You know when you write a post about one thing and then it appears your original post had a subtext, waiting to be explored further. This is one of those times.
Yesterday I wrote about healing as we read in Mark’s gospel. The miraculous healing of a rich, religious person’s daughter and then the miraculous healing of the bleeding woman. I touched on the obvious theme of healing no matter who you are or what your background is.
But another theme of the text which I didn’t explore was ‘touch’. In both situations, Jesus healed through touch.
Yesterday I also posted an article on Facebook from the City Press written by a white male about raising the consciousness levels of white South Africans in the aftermath of Apartheid. If you want to read the article you can here – I don’t want to add my flavour to his words by summarising. Needless to say, there was a backlash, not all bad, but the comments section on the article itself is heart breaking.
This is a deeply contentious issue. I have heard many people say things like ‘it’s time to move on’, ‘apartheid is over’. Only … it’s not. Not really. One of the many things I have come to realise since arriving at the seminary is how little we know and understand of one another. Black, white, male, female, Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana, English, Afrikaans – we are still a deeply divided society on all levels not only race. Sure we can apportion blame or look to apportion blame, ‘it’s not our fault, we didn’t cause apartheid’, and ‘THEY need to wake up and shake up’, but apportioning blame is not going to move us forward, neither is demonizing one another or using hurtful, destructive language.
What will move us forward and help us to heal is contained in Jesus’ healing narratives, that of touch, love. When I touch you, I see you. I acknowledge you and your hurt. I learnt an important lesson many years ago when my world fell apart and I suffered a broken heart and a broken soul – One of the most damaging things said to me was ‘it’s time to move on’. I couldn’t. Not until time and reflection and healing had begun at a pace that was significant for me. I learnt that driving my pain deeply underground didn’t make it heal faster, it made it fester longer. Healing is not something we control. We can just aid the process by being aware that it is necessary.
South Africa is hurt. And asking her people to ‘move on’, without touching and acknowledging her hurt, offering a hand in compassion will not help us move forward. This is an ugly and scary situation for many people make no mistake, but for those of us who long for peace and justice for all, expecting ‘miraculous’ healing without touch is like asking for a child without birthing pains. It’s a wonderful ideal but not very realistic. We need to face one another head on and talk.
I have a friend here at the seminary who is openly not very fond of us white folks. He tells us so. One night he made a comment about how there is no place for white people here, whilst I stood as a lone white person in the circle. A little later I went up to him, put my arm around him and said ‘friend, what you said hurt my feelings’. He was mortified and hugging me tight told me, ‘you’re different, I was not talking about you’. But he was. Because I am white. But also because we are friends, because we love each other as colleagues and fellow seminarians he didn’t think to put me in the ‘bracket’.
Touch. It’s about touch. It’s about getting to know one another. It’s about seeing one another as human beings and acknowledging the wounds – becoming ‘aware’ as Alistair said, aware that we are dealing with a wounded adolescent, an abused child. If we want to heal the child we should encourage her to speak and to cry and to mourn and to rebuild trust, slowly. Our democracy is still young. Our healing has far to go.
There are no easy answers and no quick fixes to this problem, but as a starting point, I want to listen to what my friends say about how they feel about our country, about fellow ‘Africans’. I want to listen to people who are brave enough to talk about this. God knows I am terrified of letting my ignorant self be seen and heard when it comes to matters of politics and culture in our young democracy. How can I have lived in this country most of my adult life (I spent 10 years abroad) and not know what makes you happy, sad, what drives you, why your worldview is so totally different from mine? How, because we still live in the shadow of segregation, one that we are too wounded and too fragile to see or deal with – on all sides I am guessing, but for totally different reasons.
We can’t force people to love each other and a country, a community is made up of individuals, hurt people, brave people, angry people – trying to unify each and every person to a common view-point is unrealistic, but … we can be loving without agreeing, we can start listening to each other without dismissing each other out right. If I am not given an opportunity to hear all sides of the story I will never be able to embrace the light and the dark, the beauty and the ashes that is my HOME. Africa, South Africa, my home. And I want more than anything for her to heal. I don’t want to be shouted down or silenced because my view is not complete, because I don’t *really* understand what has happened. I want to understand and I can only understand if you allow me the space to say ‘This is what I see, this is what I experience, will you trust me enough to let me get near enough to touch and learn?’
If miraculous healing comes through faith and hope and touch and open minded communication (think Jairus), then maybe, just maybe, South Africa has hope for miraculous healing too. I am not ready to give up just yet and so I remain open to listening and engaging and having those dreadfully awkward and difficult conversations which display my ignorance and vulnerability so that you too can display vulnerability and help me to ‘see’.
My prayer is that we would be brave enough to touch each other with humility, compassion and open minded vulnerability.
That is my prayer.
That is my hope.