Archive | November 2011

Lessons From The Desert Part 2 (Importance of Friendship)


“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” ~ C.S. Lewis

The moment I read the above quote, I knew this would be the opening quote for this blog. As I prepare for my journey out of the desert, I reflect on all the lessons I have learned while stuck there and one of the most important ones is just what friendship and companionship mean to me.

Jesus is the epitome of a true friend for as John 15:13 says “there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” and lay down His life He did just for me. I did not have a true appreciation for friends until I started university, far away from my family and all that was familiar to me. I quickly learned that if I was going to survive I needed to surround myself with people with the traits I admired and that I wanted to grow within me. I was blessed enough to meet my group of friends within my first month in university and today, nearly eight years later, I am still very close with a many of them. These wonderful women really shaped not only the woman, but the friend I am today.

I can still remember looking at my one friend and thinking, “how can she be so giving, so loving and so supportive?” She just seemed to be living John 15:13 as she loved, gave and supported even when she had better things to do and it seemed that those she was going out on a limb for, including myself, were not deserving. I knew looking at her that she was the kind of friend I wanted to emulate. As I started practicing to give more of myself and care less about what I received in return, I noticed the results because before I knew it I was overwhelmed with love and support and friends who’d drop everything to come to my aid when needed. Given the constant nurturing frienships require, I sometimes wonder how I managed to sustain those friendships throughout university because I was in a pretty serious relationship for pretty much my entire university career. I am sincerely grateful I did because when the chips were down and my world as I knew it shattered, they rallied around and they were there!

The most significant relationship I have built my friend template from is probably the one with my oldest and closest friend. I cannot sneeze without her saying “bless you” from the other side of the world. We were so close in high school even our mothers became friends. Sadly went our separate ways for university and pretty much did not speak or see each other for years. But man, did it hit us with a bang when we started working together a few years later! I do not feel I have developed enough as a writer to do our friendship and how much she means to me justice. I will not even try. By accepting and loving me just as I am with all my imperfections, she has really taught me how to just be me. She is truly my anchor and always pulls me back when calamity tosses me out of control. Never with grand gestures, never making me feel like I am stupid for not seeing it sooner but rather with the utmost gentleness, love and care. I once read in Rick Warren’s ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ that the most precious gift we can ever give is time. My best friend continues to give me the very best of herself, never demanding anything from me in return and it is from her than I have learned what a blessing it is to be loved unconditionally.

As I think of my friends who have come into my life quite unexpectedly, I cannot help but smile. Their friendship was so unexpected that unlike the friends I’ve discussed above, I cannot recall the point we became friends but I’m mighty grateful that we did. One day we were classmates, colleagues or strangers in church and the next they had carved very special places in my heart. They have added such a beautiful, enriched dimension to my life. Starting my working life I had often been warned to treat colleagues as such because ultimately they are there to look after themselves. It was quite a delightful lesson to learn that friendship does transcend age gaps, heirachies and most importantly the barriers supposedly imposed by work.

It is with absolute fondness that I reflect on each of the friends I left at home. My friends had done for me what a safe, nurturing environment does for a child; made me confident in my abilities and made me feel I was ready to take on the challange of moving abroad alone. If I had moved across the country and was able to building friendships that have survived years of separation, what would stop me now? If I was able to turn colleagues into friends why couldn’t I do it here? Looking back I realise that maybe I was somewhat arrogant in my thinking. Perhaps I was even more arrogant to think I would be able to survive without the glue that has held me together through my adult life thus far!

In Lessons From The Desert Part 1, I spoke about how making life-long friends was one of my goals when I arrived here. I was quite happy that I had landed up in Edinburgh because I had often heard how friendly the Scots were compared to say Londoners(which had been one of my possibilities). Having spent a few weeks trying to break into existing friendship circles in the office, I quickly realised that I was banging my head against a brick wall. We did not share similar interests and most importantly I just did not feel that sense of security that they understood me and that I belonged. So my next strategy was to align myself with the other South Africans who were pretty much in the same boat. Since most of the ones I would be working with were male, I planned to get to know their significant others that they’d moved here with and hopeful satisfy that longing I had for female companionship. Sadly, things did not quite work out.

