Category: Story


Die laaste jaar of wat was, en hou aan om te wees, moeilik. Ek is diep oortuig van my roeping om vir God in die kerk te werk. Ten einde om te antwoord op die roeping het ek oor die laaste dekade van my lewe honderde duisende rande spandeer en baie uur opgeoffer. Elke sent en elke minuut was, en is, die moeite werd. Nou wag ek vir ‘n geleentheid om my roeping, passie, en gawes uit te leef, al meer as twaalf maande lank.

 Elke tweede week wag ek vir die Kerkbode om te sien waar nuwe poste oopgaan, elke tweede week doen ek aansoek vir poste in Gauteng, in die Kaap, in die stad, op die platteland, in Suid-Afrika, in Namibië, vir vol poste, kontrakposte, en jeugwerkposte. Saam met elke dekbrief wat geskryf word en elke CV wat by ‘n epos aangeheg word, ontstaan daar die hoop dat dit dalk die plek is waar ek en my vrou op ‘n besonderse manier deel van ‘n gemeenskap kan raak.

 En dan kom die ontnugtering. Meeste van die tyd word die aansoek nie eers erken nie, so 10 – 15% van gemeentes antwoord op die aansoek, en uiteindelik; die teleurstelling van ‘n onsuksesvolle aansoek. Weereens word dit in min gevalle gekommunikeer en moet ‘n mens maar in die Kerkbode lees dat die pos gevul is. Daar waar die “jammer-jy-is-onseksusvol-maar-die-Here-weet-waar-Hy-jou-wil-gebruik-briefie-seen-vir-jou-bediening-brief” wel kom verpletter die hoop van dalk-die-keer verpletter in ‘n jammer-jy-is-nie-goed-genoeg nie.

 En ja, ons almal verstaan dat baie mense aansoek doen, en ja dat elkeen nie noodwendig die regte fit is nie, maar dit is moeilik om dit nie persoonlik op te neem nie. Roeping en teologie is nie iets wat apart staan van ‘n persoon se diepste kern nie, altans nie vir my nie. My teologie kom vanuit my diepste oortuiging, my roeping is deel van my kern identiteit, en wie ek is en wat ek doen is die resultaat van my geloof in Christus en Sy werk in my lewe. So na ‘n jaar se onsuksesvol-briewe en geen antwoorde is dit baie moeilik om aansoek te doen vir nóg ‘n pos met die wete dat dit dalk kan einde in nóg ‘n nee.

 En dan die bemoedigende woordjies, “hou net aan hoop”, “hou net aan glo”, “die Here laat alles ten goede mee werk” ensovoorts. Dit help nie, dit werk nie. Na studieskuld en lewensonkoste en ‘n gebrek aan ander werk, as deel van die werklose statistiek, is ek finansieel kniediep in die moeilikheid en die uurglas se sandjies baie laag. Moed hou, aan hou glo ten midde van ‘n oenskynlik onafwendbare krisis, skuldgat, en op straat sit, en 62 siklusse van hoop en verpletterde hoop is ‘n baie waterige soppie.

 En natuurlik is daar die ander klompie stemme. “Dit is jou eie skuld”, “jy is nie betrokke by ‘n gemeente nie”, “gaan plant ‘n kerk”, “doen iets anders”, “gaan na jou ouerhuis toe en raak betrokke by jou tuisgemeente”, “proponent is te kieskeurig” en “jy wil nie werklik werk nie”, en “dit is nou maar hoe dit is, dit is die lewe” ensovoorts. Hoe genadeloos, sonder liefde, en arrogant kan ‘n mens raak. Niemand praat van proponent, soos myself, wat aansoek doen vir kelner werk, koffie rep werk, bel sentrum werk, HR posisies en vele meer nie. Niemand dink aan die proponent wat elke geleentheid om te werk aangryp nie, al is dit soos in my geval om, op ‘n maand kontrak, in ‘n industriele wassery te werk. Die vraag is uiteindelik wat is ek, en ander proponente bereid om te doen?

