a weak and tender thing

[Wondering about the contemporary relevance of these words by Alan Paton, spoken in 1949 in the context of South African apartheid…]

But one must not imagine that this white settler is motivated solely by fear. He, too, is a human creature. He has not lived upon the earth without being influenced by the great human ideas, notably by the ideas of Christianity. Therefore, he too is a divided creature, torn between his fears  for his own safety and his desire for his own survival on the one hand, and on the other, by those ideas of justice and love which are at the very heart of his religion. We are witnessing today a struggle in the hearts of men, white men, between the claims of justice and of survival, of conscience and of fear.

It is my own belief that the only power which can resist the power of fear is the power of love. It’s a weak thing and a tender thing; men despise and deride it. But I look for the day when in South Africa we shall realise that the only lasting and worthwhile solution of our grave and profound problems lies not in the use of power, but in that understanding and compassion without which human life is an intolerable bondage, condemning us all to an existence of violence, misery and fear.

  • Alan Paton (from a speech quoted by Lewis Gannett in his introduction to Paton’s famous novel, Cry, the Beloved Country)

a kindly mist

[We had a lovely Fireside Chat today by Rachael Barham on the value of uncertainty and the power of a question. This is one her poems that she shared with us:]

If this be a kindly mist
Then I wish to surrender to it
Fall into its unclarity and darkness
As into a soft and giving sleep

But it must be Love:
It must love me like no other
And cause me to love in return
– To love the mist itself
And the shapes that rise in it,
Bodies softened,
Hard lines blurred

If this mist be Love
I wish to view all things in and through it
I wish never again to see clearly, boldly, singly
I wish never again to see the world divided, sorted, sifted
But joined, surrounded, lost in obscurity together

May the mist be thick enough to hide from me my own hands
Left from right, right from left
Good from bad, right from wrong
So that I can move unselfconscious
Unobserved and unnoticed

Should I feel myself tugged at by a hidden hand
Toyed with, pushed and pulled
Twisted round to face…
(What?)
Let me give in to the swirl, fold, whisper
And find myself taken in
Encircled, embraced and
At last
Lost

  • Rachael Barham

the self-emptying power of God

[an excerpt from the new book by Brad Jersak who teaches in our ministry program]

What if Jesus’ humility, meekness and servant heart were never a departure from God’s glory and power, but actually define it and demonstrate it? Take your time—read that sentence again. What if kenosis—self-emptying power, self-giving love and radical servant-hood—expresses the very nature of God! What if God does rule and reign, not through imperial power but through kenotic love! What if the first beatitude—“Blessed are the poor (void, empty) in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3)—is a vision of the glory of God lived through Christ! Why? Wherever God, wherever Christ, wherever we risk emptying ourselves of self-will and self-rule to make space for the other, that is where the supernatural kingdom-love of God rules and reigns.

– Brad Jersak, A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel(2015)

wendell berry on love and sorrow

If God loves the world, might that not be proved in my own love for it? I prayed to know in my heart His love for the world, and this was my most prideful, foolish, and dangerous prayer. It was my step into the abyss. As soon as I prayed it, I knew that I would die. I knew the old wrong and the death that lay in the world. Just as a good man would not coerce the love of his wife, God does not coerce the love of His human creatures, not for Himself or for the world or for another. To allow that love to exist fully and freely, He must allow it not to exist at all. His love is suffering. It is our freedom and His sorrow. To love the world as much even as I could love it would be suffering also, for I would fail. And yet all the good I know is in this, that a man might so love this world that it would break his heart.

– thoughts of Jayber Crow in Wendell Berry’s novel, Jayber Crow (2000)

buechner on types of love

The love for equals is a human thing—of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles.

The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing—the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.

The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing—to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints.

And then there is the love for the enemy—love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.

Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat