A tender shoot at risk

We are trying to find the African footballer of the year - but if we were trying to find the prophet not just of the year but of the ages my vote would go to Isaiah. His words are bursting with promise and this week I am touched by his talk of shoots and roots.

“A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse, a scion thrusts from his roots” (Is. 11:1). A shoot, as we know when the rains bless our fields, is that beautiful appearance of new life from the earth, giving the promise of food and strength.

It is a beginning and it has to be nurtured through weeding and fertilising, fenced against animals and irrigated should the rains fail. Isaiah is not, of course, talking about farming but about God’s unfolding plan. Jesse was the father of David and David’s age was looked back to as a golden one when Israel was strong and free.

But the Israel of David was just a pale image for the new Israel of God. Just as every person is called to reflect the image of God in their lives, so every human society is called to be an “image” of the perfect community God is building.

And Zimbabwe is no exception. Its destiny is to be a society where every man, woman and child, “to say nothing of the animals” (Jonah 4:11), enjoys a life of dignity, freedom, justice and peace. Every country is “groaning in labour pains” (Rom 8:22) to bring this about. The media batters us with stories from Egypt, Thailand and Ukraine to say nothing of Syria and the CAR. That little shoot is having a hard time bursting forth.

Reflecting on Zimbabwe’s story since the great turning point of 1955, one can see the “groaning” that has weighed us down for nearly 60 years. Our hopes have risen and been dashed so often that we are all just tired, listless and many have lost interest. Nothing in the papers or on the screen excites us anymore.

Yet we should not give in to this feeling of acedia. No country can avoid the backbreaking toil of forging a society that is at peace with itself.

Some are further along the road than others. The battlefield is not in grand conferences and the clash of entrenched interests but in a multitude of little victories. Every time someone takes responsibility for their actions or holds another accountable they are sending out “ripples of hope” that can eventually sweep away everything that is false, febrile or feckless.

I heard recently of a minister in a foreign government who was asked by a radio interviewer what he was going to do about misappropriated money, donated as aid, which was given by the country of the interviewer. “I did not know about it,” he said. “But, Minister, your ministry was responsible. Should you not resign?” “Resign? Why should I resign? I know nothing about it.” “But…” The interview went nowhere.

We are not alone in suffering a malaise of accountability. If there is just one thing I would hope for in 2014 it would be that the tender shoot of freedom, which we say we have, be given room to breathe, that its groaning be heard and that we stop saying, “it’s not my fault. I know nothing about it. I am not the one.”

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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