It is the festive season, where we are rounding off the year, a good time for reflection, re-organising and restructuring in preparation for the next year. While this is so, we obviously join in the spirit of giving that dominates this season, and find ways and means of blessing other people and being a blessing as well.
The 1st of December is also World AIDS Day. It feels like so much is happening. And yes, indeed it is! And that is why I like the words we read in today’s scripture. It starts off with an urgency and instruction to be careful and to understand present times, and that we should WAKE UP!
I have mentioned above that this season is one of showing and extending kindness. But remember too that others are also working extra hard during this season – some to acquire things they have NOT worked for from those who have, some are trying out new things for the very first time, like drugs, drinking and being drunk, sex etc. Because – why not?? Its celebration and fun time, and everyone is ‘in the mood’.
The scripture calls upon us to be wise, to be aware of what is happening around us, realising that the ‘day’ is near and that we should put away the ‘deeds of darkness’. While there are so many deeds of darkness we know of and have witnessed around us, and can say a lot about, I remembered something that amazed me and made me ask questions I will detail at the end.
Do you remember the days when people carried radios around on their shoulders and listened as they walked long and short distances? Back in the day when life was much slower… You would probably see them in rural and farm areas, and in cities too. I laughed to myself when I thought of this picture. And how ‘uncool’ we thought it was when we were growing up! Just the other day I was at the bus stop and a teenage boy from a high school close by was also there, playing the radio from his cell phone out loud. There it struck me that this is the very same concept as the radios some years back, but it has come back, redressed and looking much nicer in a small package – the cell phone. It is very common to see people with earphones plugged in their ears, listening to the radio and music from their cell phones wherever they are!
We held a discussion at work recently, about how things that were in a way ‘phased out’ have come back in a more fashionable way or offering more of what we like. For example, when cell phones first became available, they were much bigger and heavier, so when newer smaller models came onto the market we got the new ones. But did you see the nicer, more complicated ones that have everything we ‘need’ on them nowadays; many are again taking on the big wide shape we avoided. Then I wondered, so what do we want?
These may be a bit funny to think of. But I then saw a more painful reality of how things have been re-dressed in our day.
Malnutrition! I sadly read a short article that said malnutrition has taken on a new face. In developing countries, it said, especially looking at children in poverty stricken areas, we see the full signs of malnutrition; they have the right sort of food but too little so that they are not properly nourished. Then we look at the developed countries where children have plenty and lack nothing, yet they are malnourished because they are eating the wrong kind of food in huge quantities.
Without going into more details of these examples, I marveled at how so many things in our world are being redressed, being given new and nicer names, becoming more acceptable; yet we can remember the very same thing in its old state. That is of course not necessarily bad!
But as I thought a little more deeply I began to see beyond the things that man creates which are tangible, to the things far and safely hidden in hearts and attitudes. Things we cannot really place our finger on or confront. Things that are known only to the individual.
I may know that my attitude towards a certain person is wrong, and perhaps my relationship to them is not good. I would rather ignore this person and walk the other way, or even pretend I did not see them. So we coat and cover this, and re-dress it to, ‘Oh Hi, so lovely to see you……’ and many other things we say just to hide the true and real feelings and attitudes we have.
Our countries are still facing huge challenges in dealing with HIV stigma and challenging negative actions and perspectives, and yet it seems as if we just redress our attitudes towards people living with or affected by HIV.
Can we check in our hearts if we frown at the people we know who are infected or affected by HIV; if we would rather look the other way; if we would rather push the plate of food across than hand it lovingly; if we would rather send someone else than go ourself to check on that person; if we would rather……… but then we immediately realise the picture we are showing to those around, so we correct it by “dressing up” the true feeling and attitude of the heart. So our outward action is corrected and the inside attitude and condition remains unchanged.
These are subtle actions that we need to open our eyes and awake to. The devil keeps flashing new ways of trapping people into sin, as well as keeping people unrepentant and unchanging, and we are warned to WAKE UP and not sleep. While we are preoccupied with trying to hide our attitudes, time is moving and the day draws near. My prayer is that this day does not find us still hiding and redressing negative feelings towards those who we think are different from us.
“So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light…” (v12b) and “rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature”( v14).
So ask yourself: What negative thought, feeling or attitude am I dressing up to look good and acceptable before people, instead of asking and God’s help to change it? Remember, there is nothing He cannot do!
One of the best gifts you can give this season is a change of heart and attitude towards people affected and infected by HIV, if dressing up your actions has been your issue.
All the best of God’s love and embrace in the events of the 1st of December, and in this beautiful season of love and sharing!
Written by: Minenhle Moyo, Churches Channels of Hope Training Team Member