Spiritual

HEARING AND SEEING GOD IN YOUR LIFE

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For the patient minded, read on.

One of the most frustrating things that we often have to deal with in our lives is the question of the existence of God. If you are human, you probably would have pondered on the issue and wondered if at the end this was all a big lie. Often times, you rebuke the thought and “keep the faith” because you have been taught to believe the consequences of streaming along that thought is quite dire, and damnation awaits the one who finalises that position. For those who have pushed that envelop further, it can take a course requiring some empirical evidence, such as saying “if you are God, can you…”, or “if you really exist, blow some cool air on my face”.

Even for those who tend to take their faith in God seriously, there are moments when they arrive at a seeming inaneness of it all, staying spiritually aloof for a time and floating in the nothingness of conviction. It can be quite painful and grievous for some. Most will deflect the matter from causing pain and pray out something like this: “I wish You would speak to me and let me hear you beyond any reasonable doubt”. Oh! The number of times I have wallowed in those moments, even after extended periods of deeply fulfilling spiritual renewals. 

We are often challenged with the concern of building our faith on what we have heard and received from others, or sources other than the self. We hear others speak glowingly of encounters with God and we rejoice momentarily, sometimes shiver from an attack of goosebumps, and join a collective frenzied expression of exuberant praise. However, we soon settle back to human nature and realise how dominant our emotions have played a huge part of what we profess. While this isn’t  necessarily demeaning, it leaves much to be desired; for we are yet to touch something more tangible to our inner person, and we know it.

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CHURCHIANITY, CHURCHIANICS, THE CHURCHED AND CHURCH – Part 1

church-meetingsAs far back as I can remember, I have been a church boy. I started out being committed to church life by singing in a children’s choir at age 11. Can you imagine that at that age, I sang the bass part at a Methodist Church in Calabar, Nigeria. This laid the foundation for what became my long romance with the church and the mechanisms behind its functioning.  As young as I was, my innocence was characterized by the raw appreciation of the beauty of the church system, and the intricacies of its workings left deep very deep impressions on my tender heart that last to this day. I loved the spirit people put up; the singing, the preaching, the fellowship, and the strife as well.

I eventually ‘progressed’ from an orthodox setting to a liberal Pentecostal assembly, where there was more intense recognition of the spiritual essence of man. I become more conscious of the scriptures and its meaning as explicated by pastors. The former assembly was one with more of designations, form, static routines, programs, and rules, while the latter assembly provided more room for personal expression and a liberal form of doctrinal interpretations. In all, I was well suited to function without complain because I was a church boy, and was fully immersed into the Christian ethics and rhetoric.

From that period I have often swung between these two settings which could range from the very extreme to the very moderate and the very prudish to the most relaxed. I sometimes amaze me by how well I fit into these congregations and adopt their philosophies without complaint. It isn’t a lack of self awareness or the presence of ignorance I think, I just had the capacity to explain away things that weren’t palatable and take on the positives for the sake of peace. I was sure we all knew in part and that as life goes on, we would have a clearer picture of what this is all about. Church was my home, my backing, my comfort, and certainly my joy. The friendship I struck were priceless, the bonds formed irreplaceable, and the opportunities enjoyed are innumerable. My life has changed greatly for the better because of my contact with the church, and I do not regret ever being a ‘churched’ boy.

However, I have come to a point where, like the fading mist of the early morning, things are beginning to really clear up and a more defined picture of what things are and ought to be is presenting itself all so rapidly. A lot more questions have arisen in my heart about the whole idea of church and its purpose. Sometime back, it would have been emotionally or spiritually dangerous to question the idea of the church, as it was infallible in concept and practice. Whatever dropped from the pulpit was the final say to how your life should be designed and what exactly to make of the complexities of life. And truthfully, I have walked in such a culture for a very long time. In fact, being ‘Born Again’ brought its own bouts of new allegiance and loyalties in my journey to understanding the will of God for my life. However, the closer I got to the one who is the centre of attraction, the more there was a dismantling of my belief system that had been built by the church. I admit that some of it was built by my own interpretation of what the church did and said, but what else could I do when others were doing the same?  I simply went with the flow, and it was good for me at the time and I enjoyed every bit of it.

