Women of Reverence welcomes Ayanda Zaca as a guest blogger.
Ayanda Zaca is founder and Managing Director at VITOVA, a company that provides support to organisations in their diversity, inclusion and equity work. It also provides narrative communications consulting. At its core, the business advocates for social justice and cohesion, particularly along racial and gender lines.
Previously, Ayanda for various sized companies both local and multinational (such as Hyundai Engineering and Construction), in a variety of industries like logistics, engineering, construction and telecommunications. He was instrumental in the implementation of a self-regulation scheme within the South African transportation and logistics industry.
Ayanda holds degrees in Marketing and Communication Management as well as Sport Science, both from the University of Pretoria. Ayanda believes that true empowerment and leadership comes through the taking of responsibility.
He and his wife of 12 years share 3 young children. He enjoys creative writing, blogging, photography and the arts.
Most of us imagine when we are finally face to face with God, that we will ask (and have Him answer) some of the great mysteries of life, like “why the mosquito?”, and other deep questions like “have you still got any manna left”?
A few years ago my wife and I participated in a Sozo. At the time I had no idea what a Sozo was or that I was in fact being “sozoed”. I was an accidental participant but had one of the most profound and memorable experiences of my life.
During the session, I was asked by the two ladies who were guiding me, to imagine in my mind God the Father, and see myself in His presence. They asked me if there was anything that I wanted to ask Him, and without thinking it through or voicing it, my question to Him was “do you love me?”.
At the time I had been born again for over 12 years and had been in leadership in the church for a number of years. I had thought that such a question had already been answered (by and for me) a long time ago. “Of course, God loves me” is what I would have said had anyone asked. Little did I know that I had Daddy-issues. The response that the “God in my sozo” gave me was very simple, but it broke me and had me crying “snot en tranne” in front of the two strangers.
This set me on a journey of discovery over the next few months of trying to make sense of this experience and to try and better understand what this meant and why that was my question. When I finally got my chance, the earnest and almost spontaneous question that I had was “DO YOU LOVE ME?”.
After a few months of earnest seeking and drawn out debates with the voices in my head, God showed me how He loves me. What an experience and revelation that was- perhaps a blog for another day. In Malachi 1:2 God says to Israel “I have always loved you“, (NLT), and Israel’s retort is “Really? How have you loved us?”.
Isn’t this the same response that most of us have? Even today-in the way that we respond to God’s love, we are saying” really God? How have you loved us?”. Isn’t it this still the way of the world- to questions God’s goodness, His justice, His charity, His concern, His care and promise of deliverance for us? Isn’t it the same reason why so many of us are losing or have lost hope? Everything around us, to the natural eye, looks like devastation (much like what the Israelites were going through at the time. Covid, disease and death, massive job losses, rampant corruption and economic failure, a very grim future outlook, ubiquitous discrimination and growing poverty, the growing chasm of racial division, palatable fear, SAA, VBS, load shedding, gender-based violence and much, much more.
In many ways, the deep and unseen question in many of our hearts- by many Christians, is “do you love me?”. Do you care for me? Do you still see me? Am I going to be okay? Do you still speak, since many of us are not hearing your voice and seeing your hand in what we are experiencing? In many ways, we are like to Israelites that Malachi is writing to.
Hebrews 1 (v1-2) begins by affirming a great truth- that God has never been silent.
“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe” (ESV)
Even though God was “silent” for some 400 years in the period between the old and new testaments, Romans 1:19&20 confirms that God has always been speaking to us.
During the strange and bizarre conversation that Jesus has with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (John 4), the encounter radically changes the woman. It leaves her transformed- in a similar way that Saul was when encountered by Jesus. Note that the woman is surprised that a Jew would talk to her, a Samaritan (v9), let alone ask her to share the same drinking utensils. However, the surprise of the disciples when they return to Jesus, is that He is talking with a woman. They are less bothered that it’s a Samaritan- implying that being a woman was somehow worse than being a Samaritan.
She is a 5-times divorcee, an adulterer, is likely without friends since she arrives in the middle of the day alone and probably the receiver of much scorn and the bearer of shame, due to her station in life. One key thing that we often overlook in this story, which I believe is what Jesus sees in this woman, is how she is also a victim of sin, and in need of salvation (this living water that He refers to).
"The man who hates and divorces his wife," says the LORD, the God of Israel, "does violence to the one he should protect," says the LORD Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.” Malachi 2:16 (NIV)
It should be no stretch of the imagination to conclude then that this woman had suffered much violence by the hands of those men who refused to lover her. 5 times shamed, 5 times rejected, 5 times violated…and even the one that she is with, still has not enough love for her to marry her. She is without hope, has given up on love, on life, on her dignity, on her own humanity and perhaps even on family. Everything of value (by the standards of her community) is destroyed and lost forever. BUT, she encounters Jesus.
Jesus answers the question that she didn’t even know she was asking…”Do you (God) love me?”.
Somehow, during this conversation, Jesus is able to do an incredible work in her. Jesus:
1. affirms her humanity/ imago dei (by engaging her earnestly),
2. gives her dignity (asking for her to help- to quench His thirst/ be of service to God),
3. offers her a new life, salvation (the living waters),
4. leads her to truth and offers an opportunity to repent (in a kind and dignified way, Jesus confronts the woman’s sin and calls out the truth, and she accepts it),
5. restores or even elevates her social status (she brings her entire town to Him)
6. Jesus corrects her self-image and helps her view herself rightly, in relation to God (by corrected her twisted views of worship),
7. He asks her for her worship. In a way, Jesus has elevated her to her rightful place, and also asks her to elevate Him to His rightful place, both in her eyes, and in the eyes of her community,
8. Jesus quenches the woman’s thirst (she abandons her water jar, vs28), and he is fed (“I have food to eat that you know nothing about” vs32)
While the two are exchanging words, there is a divine exchange going on. In essence, Jesus is saying to her (as He is to all of us right now):
1. humble yourselves before me, and I will lift you up in honour. James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6.
2. give me your cup of suffering and shame (I will drink it for you) and in turn, I will give you a spring of living water (eternal life). 1 Peter 5:7
3. give me your worship (lift me up), and I will give you life (draw you to me) Jn 12:32
Interestingly, a spring (unlike a well) flows, is above ground, is a source to the wells, is seldom owned by any one person and needs no implements to drink from. It refreshes all who are thirsty and who come to drink from it. We, who believe in Christ, who are called by His name, need now more than ever to heed the call by Malachi and learn the lessons from the woman’s story. We need a Saul-like encounter with Jesus so that our hope can be restored.
We need to answer the question that, left unanswered, is the well of hopelessness and fear that we and those around us will keep drawing and drinking from but always thirst. Jesus offers to us the same divine exchange as this Samaritan woman. We can have and be the springs of living water- so that we do not thirst and so that South Africa (and others around the world) can drink from it.
“But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess”. 1 Peter 3:15 (NET)
The invitation to the divine exchange is ours. Isaiah 61.