When Francesco came home on Thursday, he shared this piece of writing with me. While on the plane home from Johannesburg, when rumours that Nelson Mandela had died were flying around in the media, he felt this urgency to reflect on his sense of Madiba’s legacy and what that would mean for him. He drew from a sermon I preached this past Sunday, entitled “Where do you go when you die” and on Chimamanda Adichie’s “The danger of a single story” .
I am so proud to share these beautiful words with you. I pray that it stirs you into joining God’s work of bringing about justice, peace and joy wherever you are.
“In living he gave us hope and in dying he will leave us with the challenge of building on that hope together. When looking at this man – Nelson Mandela – I am not sure whether he was really worried about where he would go when he died. It was rather about what he could do while alive to transform society and create Ubuntu.
In life when things don’t go your way it is easy to look for blame, to spend time trying to understand why these things are happening. These thought are not necessarily a bad thing, but we can end up getting caught in that space, not moving beyond the pain and hurt. Madiba gave us a real life example of what it means to forgive, to embrace diversity and create something new together.
He showed us how to let go of one’s self-perceived right to have been treated better, to let go of the principle of judgement and instead to embrace grace. He had every right to feel aggrieved, to feel like people had to pay for what they had done to him, to feel like he deserved something better. He chose to look forward, to look to what he could do to help transform society and build a new country and world together.
I think Madiba embraced what it meant to look outside of the single story If he had only focused on his own story and what had been done to him and his people then I think things would have been very different. He chose to open himself up to understand other stories and committed himself to creating a new story for this country and the world.
The challenge for us is to move outside of the “single story” mindset for ourselves and others and open ourselves up to hearing and understanding the multiple stories out there and embrace that diversity in the process of creating something new together.
I used to have a story that said I need to do what’s necessary to ensure I get to heaven. I now believe that I need to do what’s necessary to create heaven here on earth. Madiba stepped into places of discomfort and chose others above himself. He showed that there can be extreme power in humility. We can easily feel overwhelmed by the challenge of bringing God’s Kingdom on earth. The world can seem too corrupt or too destructive or too self-centered. The weight of poverty and unemployment and war and environmental decay can seem like too much to overcome. Madiba showed us how the power of one is multiplied through many who embrace that power.
I believe we can make a change in this world and I believe that I can be part of it. This will require opening myself up to other stories and breaking the barriers of comfort that sometimes make it easier to just focus on self.
I don’t know what the future holds but I do know that things need to change. There is a saying that we don’t have to worry about what the future holds as God holds the future. The thing is that God is holding us and we are the future and we need to act in a way to bring about the right kind of future, i.e. God’ s people in God’s place under God’s rule.”