 Die antwoord is redeilk maklik, ons is bereid om enige iets te doen, om selfs uitgebuit te word. Ons wil dien, ons wil werk, ons wil antwoord op ons roeping. Ek byvoorbeeld, en ek is seker baie ander proponent, is bereid om as ‘n jeugwerker te werk teen ‘n klein salaries. Ek is nie ‘n student nie, ek het bietjie meer opleiding as hulle en selfs ‘n bietjie meer lewenservaring, maar nietemin is ek bereid om te werk teen ‘n student se salaries, want dit gee aan my ‘n stukkie menswardigheid terug. Ek is bereid om in gemeentes te werk teen ‘n kwart of ‘n derde salaries en nogsteeds ‘n voldag in te sit. Hoekom, dit help dit gemeente, dit gee my ‘n plek om my roeping uit te leef en te dien, dit gee ook ‘n stukkie menswardigheid terug. Ek is bereid om in ‘n kerkkantoor te werk, die vaktotum te wees wat so af en toe preek, ek is bereid om die dominee of dominees van die gemeente te ondersteun, ek is bereid om meer as een gemeente te dien wat nie ‘n dominee kan bekostig nie. Ons moet ook eet, maar geld is was nog nooit die oorweging vir dien nie. En as ek nie in die kerk werk kry nie, is ek bereid om enige iets te doen wat ‘n salarissie verdien, om in die eerste plek te dien in my familie, om te sorg dat my vrou en kind(ers) versorg is, om my roeping ten volle uit te leef in die kleinste en intiemste vorm van kerk.

 En dit is dalk die grootste frustrasie om te weet wat die diepte van my bereidheid is, om my tyd en energie selfs gratis aan te bied (wat ek en ander proponent al gedoen het), en nogsteeds nie ‘n geleentheid te kry nie. En na die soveelste onsuksesvolle aansoek kom die gedagte; dalk is die enigste uitweg die keuse is tussen selfmoord of die moord van roeping. Tog is selfmoord nooit ‘n opsie nie, en hoe vermoor ‘n mens ‘n roeping sonder om selfmoord te pleeg? En dan staan ‘n mens maar op in die oggend, struikel voort in die woestyn, en gaan slaap aan die einde van die dag met ‘n terugblik wat nog ‘n dag van genade en hoop openbaar. Maranatha

It seems that the one constant on internet forums, at least as far as religious dialogues go, is intolerance for the other opinion. Believers don’t gladly suffer non-believers and vice versa, Christians versus Atheists, Muslims and even other Christians, and again vice versa.

Christians so often take a type of spiritual high ground, claiming to know something or at least someone that the others don’t. Sometimes they even claim to know something of someone which other Christians don’t. A subjective understanding is mistaken for an absolute acquaintance and intimate knowledge of the ultimate mystery. It seems the humbleness of the Rabbi is forgotten.

Non-believers, on the other hand, often retreat into the bastion of reason. From here they lob high-handed pronouncements, often in the form of insults, to the so called dim-witted, superstitious believers who hold on, according to them, to worldviews and other opinions that was already thrown out with yesterday’s trash.

Why is it that these forums are so often riddled by an intolerant few? I would like to venture two reasons although I am certain there are many more that can be considered. Firstly, it seems that any chest-beating is accompanied by a certain sense of insecurity, that 0.0001% of doubt that creeps in during the quiet of the night. A sense that maybe, just maybe, we are not quite as right, quite as absolute as we would like to be; a nagging sense that there might be more to the universe, the world, and even transcended, at least other, realities to my own. With all the data we are bombarded with every day, it is almost impossible not to acknowledge that the model we build and the narratives we construct does not 100% reflect Reality nor Narrative. This begs the question, is there such a thing as Reality or Narrative and, if there is, can we have objective, maybe even subjective, access to it?

It does however seem that the more and louder the chest-beating seems to be, the louder and challenging our own insecurities is, at least as far as the way we build our models and narrate our stories.

