Like an icy chill of certain death, cynicism creeps up on you. It chills the heart and slows down the tempo of any venture that requires belief and trust. Being from the UK, it seems as if I have been swimming in cynicism all of my life. For all of the positive things of my homeland, our faith and trust are not counted among them, we have a cynical heart and cynicism is the death knell of a progressive hope filled future.
“I knew it wouldn’t work out” I said to myself as I received the text that one group was not coming to our Life! Leadership development retreat. Cynicism had the other hand. When I heard later that Webster had not sorted those from Kasama, my heart was in full retreat and cynicism was reigning supreme.
Nobody believes in the potential of the poor. Why? Simply a cynical mind. We choose not to believe in the best of people. We begin to believe that they will only choose the wrong way. We begin to believe that there is no hope, no future, no anything. The mind and heart begin to be frozen in a cynical outlook, like the deepest winter has set into our very hearts. Blizzards of unbelief blow in, and we are kept cold, miserable, not ever believing that summer will come.
Most people here suffer from a deep lack of faith and cynical outlook. The whites generally don’t believe in the blacks, one particularly cynical quote, “a country of monkeys governed by monkeys”. The guys in the city who are embracing real money are cynical about anyone else. You’ll never see them in the bush. Those in the villages are also cynical about themselves. They don’t really believe in what they can do. If anyone begins to get ahead they will cynically keep the knowledge to themselves or worse still, they will be cynically brought to book by everyone around them. Despite the flamboyance the dancing, the singing, life is being lived in the harshest winter that cynicism can provide. The winter here is a winter of the heart.
Around 20 out of 25 came to the retreat we are holding, I am there right now, my cynicism was misplaced. Seeing the villagers work together, play together and have fun I am in no doubt that summer is coming. These are people God created, they have gifts, they have loves, hates, laughter and lives. They are just like us in so many ways. Why then do we treat them differently? Why then do we believe we are better?
In CS Lewis great work of “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”, the worked of Narnia is held in the deepest winter. In the hall of the evil queen, lives are held in the grip of ice, frozen in time. Aslan, the lion king dies for the many in the land, and from his death summer begins to come. Plants begin to flower, life begins to return, those with their minds and lives frozen begin to thaw.
There is only one hope and that is the hope, future, faith and love that Jesus brings. For 500 years from the slave trading of Vasco de Gama, the portuguese explorer, the colonial rush for africa and the poverty and dependency of today, a cynical heart has cast it’s chill across Africa and the summer of a true understanding of Jesus is needed to melt it away.
Villagers who believe in the potential they possess, and then exploit it for the sake of others. Governments who don’t plunder the hopes, dreams and daily lives of their people. People who have the hopes, faith and courage to make their own community a better place despite overwhelming odds. That’s what Jesus brings.
This battle is a battle I face every day. Will I believe, will I trust or will I become as cynical as everyone else can be? Will I choose to see the warm shoots of summer in the villages or will I let my heart too be chilled to a standstill by the cynical winter? I’ve met people who lived in Africa for over 60 years and apart from the rare exception they are bitter, cynical and unbelieving in what God can do around them. They have been frozen by the waste that is cynicism, one let down, one situation too many, plundered the reserves of faith they once possessed.
Here I stand for the summer, the coming change of season. The throes of winter are all around me often, it is like a war to fight them off. Some say, winter reserves it’s harshest weather for the end of the season. If that is true, I and everyone else that stands, do not have to stand long to see the summer come.