Ten years ago, I met a fascinating guy at a networking event – let’s call him Q to retain anonymity. We started talking and I said, “Your accent – I can’t quite place it.”
“Rhodesian,” he said.
“Right,” I replied. “That’s not a word I’ve heard in a long time. How long have you been here?”
“About two years.” And then I asked why he had come to the UK. The answer was because he had been “plundered” twice. I asked what he meant.
It turned out he had owned a farm near Harari, and that had been confiscated with the advent of President Mugabe. This had been a major trauma; losing your family inheritance is never going to be pleasant whatever the wider political and historical rights and wrongs are.
So, he said, he’d gone away and reinvented himself: got into telecommunications with a major international company and from that created what became a very successful business. Then, at the point of its success, that was confiscated to.
During this period, he said, he had developed a serious health problem, namely, high blood pressure. This seemed to be getting higher and higher despite the best medication that he could access. As I observed: well, that was hardly surprising, given the stress and uncertainty he was under. Also, the injustice that he felt was being perpetrated against him and his family. He agreed.
In coming to the UK he had expected his blood pressure to ease and go down. But he found it was still getting worse. So he went to his local GP. The GP referred him to a hospital for tests. In very short order he discovered he had a tumour, which if left unchecked would be fatal.
He had the tumour removed via the NHS and he said he now felt fantastic. His life had been saved. If he had stayed in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe he would have died without anyone realising the actual cause of his blood pressure.
So we are faced with the most bizarre situation: his life was saved because he was “plundered” twice and he couldn’t take living in his home land anymore. The net result for him was one of sheer gratitude: all the pain he had endured in the ‘plunder’ now was converted to joy for what it had led him to.
The story is wonderful because it is very easy for people to say everything works together for good, but when you are in the alligator swamp, up to your neck in sticky mud, it’s difficult to see how any good can come from it. Q’s story, because it is true, is a model of hope for all of us: no matter how bad things may be, there is a purpose and meaning in this which is for our good. And we need to find the good in all things if we are to stay psychologically and spiritually healthy.
We can look at this another way: we must all experience a journey through hell, nadir, a low point in our lives of supreme suffering, in order to emerge reborn. These odysseys define and shape us. Without them, we cannot learn anything about ourselves or arrive at the place where we need to be. We must descend, like Dante, into the darkest depths, in order to reach Purgatory and then Heaven itself. Dante is similarly harried into Hell, not by choice, but by the dark terror of a She Wolf living in the ‘lonesome wood’. This external circumstance chases Dante into the mouth of Hell, where he must descend before he may rise.
If you feel like you are being pushed towards Hell and suffering, or that you are already there in the nadir, remember that the journey is not over yet, and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.