I blogged a while ago about people who dignify the trial.
I know some more.
Last weekend I had the mixed-feelings experience of spending a weekend in the dichotomy of beauty and tragedy that is Zimbabwe. I don’t want to wax political (though I’m tempted). I want to write about the elderly woman who graciously gave me a bed and lots of tea in between the wedding celebrations of my friend, Pam.
Patsy Keevel’s husband, Bruce, had had a stroke a few days prior to my arrival and he was in ICU when I arrived in Harare. I begged to be allowed to camp on someone’s lounge carpet, so that she didn’t have to worry about a house guest, but she insisted that I stay and in fact made me feel like I was doing her an enormous favour. She reminded me of my own gran: cheerful, irrepressibly positive, always looking for the best in every person or situation, eager for another opportunity to serve and put herself second. Bruce and Patsy’s farm was taken years ago, and the Zim dollar took the rest. They have every right to be bitter and angry as all hell. And yet Patsy couldn’t talk enough about the kindness of God and his provision in all sorts of ways (including monthly food parcels from an NGO). ‘We want for nothing!’ she exclaimed, her eyes all shiny with Jesus.
I was gutted by my conversations with her – convicted, challenged, encouraged and almost envious of this old lady who was so fully alive to the joy of God and spreading it through her uncomplaining, spirited demeanour. She is part of an impoverished, displaced generation. And yet, while plenty of people are hurt and bitter, I saw so clearly the light of Christ in those who have determined to trust him and reflect his glory in a messy, crooked world.
She is the one of the most beautiful people I have met in a while.
When I asked my friend Shirley Stokker if I could blog about her, she thought it was hilarious and agreed. She thought it was hilarious because she doesn’t take herself too seriously, which is utterly refreshing. She also trusts me, I guess, and she lives a life of faultless integrity.
People who have known Shirley for as long as I have, and longer, will agree that she has an inner elixir of sorts that makes her more and more beautiful each year. She has a sense of fun that can transform a tedious event into a riot of laughter. Her smile can restore people’s hope in humanity. She has profound intuition, wisdom way beyond her 30-ish years, and unwavering compassion. She is one of those people where I can’t decide – is she more beautiful inside… or out? She’s a stunner.
For reasons known to God alone, Shirl hasn’t yet met the love of her life. She’s keen to meet him, of course. But here’s where she dignifies the trial. So many single people live in a constant flux of false hope and desperation, anxious longing and self-pity. And I’m not for a minute minimising how heartbreakingly tough – almost debilitating – it can be to be single when you’d love to be married. But Shirl doesn’t feel sorry for herself. She lives a full, beautiful, meaningful life, and her lack of obsession over meeting Mr Right makes her all the more breath-taking. People watch her life in wonder, because like Patsy and others, she trusts God and his best for her, and she is bent on mirroring his glory.
‘Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.’ – James 1:2-4