When I was very young one of the few American sitcoms that made it into sanctioned South Africa was Cheers.
I would watch it with my dad. Almost all of the dialogue went over my head, but like most people I knew the opening lines of the song by heart, and I still do.
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came.
In 1995 Nelson Mandela stunned the world when he wore a Number 6 Springbok rugby jersey at the final of the Rugby World Cup. As a young girl I totally embraced the promise of a world that is open minded and respectful to every human being.
And then I heard that this is a promise of God: the kingdom of heaven is open to everyone who will believe. And men and women of every tribe, nation, people and language are equally lifted to the royalty they were born for, ruling over a diverse world of beauty, colour and delight in a humble saviour who also delights in them. The Christian song that really chokes me up is one by the Getty’s with these lyrics:
And there we’ll find our home
Our life before the throne
We’ll honour him in perfect song
Where we belong.
Where we belong.
Belonging is one of the hardest things to find. People look for reasons to exclude: it is often learnt early by the bullied child on the school playground, then there are job interviews, the immigration process where we submit files of personal emails for a stranger to trawl through to find a reason to not believe our marriage is genuine, to the passport interview where it seems they are waiting for us to slip up and say that we’ve been lying all along, and even in the church that is supposed to proclaim the all embracing good news.
The most joyful times of my life were spent in places that not only taught but lived out that good news. Where I walked in and someone knew my name, said it out loud and came over to greet me, genuinely happy to see me. Where there was unashamed interest in people. Where a smile wasn’t treated with suspicion; where kindness wasn’t regarded with skepticism; where my race or nationality didn’t label me. Where I was accepted.
I come home from running an errand and my kids open the door and dance with delight at my return. They are happy to see me.
This is what brings me joy.