Taking God out of the Sunday box

Chris and Mara Green
Chris and Mara know their daughter is in a better place.

The death of a child devastates parents but the story of farmer Chris Green is that out of such loss can come incredible gain.

It was not until Chris' daughter died suddenly of a heart attack at 38 that he realised his life needed to change.

Until this point, his Christian faith had been confined to a box only opened on Sundays and religious holidays. It did not make much difference to his daily life.

Chris, known as Oupa Chris, grew up in Zambia on a corn farm and had an uneventful and non-religious childhood, although he attended Sunday school.

However the minister was "so boring that he would often put me to sleep with his droning. So my idea of God was a droning man and sleep," Chris grins.

In 1960 when Kaunda became president of Zambia and white people were not welcome in the country anymore, Chris' family moved to Pinetown in South Africa.

There the young pastors in the church were "dynamic", a far cry from the boring teaching Chris had had before, and they encouraged him to search for God and to question all aspects of religion.

"At first I thought that Jesus was a bad man and had to be crucified for all his bad deeds, but the pastors soon corrected my misunderstanding," Chris recalls. They explained that Jesus had not died for His own sin, as He was perfect, but for the sins of all people, including Chris.

"I know this part of my life was when I became a Christian and gave my life to God," he says.

“When grief comes to stay, one is never normal again”"But it was not real, in the sense that it did not change the way I lived. I put God and His Son into a box which was taken out on Sunday and put back after church."

Chris continued to live this double life, running his own life during the week and paying lip-service to God on Sundays. He left school, went to the army for national service, studied at college, got married and fathered two sons. Then he suffered a terrible blow when his wife of 19 years lost interest in their relationship and left him.

"This split stunned me as it was sudden and so unexpected...I just wandered around lost," he confesses.

Then he married Mara, whom he has been with for 20 years, becoming step-father to her two children in addition to his two boys, and grandfather to five.

"We were blessed in many ways," Chris affirms, but "all this time, God was still in His box".

Then in 2012 their only daughter, Anneri, died and Chris was overwhelmed with anger and disbelief.

"How could God do such a thing to us?"

Looking back, Chris realises that this was a turning point. Either their loss could have split the family in two or it would force them to take stock of their lives and their faith.

They chose to turn to God, take Him out of the Sunday box they had put Him in, and let Him influence and be involved in every part of how they lived.

"When grief comes to stay, one is never normal again," Chris admits. "I started to hear what God wanted me to do for Him on Earth." Now Chris helps other people overcome what he went through by leading a counselling course called Griefshare for anyone battling with the passing of a loved one.

Chris believes God used Anneri's death to shake her parents out of their complacency and cause them to realise that they are not supposed to live self-serving lives, but to live for God and do His will.

"If I could make a wish, it would be to have Anneri back," Chris confides, "But she is in a better place and it would be selfish for me to take her back. We miss her a lot, but she is a constant reminder that life is short and the only way to make it count is to live for Jesus."

<< Minister back on track
Question changed my life >>