Posted by Venetia.
My family and I live in Suiderberg a suburb of Pretoria in the Gauteng province of South Africa. I work in Braamfontein, Johannesburg which is about 60km from my house. Travelling used to be very stressful because there are so many cars on the roads and it could take up to 1 – 2 hours to travel the mere 60km. In the meantime the South African government has built the Gautrain, a very upmarket train system that travels @160km per hour and gets you from Hatfield (a suburb of Pretoria) to Rosebank (a suburb of Johannesburg) in just 34 minutes! This is a huge stress reliever and it is great to sit in the comfort of the train looking at all the cars on the jam packed highways. When we get to Rosebank station we still need to travel for about 15 minutes by bus because the last station, Park station, is not yet finished.
However, living in South Africa has far many other challenges than just driving to work either by car or train. The people of South Africa have a passion to strike, or lay down tools, if they feel their co-workers have been dealt with wrongly or if they are negotiating wages and it is taking too long or it is not going as they have anticipated. And so it just happened that in the week of 9 to 13 January 2012, the Gautrain bus drivers decided it is time to down tools! You are not forewarned of the situation and travel all the way to Rosebank just to find out with a shock that there are no busses to take you into the CBD where your place of work is. Everyday is a problem to figure out how you will get from the station to work – should I wait because they said the busses will be available @7 o clock or should I call someone from work to come and pick me up?
One day my colleague, Michael says “Tomorrow we are taking no nonsense we will come in early, normal time, and then we will take the taxi”. Now, everyone has most probably already heard or maybe even experienced a South African taxi and what an experience it definitely is! We have taken the taxi to Rosebank station in the afternoons a few times but then we were quite a few people and could fill up the taxi and it would take us straight to the station – no other stops. However, this particular morning, it was only Michael and myself wanting to take the taxi to work. When we got out of the station, we hurried to where the taxi normally picks up the passengers and gave the required hand signal. Not long after a taxi stopped. “Are you going into CBD (central business district)” Michael asked. “Yes” said the taxi driver. So we hopped in and I almost hopped out again because the seat was unstable. We quickly got out our money to pay the R7.50 taxi fare and sat back to enjoy the ride. What music is playing…hmmm after a few songs, Beauty and the beast, oh yes Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson. Okay that is nice. Oh boy we are not going to make it to stop behind this other taxi that is being signaled. Woeps we did not stop we just went past but boy that was close! Oh no, I can’t believe we are ACTUALLY really travelling in the exact same taxi’s which I used to talk different languages to because of the way they drive. Please help, please stop so that I can get out – but wait I have no clue where I am and I do not have the most comfortable shoes on to walk. Okay, rather keep going. These are some of the things that were going through my thoughts even though the atmosphere in the taxi was very calm – nobody actually spoke.
Because the taxi was not full, we had to stop quite a few times and it had scarcely been filled up when somebody would say “after robot”, which meant that they want to get out after the next robot. So we would stop again, offload the passenger and move on. Next somebody would give the signal and the taxi would stop and everybody has to move up and make space for the new passenger.
In the meantime Michael and I are (if I may say so) the only two white people in the taxi. What was I feeling – what was going on inside of me as we drove through Hillbrow, a suburb of Johannesburg that was notorious back in the seventies and eighties for being the drug capital of South Africa? I saw elegantly dressed black ladies, some with beautiful traditional clothes on and others very modernly dressed. The black guys definitely did not stand far behind the ladies, smartly dressed and you could see pride on their faces as they were on their way to their workplace as well. We drove passed what looked like a market in the streets, people selling their goods, primarily food, so very early in the morning making it easy for the commuters to eat something before they get to work or their destination.
In all of this, I did not feel afraid but what I did feel was a bit uncomfortable. Why? Because I grew up during what is called the ‘apartheid’ in South Africa and even though I have many black friends whom I love dearly, I just did not feel comfortable being the only white woman in the sea of black people that were surrounding me and who seemed to be looking at me thinking “Hey you white woman what are you doing here in our territory?” This was obviously not their thoughts but my own, driven by a bit of fear for all the crime in our country that involves so many black people. In fact, there is a sticker that they put on their cars: “A black man is always a suspect”.
This brings me to our spiritual journey with the Lord Jesus Christ. How many times do we feel uncomfortable in a situation? Where does this feeling come from? Is it a situation that we are in because of the way the Lord is dealing with us or is it because of a choice that we have made? The underlying thoughts and fears in our life can trigger such discomfort but it is necessary that we identify where it is coming from so that we can deal with it.
When we have made the choice to be in the particular situation that is making us uncomfortable, we should take a step back and say okay I am here now out of my own choice, I am not feeling good about it and in future I will not get myself into this situation again.
If, however, it is a situation that God has lead you into, the thoughts that we should have is “God what do You want me to learn from this experience because I know it will make me grow stronger in You”. It is in these circumstances that He is building His character in us, it forces us to get out of our comfort zones, to change and that is what makes us uncomfortable! We do not only feel uncomfortable, but also weak and completely out of control. But the sooner we give into the promptings of God and start accepting what He is doing in our life and start changing, the sooner we will start feeling His peace and the uncomfortable feelings will disappear. We cannot stay in control. We have given our life to the Almighty God and should allow Him to steer us into the person that He originally created before the world got a hold on us. These three verses from The Message beautifully conveys the message of us being changed – getting rid of our old ways, and rather taking on the characteristics of God’s to be the bride He desires of us.
Matthew 3:11 “I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama—compared to him I’m a mere stagehand—will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.”
Romans 15:3 “That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus”
Ephesians 4:20 “But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.”
We eventually did get to work after being dropped off by the taxi driver and had to walk another 3 blocks, but it was an experience that I will not easily forget – my scenic tour of Hillbrow in one of our own very ‘famous’ taxi’s seeing and experiencing first hand that there is really nothing to be afraid about regarding my fellow (black) South Africans because they are people just like me trying to make a better living and on the other hand, my peace is in God who says: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (when I’m feeling uncomfortable) 2 Corinthians 12:9