The bigger the test, the greater the reward

The test is proportional to the task, and the bigger the test, the greater the reward. Recently in church, we had a sermon based on Abraham’s test to sacrifice his only son. This was God’s way of testing Abraham’s faith. In case anyone’s wondering why that was such a huge deal, Abraham and his wife Sarah were very old when God blessed them with their son, Isaac.

The thought of getting pregnant in her old age felt so absurd to Sarah, that she laughed when the Lord told Abraham she would have a son in nine months (Genesis 18: 10-15). When Sarah gave birth as the Lord had promised, Abraham was one hundred years old (Genesis 21: 1-7).

As it turned out, Abraham passed the test and in return, God blessed him with descendants who would be as many as the stars in the vast sky, or grains of sand along the seashore (Genesis 22: 17-18). This is a perfect illustration of, ‘The bigger the test, the greater the reward’.

There is also, the biblical story of a good man named Job. He suffered a colossal disaster trying to ward off the devil’s temptation to denounce God. His faith was greatly tested. He lost all his children and property, and the culmination of it all was him suffering from a repulsive disease. After his triumph, God blessed the last part of Job’s life, more than He did his first (Job 42: 12-16).

Again, this is a depiction of the great reward God gives those who are steadfast in faith. The truth is, we’re all being tested. Living is synonymous with tests of faith. There are these Way of The Cross reflections I usually meditate on during Lent, and over the years I feel I have learnt a great deal from them.

From the reflections, I have learnt that during Jesus’ passion on the Cross, He suffered, not because He had to really, but to encourage us when we find ourselves in different tribulations:

Reflection

My Jesus, even with the help of Simon You fell a third time. Were You telling me that there may be times in my life that I will fall again and again despite the help of friends and loved ones? There are times when the crosses You permit in my life are more than I can bear. It is as if all the sufferings of a life are suddenly compressed into the present moment and it is more than I can stand.

Though it grieves my heart to see You so weak and helpless, it is a comfort to my soul to know that You understand my sufferings from Your own experience. Your love for me made You want to experience every kind of pain just so I could have someone to look to for example and courage.

Prayer

When I cry out from the depths of my soul, “This suffering is more than I can bear.”

Do You whisper, “Yes, I understand”? When I’m discouraged after many falls, do You say in my innermost being, “keep going, I know how hard it is to rise”?

Reflection

I see injustice and am frustrated; and when my plan to alleviate it seems futile, I despair. When I see those burdened with poverty suffer ever more and cross is added to cross, my heart is far from serene. I utterly fail to see the dignity of the cross as it is carried with love. I would so much rather be without it.

Prayer

My worldly concept is that suffering, like food, should be shared equally. How ridiculous I am, dear Lord. Just as we do not all need the same amount of material food, neither do we need the same amount of spiritual food and that is what the cross is in my life, isn’t it? Spiritual food proportional to my needs. Amen.

The suffering is inevitable, so the trick is to look up to the ‘Man of sorrows’ for strength and consolation.

Good Friday is in the offing. While Covid-19 has redesigned how most of us celebrate Easter, we are still called upon to reflect on the Gospel, in relation to how we live. Our human nature makes us prone to sin, and God knows that. Nonetheless, every time we err, we need to ask God to give us that grace to repent and commit ourselves do doing what is right.

Like I have said severally, that is easier said than done. However, once we make that personal commitment to abstain from wrong, we will find the strength in us to do what is right. Even when things feel like they are spiralling out of control, we just need to master the strength to do what’s right and to trust in God. He will never fail us if we put our trust in Him.

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Women are their Own Worst Enemies

A couple of years ago I went for mass on a Saturday evening, and while I don’t remember much about that mass, two things stuck in my mind: the priest who celebrated that mass, and what he said. The reason I remember that priest, is because a few months after that Saturday, he got kicked out of priesthood by the Pope because of involving himself in some very shady business.

That notwithstanding, I remember the theme of his sermon that evening, because though his personal conduct said otherwise, his words made so much sense. “The Holy Spirit speaks to each one of us,” he’d said. “The only difference is, not all of us choose to listen”.

“Today is Saturday, yet you’re here, when you could be out there doing something else, like watching a game or relaxing after a busy week. Why did you come to church?” He’d asked.