Secondly, it seems that we suffer from a good dose, maybe a severe overdose, of arrogance. We simply know. Contrary to the postulation that we might not have the free access to the Reality that we think we have, we construct from the perspective that we do not only have access to Reality but that we have unbridled, objective, and absolute access. It seems that we think that we can transcend ourselves in order to be completely objective and have the language ability to formulate the exactness of the Reality without limiting it. Of course only the I and those who agree exactly with the I has this ability. What is interesting is the assumption that we can transcend our own subjectivity at will, but that something Transcendent can’t exist.

Thus, maybe it is time we should all heed the call of the ancients and the contemporaries, from Confucius, The Buddha, Jesus Christ, Florence Nightingale, Dorothy Day, Karen Armstrong, and The Dalai Lama that the mark of an adult person who lives with happiness and contentment in his/her skin, one would be able to argue, in her/his own faith, is the ability to live with the Golden Rule, with compassion. And if you are wondering what this rule is, here it is in its positive form: Do onto others as you would like them do onto you, this might just lead to dialogues where we listen to others and really hear them, rather than construct what they are saying from our own preconceived ideas.

I wish I could promise you prosperity, wealth, and health. This, however, is not my privilege. What I can promise you is more fragile, more vulnerable, more humanish.

I promise you, my Love, that I will always be human with you.

That when things are going well, I’ll laugh with you.

When things are going not so great, I’ll cry with you.

When you feel alone, I’ll hold you.

When you need space, I’ll grant you as much as you need.

When you need support, I’ll be there to cheer you on every step of the way.

When we experience the dizzy heights of life, I’ll celebrate it with you

And when we struggle through the valleys, I’ll hold your hand no matter what.

I promise you, most beautiful of woman, to make you part of every part of my being.

My strengths and my weaknesses.

My fears and my hopes.

My joys and my hurts.

My tears of sorrow and tears of joy.

Ultimately the only thing I can promise you is a lifetime’s journey together with you.

I promise that I will undertake this journey with you with honesty, authenticity, integrity, compassion, and love.

 

In the original Afrikaans

Geskryf deur Fourie Rossouw

 Jy moet regtig lief he.
Delete jou junkmail folder gereeld.
Opgradeer jou anit-virus program.
Hou jou besig met goeie goed.
Nooi jou buurman oor vir ‘n braai.
As jy die sypaadjie voor jou huis se gras sny, sny jou buurvrou s’n ook.
Moenie opgee nie. Byt vas. Doen wat God van jou vra.
Wees opgewonde oor al die nuwe moontlikhede.
As dinge rof gaan, staan sterk.
Praat gereeld met God.
Help waar jy kan.
Deel uit wat jy het.
As iemand iets lelik aan jou doen, moet dan nie dink jy het ‘n rede om te skinder te nie.
Sommige mense is hartseer, ander is gelukkig. Leef altyd met deernis en empatie.
Moenie so windgat wees nie.
Luister vir ‘n slag.
Moenie jou swembadwater in jou buurman se groente tuin laat afloop nie.
As jou buurman ‘n poepol is, moenie jy dan ook een wees nie.
As dit vir jou moontlik is, probeer om van almal te hou.
Laat God worry oor hulle wat jou te na kom. Laat jou woede staan.
Maak vrede. Vergewe.
Wees ‘n geniunely nice teenoor hulle wat nie van jou hou nie. Niks is meer irriterend as dit nie!
Moenie dat die donker jou baas word nie.

Wees die donker se baas deur in die lig te lewe.

We live in an age, somewhere post modernism, after the demise of meta-narratives, somehow knowing where we are not and desperately trying to figure out where exactly we are. This short sketch is an attempt to struggle with the “exactly where we are”. I propose three common denominators for the age we live in, Digital, Networked, and Anthropocene.

