Monthly Archives: August 2016

Violence

I’m definitely not a violent person. In fact, I hate all forms of violence and don’t ever see causing pain as a useful solution to any problem. However, this week I have really wanted to hurt someone, like take someone and physically harm them, and shatter them to pieces with my words at the same time! I wanted to demonstrate my power over them because of my outrage for how they were dominating and hurting someone I love so deeply. I can see how people have gotten to a point where they think redemptive violence might just be ok.

I’m not proud of feeling like this, and while my violent urges have almost subsided, my anger has not. I don’t actually think it’s supposed to just yet, but the question I’m checking with myself is if this anger is breeding hopelessness or is this anger broken-heartedness? Anger that leads to hopelessness is a waste of time, ultimately, it leaves us in pain with no prospect of anything changing, but broken-heartedness, oh woman, that can be a dangerous force.

Over the last few weeks I have been confronted over and over again with stories of women who are being harmed by men, physically, emotionally, verbally and sexually.

My heart is exploding.

Girls as young as 13 beaten with a plank by their boyfriend because “she doesn’t want to listen”, men raping women in groups, women being told they’ll be beaten if they try and leave their partner. I see women shut down for speaking because of their anatomy, women believing that they need to give their bodies over in sex in order to feel desirable, or rather, to make the guy feel good; women’s needs being deemed as substandard and inferior by a society that continues to promote men (and just for the record, for those who might assume, I’m not talking only about life in Manenberg, I see this across society..).

A few months ago Lloyd and I found ourselves in the red light district in Thailand. By found ourselves, I mean we were in it, it was impossible to avoid, but to be honest, I’d always planned to go. I have heard so much about it, I felt it was important not just to know it happened, but to see what it looked liked, to look in some faces and to feel it [rather like coming to Cape Town on holiday, closing your eyes as you drive from the airport and then spending your time at the Waterfront, missing the uncomfortable reality of this city]. What I saw, I cannot even begin to describe. The depth of the sex trade in Thailand is like nothing I have ever seen, and it broke me. Seeing young, young women standing at poles on bartops with their toddlers at their feet, seeing men prowl (literally) for women as if they were a choice cut of meat to be chosen and men reaching inside women’s clothing before any sort of agreement of payment had been made. The business of buying sex is pretty repulsive to me, but equally, for a woman to have her boundaries overstepped even in that broken system felt like the grossest injustice. 

I cried a lot there. I have never felt such pain in my spirit as I did for those few days. And I experienced a conviction that to pray for one of these beautiful souls and then leave would be a cheap attempt to make myself feel better. It’s not that I don’t believe God could encounter them, it’s that I know that post-encounter, they need someone by their side. I have seen this over and over again in Manenberg. Genuine, holy encounters that give momentary peace, but in not being able to offer a practical love alongside that, the encounter becomes another religious experience that affirms that God is there but doesn’t really get involved in our lives.

I have found myself hating men this week. Even the good ones that I do life with, I have started watching for any inklings of misogyny, looking to see where the needs of men are being preferred over women’s needs.

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My hatred isn’t getting me anywhere, it’s not really the path I’ve chosen. I believe that this imbalance is as harmful for men as it is for women, as it holds them back from the reality of who they are but, on the whole, they are not the ones at the wrong end of the plank. What do we do with that reality? I sit with a fight in me to see something change. I sit with a pain in my spirit too great to shake off. And I sit with tears in my eyes as I think of the many women who are forced to believe that this is just their lot, they somehow asked for or deserve it.

In my broken-heartedness I can only look to Jesus or my flesh will begin to pull me to hatred and violence.

I see Jesus looking into the face of women marginalised and rejected, and speaking life over them.

I see God speaking shared purpose over Adam and Eve, words of partnership and equality.

I see imagery of God as mother all through the Old Testament, lest we think that God is a man (but that’s for another blog)!

…and I find hope that at least God is good, even if the rest of us don’t cut it. And so I look to Her for what happens next, where do I release this fire in my spirit, how do we see women valued in Manenberg, how do we redeem spaces used for exploitation, how do we point out the subtle nuances of misogyny in the most redeemed men in our society?

But what happens next, I’m not sure. It isn’t enough for me to only pray. Prayer motivates action, it moves us to speak and so I will wrestle with this discomfort until things change.

