Growing up I wasn’t always sure who I was because I didn’t always fit into the space I had. If your space fits, then you fit. My space was sometimes tight and stifling, and didn’t smell or sound right. For me, the right space smells like Africa’s veld when you are stretched out in it with the sun on your back, and sounds like the world purring, low and deep down, the sound of contentedness. A space like that fits you like a shadow and you know it belongs to you. I often found that space as a child, but then someone might call out and the sun would go in and my space did not fit so well anymore; too much was crowding into it.
Whenever I left that space I was more certain about who I wasn’t. I wasn’t the boy in the next street whose father was a game-lover and made safari films to show how wild and wonderful Africa’s animals are. I wasn’t the boy two classes above me who was the quickest bowler in the First Cricket Team and once took 4-for-10. And I wasn’t Jim the boy-hero in Treasure Island who had marvellous adventures with gold and jewels and nearly died but didn’t because Long John Silver said he was a rum fellow. I wasn’t such a rum fellow.
To be a rum fellow a boy needed connections, someone who saw the good in him and helped to draw it out so that it emerged even better than it was on the inside. Jim had more connections than most boys and each made him a little taller and straighter and by the time they were done he was a proper gentleman with coat and hat and a grand house to hang them in. He had all the space he needed and the shadow he cast was as swell as can be.
I had connections, but along with the good in me they also saw the knots, those snarled bits like the contrary coils of a garden hose with a mind of its own. I had a mind of my own, they said, which to my mind was only proper because it had always belonged to me. They set about to change my mind, to bring it into line. It is not an easy thing to bring a mind into line because you cannot see what you are working with. There are no handles marked Pull Gently, to take hold of, to pull and tease the knots out. It is a work in the dark.
My mind is no longer my own. I gave it away to a Connection who likes working in the dark. He knows where the light-switch is; it is within Himself (John 8:12) and it is always on. In that light He saw the good in me and drew it out, and I am a little taller and straighter now. But the strangest thing is that the good He found in me wasn’t there before. He put it there Himself (1 Corinthians 1:30). Yes, my new Connection sees the good in me and the space He has made for me fits very well and we spend a lot of time together there.
That space I found as a child, with the warm grass and the African sun and the world purring beneath me, is still my space. Sometimes I am elsewhere as life has many spaces, but that first space is always in my mind, the mind of my own I gave to Jesus. That space is also in His mind, a space where the calf and the lion and the fatling shall lie down together and a little child shall lead them (Isaiah 11:6).
Oh, yes, my space fits me very well. How about yours?
Laurie Meintjes moved to Australia from South Africa at 20. He has a wife and three daughters and writes from Cooranbong.