Without a doubt two of the most significant developments during the late 20th century was the personal computer, which Taleb signifies as a Black Swan Event, and the web, another of those Black Swans. The Web made it’s debut during 1989 and it spread to offices and homes by 1994. Digital cameras arrived on the scene in 1990, cellphones during 1977, cellphones with cameras during 1999, chatrooms opened it’s doors during 1980, Facebook launched 2004, Twitter 2006 and an ever increasing list of portals where digital data is created and stored. The mere act of using the internet during 2011 will create more digital data about an user than the user him-/herself can generate. The dawn of the digital age broke over the earth during 2002 when more digital data was generated than analogue data. 2011 will see another 1.8 zettabytes of data created, 33% more than 2010, or in other words, the equivalent of 57.5 billion 32GB Apple iPads filled with data. Enough to build a technological wall of China, as long and as wide, but twice as high. We truly live in a digital world.

One of the mainstays of the digital era is the hubs, nodes, linking datacables, and wifi signals that create a vast Network of 1’s and 0’s. The network(s) that underlie the digital world is not merely a bunch of microchips and optic fibre, but creates an environment which allows not only digital communication and data creation, but for interactions in the “real” world with very “real” implications. We use networks to order our lives, from buying food to organizing social get togethers, from insiting revolution on the one side of the planet to exploiting the planet on the other side, from building community with family and friends vast distances away to destroying communities close by. Today more than ever before do we realize that we are part of a vast network, both digitally and naturally, where technology matters but networks far exceed the virtual world. It seems there might be truth in the saying that when a butterfly flaps it’s wings in America, it creates a tropical storm in the Orient, a truly networked society.

Last, but not least, is the realization that we live in a day an age, a biosphere where the activities of man(!)kind is shaping the very space we live in. It’s been suggested that a case can be made that we are living in the Anthropocene, a new geological age or even a new geological epoch alltogether. If the suggested Anthropocene is an age it falls under the epoch Holocene. If not and it is recognize as an epoch in its own right, it follows on the Holocene that started approximately 10 000 years ago after the end of the Pleistocene and falls under the period Quaternary, which started an estimated 2.6 million years ago. The term was coined by ecologist Eugene Stoermer and widely popularized by the atmospheric chemist, Paul Crutzen. The Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London deemed the proposal, to formally accept the Anthropocene as part of the Geological Time Scale, as having merit and thus the proposed addition of the Anthropocene is currently being studied. Accepted or not, we are living in an age where (wo)mankind has an ever increasing impact on the world around us.

The age we are experiencing at the moment often leaves us gasping for air, scrambling for descriptive words. There might be many such word and concepts out there, however, I want to welcome you to… the Digital Networked Anthropocen (DNA).

What a meeting! Arriving at the airport well in advance of my travelling fellows, getting the SARS export/import form stamped and grabbing the first few places in the check in queue for the group, I get ready to wait. The third person to arrive is an Egyptian and we soon strike up a conversation. This was prompted by me sharing information about the free wrapping service offered by EgyptAir just around the corner. He is amazed, this he tells me, does not happens in Egypt, there you pay for getting your bag wrapped.

At the first the conversation whirls around the relevant topics of our worlds, what we do, where we live, the differences between South Africa and Egypt and his take on the revolution in Egypt, surprising and thought provoking, so much different to what I experienced from the comfort of my sitting room passively partaking in it.

During the conversation, on and off as members of my travelling group arrives, he gets a name, Ramy Samir. He is a Protestant, the son of a Coptic Christian and married to a Catholic believer, an ecumenical household to say the very least. Just as we say good bye, for now, Ramy invites me to contact him when I am in Cairo on Good Friday with the promise to take me to church with his family. What a priviledge!

