My name is Johan van der Merwe.
There is nothing really glamorous about my life.
I sleep (a little too much at times).
I do the things expected of me.
There are no alarms that go off when I wake up in the morning. No fan-club waiting at my front door. No great amount of personal ‘thank you’ letters in my inbox. I live my life below the radar as yet another face in the crowd, a number in my country’s population book. I am somewhat drowsy most of the time. Not a lot stirs me, upsets me, bring a smile to my face or a tear to my eye. My life is like a placid lake. But there is something that never fails to stir the waters of my soul: when I become quiet in order to write I step through the wardrobe and everything changes for me…
I enter my own Narnia.
It is an escape and integration all at once. When I write I escape from the voices of this world that seek to define me by what I have and do not have. When I step through the wardrobe my heart becomes quiet and in my stillness I am able to discern another Voice calling me. It is a Voice that affirms the fact that I am loved and cherished and precious. It is a Voice that accepts my brokenness and darkness, a Voice that reminds me that my essence is good and holy, a Voice that refuses to scream in order to get my attention, a Voice that nonetheless shouts even when it is whispering.
Writing is really as good as it gets for me. I write because I need to write, for in writing I gain a clearer picture of both God and my own self. For me this kind of writing has intrinsic value – it is my staff by which I open the Red Sea of despair and doubt by facing it head on. I do not write because somebody somewhere has judged me good at it, nor do I write because I stand to gain wealth and prestige and status from it. The value of my writing, at least for me, stretches beyond the boundaries of what I stand to gain from it, and indeed for what I lose from it in time and so-called productivity, by becoming a thing that has value in itself. Again, writing in and of itself has no such inherent value and worth, but then again, neither has a stick.
When I write I come home. I am home not because of where I am but because of what I am doing. When I write it is as if the whole world comes to a standstill. Nothing bothers me. I am at peace. As the world stands still, I am liberated to explore it for what it truly is and in doing so I realize that all my mad pursuits are truly just me chasing after the wind: I am not supposed to catch it and it is not supposed to satisfy me. When the frantic pace of a spinning world no longer spins my head around, I am also able to see that which is good and lovely and beautiful about it.
Writing quiets me down. I have tried the monk-like silence with legs crossed and eyes closed, but I usually end up falling asleep if I prolong this exercise beyond my capacity. Writing, on the other hand, whilst making me quiet also makes me alert – I can say without a doubt that the place where I feel most consistently alive is wherever and whenever I am writing. When I become quiet in order to write, I busy myself with that which God in His wisdom has ordained to make me alive and whole, the thing that helps me to release my anger and tension about the things that bother me most in this world.
It is here that I find my heaven, and it is here that God dwells with me and works in me most perfectly. When I write like this I move forward toward the Son and I kiss Him with the kisses of my mouth. And this is what true worship is all about, isn’t it? It’s not about a method or a feeling or an experience. Worship is about a Person, and if we live with open eyes He will show us the way which He has ordained for you and me individually to best respond to His invitation that stands open to all mankind: ‘You, come follow Me’.
I trust that you will discover as much joy and liberation in reading my words as I have in putting them together.