise. You are never guaranteed one. But today…(oh how I wasted today) is all you have. You have to understand that you may be a butterfly’s wings and only one flap may cause a storm. You may cross paths with a potential world leader, and your words may shape this person. My lesson for the past few weeks have been to do what your hands find to do, and do it well. (I am still challenged immensely by it.) Forget about the multitude, except in your prayers, focus on those in your home, focus intently on them, be mindful with them, BE with them.
And the butchering? And the cruelty? The inhumanness? There are many answers, clever answers, learned answers. For me, it is about love. Love your neighbour as yourself.
This is it then, when your faith and hope starts going, cling to love. Cling to it as if your life depends on it, because it does. Love is the kindling that gets faith and hope going again.
That is what I choose to do, for now. I choose to do what my hands find to do. Do what He places in my life at a specific moment in time. Where I can not be present, my prayers will have to be. That has to be enough, for my prayers will transcend time and space. He knows me, He knows my heart, and that is enough. For today I will choose love. Without it, I will cease to exist.