"Surely there is not a righteous man on the earth who does good and never sins" - Ecclesiastes 7:20
I often find myself disenchanted with life, on the verge of completely giving up hope. Between my depression and some of my life experiences, it is hard for me not to see the worst in people and to be wholly cynical. Trusting others is a struggle at best for me, even my very best friends describe having candid conversations about my life as, "pulling teeth." I have seen so much brokenness, hurt, and what seems like pure evil in this world that it is difficult for me to see the good. Partially, I think I am afraid to see the good because then it will hurt more when everything comes crashing down around me.
As I shared a bit in an earlier post, I came to South Africa desperately searching for a renewal of hope and purpose, and honestly I wasn't sure that God would show up. And I'm not sure why I thought that South Africa, a country known for its brokenness and corruption, would be the place to go searching for hope and healing.
So I have spent much of my time here wrestling with what it means to live a hope-filled, Kingdom-focused life in a world that is anything but. And while I cannot say that I no longer struggle with feeling disenchanted, I can say that I have seen things and met people in my time here who have rekindled my hope in humanity. I have seen goodness survive and even thrive in the midst of broken communities.
I met a young Afrikaner teacher at one of the schools we spoke at who was effervescent with her passion and hope for her students. She told me about children in grade R (think kindergarten) who are addicted to tik (crystal meth), and children who struggle to learn because they were born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. She told me about the high drop-out rates of young girls who become pregnant and a culture that perpetuates cyclical low self-esteem and fatalism.
Yet, in my conversation with her, I found that she is from one of the wealthiest communities in the Western Province and has a phenomenal education. So what brought her to this small farming community where she is surrounded by a very real threat to her safety and where many people have no hope for a better future? It was her first teaching job, but she's already been there four years and has no plans to leave, she told me. She believes in the work she's doing and the kids she teaches. Rather than running from the brokenness around her and hiding away from the painful realities of this world, she is running full-force into its midst. If I have seen anything that exemplifies the goodness of the Kingdom, it is this attitude, this passion, this willingness to run toward the brokenness and to live among it.
Psalm 27:13 says, "I believe I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!" The Kingdom of God is at hand, though it is not fully present. It is found, not in wholeness, but inside of the pain that is part of the human condition. I don't have to wait for the new heavens and the new earth to see the goodness of the Lord or the presence of His Kingdom -- it is already here, waiting for me to look at it through a different window, in a different light, with open eyes and an open heart.
So maybe I wasn't so far off base by seeking hope in the midst of the brokenness of South Africa after all.