Sitting on a plane a few years ago I was on my way to Port Elizabeth, a city on the southern coast of South Africa, from Johannesburg. Next to me sat a little girl and her mother. The girl had two dolls with her and was in her own world playing with these two dolls. A few minutes into the flight the mother started to ask her daughter questions about the game she was playing with these dolls. I listened in (it was a plane so I really couldn’t help hearing) as the girl explained that the one doll was a mommy but actually an angel and the other doll was her daughter but actually a princess. “Wow”, the mother replied, “why do you say that?” Then the girl said something that blew me away: “The mommy doesn’t know she’s an angel and the daughter doesn’t know she’s a princess, they need each other because only the mommy knows the daughter is a princess and only the daughter knows the mommy is an angel.”
This girl has some scary insight! But the words of this little girl resonate through so many of the spaces we occupy; our family lives, our finances, our friendships and our spiritual lives. Are we not defined by everyone but ourselves? Do we not constantly measure ourselves to others and even develop a huge part of our personality from siblings and parents? We are hidden from ourselves only to be revealed within others and by others.
The most obvious example would be Jesus who shows us how to be ourselves, how to be true. But this just isn’t the case. Yes, we can only find/become ourselves by connecting to someone else but we want to dictate those terms. We want the people to tell us what we need to hear, what we want to hear. We no longer seek truth about ourselves, we seek a Facebook/Instagram kind of insight, immediate and quantifiable. We want to produce something like a video, photo or quote and then have it immediately accepted, shared and loved. But this isn’t acceptance, this isn’t sharing and by no means is this love.
Jesus shows us that acceptance is letting prostitutes and undesirables be near you and become your friend not faceless masses who click a heart out of habit. Jesus shows us that sharing is giving all you have, even your body as sacrifice, so that everyone (the weird kid, the guy sitting alone, the person that has a different skin color than you, the homosexual person, the girl who got an abortion, the person who doesn’t share your religious views) can feel at home and have a safe space not just copying a line of code so that it can spread to another digital device. Jesus shows us that love is doing something you know to be right even if you really don’t want to, it’s creating equality around you and welcoming everyone to the table. It’s not a heart icon next to like underneath a post.
We have forgotten that it’s not up to us to get people to like, accept or love us because it’s only the mommy who can see that the daughter is a princess and it’s only the daughter that can see the mommy is an angel. We need each other to reconnect in safe spaces, we need these spaces to again experience a personal God.
Charel du Toit
– Theology Student at the University of Pretoria –