This past week has been a season of grief, fear, remembrance, thankfulness and hopefulness all wrapped up in a bow of togetherness. On the 5th of December 2013, South Africa’s beloved Nelson Mandela aka Madiba aka Tata passed away. With his passing comes many emotions but also many questions. Through the nostalgic walks down memory lane there remains the nagging thought in many South African’s minds. This thought reaches into our very core and poses the question, with all that he overcame, would Madiba have taken his last breath with a sense of peace that he was leaving his beloved country in the hands of sons that would go beyond him and build towards the South Africa that many gave their lives for?
It’s an interesting thought that this season now brings together the mourning of a man many believed to be the saviour of the nation and the celebration of the birth of a child many believe to be the saviour of the world. So what do the two have in common? I believe the greatest similarity is that the legacy of the two have a great deal to do with the son’s and daughters that were left behind. Their teachings, their sacrifices are and will be seen best in the fruit that is borne after they left us.
I believe God looks down among us daily and feels the hurt that comes with knowing people are not living in a space befitting of that which came before them, not taking hold of the promises laid out for them, essentially not living in God’s best plan for them. I can’t say He is disappointed as that would require a lack of knowledge of what will be, but I would say God must sometimes feel as if we don’t get it and as a result do not live in the fullness of what He has given us.
I would say that Madiba must have felt or would have felt something similar depending on how much of our current reality he was made aware of. This past week we have found ourselves assaulted with the passed triumphs of the Madiba magic, the people he has touched, the lives he has impacted, the awards he has received. We are reminded that even though he was not perfect, he did take an opportunity many would have used for vengeance and used it to begin the process of reconciliation. His greatest achievement in my opinion is that he captained post-apartheid South Africa and guided it to a place where many could conceive of a land united in spite of differences and guided by a burning desire to make sure that never again would one group of people suffer oppression at the hands of another. Madiba took something weak and limping and coached it into something that believed it could run again.
This is where I think the problem started. A Father’s legacy is only as strong and enduring as the sons who desire to live it out. Somewhere along the line many still remembered in word and speech, but failed to live out the legacy in action. The past few years have been littered with claims of corruption, poor service delivery, selfish motives, cadre enrichment, indifference and arrogance at the expense of the people. It seems we may have lost our way!
His sons and daughters have not done justice to the Madiba legacy and by sons and daughters I don’t mean ANC, black South Africans or people in politics. I mean you and I, I mean everyone!
If we are simply to use the behaviour of the guests at Madiba’s memorial, we can see behaviour that stands in stark contrast to the example that has been modelled for them by the man they came to remember and honour. Reality will always be reality, but how we conduct ourselves in the face of that reality shows whether we agree with it or whether we will create a new path, a path leading to a more hopeful reality, a brighter future built on truth and not perception. We cannot pass judgement on a person’s faults while at the same time expressing our own. If we do this, no one learns to rise above and neither is better for it. Mandela came out of oppression and imprisonment with a message and a desire for unity. In a time where revenge would have been justified he promoted peace, in a time where differences could have conquered all, he chose unity.
In a strange way his last gift is a voice that declares, that which came after in no way matches that which came before! We now have the opportunity to continue down this path, or choose the path initially mapped out, a path not easily taken, but if embraced will create that beautiful future that a man, a husband and a father felt important enough to give his life for, a future where problems and challenges may still exist but where such problems are not based on our ability to see different colours but on our ability to love without even thinking of colour.
Goodbye Madiba and thank you for loving the people, it’s the reason they love you! Always remember “It is always difficult, until it’s done”