In December we have a pretty unshakable routine year after year, we never go away because its peak season, places are crowded and expensive, and it’s at it’s very hottest in Sunny South Africa. We do however plan many activities with the kids and try our best to spend quality time with them.
One such outing was to a spot we dearly love to go to, an outdoor bike park overlooking a Game Reserve, where antelope and warthogs roam freely. There is a lovely restaurant at the top of the hill, with the most gorgeous deck overlooking it all, I love to sit there and read a book or look at the view, and watch the kids enjoy themselves on their bicycles.
I place our order, the kids want chocolate milkshakes and the adults their cappuccinos, the milkshakes for the kids arrive first, accompanied by their standard issue paper straws that seem so popular these days. As someone who is keenly aware of the environment, I am so thrilled that so many restaurants are taking things seriously and reducing their plastic consumption.
Just as I am thinking this, our cappuccinos arrive, and what do I spot sitting there next to the cup, on the saucer? Plastic spoons wrapped in their own plastic jackets. I look up at the waiter with a look of utter confusion on my face, and ask him whether they serve new plastic spoons with every cup? He nods his head proudly and says of course. He clearly doesn’t see the problem, and of course I jump on my soapbox and start spelling it out to him. He looks at me indulgently, but still not really getting it, smiles politely and moves on to the next table.
I sit there for a while mulling this over, and I realise that it’s quite possible that these restaurants really haven’t had a deep revelation of the impact that plastic has on the environment. The paper straws are a token gesture, a fad or a trend that everyone is following because it’s what’s popular. They have not transformed themselves from the inside out, and if you were to be allowed access to the kitchen you would probably witness further frightful habits that are detrimental to the environment. I doubt they compost their waste, or grow their own veggies, or split their rubbish for recycling. ‘Lipstick on a pig’ is what comes to mind.
This kind of reminds me of what I was like as a teen. My mom forced me to go to church on a Sunday, and youth on a Friday, but it had no impact, mostly, my friends and I snuck out the back of the church and smoked in the alley. It was exciting, and rebellious, and we got a major kick out of the possibility of being caught. But often, as I sat their smoking in the dark surrounded by my giggling teen friends nudging me for their next drag of the cigarette, I would sit there feeling lonely and unfulfilled, the words of the sermon our youth pastor had just preached echoing in my mind, but unable to settle into my heart. In the week following, the guilt would creep in and I would try my very best to live out the sermon, but fail every time, and then return to my naughty adventures – corrupting other unsuspecting youth with cigarettes in the church alleyway.
As I got older, I abandoned the idea of God and church all together, I decided that it was impossible to follow these endless rules and please this God who seemed to never be pleased with me. I tried to numb the guilt and turned my back on it all… I progressed from smoking cigarettes, to smoking other things, to sneaking out at night, and hanging out with the wrong crowds. I drank too much, I partied through the night, and I hosted wild parties at our house while my mom was out. You see, all those years of just going to church were never going to fix this girl with a broken heart. Putting lipstick on the pig wasn’t going to change the nature of the pig.
Leading up to 2019, I have been having similar thoughts about going into the New Year. We all know of the phenomenon called ‘New year’s resolutions’.
Every year we set ourselves goals to achieve, some big, some small. And while some people have iron determination and are able to accomplish these goals simply by the sheer force of their will, others try, and fail. Either way, the process of trying to accomplish something on the outside, when our hearts are not completely transformed on the inside is exhausting, and downright depressing, kind of similar to my journey with following God in my teens. Luckily the story didn’t quite end there though.
You see all the substance abuse and living a double life soon caught up with me, and while right now might not be the best time to share the sequence of events that lead to my ultimate break down – the point is that I did eventually break down. Things fell so badly to pieces that I ran away from home, spent 6 months in a psychologist’s chair, and eventually had a complete mental breakdown and tried to take my own life. When I didn’t succeed I raged at God, I screamed my hurt and disappointment at the heavens, I cried and cried until there was nothing left in me to cry about. I told him how I had tried and tried and how I just couldn’t fix things on my own… I heard a still small voice saying: “Give it all to me, you have nothing to lose”. Give it to me and test me in this, see what I will do with the remaining shreds of your tattered life”.
And so, in my final moment of rebellion, I said; “fine, take it all, but I will sit here and do nothing, and you can do it all, I give you 6 months to turn it around” and while, once again, now may not be the best time to share the sequence of events that followed, I can assure you that in 6 months so many things in my life fell into perfect place that I had no possible way of denying the presence and power of God in my life. That was 22 years ago, and I have been on the most epic journey with God ever since. I had such a deep revelation that I was not capable of fixing my own broken heart, that every single time I tried to pick up the reigns myself, my Father gently reminded me that I couldn’t do it alone, and he has slowly but surely put back the pieces of my broken heart, healed and restored me in ways that are impossible to explain… Buts it’s never once been a journey of trying, or striving or iron will power.
Mostly it’s been a journey of failing, and falling, and getting back up again with the help of a Dad who loves me and dusts my knee’s off, and says “here, take my hand, and I will take you to higher ground”. It’s been a journey of total Surrender to the One who knows me best. And slowly but surely, he is transforming the brokenness into something so beautiful, it takes my breath away.
Leading up to the New year there is an influx of motivational material about how to change and live a better life in the new year, great quotes about good things, like giving back, and being more present, being a better leader, 20 things to be more successful at work… The challenge is that while they are all sound principles and wonderful ideal’s, they will all only ever be a list of rules to live by, and while we might achieve some of them, and fail at others, they do not transform our hearts or leave real change for people to see on the outside.
In 2019, my only wish is that you meet the One who will lead you in the dance of total surrender, that will truly restore your heart. Like a cyclist getting behind a faster cyclist so that the slipstream carries you, or, like someone I admire recently said, a water-skier giving in completely to the pull of the boat and being carried completely because there is no resistance.
If you only ask, He will reveal himself to you in the most astonishing ways – even if your heart is unbelieving. There is no effort in it.
30“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32“For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.