Storms are a natural part of life...literally and figuratively. We do not have to look far to see storms brewing, and there is very little we can do to stop a storm from coming. This morning I remembered the wise words of one of my favorite characters in all of literature, Stephen Kumalo in Alan Paton's remarkable novel, Cry, the Beloved Country.
Set in apartheid South Africa, this novel tells the story of the storm of the clash of races and the endurance of the love of fathers. If I only had one book to read for the rest of my life, this would be it. So full of wisdom about living and loving, courage and fear and the dignity of every human being, it is filled with quotes which run through my head regularly.
One of them is spoken by a black Anglican priest, Msimangu, who struggles so hard to bring peace among the races. With frustration he says one day, "I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they turn to loving the will find we are turned to hating."
But the one I am remembering this morning is spoken to Stephen Kumalo, a Zulu Anglican priest whose son has committed the most egregious crime possible in the world of apartheid South Africa: he killed a white man and not just any white man, but the son of James Jarvis, a great and powerful land owner. In the face of this unspeakable crime his son has committed and the death sentence imposed on his son, Kumalo reaches out to a fellow priest, a white "rosy-cheeked" man named Father Vincent. In his pastoral way, Father Vincent says to Kumalo,
" My friend, your anxiety turned to fear and your fear turned to sorrow. But sorrow is better than fear. For fear impoverishes, always, while sorrow may enrich...Sorrow is better than fear," said Father Vincent doggedly. "Fear is a journey, a terrible journey, but sorrow is at least an arriving. … When the storm threatens, a man is afraid for his house... But when the house is destroyed, there is something to do. About a storm he can do nothing, but he can rebuild the house."
Perhaps meeting Advent again for the first time includes moving from fear to sorrow in the face of the storms of our lives, so that the arrival of the Christ Child affords us the chance to rebuild and to include in that rebuilding a room fit for a King!
Below is a trailer for the movie of the book which was made in 1995. If anyone out there is interested, I would love nothing more than to get together with a group of people to read, mark and inwardly digest this beautiful book, again for the first time!