By Cherie-Lynn van der Merwe
As I write this, I feel tension arise within as yet another round of Stage 4 Load shedding is announced. In a country where things like the closure of businesses, unemployment, poverty, corruption, alternative power and climate change are daily buzzwords, it is becoming increasingly apparent that something needs to change. But where do we begin?
Perhaps we must return to the basics and figure out the purpose of this living, moving, evolving creation we find ourselves in is all about. Why is it here? Why am I here?
When St Ignatius wrote his Spiritual Exercises, he began by succinctly describing the basis from which he saw we should understand our context, purpose, and even ourselves:
The human person is created to praise, reverence and serve God our Lord, and by so doing save his or her soul; and it is for the human person that the other things on the face of the earth are created, as helps to the pursuit of this end. (#23)
Every human being has value precisely because the One who created us wants a relationship with us. Furthermore, everything that forms part of the natural world also has value, precisely because it has been created to assist us to live out this relationship.
If we are to recognise these values, then a radical change in attitude is required. It is easy to see things such as corruption as the disease of the wealthy and well-connected. Still, the same arrogance and self-centeredness is within each of us when we decide that we are more entitled to a service or resource than another person is, based on our position of influence.
Arrogance and self-centeredness are also present when we misuse a natural resource because we do not recognise its carefully balanced place in creation.
What of our personal value? Each of us is created with particular gifts and talents. Gifts are not given to us because God has favourites. Gifts are given to be used for the greater good of all God’s creation to glorify God. If we choose to withhold our gifting, we not only deprive ourselves of the opportunity to share our full value, but we also undervalue the rest of creation by depriving it of what the Creator provides through us.
All of these things begin with one thought, which leads to an action (or inaction), potentially affecting another person or creation in some way.
How we think and live and work is as much an individual matter as it is a societal matter.
So back to the question, where do we begin?
I want to suggest that we all need to build into our lives regular times of personal introspection during which we ask ourselves deep and sometimes difficult questions:
- What motivates my goals, attitudes, actions, hopes and dreams – are they self-centred, God-centred or influenced by others?
- What have I begun to take for granted – possessions, positions, relationships, God?
- What have I not done that I ought to do? Have I remained silent when I should speak out? Have I thought carefully enough about who I elect to places of influence? Do I honour responsibilities bestowed on me?
- What do I value the most at present, and how is that influencing my decision-making, attitude, action and faith? Is this value causing me inner turmoil, and if so, what needs to change?
Whatever your findings, bring them to God with openness and generosity. Allow your Creator to interact with you and show you the Creator’s hope and vision.
This may feel like a far cry from the enormous challenges we are facing at present. But change begins with a thought, a hope and very often returning to the basics of connecting with the Creator. Societal change starts with one person at a time. What role may God be inviting you to play?