Today, I am presented with a different challenge of understanding the purpose behind everything.  Because anything without a defined purpose is subject to abuse, I have been engaged in thorough appraisal of what I believe and why I believe what I believe. I believe that things personally discovered are things eternally uncovered. So I have been asking myself what I believe and what informs what I believe. Why have I held on to these things and what is it I am willing to let go of if it has no root in the truth. Part of this focuses on what the church really stands for and what was God’s intent for the church. I have found myself often trying to defend the church and its activities without recourse to a better understanding of its history and its ordained purpose. Now that things are different with me and how I think, I am writing to question and expand on the prevailing ideas of church and its role in society. So what is stated by headings below is what I have come to see and understand the church to be.  I will then state what I now understand it should be and how God has designed it to function.


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WHAT I LEARNT FROM MY FATHER

img_0507I didn’t grow up with my dad for most of my childhood days. Constructing my world view from the protective arms of my mother did create a series of didactic thought processes in me, one of which is instant judgment. This was in direct contradiction to my dad who had a knack for delayed judgment. Here I was sandwiched between the impulsiveness of a entrepreneurial woman, and the pragmatism of a legal analyst… and I was supposed to make safe sense out of life, and carve out my very own personality. I could imagine the genes floating around me and struggling for relevance and dominance, and I wished I could scan them thoroughly and choose which is vital to success and every point in time. My childhood was filled with inner deliberations and attempts at creating what was to be called my world, and also the possibilities of recruiting humans into my predefined parameters of living.

However, my dad, as far away as he was, seemed to be my balancing factor (more like an exogenous treatment to the experiment I was conducting). I sometime wanted to hate him for being so far away, but again his absence increased his worth to me and every time I saw him, his words were laden with depth that I desired to hear each day. I said to myself when he is around: “this is my start point, not my end point”. To me he knew everything and faltered in none. He approached every issue with maximum attention, imputing highly cerebral calculations to the unknown to arrive at rationality and common sense. I was awestruck each time he spoke and then knew that I would not outgrow the man. I let his every word sink in like a boulder in a calm stream, assuming a significant space in my mind. Even when my days of rebellion came, I still trod softly because I couldn’t deny the markings of his grip on me.

Here I want to share seven vital lessons I learned from my dad. Some of them he said verbatim to me, while some I drew out of his parabolic nature. Through him I learned to understand the context of what a man says and what the man did not say. Because every word spoken has implications for what it is and what it isn’t. Therefore when he spoke I understood, but when he didn’t speak, I understood even more. These seven lessons are more than material wealth and I wish he could have willed even more of his mind to me. I proceed with careful assertion to retain and preserve the originality of his mind communicated in this discourse.

1. Absolute fear for nothing. This was my baptism into boldness. As most of my friends know, I proceeded from there into the realms of stupid arrogance and at worse described myself as a jingoist of self confidence. The older I grew the more I came to understand from my conversation with him, that absolute fearlessness ended in God. He said to me in Efik: “Eyen kpono Abasi”, meaning – “Child, Revere God”. For a man who feared nothing to ask me in his old age to fear God, trust me, I needed no further counsel. He showed me that nothing is as it appears, only God is true to his form. Every other thing has a form which it takes on to create respect in others, and for which I must learn to see beyond its appearance. When I knew this my ‘baloonish’ pride was pricked and I sheathed my arrogance to take on stronger challenges rather than personalities.

2. Circumspection. Applied as being prudent and cautious in every facet of life. This warning to me arose because of my tendency for extreme passion in whatever I lay my hands to do. He saw this in me and chided me for a blind characterization of what I then called faith. Initially I branded him a persecutor and a Pharisee, but as I negotiated the corners of life and reflected more on the essence of the Almighty in my life, I found a pillow in his counsel. I knew for sure that for everything I think I know, therein lies the claim that I do not know. Hence, whatever lies in my hands to do or execute, I always now flip the other side and my perspective will dramatically change and my understanding becomes better. Circumspection is one of the trailing residues of wise initiatives.

