I thought it would help to be out on the water. I was wrong. A whole night of futile fishing has left me feeling more frustrated than sitting at home waiting for Jesus to appear. Hadn’t he told us to wait for him in Galilee? We did that. We waited. Then we waited some more. Last night I couldn’t bear it any longer. “I’m going fishing,” I announced, and wasn’t particularly pleased when everyone wanted to come along.
Today, we celebrate Heritage Day in South Africa. It’s a day to both honour the rich cultural diversity of our nation, and to consider and celebrate the family and societal influences that have shaped us as individuals.
Many of my fellow South Africans speak of it as “Braai-Day”, a braai (or barbeque) being a common culinary event in our warm, outdoor lifestyle, and a big part of our shared cultural heritage (a township style braai is called a shisanyama, the word literally meaning ‘hot meat’).
But I chose to make today about more than just ‘pap, chops and wors’. I used it as a time for reflection. I looked backwards at the heritage passed down to me as a child of immigrants from the Netherlands. I also looked forwards, reflecting on the heritage I hope to leave my children and grandchildren. Then I dreamed bigger still, and envisioned the legacy I hope we South Africans can collectively leave to the generations that follow us.
Trouble-maker. That was my impression when I first heard of Rabbi Jesus. He swept into Capernaum as if he owned it. His presence drew the sick and downtrodden from as far as Tyre and Sidon into our once peaceful town. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the fervent Pharisees came too, their somber, superior presence sowing nothing but disquiet.
I’m an upright and reserved woman and I tell you honestly that I didn’t like the sound of this rabbi and the rabble following him. Had Simon brought him home on any other day, I would have given my son-in-law a good tongue-lashing and suggested the rabbi finds another town to disrupt.
Who would have thought that a global pandemic could teach me to trust God more fully and live for him wholeheartedly?
Initially, I was not personally impacted by the encroaching pandemic, but it didn’t take long before Covid-19 stalked into my life. The hospital at which my daughter is an Occupational Therapist began to see cases of it, and I felt a growing concern for her. A friend lost her father to the disease. My husband was retrenched as the economic repercussions of lockdown were felt. My youngest daughter’s ongoing battle with anxiety intensified and lead to her dropping out of University.
On the day our sons chose a rabbi over him, my husband was furious.
I remember well how he stormed in, his expression darker than a sea squall, to tell me that some young rabbi had walked past the boat just as they were preparing the nets for the next day’s fishing. This rabbi stopped and looked at James and John, almost as if he knew them, even though Zebedee swore he had never laid eyes on the man before. Then the rabbi called out ‘come follow me’ as if he had every right to their time, hardly giving their father—who they owed their very lives to—a chance to object. What made Zebedee the angriest of all, was how quickly James and John dropped their nets and left him sitting there alone, without so much as a backward glance.
I watch the sun dropping down to the hills and the shadows lengthening. Clouds on the horizon catch the orange and red tones of the setting sun. A small breeze, cool against my cheeks, ripples over the water, gently bobbing the boat up and down. It’s a welcome relief from the cloying heat of the day, hotter than any I recall from my years fishing these waters. But then sitting in a tethered boat as Jesus speaks to the crowd, isn’t exactly the same as sailing. I gaze out at the enraptured faces, softened by the last light of the day, and realise that despite the heat, none of us would have chosen to be anywhere but here.
It was Shimri who told me about a Jewish rabbi rumoured to have healed a leper. Of course I wanted to believe it to be true. Any leper would. But, when he told me that this rabbi Jesus had healed the man by touching him, I knew the story had to be false. No-one touches a leper.
No-one has touched me for years.
Even now I have to swallow back tears as I recall the last time Anatu drew me into an embrace. I wanted to warn her not to, but instead I cried into her hair, breathing in the smell of oil and nettles. When we finally drew apart and she held out the baby for me to cradle one last time, I shook my head. The risk was too great. Continue reading
I lean against the pillar and stare gloomily out over the waters of Bethesda. Even in the shade of the portico, the midday heat accosts me. The press of people here—muttering or groaning or beseeching the angel to come—irks me more than usual. I have lain by these pools longer than all of them. Too many years to recall, in fact. I have patiently waited my turn to reach the stirred waters first, never doubting the power of the pool. Others have come and gone, some healed, some disillusioned. But I’ve always clung to the hope that my turn for healing would come.
It should have been today, but I was robbed! Fresh anger clenches inside me. Continue reading
Anxiety has been gnawing at me lately. It particularly loves the 4 a.m. time slot. Then, like vultures circling above a kill, the anxious thoughts loop around and around and around my mind. I can generally shake them off during the course of the day, but they return before the crack of dawn to wake me up with their intrusive clamouring. Continue reading