“Who is the one who will have life,
and desires to see good days” (Ps. 33:13)?
And if, hearing Him, you answer,
“I am the one,”
God says to you,
“If you will have true and everlasting life,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips that they speak no guile.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek after peace and pursue it” (Ps. 33:14-15). [Rule of St Benedict: Prologue. www.osb.org]
St Benedict, in his “Little Rule for Beginners” asks the seeker “Who is the one who will have life, and desires to see to see good days?”. I imagine that the answer to that question is always, “yes that is what I want”. Like a little child I clamour for “good days”. My mind goes into a whirl about what that would mean for me; enough money so I don’t need to plan and budget, health for myself and my children, a fancy car with a GPS and heated seats, overseas holidays, not having to work. The list goes on and on. I also have a number of more serious things on my list; healing from the depression that rears its ugly head on a regular basis, food for the children who go to our local school hungry every morning, an end to the wars across the globe. All these things crowd into to my mind as I put up my hand eagerly and say to God “I want good days”. Unfortunately, often, in the noise, I do not take time to hear God’s answer. Good days require me to do my part, it is not just God’s responsibility to hand me what I want. The psalmist stills the noise in my head “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit./Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (Ps 34:14: NRSV).
“Good days” require hard, dedicated and consistent work. A good day is not driving to work in my new BMW, it is a day where I have spoken my truth. A good day is not a day that bring no worries and troubles, it is the day when I join the school lunch programme. A good day is not a day where the demons of my soul don’t pursue me, it is the day when, despite my stress, I speak calmly and with love to my children. Creating a good day is hard work. Perhaps, this is why HIV activists have been broadening their scope of practice over the years in the hope and conviction that we can create good days. We have realised that HIV stigma kills people so there has been a concerted effort to confront stigma whenever and wherever we encounter it. We have come to realise that gender disparity is the key driver of HIV transmission and infection and thus no HIV programme worth its salt excludes the gender dimensions of the infection. When God asks me what is a “good day” I hope that my answers would include the following “one more life transformed because HIV is not longer a stigmatising label, one more woman not a statistic of rape and violence, one more young person able to take responsibility for sexual health”. That is a good day.
“Seek peace and pursue it” is also part of a good day. I am reminded that during my days as an HIV activist there has been a lot of conflict and tension. Last year I was involved in a discussion on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) that got very heated and, in the end, resulted in a lot of anger being spoken. Another concern is that until there is no longer violence against women, there will be no peace. I am challenged by this as it means that I have to actively step into these situations and be part of the peace-making process. I need to learn to speak truth to power, something that challenges me tremendously. I need to step into conflicts that may not involve me but will save another human person from experiencing violence. I need to be an active, engaged and challenged peace-maker. That is a hard task and I struggle with it but, each day that I am able to do it, that is a good day. The challenge, I think, is to continue to put up my hand and say “I want good days”. It is also a challenge to put my heart and soul into co-creating these good days. They are not made up of cars or fancy houses, they are made up of days of peace, actively pursued and greatly appreciated.