The last few days have been interesting. Coming back to the town we lived in for three years open up all kind of questions. Shouldn’t we have stayed here? Was it the right decision to go back to South Africa? As I’m retracing my and Lollie’s footsteps and relations I’m thinking about this quite a lot. We’ve been gone from this place for five years. That in itself already eclipses the time we spent here.
As I’m thinking this through I found some help from the essayist Wendell Berry. He recounts how he once ‘made it big’ in New York. When he decided to go back to farming in Kentucky people told him he is making a mistake. I find in his description of his returning to Kentucky parallels to our returning to Africa. Berry writes,
“I had made a significant change in my relation to the place: before, it had been mine by coincidence or accident; now it was mine by choice. My return, which at first had been hesitant and tentative, grew wholehearted and sure. I had come back to stay. I hope to live here the rest of my life. And once that was settled I began to see the place with a new clarity and a new understanding and a new seriousness. Before coming back I had been willing to allow the possibility – which one of my friends insisted on – that I already knew this place as well as I ever would. But now I began to see the real abundance and richness of it. It is, I saw, inexhaustible in its history, in the details of its life, in its possibilities. I walked over it, looking, listening, smelling, touching, alive to it as never before. I listened to the talk of my kinsmen and neighbors as I never had done, alert to their knowledge of the place, and to the qualities and energies of their speech. I began more seriously than ever to learn the names of things – the wild plants and animals, the natural processes, the local places – and to articulate my observations and memories. My language increased and strengthened, and sent my mind into the place like a live root system.” p.6 The art of the commonplace
As I’m thinking about the questions above, I know, that like Berry I’m rooted in South Africa. That our return in 2003 marked our repentance back to Africa. That we entered it with new eyes and hearts willing to learn. Rootedness starts with choice and flows out into the particulars of the place we’re in. For me and my family this is Johannesburg. This rootedness takes place under the canopy of our roots being in Jesus.