A freshness deep down in things

Travelling from Mhondoro to Harare last night after dark was hair-raising. The heavens opened and the downpour was accompanied by lightening-filled skies. And close at hand were cars and trucks struggling to keep going and not run into each other or be dazzled by each other’s undimmed lights.

Streams of traffic in both directions inched their way round the Mbudzi roundabout. There was little conversation in the car; we were all gripped by the drama that enveloped us and aware of our fragility in our little car. Nature was displaying its power and we were helpless. But I remember feeling the tension between my own weakness at that moment and the sense of God’s power – that one way or another all would be well.

This sense of tension leads me to think of electricity, which I cannot explain beyond saying it comes from a clash of opposites. And the short season before Christmas is also charged with a tension of opposites. Isaiah’s language is full of promises of ‘good news’, ‘binding up broken hearts’ and ‘proclaiming liberty to captives and prisoners.’ The trouble is there are so few signs of these things happening. There is a tension between the message of promise and what we actually see around us. It is hard to live on promises alone, especially if they are only politicians’ promises! But the promises of the prophets carry weight.

There is a difference between living our life under the urgency of a promise we believe in and living day by day under the tyranny of just providing for our needs with no sense of promise to sustain us. Such people just wait for change to happen – whereas the former make change happen. The promises of Isaiah are not very precise. ‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem … that her time of service is ended.’ What does that mean? ‘As the earth makes fresh things grow … so will the Lord make integrity and praise spring up’ – (Isaiah 61).

These promises, couched in the language of poetry, say little of when and where and how; yet they can inspire us as much as any modern poetry can. Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote of the ‘freshness deep down things’ and we know that there is a freshness in each new generation and even in the new beginnings of old generations.

This time before Christmas is filled with ‘looking forward.’ People look forward to different things: going home for the holidays, seeing relatives, celebrations, etc. But the looking forward I am thinking of is something like Obama’s ‘yes, we can!’ It is the confidence of fresh starts, ever repeated, that we can make a difference and leave this world a better place for our having been around for a while.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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