A guest blog by Lydia Pienaar
I wanted to write about this but I couldn’t. I do not live on a farm. I go into Woolworths and put the lamb and the mielies in my trolley without a thought to where that food came from. I look at the rain and consider the ways it’s ruining my social plans, not with consideration for the life and livelihood that it carries for my family and my future. But as you know from The Mommy Diaries, I believe that the way we make the Word of God real and relevant to our kids, equipping them to be the salt and the light our world needs, is to engage them on the things that happen to them and around them. We do not exercise our faith in a bubble. And with #farmattacks and #farmmurders at the forefront of everyone’s minds now, I asked my sister to tell us how they are leading their family in seeing things the way God sees them out on their farm in the Eastern Cape. It’s a privilege to have her guest blog for us today:
When I first started dating my now husband, a farmer, this is a phrase I heard all too often: “ You need to be careful of farm attacks”. I was already a widow at this point. I had known heartbreak and trauma. But I wasn’t about to let fear rob me of a future as it loves to do. A brief 6 month courtship later, I was the wife of a farmer. Deliriously happy and working harder than I ever thought possible (how many rusks should one woman actually have to bake?)I slowly made the adjustment to living on the farm. But the one thing I kept struggling to adjust to was people’s reaction when they found out I lived on a farm.
Sometimes people outright asked me “ aren’t you scared?” other times I could read it in people’s eyes. Farm attacks have been increasing from 2011 onwards. For the 2019 calendar year, 552 farm attacks were reported and confirmed, which is, 27% more farm attacks than the previous year. and I guess, until I actually lived on a farm, I was naïve about this. Living on a farm in South Africa – I have come to understand – is the one place where you can on one hand feel more fully alive but also on the other be more fully aware of your mortality.
Now, two years down the line , hose questions haunt me daily, no hourly. Our internet on the farm works just fine (although some days I wish it didn’t). A barrage of unfiltered and uncensored information will find you even if you live in middle of nowhere. All of this in the name of creating awareness , more like “scared-ness” (I know that is not even a word but bare with me). It is a daily struggle for me. Farm attacks and farm murders is now a topic, a hashtag, a political tennis ball, batted around for clickbait in the media and by parties on either side. The media, instead of looking at the deep seated issues surrounding this phenomenon, would rather give a mouthpiece to those with vengeful and violent agendas.
And as a Christian and a parent, there now lurks another haunting question, scratching at me like a pebble in my shoe. What will I tell my kids about this? How will I answer their questions around the issue when the time comes? Can I wrestle out, even within myself, and answer that truly reflects what I believe, in Whom I believe? An answer that strengthens them without fuelling fear and without making light of something that is now at the forefront of our daily lives?
So when I was asked to guest blog on this topic by my sister, there was now, once and for all, no place to hide. Time to dig deep on one of the most loaded topics in our country at the moment. The idea scared me. By no means do I want to add to the noise out there because most of us are already full up on information, opinion and Prozen . I pray that my journey in this painful subject might bring you to a better understanding of who God is and that peace is possible despite our circumstances, albeit in the suburbs or on a farm.
1 Peter 3 verse 15: But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do it with gentleness and respect.
Always keep your heart aligned with God’s heart
Farm murders has become part of a culture of murder and lawlessness that permeates the South African landscape and has irrevocably changed the lives of so many South Africans. Our political background being what it is, there has been bloodshed over many generations and tribes. Personally I believe this is a driving force behind the perpetuated cycle of brutality.
The Bible is very clear that God hates murder. As followers of Christ we have to have the same mind as Him regarding all matters that affect His children (1 Cor 2:16). Should we then single out one type of murder over another in a country so ravaged by this terrible sin? I think we can all agree it is not as simple as that.
But before I digress from the subject at hand, as a farm dweller myself , I want to unequivocally state that the attacks on farms is a sin in the eyes of God. It remains horrendous and whatever the motives are, it CANNOT be justified on any level. It should be strongly condemned by all of God’s children and so should murder against every group in our country.
The blood shed on our farms, in an abortion clinic, the stray bullets in the Cape flats, violent and fatal home invasions in the suburbs and squatter camps abhors God equally. There is no difference in the eyes of God. There will be an orphan on a farm and an orphan in the location. As His children this should break our hearts , because it breaks His.
I wish I could say that I have prayed against all of these things, or shown up to their cause in solidarity( in the non emoji and thumbs up kinda way) but alas to my shame I have not. My concept of the sanctity of life has been skewed by my own selfishness and need for self preservation, most of the time it has been about me and not about God.
This is the attitude our family is prayerfully trying to move away from and rather seeking out God’s truth in all these matters. What He says before what any lobby group, petition or you tube video says. As parents and as Christians we have to look at our motives every time we speak, act, forward a message, commit to a position. Is it self-preservation or a reverential fear of God in His holiness? Are we calling to God because this matter is now too close for comfort or because we know we need to face the poor attitudes of our heart?
Having the word of God as the plumb line on this matter will make it easier to guide our children on this tough topic and many others. However, if we make Facebook, our newsfeed or our emotions the authority on the subject, firm faith and stability will elude us and because kids learn by example they will inevitably follow suit. When we face any challenge we should always do a heart check first, because the heart deceives quickly and easily and does not automatically see things the way God sees them.
Always allow the blood of Christ to speak the loudest
We all know the story of Cain and Abel. Jealousy, hatred and basically human nature caused senseless bloodshed.
Genesis 4:10 :The LORD said, “ what have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.
If we look around us in South Africa this has never been more true. Blood seems to call out for more blood, hate breeds more hate. Each one screaming for justice and truth louder than the next one. It is hard to discern the truth from the lie. I want to teach my boys to listen to the right blood. (stay with me).
