Behind our home the wind is stirring up the clouds that rest over the Helderberg mountains, daring the gentle shower to be more assertive. In Cape Town, the rainy season has begun and I give thanks for this supply of life-giving water. Our ancient, patched-up irrigation system is acting up again and the rain is bringing relief to those dry corners of our garden. This piece of Africa that our family stewards is challenging, as is this entire Land. Teeming with life, our garden is home to humans and critters alike. Our patch of Africa has wetlands and desert, highlands and valleys and many a hill to die on.
Scrolling through my newsfeed, while keeping a beady eye on two squirrels fighting over an acorn on our front lawn, I wonder why humans across the world are yelling at each other. I also wonder whether those two squirrels are intent on burying every single one of the hundreds of acorns laying on the ground. This instinct for self-preservation is alive and well in humans and the animals of our world.
The yelling in my newsfeed is distressing. The past fourteen months has disturbed us human creatures and we are spilling over. We want to preserve our life – the way things have always been or the way we think things should be – and many have chosen a hill to die on. “This far and no further”, is forcefully proclaimed!
I wonder what our newsfeeds would look like if the hill we choose to die on was:
- Being humble in spirit, listening to one another.
- Being sorrowful for the losses others have endured.
- Being patient and accommodating of our neighbors.
- Being decent and good because it is right.
- Being kind and benevolent to those who deserve the opposite.
- Being authentic and real so others can also stop pretending.
- Being peacemakers.
- Being willing to struggle – even painfully – to understand the words of scripture and then to act, thereby putting away malice and anger.
- Being willing to put everything else aside to seek out our brother – or sister or parent or child or friend or neighbor – and reconcile our differences.
- To treat all others, all others without exception, as we would want them to treat us.
If we did these things, we would find ourselves on the hill that Jesus died on. These are the things of which he taught on a mount near the sea of Galilee, and these are the things for which he gave his life.
If we choose these hills to die on, I think we human creatures would set ourselves apart from the squirrel on my front lawn that is desperately preserving his life by concealing one acorn in the ground when he lives in the very tree that produces the acorns. We would possibly recognize that all the yelling and demanding and fighting is what causes our troubles in the first place. When we are willing to live beyond defending our one acorn and we see the tree of life that provides acorns for us all, maybe millions of children will not go hungry, wondering where their next meal will come from. Maybe the weary grandmama caring for her orphaned grandchildren will find some rest. Perhaps the teacher in a rural African village will have books and pencils instead of writing the alphabet in the dirt under a tree. Maybe there will be some peace on earth and a lot of goodwill to all, which is the very cause Jesus died for.
As the rain softly falls on our little patch of Africa, I pray that we will be better than the squirrels. And I give sincere thanks for all those who are sharing their acorns.