As the year draw to an end, we often take stock of what we achieved, lost, gained or failed at during the past twelve months. For some this year will be filled with big moments which became affirming memories, for others maybe a year they would rather forget.
Yesterday, a good friend of mine, shared about her year. She had a very difficult year in which she experienced many losses. Many of these injuries were caused by her church. She is, as a gay minister, still in a legal battle with her church to recognise her constitutional and basic human right to have the choice to be married as gay person even if she is in the ministry. She shared with me that this year she came to know God as darkness. Before her construction of God was Light, but as God is all encompassing, God is also Darkness. In this year she met God as Darkness. For her God as Darkness are the mysterious and unknown sides of God. She associates darkness with that which we cannot see, the unknown and often the unloved. She finds it comforting to know that God is Light and Darkness and that she finds God even in the darkest of times: God of suffering, God of loss and God of death. As a Christian, she is reflecting on her year by addressing two questions:
- What did I learn in this year?
- Where did I find Jesus in this year and these experiences?
Our conversation invited me to reflect on my personal experiences of this year, but also my theology. I believe that each person should construct their own theology. If one unquestioningly follows the theology of another or as the church prescribes, it holds the danger of becoming mere religion appose to personally lived faith or spirituality.
My theology was greatly influenced and shaped by the work of Dr. Dirk Kotzé[i] on participatory ethics. This stance recognises a multiplicity of realities, especially the voices of the disempowered, the marginalised, and the previously silenced (Kotzé 2002:18). It moves from speaking theology to doing and living theology. It is about caring with people and not caring for people. It invites participation of all ‘realities’.
As Dirk, I believe that I need to live my theology. Theology is not found in book cases or on shelves, but in the lives of people. My theology has moved beyond what is right or wrong or what is moral or immoral. I position myself now in terms of the effects of my ways-of-being and living. I constantly ask myself: Is this life-giving, life-denying or life-restricting to myself, others, the relationships involved and the environment? To answer that question I must look at the effects of my thoughts, attitudes, actions and motives. However, when I look at the effects I do so in a participatory manner, thus inviting those affected by me to decide if it is life-giving to them or if it is life-denying. It is my preferred way-of-being to be life-giving, thus in relation to the effects my actions have – therefore a theology of effects.
I invite you to reflect on your year by directing your reflection by the following questions:
- What did I learn in this year?
- How do these experiences relate to the effects of my ways-of-being?
- What stories will this year tell about me?
- How did I live my theology/spirituality?
[i] Kotzé, D 2002. Doing Participatory Ethics, in Kotzé, D, Myburgh, J, Roux J & Associates, Ethical ways of being, 1-34. Pretoria: Ethics Alive.