3. Discretion is the better part of Valour. Hmmm…in this case, I couldn’t agree more as I saw many mighty men fall not for failing power, but for a lack of discretion. While valour accounts for a tenth of an accomplishment, the 90% success rate is determined by discretion. Discretion is the trait of judging wisely and objectively, and also learning to put aside what your perceived strengths are and allowing the seeming weaker parts have a say in your goings. He said to me Reginald, “Discretion distinguishes Kings and their subjects, for every time you follow its path, you sit at the Kings’ table.” “Mere men rely on energy, that’s why they must eat all the time and feed their lusts and ambitions to protect a future that is not subject to assumptions, and while doing this, they inflict much pain on themselves, their children and society.” Amazing lines of thought huh? Today and ever so true, I cannot recover from how much these words have guided me and given me an edge over my circumstances.

4. History repeats itself because we are all fools. I learnt from him that the mistakes we see men make, is a pointer to their ignorance of history. History is the hidden stories that are cocooned by time to be hidden from fools, but to be cracked by the wise for their security and safety of their generations. As he admonishes me to fear God, he still yells to me “Look at history!!!!” Everything repeats itself, but clothed in the intricacies of the present time. This is why you must have a sense of delayed judgment, for time reveals more of a matter and with such you can skip the hurdles of erroneous choices. He said once to me, “if you make my mistakes, you are a fool.” That line resounded continuously in my head like a clashing cymbal and today I draw lessons not just from the past, but from the happenings of today, because they will be the references of tomorrow either for sorrow, or for victory.

5. What you live in others, outlives you. I saw in my father a man absolutely committed to the well being of every one around him. He listened to everyone and advised anyone who cared to listen. He spoke his heart out and went the extra mile to satisfy the need of those who were needy. I saw that largeness of heart is a rare gift which one is born with, however can be cultivated when you have respect unto the existence of others. I saw how frustrated he was when he knew something was beyond his power to change and how active he was when he could do something about it. I saw him argue to help people correct their perspective about life hoping they wouldn’t leave his presence the same way they came in. He did all he can, with what he had and the influence he could muster to alter the course of failure for a person. I remember when I was not doing well in my secondary education because I was bored by school, he saw me and said to me “you are more than this”. He never said another word about it. That was was too hot for me to handle. I slapped myself back to reality and jerked my mind to life. He left something in me no doubt.

6. Ambidexterity. This describes individuals who are equally capable of performing tasks with the right or left side of their bodies. He was a soccer fan and a left winger himself in his younger days. He could play with both legs and write with both hands comfortably. His writing with both hands was particularly striking to me and I decided that I was going to practice writing with my left hand. I wouldn’t say how successful I did, but I will say that beyond the reality of his capability, was what this meant to me. He was both logical and poetic, mechanical and artistic; a microcosm of the human personality variety. I believe that it is possible to be ambidextrous in life, leaving no area of weakness; a total man, loving and taming, cultivating and uprooting, stroking and striking, being something in everything to everything while lacking in no faculty in life.

7. Stay strong till you die. A few days before he died, he was still encouraging me that everything will be just fine, displaying high self worth and self confidence, even when at the mercy of the doctors. His voice showed no signs of an ending life, as he still spoke of what work he has to do and how he wants to bring his entire family together. He remained relevant to life, thinking through solutions he wanted to see through for his ethnic people and how he wanted to empower them with education. His bones, mind and spirit were sound and without injury, telling me how excited he was at Obama’s victory and wishing he could shake the young man’s hand. A few days before he went home, we were still discussing a book he was reading on the emergence of India and China in global economics, and sharing with me the trajectory he thinks global production processes will take. He lived till he died. He didn’t wither nor wane, falter nor fumble, he simply stayed the course and finished strong. I must finish strong.

I now understand why some people never die. They simply transit from one person to another. My father didn’t die, he simply emptied himself of the matters of this plane, and assumed another dimension of relevance. Therefore, I say to myself that where his feet didn’t tread, mine will. Who his hands didn’t touch, mine will. Where his voice wasn’t heard, mine will. What his eyes couldn’t see, mine will. What he couldn’t comprehend, I will. Where he didn’t sit I will, and where he couldn’t stand, I will. For I choose this day to be the extension of his life, to repaint and recolour the paragon he intended, and to give a true definition to the legacy he attempted to build. For now I understand that some plant, others water, But God is ever ready to give and increase. I am am his waterer.

To my mentor and my instructor…..keep living!

Your boy,

Reggie

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