I have long been a student of the stars. Periodically I am drawn to their wise teachings on perspective. They position me as a mere dot in the massive expanse of the universe, and the challenges I am facing as things that fade into insignificance against the backdrop of the night sky. They speak softly to me of my smallness, and gently but firmly remove the weight of the world from my shoulders. They point me away from my own story, towards a much bigger one; one which will be written with or without me. Their tone is never chiding or condescending, but kind and inviting, and their words realign my perspective and give me the courage to step back into the story, perhaps as a letter, a word, or a sentence, but either way freed from the burden of determining how it will end.
I recently had the privilege of attending the Micah Global Triennial Consultation in the Philippines. While there were many things that stood out that I will continue to carry with me, a talk given by Ruth Padilla-DeBorst really struck home. She spoke about how in this world filled with incessant need and unabating pain, we need to continually realign ourselves with God’s perspectives about who we are and who we are not, and who God is and who God is not. We must continually recognise that we are limited beings, and repent of our saviour-complexes (often sub-consciously and unintentionally taken on), returning the pen that we have yanked out of the Creator’s hands, and allowing God to write God’s story. I have extracted a particularly powerful excerpt from Ruth’s talk here:
“Recognising God as the only Creator, Sustainer and Saviour of the world puts us in the right place as human beings. Although we are created in the image of God, we are not the ultimate creators, sustainers nor saviours of the world. We are created beings, part of the wonderfully rich and diverse creation-community, moulded and sustained by the word and the Spirit of the Community-of-Love…
The frustratingly good news is that neither you nor I can save the planet from the consequences of humanity’s plunder. We cannot solve all the conflicts nor guarantee peace with justice the world round. We cannot usher in God’s kingdom, the new heaven and the new earth. We need to renew our understanding of our identity and reconcile with our limitations…
Secondly, God’s communal identity marks our identity as members of the creation community. God does not stand alone as a unitary, self-contained being. God is Community: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Likewise, all humans are beings-in-community, beautiful, and wonderfully made, unworthy of God’s love but recipients of it, regardless of the size of their bank account…, the letters before their name, the colour of their skin, or any other such humanly-constructed distinguisher. Recognising this dimension of our identity can rescue us again from an inflated sense of self and the consequent burden for that which is beyond the capacity of any one of us and can only be tackled jointly, alongside others. Do we want to persevere against all odds and carry through to the end? Then let’s resist all forces that would set us apart from or above the people we serve. Like our Lord, let’s move into the neighbourhood and there nourish a limited number of Spirit-led, lasting, life-transforming relations…”
We are all on journeys of figuring out how to best follow Jesus in the spaces which we inhabit. Let us learn from the stars as they reveal to us our relative smallness and invite us into freedom from the weight of misplaced responsibility.
I pray that as we continue to work towards seeing God’s kingdom manifested on earth, the Holy Spirit would guide us in navigating the space between being the hands and feet of Jesus where we find ourselves, and surrendering the burden of trying to be the saviours of the world.
By Thandi Gamedze