Shelley du Plessis
Shelley du Plessis

I watched a television news broadcast which had as a feature story, a report on the zoo in Gaza, whose resident zebras had died of starvation because of the war. Zookeepers had come up with a novel way of keeping crowds coming to the zoo, and to educate children about the zebra, by using hair dye to paint black stripes onto two white donkeys.

The donkeys seemed unperturbed by their new stripes and the children were none the wiser that they were being fed a lie and misled. As a native African, who has had the enormous privilege of seeing herds of zebra galloping across the savannahs and hearing them make their distinctive sound (a strange barking sound, not a neigh), I was aghast that people would believe that donkeys could become zebras. When you know the genuine article, there is no way that a fake/faux zebra could be mistaken for the original thing. Also, the value of a zebra, in my opinion, is different to a donkey, merely because it is a zebra. Its value is in what it is, the genuine article.

This then took my thinking down another path. If we never have been shown or know the genuine article, we will always believe the lie. It is my understanding that many people learn, as their foundation for acceptance, that their value is in what they do. So, children are rewarded for good marks or good works. If they perform, they will be acceptable. Many people I come into contact with, myself included, are driven by what people think of them and what we perceive will make us acceptable to them. We spend so much time assessing ourselves on what are false expectations, that we wear ourselves out. Our self-image and self-worth are very often determined by outside influences. We spend so much time trying to work on our weaknesses, that we hardly ever focus on who we actually are and what our strengths are. In a silly way, those donkeys could have had an enormous identity crisis because, no matter how hard they worked at being zebras, they would continue to remain donkeys. Zookeepers, and the members of the public, could have told them they are zebras; the donkeys could have taken this to heart and believed it, but would never have achieved their goal, to be a zebra. The only thing they could have been was donkeys, no matter how many stripes they were given. So then, we are not too unlike those donkeys.

Many of us are trying to use every little ounce of our being to become something we are not, but believe we should be. We engage in all sorts of radical dieting methods, bulimia, anorexia, binge eating, to try and change our outside perspective when, actually, it's all about our internal perspective. Even a little nip and tuck here and there won't help. People do not have value because they are successful. No matter how much we dress up a donkey to be a zebra, he remains a donkey. Our foundation needs to be based in the truth and the truth is this: I am an individual, created by God, and He has given me everything I need to achieve that which He has purposed me to be, and to be complete in every way.

In Jeremiah 1 we read; "Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you:" That tells me that I am special, that I am different to anyone else and I have a destiny different to anyone else. It also means I need to be comfortable in my skin, in what is my special capacity.

1) I must not allow the world and its influences in my life, through media, people, or so called icons, to change the foundation of who I am. If I am a donkey, I cannot compare myself to a zebra, and if I am a zebra, I cannot want or desire to be a donkey. No amount of positive thought or striped pajamas will alter what I am.

2) Our value cannot be determined by how successful we are or by what we do. Our value is based in the fact that you are you and I am me. We have value because we are who we are. We try to establish in our own minds what our value is, based on what people tell us. We need to have our value determined by the creator God, who put into us everything that He knew we would need to complete our lives on earth.

I know very little about the value of zebra except for their beauty on the plains of Africa. So I decided to do some research. I would have thought it would be easy to source a website selling zebra. Not so! Eventually, I was able to establish that a good mare would be worth US$8900.00 and a stallion about US$7500.00. How could this wildlife salesman determine their value? Well, he is aware of the demand for zebra for game farms and zoos. He is in the trade and is able to reflect accurately what a buyer would be willing to pay.

I read this quote by Steve McVey recently: "Unless you know your identity in Christ, you are always asking in one way or another, 'What is my value? What am I worth?'"

Lord Jesus, because of your love for me and because you died for me, paying for my life with everything you had, your life, I choose to believe today, in spite of what people may tell me or what I believe about myself, that I am valuable and have great worth because you love me and gave me life. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.