/ 16 April 2014

Meeting God on the pages

Kopano Matlwa meets with God in the pages of books and has come to know him between the commas and interjections.
Kopano Matlwa meets with God in the pages of books and has come to know him between the commas and interjections.

God has always eluded me. I have prayed with my eyes tightly shut, my knees hard and grey and painful.

I have tried all-night vigils and ­all-day silent retreats. I have attempted meditation, saying the same word over and over and over again, until I find my mind thinking about lunch …

There has been deep breathing and even attempts at looking at the "space between the clouds".

I have laughed out loud at nothing at all, alone in my cold bedroom, to release the endorphins the scientists said would surely come. I have gone for long walks, tried hot baths, sweet-smelling oils, but I am always bored, my soul uncracked, my chest empty.

Except, dare I say, in the pages of a book (and most intensely in the pages of the most secular of books).

It is here where our Lord chooses to meet me. It is here between the commas and interjections of nothing more than a story about eating naartjies that I have come to know our God, his love, his courage, his kindness, his silly sense of humour.

Cold outside
Outside of here, my life is empty, shallow, crass, cold. Outside of here, there is no meaning, no joy.

I am impatient, unlikeable, impolite, but there, between Pecola and Mrs Breedlove, alongside Kambili and Aunty Ifeoma, I find me.

I don't know why he chooses to wait for me here, instead of meeting me in the hospital or pews, with the elderly or at choir practice.

Oh, and if I am but to pick up a pen and dare to press it against a blank piece of paper, oh, how he comes bounding in (in all his colour!) with song and dance and laughter, with words of encouragement and messages of hope.

He fills the place and he is everywhere and in everything – in the biscuits and in the tea. He comes out through the tap and enters through the window, I see him on the television and hear him on the radio. He is indisputable and there is no denying that it is him.

It's a strange thing, a mystery I have yet to unravel. But, because he is the only one worth seeking, the only one worth following, I march on from library to library, bookshelf to bookshelf, reading on, writing on.

Kopano Matlwa Mabaso is a South African medical doctor, currently pursuing a PhD in public health at the University of Oxford. She is the author of the award winning novels Coconut and Spilt Milk.