In the next few posts I will explore the calling I feel … so here goes … you can read part 2 here.

Whenever I start a new journal I write two verses on the front page.  It comes from Isaiah
58 and is a kind of ‘calling verse’ for me.  The first journal that I still have, (I’ve lost a few), with these verses inscribed is dated July 1997.

Here are the verses:

And the Lord
will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of
streets to dwell in. (v11-12)

Even though these verses have been with me since the 90’s the ways in which I’ve
understood it have changed dramatically. These ‘life verses’ or ‘calling verses’ have morphed into a calling that is echoing harder – like an African drumbeat.  It is calling me into a different rhythm.

Previous understandings

When those verses scorched into my soul in the early 90’s I read it with what I would now call a selfish spiritual eye. Spiritual because I read it to say that I (singular) will be guided, satisfied and become a spring for other people. I read it as being in a state of perpetual bliss of being fulfilled and having spiritual experiences that would make my life amazing.  It was all about the spiritual life divorced from the physical realities around me and the country I live in.

Selfish because it struck me as cool to be named a, “Repairer of the breach and restorer of streets to dwell in”.  It basically appealed to my sense of wanting to make a mark or being significant, or to use other language, be ‘purposeful’ and change the world. It was all about me and about making a name.


Six years ago, as we came back from living abroad for three years, I realized that I read verses 11 and 12 out of context and that it would serve me well to read the whole chapter and the whole book if Isaiah.

I also awoke to the contextual aspects of life in South Africa.  Up to that point I ‘read’
South Africa from a rich, white, Afrikaans church environment.  Just like isolating verse 11 and 12 from the rest of chapter 58, I lived in an isolated slice of South African

I went on an exploration of Isaiah 58 on the one hand, and South Africa on the other.

These two explorations (of text and geography) have changed my viewpoint and what I see.  It’s not that the isolating is completely gone, I still live in isolation, but I’ve seen a different picture and my calling has become more contextually integrated.

I have discovered that the ways we read our contexts are extremely important.  I live in a
country where reading contexts wrong, both Text and Geography, have resulted in
immense suffering.

Gerald West wisely states that,

“Our is a context in which biblical interpretations do matter; they do shape our world.  As the South African context constantly reminds us, biblical interpretations have life and death consequences … they have effects”[1]

As I awoke to the contexts of Isaiah 58 and the rest of the Bible on the one hand and the contexts of South Africa on the other I’ve been deeply disturbed.  It is hard to change.  It was, and still is,difficult to discover that I’ve missed the contexts of Bible and country for so long. Though it is hard it is calling me into a different kind of life …

Read Part 2 here

[1] “The academy of the Poor” (2003), Gerald West p.16