In my armour….

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Full Armor

Every armor has a weakness, so choose where you place your trust

There are mountains high enough to prevent you from seeing the hope in the future. There are valleys so low that they completely drain you of the will to push on. We are all sojourners on this earth and just like everyone of us is distinct so are the trials, triumphs and testimonies that we each get to face in the seasons of our lives. It’s not about bemoaning the lack (anyone can do that), it’s truly about recognizing the lack and responding appropriately to filling it. Today, with temperatures still climbing and a heart still beating, I am once again reminded of the transient nature of life and what we choose to call priorities. Jousting is so often associated with the medieval times that the essence in modern times is completely overlooked. A warrior is one skilled in the art of warfare and more often than nought, his skills are required in battles that are not always of his choosing.

Bedecked in full armor, mounted on a war horse, he faces foes on all sides and even as it is still employed in today’s battles, he must find a chink in the protective gear of his foe. Ironically, it’s the same approach that his foes take, because they know without the slightest doubt, finding and exploiting that chink could very well be the determining factor in what separates the victor from the vanquished. In a bid to ameliorate or possibly eliminate completely any chances of being bested, so much effort is put into protecting that chink because every armour has one. However as we channel all our efforts into staying safe, we fail to realize that victory is not obtained by being safe but by recognizing our vulnerabilities and making them be an expression of our humanity.

I had the pleasure of meeting a friend and his daughter, both from The Republic of Congo, as she had come to spend the summer holidays with him. Yes, another victim of a broken relationship but besides that what else can be seen? I saw a beautiful young lady, probably irreparably scarred but still aware enough to pause her farewell to me and utter these words, “thank you Daddy!”. Just those three words said in that unpretentious sincerity you can always find in a child, made me quietly acquiesce to myself that there’s so much to be thankful for and yet so little of thanking that we do. Prior to her uttering those words, I saw a little girl hurting from her inability to understand what she was going through. Why she had to have both parents in different parts of the world? Why did she have just a little time to spend with loved ones before she returned back to commence a new session of school. In the course of interacting with her, I could discern the resentment because I too have been through similar circumstances. Not just as a child but also as a father, and without allowing Nyela to focus so much on what she was ‘losing’, I made her realize how much her father loved her. That was what birthed those three words, “thank you Daddy!” and as she emerged from my truck, there was a spring to her step and a lightness in her voice. That transformation took place in the space of 7minutes 42seconds, just because she allowed herself to listen to me and appreciate the beauty of the moment.

I tell people, as often as I can, without coming across as a kibitzer that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but an evidence of our humanity. When we spend so much time hiding our ‘weakness’ from others, we inadvertently fail to realize the primary reason for our existence – to love another just as much as we love ourselves. Proding and prising apart, searching for the chink in another’s armour is time that could be better spent in standing with another and facing the odds we all must face. It is not an expression of wisdom when we hurl ourselves headlong into battles that could be avoided, instead of forming positive alliances with the soul next door with the objective of running this race and finishing well. A recurring question I always have to deal with when I’m privileged to meet someone who has never heard of dystonia before is “How do you cope with it?” Honestly, because of how often I’m asked, I’m pretty sure that if I were suddenly roused from sleep, my answer would still be the same. I do not cope with it, I’m too focused on making each new day count for something better that it’s only the incessant twinges of pain that remind me of this unending battle with dystonia.

I’ve learned that focusing on helping someone else is more fruitful than reeling out a litany of how my body feels. If I cannot change it, why bother complaining about it, because the sad reality is there’s already enough sadness in the world. You have to make a choice between seeing if your own worries will lighten the already overburdened lives around you or trying to alleviate the present pain and sorrow around you. Pushing your pains and worries to the back burner so that you can make room to assist another person who has just been severely knocked off his horse. Yes, we need to guard ourselves but when guarding yourself overshadows the ability to help another, then I would recommend a rethink in strategy. No army is only made up of one warrior, no team of one ever exists however there is so much strength in the unity of diversity. Wisdom, in my opinion, is realizing that a battle is raging on around us and yet we concentrate on building a chain of lives through love, kindness and hope. That collective armor is what will stand true when charge upon charge by our foes hit our ranks.

There is nothing built by man that in indestructible however that which is built by God is. So the choice in where you decide to put your trust in, is entirely up to you. Today, I may not have the resources to give to one in need but what I have is a shoulder to lean on, ears attentive to listen and company for a little while as you journey on. Diversity is what transforms a chaotic puzzle into a beautiful picture and regardless of how impenetrable you think you are, you will need someone else when your storms hit. And so whilst I am committed to burnishing my armor, I am also keen to recognize that not only can I not stand alone, I am here to be a support to someone else. Sometimes, a simple walk in the park holds much more value than a space trip to Mars. The battle is not to the strong, neither is the race to the swift, it is God’s mercies that will ultimately prevail. And if we are recipients of such an awesome gift, why should it be only about you. I reckon, each day, that every blessing I receive is something that can be shared and so with that realization firmly impressed upon my heart, I will always find the courage to press on. Each new day, an amazing gift by itself, is yet another opportunity to stand alongside fellow sojourners and warriors so that together we can beat the odds.

