INTRODUCING is a blog series introducing you to some of the members of Redeemer. You will meet some of them through their fact file, their life story, or their faith journey.
South African. Politics Student. Musician.
Like many South African youth, I was born and raised in a Christian home. The Sunday routine, so far as I can remember, was never up for debate: mornings were reserved for the service, the afternoon for the so-called ‘seven colours’ lunch (referring to the array of vegetables and salads that filled the plate), and then a family activity of some sort would occupy the last few hours of the short day. Although it was a rule to go to church, it never felt imposed on me. I don’t remember dragging myself to church or dreading the prospect on a Saturday night. When I was about 11 or so I started to question things internally- why do they dress like that? Who wrote these songs we’re singing? Why does he sweat so much when he preaches and why do it so loudly? Who decided we have to put money in the bag when it comes around?- that kind of thing. I wouldn’t say I was being critical or thinking ‘deeply’ about it all; these are just questions that came in and out of my mind.
At the Methodist church we attended, my dad would do rolling translations of the sermon as the priest preached with great fervour and noise and sweat. This is common in many black South African churches- the interpreter alongside the preacher. I’ve always admired the linguistic skill required to follow what the preacher is saying, translate on the spot, and then be able to do the same if he suddenly switches to another language mid-sentence.
God himself was never really the subject of my thoughts until I was about 14. A friend of mine invited me to a Saturday afternoon youth meeting his dad was leading. I don’t remember details exactly but I do remember liking it enough to go again and again, ‘til my parents got curious and eventually started going to church on Sundays. At around the same time I remember being increasingly aware of the feelings of guilt and shame; ‘aware’ in the sense that, while I’d felt these things long before, now I could connect them to a being, this ‘God’ figure who structured my reality but was still a pretty distant character, a background god of sorts. I’ve been pensive since I was little boy but always found that God was one of the ‘things’ I couldn’t think around or into.
15 was the age I really started being intrigued by the idea of God outside of church and Sunday and guilt. Who was God when I left youth or the Sunday service? What did He want from me on Monday? Could I give it? What if I couldn’t? Later that year at a youth camp, one Aunt Phyllis preached a moving sermon. There was nothing spectacular about the night but it was perhaps the most important of my life. I remember having the feeling that Jesus was tugging at something in me, and I remember feeling like He was safe to give my life to, although even at 15 it was a scary thought. So I bowed my head subtly and whispered a short prayer. If this God really loved me as much as I kept hearing and began to feel, then I wanted to go all in.
That was almost a decade ago. In between then and now, I have many cool stories of God’s hand in my life. But I think the one of the greatest discoveries has been that God wants zero guilt for me, that His son Jesus has taken all that away and shame isn’t something I have to carry. God is freedom- true, unpretentious, deep-seated freedom. I’m still learning to stand tall in it.