It is not for the lack of trying that I will leave with no sense of accomplishment in this area. In my heart I really do believe that I did and tried all I could but always careful not too push too hard and trust in the process enough to take of the rest. Even with all that, I still have the deepest pain in my heart with all the hurt I have endured along the way. It reminds me of how I felt when I was little and I did not have any friends at school and felt like an outcast. I feel an even bigger outcast now than I did then.

The South African boys in the office have each other and their partners to go home to. Their partners have built a tight network and now have each other to lean on. And me? I have no one but myself. It is quite painful to sit and listen to the people you thought you would become friends with make dinner plans around you as if you are not even there. It’s even worse hearing about the parties that you were never invited to but would have loved to have been at. Thanks to social media it gets rubbed in your face over and over again when pictures are splashed all over feeds the following day. But don’t get me wrong, I am not looking for sympathy votes! As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says “for everything there is a season, a time for every matter under the heavens” and this I believe has been my season of loneliness.

With each season in our lives we are to learn something; in spring the promise of blessings to come, in summer the joy of giving, in autumn the wisdom of preparation and in winter we must learn patience and the blessing in growing in seclusion.

I have learned a lot from this past year and I hope that I do not hold onto the pain and bitterness that lingers in my heart. For the past few days I have repeatedly prayed that the Lord grants me a forgiving heart, a heart that lets go and doesn’t hold onto the hurt and pain it feels. This experience has, if nothing else, humbled me. It has also opened my eyes to just how much I love and value the friends I left at home. It is with newfound clarity that I reflect on and appreciate all they have taught me and just how much they have shaped my life. The most important lesson was the one my bestie reminded me of when she said, “Babe,don’t let them change who you are. It is in your very nature to be loving and giving. It is their loss if they do not appreciate all you do for them.”

Whilst the intellectual in me knows that you cannot force friendship and you cannot build one when the other person is not invested in doing so, it still saddens me to think of the longing left unfilled in my heart. And whilst my survival through the year has proven that friendship is unnecessary, like C.S. Lewis realised during his time, this survival means way less in the absence of friends to share war stories with.

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Lessons from the desert Part 1


For at least the past week I have had a blog all written in my head but for some reason just could not bring myself to let my fingers meet the keyboard. It seems I have developed a fear of writing, some writers’ block. Before it consumes me whole and destroys any confidence I have left, I think it’s time to nip it in the bud so…..“Dear brain, in case you were starting to doubt this, I am in control and not you!”

In 35 days, God willing, I will be making my way back to my family and friends whom I miss dearly. Most importantly back to the me that I used to be. It sounds odd to say this because we all want to grow and develop, we never want to regress and yet here I am wanting nothing more than to be the old me. I can feel the heat on the side of my face from God’s stare as I type that but truth be told, I would rather go back to who I was this time last year and forget the past year ever happened. It would be easier. Less heartbreaking. Less painful.

Leaving home last year I was filled with childlike excitement at the prospect of a brand new adventure. I was about to embark on a journey I did not even dream possible right up until the day it was confirmed. I had hope in abundance and faith that this was meant to be. Like anyone granted the chance of a lifetime, I had high aspirations of all I would do and achieve and the kind of person I would return as in a few years time. Coming here, my goals and aspirations were clearly defined. I was here realise my life-long dream of travelling around Europe, I was here to advance my career, make new friends and maybe even meet the love of my life. Of bigger significance I was here to earn enough so I can clear off my debts and also help my family to get out of debt and finally start a comfortable, successful life. Above all else, I was to grow in my walk with God and learn more about the woman He wanted me to be. One by one each dream went to that dark desolate place where dreams go to die and just so I can look back and remember how it all went down, here they are:

1. Holidaying in Europe. I was going to see at the very least Paris, Venice, Rome, Milan and Madrid. Sad thing is I actually came very close to realising this dream. I had the trip booked, paid the deposit, had the two weeks leave that I would need booked and all I had to do was pay the balance. It broke my heart when I had to cancel because of competing financial demands and a part of me will remain sad that I never got a chance to do this.