As I remember the victories of today, I am certainly convinced that love, hope and faith are indispensable companions for me. It will never be about how high a stack of corpses you left in your path, rather it will be about how much inspiration you have shared on your path. I may not be able to bring to completion that dream of yours but I most definitely can ensure that the moments we shared will never be forgotten. Life will always be a catalogue of events and as we sail through life’s turbulent waves, some of those memories are the nuggets of indestructible hope that will keep us going. I have always believed that a life devoid of hope is a life that is desperately in need of some love and it never ceases to amaze me how beautiful a rocky path can become when there are lilies growing by it, but those lilies have to be planted first. It is not always about how grand your gesture of magnanimity is, instead it is about how sincere in well doing you are. It is often in the intricate tiny stitches of a woven garment that you find the greatest amounts of love. No matter how fortified you think you have made your armor, someday you most definitely have to get out of it. The question then would be, ‘What awaits you when you have shed your armor? Friends by your side or a gathering mass of individuals who don’t care about what you know.’

Remember, ‘The destiny of man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees’ – T.H White

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת שלו לזרוח עלינו

Adios!

….Stripped bare!

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Its eerily quiet, you can barely hear the wind whistling by but you can feel it surely. She stands all alone, you can sense the pain of loneliness, her feeling of raw emotion barely checked. It’s almost palpable; the despondency that she holds at bay even as she acknowledges the inevitability of her sorrow. Deep sorrow, coursing through her like the rivulets of a slow flowing stream but still she stands. Grasping with bruised knuckles, the rags of reality that barely cloaks her nudity….yet she stands with head upraised and that steely gleam of resilience in her eyes, because she knows. She acknowledges. She has been there before.

Its fall season, and very soon the biting cold of winter will creep in as surely as the sun shines. She stands unadorned of any finery, yet regal in her posture because she knows that what defines her is not what can be taken away by the whims of life. Like the elderly matriarch at family gatherings, she stands with outstretched arms still and not cowering in fear like all hope is lost. Every scar is visible to the eye, some as recent as today made by the very same that she had readily accommodated in their helplessness. As of today, they are all gone but she knows that in no distant future, some would still find solace beneath her boughs as soon as they encounter the  genuiness of her stability. There are no chirping birds, no scurrying animals, none of the lovebirds with their outspread blanket and picnic basket….they are all gone and even as they pass her, warmly ensconced in their bulky garments, they barely spare her a glance but she knows that despite being stripped bare, soon this season will end.

Below lies the foliage that once was the allure of all eyes, every leaf stripped off her not because she chose to but because life is a stage and we are all cast members, someday we will each have our time on stage and regardless of the role cast on us, we must make every moment count. Nothing can prepare you for the curved balls that life  throws at you but with discernment and past experiences, I know that life is a cycle. Sometimes just as you’re recovering from being sucker punched, you get blindsided yet again but with gritted teeth, teary eyes, you painfully draw in breath and stagger to your feet because you know that your place is not in the dirt. No matter how many times you get knocked down, arise you must or else your role will never be played and what a woeful tale that will be, that you lived a life without purpose.

Now to me personally, the Book of Job is a synopsis of life! Those very things that you once thought defined you could be taken away in an instant and then what would you be left with? Afterall fortunes are lost in the blink of an eye regardless of the safeguards carefully placed, because it never really was yours to keep in the very first place. What a shame if that’s all you are – the temporary possessions and provisions that have been leased to you for the benefit of others. Now some of you have never been knocked down and so with barely concealed contempt, you trot with disdain around those struggling through their knockdowns but I can assure you that life is like the four seasons and you must someday get to experience all the seasons…..and till you do, keep your tongue in cheek because you definitely cannot relate with that pain and anguish someone else might be going through. A life lived is one that is accompanied with precise choices, esteeming others higher than yourself as you make every day count for something.

To my friend struggling with medical issues, to the husband/wife who has been so viciously betrayed by their partner, to the parent with a seriously ailing child, to the addict refusing to give into withdrawal symptoms just for the brief pointless escape, to the chap who just lost his job and just had his only home foreclosed in the same day…..hear me, there’s a reason behind every season and at the very least, see beyond the pain of the instant because your experiences if you choose right will be the panacea to somebody else’s down the lane. How much wisdom can you impart if you have learned nothing or refused to learn? How much care and empathy can you show if you lack the warmth from having walked in those same shoes? Words are but a balm but when accompanied with the requisite action, they become an avenue for hope rekindled. How can you stir up flames from the burning embers of a dying fire if you have never kindled one yourself or known the cold from the lack of a fire?

Life is best lived when we make the right choices, and how do we know what choices exist if you have never encountered and overcome the despair of arriving at a crossroad? Whatever you may be passing through right now is just to strengthen you so that you in turn can strengthen another, for sorrow when shared is halved but joy shared is doubled. Learning to embrace yourself for who He says you are despite the season, is the beginning of a triumphant life. Learning to heal from the hurts of others actions is the beginning of a joyous walk in freedom. Now forgiveness is a divine ability however we do not have to seek it like the Golden Fleece because we were forgiven before we even acknowledged our erring ways. To forget the pain of betrayal, spite and abandonment might not come easy but as you embrace another down your own path, you etch deeper in your heart the knowledge that this is just a season.

Seek to cauterise that wound before it becomes gangrenous. The scars will not disappear but with time they become not just scars only but the marks of triumph gained through persistence and dependence on Him who’s made and called you for a purpose. With each knock down, you realise that rising up is not as difficult as it was the first time……and then you suddenly realise that there is still strength to help another to his feet. It begins with choosing to ignore the fair weather acquaintances  of fame, cheap accolades and sycophancy; and focus on those who are experiencing their own stripping, therein lies a worthier cause. Gather your garments around you and stand to your feet, let that gleam come alive in your eyes as you look around and become a conduit of hope and comfort to someone else.

Remember “Let us learn to appreciate there will be times when the trees will be bare, for then we can better appreciate the times when those trees will abound with fruits”

עד שנפגשנו שוב, אולי התענוגות שלו להיות העונג שלך לעשות

 Adios!