Always on a mission…
On Thursday, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – anti-apartheid revolutionary, philanthropist, author, spiritual father, and former President of South Africa – passed away.
We just lost a man of great vision, valor, and dignity. Mr. Mandela’s life was an extended case study of fighting the good fight. His thoughts, words, and actions were consistently anchored in love and in peace. He never lost sight of his goal of ending apartheid despite 27 long years in a dank prison cell. Though his physical self was incarcerated, his spiritual and emotional and mental selves were transfixed on helping to transform his beloved nation to be a bigger, better place. To and for Mr. Mandela, nothing was impossible. Everything was possible.
If you can, stop for a moment to contemplate the self-respect necessary for a man to rise from political prisoner within a nation to President of that same nation. Most ironically, Mr. Mandela’s ascension would not have been possible in the United States of America – as a felon could not qualify to run for the presidency. In most states, a felon is denied even the right to vote.
How is it that we as human beings can bear witness to the fruition of things long considered impossible; and yet we still don’t believe? We usually seem to fall back to our default position of inaction, passivity, and skepticism. Why is it easier for so many to hate rather than to love? Why is it easier for too many to be ordinary rather than to be extraordinary? Why do we always count our trials and tribulations; but never count our blessings and miracles? When did failure replace success in our national consciousness?
Nelson Mandela was born on July 18th, 1918. His divine purpose from then was to be extraordinary. His apparent immunity to failure drove him steadily towards success. He was destined to love everyone rather than hate anyone – even his enemies. He never railed against his trials and tribulations. He lived every day as if it were his last. I am constantly reminded that even in 2013, there remain countries in this world where the hopes, the frustrations, and the olive branches indigenous to my column could easily get me arrested, physically attacked, or worse. I thank God that the US isn’t one of those countries.
I love this quote from Mr. Mandela’s autobiography: “When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both. Some say that has now been achieved. But I know that that is not the case. The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.” In light of such wisdom, how infinitesimally small do our own elected leaders seem by comparison? Of Mr. Mandela’s passing, President Obama commented: “I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set. And so long as I live, I will do what I can to learn from him.” How about you? What are you doing to make this world a better place?
Whenever this life is over for each of us, the greatest honor we can ever hope to achieve will not be extended here on earth; but rather in Heaven. That honor will come when we stand in the most glorious presence of our Lord and Savior. That honor will be conferred when He looks at us, smiles, calls us by name, and says: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Mr. Mandela has surely been well received there. He now joyfully resides in a place free from trouble, free from suffering, free from war. If we live righteously, we’ll see him again beyond the veil.
All of us are empowered to do all things through Jesus Christ – who strengthens us. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy said: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard… because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.” JFK’s been gone 50 years; and he’s still taking us to school. President Kennedy and Mr. Mandela jointly leave us with one huge lesson: everything is possible. And anything worthwhile and/or meaningful seems impossible until it’s done. Rest in peace, “Madiba”.