I was studying my Bible a short time ago and a particular passage kept calling me back to restudy it and meditate on it.
“Then he blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my grandfather Abraham and my father, Isaac, walked— the God who has been my shepherd all my life, to this very day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm— may he bless these boys. May they preserve my name and the names of Abraham and Isaac. And may their descendants multiply greatly throughout the earth.”Genesis 48:15-16
I come from a very prayerful family. My maternal grandmother would pray, and you would be moved. My grandmother was the only one of three to survive her mom’s pregnancy. She was a twin. Her family would often refer to her as Two-Girl. My great grandmother was pregnant with twin girls, one girl and my great grandmother did not make it during childbirth.
My grandmother would often tell us the story of how God was all the parent for her and end off her birth story with “uYesu ‘mhle mntanam (God is beautiful my child)”. That has always stayed with me.
I often wondered if my grandmother missed her mother, had feelings of abandonment and whether she even felt out of place being raised by a family that was not her own. She would respond with “God is the only parent I needed, and He is faithful”. I believe her.
My grandmother passed on in her sleep after a short illness in 2010. I was obsessed with my grandmother as she was with me. I rate I was probably one of her most spoiled grandchildren. But then again, my grandmother’s love was so full, overflowing, and abundant, that anyone who would come to meet her or even have a relationship with her would also feel as though they were the favourite too.
As I pondered on the Genesis 48:15-16 passage, particularly the blessing itself as Jacob blessed Joseph before his passing, I was struck by the words “May the God before whom my grandfather Abraham and my father, Isaac, walked”. I thought of the God my grandmother trusted and leaned on. The God who preserved her. The God she raised me to get to know. The God who blessed her with seven children, 18 grandchildren and a multitude of great grandchildren. My grandmother lived for us. She lived for our joy, even in her strict nature.
As I think of Jacob blessing his sons, particularly Joseph, his words strike me. He brings God closer to his home. God in his home is not some God who blessed someone he doesn’t know personally. It is the God that carried his father and grandfather, people he has seen be blessed, be abundant, and trust God to the end.
In raising my three boys, some of the most difficult times have reared their heads, and I have often forgotten that I was raised by a woman who would receive phone calls from her children pouring out their affairs and issues, her response would be stillness and you’d literally hear my grandmother saying “Mas’thandaze (let’s pray).
When her own issues would arise and burdens come at her, she would retreat into her bedroom and pray, stillness. Often, I would get upset at her inability to just be angry and slam the phone down at some of the things that would get thrown her way. I think I am still upset at her for sometimes not saying the things she wanted to but taking the high road and being the forgiving saint that Mandela was. Then I also imagine the difficulty of raising seven children during the apartheid era. Prayer was stillness. The stillness was the safe place to retreat to within when the world around was in chaos.
My grandmother would turn off the TV, call us all together, get on her knees and pray. My grandmother lost two sons and her response each time was stillness and “uYesu ‘mhle mntanam (God is beautiful my child)”. I can imagine her abandonment issues often had her wondering “why me? Why did I have to lose my mother and sister? Why couldn’t I have some normality?” But my grandmother chose to remain still. She’d once shared that she didn’t have an example of parenting, so she worked with what she knew, the Bible and observation. She may have not gotten it all right, but I admired her willingness to try and to lean on stillness.
We have the language for things now and I also know for sure that her traumas may reside in me, I am healing for her. She gave me a tool that is stillness and everything else I learn as I open myself up to the learnings and put in the work. But I know I am healing her as I heal me. She would be so proud of me. The stillness I have managed to find in my life and the unwillingness to compromise on my joy and freedom, there’s no price tag to that.
I mentioned in the last editor’s note that I’ve realised the value of sitting in uncomfortable silence and challenging my thoughts. And yes, it is uncomfortable to sit in the silence and allow the awkward feelings and thoughts to come. It is uncomfortable to question your own thoughts and challenge them. But to lift beyond the drowning effect of some traumas we deal with is found in the silence. Therapy requires us to also look at our shadow selves and the feelings and thoughts we have when no one else is listening or when we aren’t required to be cerebral. It’s tapping into that, noting those feelings and thoughts, then letting them know you are not them.
In my parenting journey, I have felt failure and then I remember to pray to my grandmother’s beautiful God:
“May the God before whom my grandmother Janet Two-Girl and my mother and father walked – the God who has been my shepherd all my life, to this very day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm— may he bless these boys. May they preserve my name and the names of my grandmother and parents. And may their descendants multiply greatly throughout the earth.”
I challenge you to think of someone in your family and lineage whose parenting was from a place of stillness – from the expression of the self in the universe, the expression of the divine, in human form. Someone who would retreat to stillness (often confused for weakness) when dealt with a difficult situation. Observe how the lack of correction, control, persuasion and lack of reaction makes you feel.