Chapter three opens with Chiens story, one toxic mess…and so I decided to share my own story…
Here is an extract from the Limitless Life, a book by Derwin Gray that prompted me to write this post about messes…
According to the Jesus Story, God was there and was using Chien’s messy circumstances to draw Chien to Himself. Every ounce of fear, pain, and brokenness Chien experienced, Jesus experienced too—on the cross. All pain, all hopelessness, and all suffering for all time for every person was absorbed into Jesus at Calvary. No wonder Jesus said, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39).
I’m South African. If you are unfamiliar with the struggles of my country then let me give you a short description. I lived during the apartheid era. Where non whites were oppressed and made to feel anything but worthy. The label : INFERIOR was carved deep into my soul most of my life…but I now see clearly that all my circumstances allowed me to be moulded into God’s Master piece. I was clay in the Potters hands, each circumstance created a dent in me but the end result is priceless.
I’m of Indian descent. My great grandfather and his family were enslaved and shipped over to South Africa to work in the sugar cane plantations. They lived in extreme poverty, working for a pittance. All the basic human necessities that we live with now were absent. My mother had to carry water over long distances from a river to provide drinking water as well as the other uses for bathing and cleaning. Electricity was not running through their mud huts. Her life was hard, she didn’t have the fanciness of choosing a dress or shoes for the day. Having a dress that was not worn out and having your feet shod with shoes meant you had more than enough. To make matters worse the money that her dad earned was spent on alcohol and he abused my grandmother. My mum escaped the madness and fled…ended up working as a maid for good people who took her in and considered her their daughter. They also arranged her marriage to my father. (Yes, traditional Indian customs of arranged marriages were carried over to South Africa)
My three siblings and I are the products of that marriage union. We lived under better circumstances than my mother. My father worked hard and provided for his family. Our house was small but in Africa it’s a palace in comparison to what others live in. We lived in the designated Indian areas. I attended an all Indian school and we conformed to the white government ruling. Unlike the black population we followed Mahatma Gandhi’s “Satyagraha” passive resistance movement. This movement evolved in my hometown Pietermaritzburg before I was born and I am grateful for it. Indians fought but it was all done in non violence…a fight to block discriminatory legislation by the Natal Parliament which sought to disenfranchise Indians. Gandhi made huge changes with the ‘truth force’ by simply marching through restricted areas and getting arrested thereby flooding prisons and going on work strikes. After General Smuts finally approved certain laws that at least gave us some standing, we became a peaceful community once again. However we still eked out an existence in silence, straining under the burden of an oppressive government.
I hated it… all the crime, constantly living I fear. We were never allowed to leave the confines of our homes and walk freely through streets. You were always looking over your shoulder. Why? Because you could get raped and murdered and then be dumped in a bush somewhere. You could die from someone trying to steal your bread money on your way to the supermarket. We walked together in numbers, whether it was to school and back. We kept dogs, not as pets but as body guards. We had burglar guards over our windows and doors, in actuality, we made our homes prisons. Crime escalated to such an extent, you actually became immune to stories of hijackings, rape cases, break in’s. It became the norm…
I remember my life as a kid…it was always hand me downs from my sisters. We rarely got anything new. When my dad got his bonus at year end that’s when we got something pretty to wear, instead of presents under a Christmas tree. I also remember times of hardship especially when my fathers terminal polycystic kidneys had him on early retirement. Life got hard, putting a meal on the table was difficult. However I remember my mum, when in excess she gave stuff away to others in need. We always had our homes filled with family (even her mother and abusive father). We didn’t need to have a guest room, a knock on the door and my mum would take them in and put out a bed anywhere. We had them sleeping on floors in our tiny bedrooms. You never questioned it being any other way, you just accepted it.
My life is riddled with so many struggles where toxic feelings emerged. Bitterness, hatred, anger, feelings of inadequacy that I never amount to anything and that this was my plight in life…life became messy! I never felt “good enough”. I never had nice clothes. I was always comparing myself with others. However I was always reminded that someone else had it worse and to stop feeling sorry for myself. Even if my school shoes started to wear out from use and were getting holes…I had to make it last till the year was out. It didn’t matter if my school uniform was discolored as it was second hand or hand me downs from my sisters, you had to make it last. No fancy clothes and wearing the latest styles…if you could afford it, well good for you, if you didn’t, like my family, you just got what was needed. If you complained, you were reminded that in comparison to your parents, you had it so good so keep quiet and stop sulking. The one constant was my mum making sure we attended church. Irrespective of what was happening at home, we got dressed and sat under the Word.
I still carried those toxic feelings through my schooling and later when I started working. Things got whole lot worse from my own mistakes after that and the circumstances I created, trying to get accepted by joining the wrong crowd of people and trying to make up for the lack when growing up.
When I was at my lowest I cried to God and he met me at my point of need. I was financially struggling and the relationships I made were keeping me in shackles. I met my husband after leaving Pietermaritzburg and starting a job in Johannesburg. Falling in love and being accepted with no color barriers was truly amazing especially in a country where you are shunned and it was taboo to engage in inter-racial relationships. Moving here to Germany and living in a predominantly white community…still amazes me sometimes.
Another extract….from Limitless Life
So, where is God in the midst of this messy world that messes up our lives? He is orchestrating His universe with wisdom and care, not from a remote planet, but right next to us, suffering as we suffer. He is bringing about His purposes through the decisions we make and through every circumstance.
I have stopped being selfish and feeling sorry for myself. I support my siblings in need, my mum after my dad died and other family members. I also support the struggling communities back in my hometown. I could buy stylish clothes and shoes and follow the latest fashion trends (which is what I so wanted when I was growing up and I admit I did do it for a while) but now I rather invest it wisely after all everything belongs to The Lord. My life taught me to help others with their messy lives.
Pictures from above were from the birthday celebration of my daughter Leah. There was no birthday party last year for her…the monies were sent to Pietermaritzburg to help with the projects. I never had a birthday party as my parents couldn’t afford it. I pray that when she comes to an age of understanding that she decides she wants to have it done this way every year.
To wrap it up I’m in total agreement with what Derwin says…there are no surprises with God…He knew where and what needed to happen in my life to get me to this point. I had to walk through the many messes to get to where I am now. I encourage you sister in The Lord to use your life’s messes to bring Him glory!