  1. Write this list
  2. Make meditation a habit for every day, 30 minutes a bare minimum, but why stop there? In short: speak less, listen more.
  3. Read more. Include at least two classics, a cookbook, a book on travelling and a book picked out by a friend.
  4. Visit the places that are mentioned in the book, make the recipes and share the insights of the book picked by a friend.
  5. Run more, cycle more and swim more. Be active. Open the lungs, take note of every breath, the essence of my life.
  6. Connect more. Once again, in short, listen more to others. What is important to them? What is your answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything? Or, what is your question to the answer 42?
  7. Watch the diet, cut on the fries, the soft drinks and the chocolate. Add on the fruit, fibres and water.
  8. Strive for balance. Not only in regards to the diet, but life as a whole. Know when to work, and then work hard. Know when to play, and then play hard. Know when to rest, and then rest hard.
  9. Sleep less! We sleep too much.
  10. Chill, and know: it is ok to not be ok. Grace is abundant!

Why do we (I) believe?

This seems to be an easy question; that is till we buckle down to real honesty and square with the eyes that reflects back at us from the mirror. What does my faith mean to me?

The easy answer is of course that I am the chosen of God, bought by the blood of Christ and gifted by the Holy Spirit. This is true and an answer to be satisfied with, especially if you are from the Reformed variety of the Christian faith. Everything is indeed grace; God’s gift in Christ.

Another approach is to confuse the why with what and try to answer the question with rational and reason. The answer does not sound much different from the one above. The biggest difference being that the formulation might be slightly more formal; slightly expanded into three volumes (if you are shrewd or learned enough).

Philosophy of religion, psychology, theology of religion, sociology and maybe even biology and genetics might offer answers to this question from different angles. These can range from things like a genetic pre-programming to think in terms of the metaphysical (the God-gene), the context in which we were born and raised to a Freudian interpretation of religion as a whole. You might agree or disagree with a number of these approaches but it might be that you still believe, even after the theories, and that the question asks on yet a deeper level.

In my mind the reason I believe is a mixture of all of these factors with a good deal of grace, however when I look myself in the eye, the question change from the factors forming believe in me to the purpose of my faith, and this is where honesty starts to hurt. This is where Jesus confronts me with my own agenda. Is my faith used to merely further my own cause, justify my own way of thinking, my domination of the other, my thirst for power and status or is the purpose of my faith to serve others, to allow justice to happen through me, to be a voice for those without a voice and to further the cause of the One whom worked the faith in me.

Why do I believe? I believe because a vision that was granted me in grace. This vision is at the same time is the reason and the purpose of my faith. It calls me to action, asks of me to evaluate my behaviour, to live not for myself but for the other, to keep the focus on the One who is the vision. It opens me to community, to share and receive vision(s). What is this vision? What is the cause of the One who grants this vision?

In my understanding? To love God and your neighbour like yourself.

In search of our Story.

“How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people”  –  Albert Einstein

We are beset by two questions: Who am I and where do I belong? The first question is answered in “my story” and the second is answered by a “master story”. My story is a fairly easy thing to write with some thought and time. It starts at birth, ambles through early childhood, primary and secondary school, maybe university, marriage or not, hobbies and interest and continues to the day of our death.

My story however has the danger to start floating in space if it is not connected to something more; to a Master Story.  It is clear from Einstein that we sense this Master Story but we are not to clear on what it is. We do know that this story will always include that we exist for others.

This aspect I think is being denied by the popular Master Story of the day. It seems that people today use their existence as motivation for self gratification and advancement at the cost of others. The prevalent paradigm is not that I exist for others but that they exist for me. Evolution and the “survival of the fittest” maxim become the pillars of thought and the critique of a God-centre must be destroyed at all cost. The goal becomes a nihilistic quest for satisfaction before death ends it all. This Master Story is essentially a self-centred story.

The counter culture Master Story is that of a God-centred story. People are acknowledge as being more than mere animals; entities that is created in the image of Community. It acknowledges that we do not live primarily for ourselves but that we live for others. Death is not an end but a transition to something other. The Master Story of faith gives hope and purpose; it focuses us on the other.

In a world that is besieged by all kinds of crises; we could do worse than to take to heart the advice of Einstein that “only a life lived for others is worth living”. It might solve some of our problems, not immediately, but in the long run; problems of the community, economics, environmental and maybe even the self.