The joy of embracing love

My teenage years were highlighted by so many things, but two of them stand out. The first for me were the ‘riots’, the uprising, in the late 1980s and the rapid rise in teenage pregnancy in the townships. Everything was intensely ‘real’ during this decade, one could not deny that. We needed a better life in the country:  equal rights for all. As one thing leads to the other, overseas companies started leaving the country partly through sanctions, partly as result of the instability of a culture of protest. And, amidst all this, the rate of teenage pregnancy rose.

Many people were beginning to experience unemployment. This was the beginning of the economic melt- down for us. Negatively, people felt economic and social hardship, the already imperfect education system declined, whereas positively people’s faith in themselves and hope for freedom grew. Our country, as we know, proudly witnessed freedom at the end, though today many people dispute the meaning of the words “freedom and democracy”.

In the course of my township-based retreat work I hear a lot of different views surrounding these two words, freedom and democracy. Some find joy in them and say to me “finally we were able to experience this joy”; others feel let down and never agree with their more optimistic friends. A few even feel nostalgic about life before our democracy.

There are similarities when we look at the world 2000 years ago. The life and time of king Herod evolved around anxiety, a cruel leader, relentless killing and intimidation without respect for age. This kind of life that king Herod created doubtlessly left people unsettled (to put it mildly!). Yet, in time, the joy that arose out of the birth and subsequent life of the Child Jesus brought another reality: a chance for some to see life in a different way than the worldview created by Herod and his successors.

I have mentioned at the beginning the teenage pregnancy I noted increasingly in the late 1980s. Though not ideal situations, I know those to be born were often awaited with joy by families. The different cultures and families performed their rituals of preparation to settle with this unexpected reality.  Amidst violence, chaos and death, the expected new life lifted one’s soul toward a better tomorrow and gave hope.

In normal situations new life has ‘movement’: young parents become graduates and enter into another higher level in the society. People become grandparents, aunts and uncles without realizing it and life has got to carry on. In both normal and abnormal situations some people are ready to be parents but some not.

Were these young parents ready? I am not sure but some of them have worked hard and tried hard to raise their children. Parenting, they say to me is a selfless gift. This is what we see in Our Lady and St Joseph: Luke 2: 39-40, “When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And as the child grew to maturity, he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.”

Ms Puleng Matsaneng

Puleng works in Spirituality and researches Ignatian Spirituality in an African context. Her area of speciality is in exploring how African themes and practices of spirituality dialogue with the Western traditions, and how that is understood in relation to Ignatian Spirituality. She has looked at how Ignatian Spirituality can be integrated into the African worldview. Most especially, how the use of song and storytelling can be part of the prayer process. She is currently managing retreats in daily life and training prayer guides. Puleng is also involved in ongoing Spiritual Direction, giving 8-day and 30-day retreats. Her latest venture is a pilot programme of healing workshops that use the principles of Ignatian Spirituality.
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