Mandela — A Guide to Being You

I’ve written how I loved Invictus, a movie about Mandela and how he used the rugby team to solidify South Africa. I remember Matt Damon (team captain) going to visit the prison where Mandela spent 27 years, and in wonder spreading his arms to touch both walls, both ways of the 8×8 cell. There was a hard-back chair and that was all.

I still can’t imagine it–how anyone could survive that and come out as a beacon of love and forgiveness. But he did. One man can change a country, a world.

Inspiration like that doesn’t last long unless you feed it. Have you noticed that? But how can we keep it alive?

The same way he achieved his amazing triumph of spirit–by choice.

It just now came to me. He was in an easier place to do the thing we don’t do, because in that kind of desolate place, it is continually before you every waking minute–choose! You have to choose how to think about this, how to relate to it, or your emotions will eat you alive.

Here’s what I know: in that situation emotions take over and fire up every possible kind of anger, fear, and despair–running the gamut and determining your perspective. Or you completely shut down and go into depression, overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.

The grinding day after day sameness and privation would break most of us, but not Mandela; or you, if you believed in choice like he did and if you were committed to right like he was. The one line of “Invictus,” the poem he kept with him continually, says it all, “I am the captain of my soul.”

In other words, I don’t have to react, I can choose and depend on Goodness and Love to bring it around–eventually.

Sometimes all you can choose is your perspective, but that is yours. And no one can take that if you don’t allow them to choose how you see or how you react.

Think about that. You are capable of choice.

My husband and I are currently reading the prophet Hosea in the Holy Scriptures. What has jumped at me is God’s perspective on pain. He says He took them to the Valley of Achor (Suffering or Troubling) as a door of hope.

Really? Say again… So He did. When they had plenty, they became full and left Him…they didn’t need Him when it was good and forgot that He was their Source, their protector, their happiness.

If God blessed them they forgot Him. That became a huge problem for Israel. Over and over it happened. They either didn’t believe that He really loved and cared for them, or they didn’t care. But again and again when things got good they forgot about their living God and ran after gods they created.

Suffering was their safety.

Suffering is one of our best teachers, and we have another sublime example of it in Mandela’s life.

Suffering forces choice. But it’s not God’s desire.

His problem and ours is that when things are good enough we forget about God and choice.

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