Hebrews 12 :24 says: to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
In the old covenant blood called out for vengeance and wrath much like today. However we are children of a new covenant through Jesus. His blood speaks restoration and peace that is possible through forgiveness. The only truth that can break the cycle of vengeance we now find ourselves in again.
Jesus’ blood was the only blood that could satisfy the wrath of God, the only blood that does not call out for more. If we do not bring this gospel truth into every bloodstained South African reality we will continue to see the cycle of vengeance without truth play itself out in our society and on social media. Now more than ever before what we believe about the blood of Christ is on display for the world to see. Are we speaking a better word in the way we post, share or speak around the braai? Do we fuel fear? Do we edify? Our kids needs to know that there is a blood that speaks a better word over every situation they face.
The sooner they learn that wrath and vengeance only brings more wrath and vengeance the sooner they can focus prayerfully on living, being and praying the powerful truth of the cross into this situation.
Always choose righteousness over rights
In a society that is all about rights and standing on them, we as Christians often forget Jesus was more about righteousness than rights. He had ample opportunity to stand on those rights and ‘smite’ those who stood in His way so that people could know that He was here on an exceptional errand but He did not.
2 Corinthians 5: 21 He became sin who knew no sin that we might become the righteousness of God.
Jesus could not have said it clearer in Matthew 16: 24 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”
We all know that taking up your cross means being willing to die to follow Jesus. This can also be called ‘dying to self’. A call to absolute surrender. It means I must, in every circumstances, including this one,ask myself this hard questions: Am I a slave to my rights in this situation or to the freeing gospel of Christ? When I face a very real threat of life and livelihood, can I die to my justifiable indignation – I mean do THEY realise that without US, THEY cannot eat! Can I pretend that I don’t know or maybe skipped over that part in scripture where Jesus meant that denying myself includes denying myself the right to explain this side of the story, to be offended, to hold on to what is mine. This has never been harder for me than right now on this farm.
Jesus knows how damaging these feelings and attitudes are, regardless of how valid and true they might be. He know that my un submitted heart will eventually become so calloused, unable to hear His voice over my own pain and indignation that I could find myself quite literally outside of His perfect will.
We read in Philippians 2 v 6 – 8 that Jesus left the comfort of his rights and reputation and position to become a slave to righteousness. If I want to be His follower, should I not then be willing to be a slave to righteousness instead of being a slave to my rights, to my reputation, my opinion or my position. Those things can never make me a servant of the gospel. And in this situation, in Senekal today, in every conversation about this very hard thing, being a servant to the gospel means what it always means: Forgiveness, reconciliation, peace. And this brings me to my next point…
Always choose your identity in Christ first.
I want my boys to know that even before they are the sons of a farmer, or Afrikaans, or anything else, the truth of Col 3:3:
For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
That is the only identity worth holding on to. If they are firmly established in that knowledge it will not be a total crises when some certainties are shaken. If they firmly grasp this truth it will speak louder about who they are and where they are from than the color of their skin or the language they speak.
Don’t get me wrong. I love and cherish my heritage, language and culture but that is not who I am foremost. I am His. I am not my church denomination, the land I own or even the language I speak. All those things are good, but so often I have found the good stands in the way of the Godly. If the good of our culture or heritage, for example, stands before the truth of our Godly identity, it not only distracts us our true purpose in the here and now, but, it brings division, even among believers, and it puts our confidence, our peace and our hope on shaky ground because we have placed our confidence, our peace and our hope in the wrong thing.
There is something that I’ve noticed in my culture, maybe you’ve noticed it in yours? Culture, heritage, even race, can become something we build our identity around. But as believers, we see in Ephesians 2 v 11 – 22 that we are given a new, primary identity and this is not just so we can be reconciled to God, but also so the reconciliation between people of different backgrounds can be accomplished through the gospel. That is why it is both tragic, divisive and dangerous when we make a golden calf (umphh and I’m trying to tread lightly here) out of our heritage, culture or race and as believers we should be vocal about it as we see it happening in volatile situations not just here but everywhere. Something like that can so easily become an idol.
Why do I say that? Well what are the markers of an idol ? We throw all our time and money at it, even vow our whole life to defend it , and (because idols require a blood sacrifice) when someone threatens it, we become willing to fight for it even unto death. We are quick to say we will kneel only before God, but us clinging to an identity that is not first and foremost our identity in Christ makes us hypocrites, it makes us the same as the world – like people who don’t have anything else to identify with. This scares me and breaks my heart.
The reality for me as an Afrikaans speaking woman in SA is that everything can be taken from me and my children at any time. I want them to be so aware that they already have a home, and unmovable identity and that they are so deeply loved that should these things happen they will not be completely shaken. That there is only one thing worth fighting and dying for.
In conclusion. Please don’t think I am so Godly minded that I am no earthly good. We of course have done all we could to remain safe on the farm and to remain informed using the right channels. But all these things are done proactively, reasonably and not in reaction to fear. Nothing good can ever come from decisions made out of fear. But before any of these things had become necessary we had already been fighting the good fight in our thoughts and hearts, and we hope to continue to do that. So this blog (sermon?) I am preaching to myself as much as anyone! We strive only to protecting the peace that was brutally paid for in blood by our Saviour.
“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, Because he trusts in you” Isaiah 26:3
This has been a daily battle for me and putting these thoughts down was so so hard. I hope that you do not see my thoughts and feelings reflected on the page. I pray that you read them through the everlasting lens of His love for us. And that His blood will speak a better Word to where you find yourself struggling today.