We’ve been invited, as a Deeper Story family, to reflect on the passing of Nelson Mandela. Our reflection is hosted by Lisa-Jo Baker, the host of Five Minute Fridays (#FMFParty). This is my five-minute reflection…
I am not South African. Nelson Mandela didn’t emancipate me. He didn’t change my day-to-day experience of life.
But Mandela’s story captivated me as I read A Long Walk to Freedom many years ago. He stood out as a testimony to the otherwise, to lift a phrase from Walter Brueggemann. Like the great prophets Elijah and Elisha, he witnessed to another way of living in this world. Mandela embodied what was possible – what too many of us assumed was simply impossible.
Mandela’s presence on African soil reminded me that we could choose forgiveness. We could enjoy a meal with our enemy. We could celebrate with former oppressors, honor former jailers; even share power with those who once wronged us. We could turn from violence and pioneer another way. We could actually be magnanimous amid conflict. We could do it all imperfectly and still change the ground game for an entire nation.
Now I wonder if, in fact, Mandela’s living testimony did change me. Maybe his witness emancipated my own imagination. Now I know what it looks like for a South African man to melt his sword into a plowshare and till the red soil, planting good seed and harvesting a more equitable and just world. Now I can envision my own disarming, my own peacemaking and my own pursuit of justice for the community where I live.
I am not South African. But Nelson Mandela invited me to join him in the long walk to freedom. I’m quite convinced that will change the trajectory of my life every day forward.
Rest in peace, Madiba, you walked well on this earth.