In Randburg on 16 March, the topic chosen was “Missing Men”.
It feels like this was a “holy ground” dialogue, and any words are going to do it a disservice …
There is so much pain around missing men. The picture that comes to mind, is of an onion, one layer gets peeled away at a time. We feel the effects of exposing this pain and underneath is yet another layer. The pain of the women and children they left. The pain of the missing men themselves – historical and as a result of their own actions, mixed with guilt and shame. The pain of those who are standing in the gap they left – who are having a positive impact but will never be able to replace the missing men in the hearts of their children. The relational and inter-generational pain that this vortex of pain produces. The questions that each person sits with – Am I enough? Am I seen?
Below are some thoughts the people in the group shared:
- For me, what was fascinating about speaking in different voices, was how one person can be everything at the same time and how unfair it is to us, who are so many people, to expect us to know what we want. I could see my own hypocrisy multiplied because of my many experiences. The dialogue helped me look deeply into another world. I felt confronted in a very good way. I could see myself. I had mirrors all around myself. And that was beautiful.
- I realised we can never fully understand the actions of others. We don’t understand where they come from. From brokenness, from dark places we cannot understand. It is only fair that we do not judge or speak against someone because we don’t know why they do the things they do.
- For me it is so refreshing to come into a space where people are not expected to speak from their head but from their heart. If everyone had this opportunity we would have a different society.
- I am sitting here as a wife today, appreciating the dilemma that my husband in real life could be having with the fact that I could be moving goal posts every day. In the same way as he has gotten to a place where he says, here I am, I am settled, I have to say, I am settled with who you are. I am truly happy with who you are, develop yourself, don’t develop yourself. It’s up to you. I am truly happy and you are enough.
- Even when men are physically present, they are often absent, they are not fulfilling the role that they are supposed to fulfil. And what is that role, and how do we fulfil it and measure how we are doing? Something I want to do right now is to say to all the women seated here today, as a man, you are appreciated, loved and valued. I might not be the man you want to hear this from, but as a man I want you to know you are of worth. Most of the time we as men are expected to know and we don’t know, and I am appealing to you from the bottom of my heart for the compassion and understanding that I know you have, to stand alongside us and help us to get to that point of knowing …
- For the first time I understand what Jesus meant when he said “he who saves his life will lose it and he who loses his life shall find it”. I think I am learning that trying to find yourself is a route to destruction. I think we must be on a journey of selflessness, a journey that is painful to self but a healing journey. We are socialised to keep bitterness alive – on social media we hear, this is my truth, I am finding myself, I am doing it my way. I see this thing is causing us pain, yet we want to hold onto it. After this experience today, I am pushing myself to lose everything that I thought was important, and I want to see what relief I am going to experience.
- We need to talk about relationship expectations much more openly. So that I know as I come into a relationship what is expected. If I cannot give you everything that you want, which part is the deal breaker?
- I do not own my children, they are not mine, they came to the earth through me but they are not mine to hold onto or have. They are a responsibility I was given to be a better person. I own nothing. I am a steward to these things and people. I am recognising that holding onto children, holding onto husband, owning things that we shouldn’t own is burdensome and as a result we can’t live peacefully with the people that we are around.
- It starts with all of us keeping this dialogue in our hearts and minds, when we deal with people around us. There is always more than one side to what’s going on. There is hope. This is why we all need the gospel. We need the love of the Father who is present even when we don’t see him.
- Hope, gratitude, recognition, a need for trust, taking off masks, co-operation and compromise. These can take us forward.