There are a few factories in RHome (the Rens Home) that help produce our identity as a family, as Team Rens. My bride and I have been married for just north of twenty years and have a thirteen-year-old son who is now the tallest citizen in RHome.
The relationship I shared with my father was a complex affair. My parents separated when I was (a young warthog) in primary school. The eventual death of their marriage at the birth of my high school years, was rather messy. I, as the oldest of three siblings, never really got to experience puberty. I had to take charge of our household as a 13-year-old in Grade 9. This would have been a sad-songs tale of woe had it not been for the influence of my grandparents.
My formative years as a youngling were, by enlarge, spent under the wing of my grandparents (Mama and Dada). Dada modelled to me the difference between merely being male and being a man. He would share many deep, deep Yoda-like things with me like “Too young are you old. Too old are you smart” and “He who has no honour, he is no man” and “Now Don’t Tell Mama…”. There were many-many “now don’t tell Mama” life-changing moments. These tended to dangle towards the somewhat dangerous or adventurous or mischievous slices of life. I lived for those slices and would feast on them with the passion of the summer sun.
It was my grandfather that, when I overstepped the respect line with Mama, would pull me aside and impress upon me that, when they were married way back in the days before colour was invented, that he had made a solemn oath to love, honour and protect my gran. It would not go well with me if he had to protect her from me – enough said…
Speaking of lasting impressions – two buddies and I borrowed an old car, “fixed” it up a bit and hit the long road. The idea was for the three of us to join our friend Tracy and her family for a few days of fun in the sun in Nice-Na (Knysna). But alas, as all good suspense thrillers start, we broke down in the wee hours just outside a small dorpie – mobile phones were not yet a feature of the South African landscape (cue the eerie music). This jaunt was to be our last holiday as teenagers. Not a promising start. But then, a few hours later, who should come to our rescue but Tracy and her dad. It’s important to note that at that stage, Tracy was not yet a special feature in my life. I had met her dad once or twice before. Who knew what impression I had left, if any. Yet he drove the gazillion miles to collect us shipwrecked guys and took us back to Nice-Na.
This single act has resonated with me since the early ‘90’s. Tracy and her dad are white. We were not. Our country was in a very different universe back then.
Speaking of different spaces – food is way, way more than a simple source of energy to power the body. It’s a strategic tool of immense proportion (resist the urge to read too much into the term “immense proportion”). It’s so much more than merely shovelling stuff down your pie-hole in record time. It is an access granted into deeply personal realities that may, under other circumstances, be denied.
The culinary acrobatics of Mama were the stuff of legend. The adventure of the purple cabbage stew early in our marriage was also legendary, but for different reasons. It now serves as a metaphor for “when at first you don’t succeed…”
Food Factories also served as classrooms for those times when creativity was needed because meal options were severely limited – when the only thing in the fridge was an echo – when you gave thanks in gratitude for the one pot on the table and then divided it between the two humans and two dogs in the household. The realisation that this was part of the cost of jumping out of the boat into ferocious, fearsome, wicked waves, all because you’d been drawn to the Voice saying “Do You Trust Me? There’s a fish braai on the beach. Come follow me!”
Food Factories make space for cross-cultural connectivity and welcoming others in (or allowing yourself to be welcomed in). I remember being in foreign cultures renowned for their gastronomic adventure-sports (especially for the Western palate) – saying, “Jesus, it’s my job to take it down. It’s your job to keep it down.” – the result of which was the kingdom of God unfolding in that place as it was in Heaven.
My son’s street-cred with his friends goes up a few levels when he prepares the meals during play dates and sleepovers. The parents of said friends now expect their own sons to prepare meals other than toast and boiled water.
We sometimes need danger pay when it’s our son’s turn to prepare supper. He often forgets that we’ve adopted each other and so expects that, because he has a fire-retardant buccal cavity, that his parents would have the same superpower as well (we have other superpowers). It’s an exercise in trust when you see your heavy-handed youngling being rather liberal with the garlic and the Lavashnie’s-lip-remover spice in his chicken curry and then realise that he is able to make curry because he has spent soulful time with Ma-B, one of his many granny’s. Their connection has eternal consequence.
So whether it’s a coffee or a braai or home-made ice-cream or wicked-wicked cookies or congo bars or meatless Monday’s or spag bol or toast, the preparing and sharing of food with the one or with the many, has become a characteristic of family ministry – much like being invited by the One on the journey to shore for a fish braai.
Speaking of journeys – the slapstick force runs strong in my family. So whether it’s all five of us lying in our bed watching a movie (including the two Beast Dogs who smuggle themselves on) or retelling the tale of when my son had “fallen” victim of an unprovoked attack by his vengeful bicycle or seeing his face after his mom had schooled him at squash or when one of the Beast Dogs caused us to flee the room care of their noxious vapours or through pounding the punch bag or during Rainbow-Unicorn-Dragon dance-offs (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTvvcKNZv-Y&feature=youtu.be), we have come to appreciate that laughter is indeed the best medicine. This was made all the more true when my wife had a nasty ankle break and we were let loose to draw and write “stuff” on the cast.
While it is true that we live in a seriously broken world, family fun fuels a full life – and we are to live life to the full, life seasoned with the hope that dispels fear. We are indeed all called to a ministry of joy!
My bride and I have been married for just north of twenty years and have a thirteen-year-old son who is by far the tallest in RHome. The heritage of Fathers, the ministry of Food and the life-giving joy of Fun are a few of the factories that help produce our identity as a family, as Team Rens.