 


a more conventional update

For those of you who love reading my deep, incredibly profound and insightful ponderings (!), this is not the blog post for you. I wanted to give some of my readers a more traditional this-is-my-life update – for those not living in Cape Town.

June marked the start of a new season for me in Cape Town. I had the privilege of spending a three month sabbatical from my work/life in Cape Town and travelling to visit cool new places, family and old friends. It was an absolute treat to spend that time travelling with Lloyd, to have space to think, and to have a longer time with all my friends and family than I’ve had since I left in 2011. The 3 months were a bit of an emotional rollercoaster following the loss of our first baby but to be able to totally veg out in Thailand and then arrive home to be looked after by my parents was exactly the space I needed to grieve and process properly.

On arriving back in Cape Town, I have re-entered into a fairly significant transition for Tree of Life (our church family) and Fusion (the organisation I’ve been working with) and so the last couple of months have been filled with figuring out what that will look like, where I fit and what God is calling our family to in this next season. More on this another time! What that means for me though is a much more diverse role in leadership of Tree of Life with a bunch of awesome people, a more pastoral role rather than solely operations and the space to start thinking about what a home for girls could look like in Manenberg with my partner in dreaming, Leigh. Again, there will DEFINITELY be more on this later! Already, I am loving this new season and so thankful for my community who have given me the space to really push into where my heart comes alive. I have learnt so much in the last 3 years, and have grown more than I knew possible, honestly, not through lots of fun and easy-riding but through being stretched beyond what I thought my capacity was. I have grown in skills, in grace (I hope) and have learnt how to do things that I don’t love with excellence and letting go of the entitlement of always doing what I feel I want to do!

Lloyd is still rocking the solo architect/designer vibes, although he would love to be a little less solo at times…Spatial Studio is doing well, but as with any start-up, has its ebbs and flows. He has had a few exciting projects that get his creative juices buzzing, a stint of teaching at the university where his studies began, and then a good measure of the more mundane (but good for the bank account) house extensions. In the next couple of years, the dream is to see Spatial Studio grow to house a few more people, and potentially to have a space where designers/creatives/architects etc, can come and share ideas and resources. Lloyd has a real passion to see the design world open up in Cape Town to more than just those who can afford to study and print pretty things, but that’s his story, maybe he’ll write it for you one day.

In terms of our family life, Lloyd and I have felt held in a somewhat suspended state, wanting to grow our family but having the door for adoption temporarily closed, and then losing our first baby. We have also felt, for the last two years, an invitation to move into Manenberg and set down our roots there amongst our family, but again, financially and practically, no doors have opened up to us for this and so we have been [patiently-not-patiently] waiting for a shift. We gave up our flat, in faith, just before going on sabbatical and so have been living with Leigh in her flat. This has been super fun, and [I think] we are all enjoying the richness of community living, it’s certainly given me a lot to think about in terms of how we carve out our family life set-up in the future.

Good news: the suspension is lifting!…or dropping, or whatever suspension does when it’s not suspension anymore.

While on sabbatical we discovered that we were pregnant again and so are due to give birth in December! Happy Christmas to us! We are so excited with a healthy measure of what-have-we-done thrown in, but please pray with us as we prepare and look forward to meeting our little snowflake*. The other news is that doors seem to be opening for us to move into Manenberg and so we are currently looking at putting an offer on what might be our future home. I have no idea why the timing hasn’t been right for the last 2 years for either of these things, or why we seem to be looking at giving birth and moving house around the same time (just to keep things chilled, right?) but we are riding this wave with God, and trusting the faithfulness we have experienced throughout our waiting.

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So there you go. The Pretorii’s adventure continues!

* Straight up, falling pregnant so soon after miscarrying was hard on my heart and soul. I battled with anxiety and not being totally sure I was ready to be pregnant again. Lloyd was awesome (obviously) and was able to carry the joy of this wee life, and then we named our bump Snowflake to help build a bond between us, which really helped me connect with this little baba. I felt totally free, at the same time, to grieve and be where I was until I was ready to fully celebrate and I knew that this little one was so loved and celebrated by family at the same time. I woke up one day on sabbatical feeling totally peaceful about Snowflake and excited to be a mum…although we still think a lot about Acorn and are planning on how to keep her story alive in our family story.

 


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