How Do I Move Forward?

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F_Siki

How do I move forward if millions of our people are still living in poverty while some live in excess?

I am talking about my country South Africa which consumes my existence. How do I move forward?

“Forget the former things,” Isaiah writes. “See, I am doing a new thing.”

Forget.

It seems as though there are things I need to forget if I must see a new thing.

I am a firm believer that forgetfulness is highly dangerous. If we actively forget, we must be fully conscious of what we are actively forgetting and why.

Jesus does not want to be forgotten by us. We break bread because He wants to be remembered.

There is a girl I met in Mozambique once. I could not speak Portuguese; neither could she speak English. Our connection happened because we shared a mutual love for style. She was fascinated by my hair. I was intrigued by her exquisite shining black beauty, her eye for style and her creative talent that lay restless beneath her quiet youthful nature. Somehow in our broken communication I managed to learn her name. It was spelt J-I-M-M-I-A. She made me promise with an intensity that left a lump in my throat: “Do not forget me.”

She was an orphan.

If I were not to forget her, at least I had to learn how to spell her name correctly.

I know that I must not forget Jesus. I must not forget Jimmia. But, what must I forget in order to see new things?

Psalm 78 is to me a psalm that recounts the sins of forgetfulness. It demonstrates what happens when people forget. When a nation forgets its past, it slips right back into it and perhaps sinks into a far worse reality.

“… that they might set their hope in God
 and not forget the works of God,
 but keep His commandments,
and they might not be as their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation …” –Psalm 78:7-8a

I met a war journalist last year at the Wild Goose Festival in Hotsprings, North Carolina. She told me she recorded the war in South Africa before our first elections took place. I was taken aback. A war? The situation in our country before the 1994 elections had been one that had caught the attention of international war journalists? The Prince of Peace, however, spoiled the party and covered our nation with peace that surpassed all understanding.

There is no way God would want us to forget that miracle. If we must remember God’s great wonders on that famous miraculous day, then we must remember the events around it so that we may praise Him and tell future generations of His wonderful works. Without the miracle of peace we could not have moved forward. Throughout the Bible the forgetfulness of a new generation always led the nation of Israel to backslide, often into captivity.

In the mornings I often walk to a train station of a suburb where I live in Cape Town. The train stops and hundreds of black bodies disembark from the train and descend towards the suburbs. I am always the only one walking the opposite direction, away from the suburb. We look the same.

I greet as I walk past the old man: “Molo tata.” Hello, father.

“Uyaphi? Siyangapha nje.”

He jokes with me and tells me that I am going the wrong direction.

He confronts my pain jokingly. In so doing, he unburdens me from imagining that I am carrying  the pain alone. He lives it.

The suburb they are walking towards was once classified a whites-only residence. Now, anyone can live there, and I am an example of that. The suburb is still largely a white suburb and every single one of the people who disembark from the train are going to work as domestic workers and as cheaply paid gardeners. They cannot afford to live in that suburb. They most likely live in informal settlements that are often flooded because of winter rains. Sometimes they are destroyed by fires because of a candle that was left burning; an accident that often burns down homes in an entire community. This happens yearly. The informal settlements are simply not safe to live in. Their employers provide them with no medical aid, while the same employers can afford to travel and pay medical bills for their dogs. And yet, in our culture as black South Africans, an animal can never be looked after better than a human being.

The image of watching these dignified men and women walking in numbers to work in white people’s homes is a very difficult image to live with. How is this different from apartheid? How do we move forward with these images that are like mountains refusing to be cast into the sea?

There are more images of race-based inequality in our country than I can count. These images torment my soul. How could such a thing take place in Africa? Should not these men be tilling their own gardens? Generations ago they tilled their own land when the land was theirs.

“Forget the former things, see I am doing a new thing.”

We certainly cannot forget where we came from. Perhaps there is another way. It may be that I need to be captivated by a vision of this new thing that is emerging.

Is it a matter of seeing something new first so that its beauty causes me to forget the former?

The writer in Romans writes “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.” Is it a matter of having my eyes so fixed on the coming joy that the suffering becomes less? It would seem to me that the joy set before Him was a clear image that pulled Him forward through the suffering.

The writer of Hebrews exhorts me by saying: “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.”

This reality only intensifies the tension of living with an ever-present past, yet pressing in for a new vision by refusing to be weighed down by the yoke. It is the tension of being so captivated by a vision of the future that I do not allow the pain to consume me, though it is ever present.

These tensions then are not easy. I believe that the secret lies in walking so close to Jesus that I know what to forget and what to remember and when.

It is a walk with a living Saviour not a formula of a once upon a time saviour. It is with this belief that if I must walk forward, I must walk so closely with Him that I must know the sound of His footsteps so that I can tell when He is about to pause. I must lie so close to His chest that I must become one with His heart. I cannot otherwise see how else I can possibly walk forward towards seeing the second miracle. A miracle we must remember because just as it was dangerous for the Biblical Israel to forget the works of God in their nation; it is dangerous for us in South Africa to despise or to forget our miracle moment.

I have much to ponder between now and going forward. For now, I need to hit the pause button.

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