2. Financial freedom. I was going to claw myself out of the pit of debt I’d been stuck in for the past few years. Well that dream quickly went out the window when I realised just how expensive it was to live in this country. Add to that having to send money home to help my family, now almost a year later I have sunk even deeper. Getting to a point where I wonder if this is what I was destined for? Will I have come out of it? In trying to do right by my family and to prove to my grandmother, aunt and mother that I’m not the selfish, self-centered brat that they seemed to think I was when I moved out from home to establish my independence, I was the one left stranded.

My dreams of financial freedom seem so far out of reach I doubt I will be reaching them anytime soon. I look at my peers and I’m filled with deep jealousy because I too want to be able to buy a car, buy a house and live comfortably and not have to worry how I’ll get through the month.

3. Career progression. Coming to UK was going to be a chance to jump start my career, I would come back having at least progressed one level. That dream was blown to smitherines pretty much in January! I do not know why things played out the way they did, all I know to this day it hurts more than I can even put into words. I came here confident in my abilities, I was certain I had the skills, the attitude, the strength and the stamina to make it here. All that confidence is now gone and I am left feeling exposed and vulnerable. So much so that I am scared of any job that comes after this.

I probably cried in my first three months here more than I’ve done in any given year in my life. By the time March came around, I was seriously considering resigning, packing up my things and returning home. Looking back I probably should have, I would have done far less damage to my emotional and mental stability!

It really hasn’t helped that I have struggled for nearly four months to find a job at home. Something that came as a complete shocker because so many people had so knowingly told me what a wonderful opportunity this was and that it would boost my CV and make me stand out from my peers. It hasn’t quite worked out that way for me and I can’t help but feel I jeopardised my career and set myself back.

I have come to accept that this year has set me back and I will now have to work that much harder(on myself) to ensure the effects are not permanent and I do not create self-fulfilling prophecies. How I will do this, I do not know!

4. Love. When I left Durban I was determined to leave the heartache and pain of past relationships and use this as my fresh start and hopefully meet someone new who would love me and teach me to love past the hurt and the pain. Sadly I guess tis was never in the cards for me. At first I thought I would leave it to fate and see what it brought my way and then when that strategy did not work decided it was time to “put myself out there”. I registered on a couple of internet dating sites, started going out more and nothing yielded any results. Months ago I started to resign myself to the fact that maybe I am just one of those people that were meant to die alone! Yet, that quiet romantic in me refuses to believe that God can ever be that cruel.

5. Friendship. I had often heard of all the wonderful, life-long friends people make when travelling or living abroad. As my time here winds down, I need to probably admit that I will not be telling such stories to anyone. Not for the lack of trying! I arrived open to meeting new people and expanding my friendship circle. Much to my dismay the only things that this venture has yielded are many tearful nights from sheer frustration and loneliness, months of feeling undesirable and just completely useless. It’s one thing not to be wanted by the opposite sex, but when women do not want your companionship it compounds you become convinced that there’s something wrong with you!

6. Realising God’s plan for my life. I still remember the day I wrote Send Me To The Nations. Everything that could have gone wrong with my move here, seemed to have already happened. Yet amidst all that I had the quite confidence and the peace that I was walking the path God had wanted me to walk. This year was the year my relationship with Him would grow exponentially. This was the year I’d be drawn closer to Him and we’d do wonderful things together. When I wrote Just God and I in January, I was starting to believe that maybe all the things that had started going wrong and all the longing I had in my heart was all to reinforce that He was merely drawing me closer. I was still on the right path. I don’t know when I wandered off that path but months it’s been feeling I have been stumbling through a wilderness where God refuses to show His face. I went through months not wanting to pray let alone open a Bible. I was lost, wondering around aimlessly and no matter how much and how long I cried for help, He just did not want to show Himself to me.

I probably could have dealt with each of the above “failures” if I had been hit with them individually. Together they have come very close to consuming me and burying me alive. I probably could have dealt with the first five if I had felt the presence of God, His companionship and His comforting embrace through it all. Through all of this it feels as if I’m the only person excluded from the protective cover of scriptures like Psalm 55:22, 1 Peter 5:7 and Psalm 37:5. No matter how much I try cast my burdens to Him it seems He has turned His face away and closed His ears to my cries and has left me stranded in the middle of a desert with nowhere to turn and noone to turn to.