He went on to explain how God talks to every one of us. “That nagging voice in your head telling you not to do something because it’s wrong…or the persistent voice telling you do to something because it’s the right thing, however hesitant you feel about it? That’s God talking to you, through your conscience. Difference is, some of us choose to ignore that voice”.

As he continued talking, I realized how right he was. I hear that voice too, and while sometimes I listen, sometimes I don’t. Lately I have been thinking an awful lot about that. This rumination has been brought on by an unpleasant encounter my big sister has had with one of her former lecturers.

Three years ago, my sister graduated with a Masters degree, then this year she decided to further her studies and she went on to identify the university she wanted to do her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) studies in. One of the application requirements is that two referees submit letters of recommendation in her favour.

Given how active she was in school, it didn’t take her long to identify her two referees. She talked to both of them, and they were glad to write her the recommendation. As procedure demands, she went on to submit the names of her two referees, and the university sent them the submission links.

However, something interesting happened. Of the two lecturers, one of them ‘got cold feet’, and decided to bail on my sister. We’ve tried coming up with some rational explanations as to why she’d bail last minute, but we haven’t been able to come up with anything reasonable.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m attributing her hesitance to one unsightly reason; jealousy. See this lecturer is a doctor (PhD) herself, and up until recently, she was so fond of my sister. She even referred to her with very sweet endearments. She came off as motherly.

She always told my sister how smart she was, then this one time she found my sister in class reading and she was like, “I wish my children read as much as you do”. My sister was one of her favourite students. Then going by the date the other referee rung my sis confirming he’d received the link from the University, this one turned hostile.

Firstly, she never called to confirm she had received the link; and secondly, when my sis called to ask about it a few days later because the submission deadline was fast approaching, she said she had not received the link and she frostily asked my sis to stop nagging her.

My guess is, it had not occurred to her what university my sister was applying to, but when she received a link from the acclaimed prestigious university, it dawned on her that my sister wouldn’t just be getting her PhD from any local university, but from an internationally renowned institution. Like I said before, maybe I’m wrong, and it’s just my mind working overtime.

Frustrated, my sis sought further directions from the University and they said they don’t resend links, but they kindly gave her an alternative email address where the letter of recommendation can be sent. Subsequently, she texted the lecturer, asking if it was ok to call because she figured the lecturer could be having a class. Obviously, the lecturer did not reply.

Later in the evening, my sis called her, hoping she would pick up at least. She did. Nonetheless, she only shouted icily, “I’m in class!” And that was the end of it. Now my sis is stranded… Time’s ticking…every item on the application list has been checked, except that lecturer’s recommendation letter. Worse still, now we’re worried what kind of recommendation she would make, given how she seems to abhor my sister; for reasons best known to her.

This had me thinking… it is true what people say, “Women are their own worst enemies”. The way I see it, this lecturer would have been so ready to write a letter of recommendation if it was not being addressed to some fancy institution. However, it appears she just can’t stand the thought of someone else going to possibly a better institution than she did, and to get a PhD, like her.

Furthermore, this has me wondering whether her conscience is ok with what she is doing. Is she suppressing that inner voice telling her what she’s doing to my sister is wrong? When my sister called, why didn’t she call back later if she knew she was genuinely held up? If she really is telling the truth about not having received the link, wouldn’t she be the one asking my sister for alternatives if she really wanted to help?

From a lawyer’s perspective, her actions are screaming, ‘Consciousness of guilt!’ That’s a concept in criminal law where, someone runs when they see police officers even if the officers are not necessarily after them because deep down they know they are doing something unlawful, so they might get arrested. It is tacit self-incrimination.

There’s that saying, “A candle does not lose its light by lighting another candle”. I couldn’t agree more. We don’t lose anything by helping others.

Being Herod: Part 2

Months down the line, my young cousin unknowingly enrolled into the same university as my big sister. They bumped into each other one day as they were heading to their respective classes. Boy was she gobsmacked! They had not thought we could afford being in such a prestigious institution.

I suppose that’s why we are told to think the best of others. Clearly she went home and told her mother, who was not so pleased about it because she stopped making her routine calls in a futile attempt to figure out what we were up to.

Couple of years later, she called my sister one evening, asking for directions to our house because she and my cousin were ‘in the neighbourhood’, and wanted to say hi. Obviously we figured they had purposed to visit because our homes are numerous miles apart.

Given that they had not visited in close to five years, when they came they found we had done a couple of renovations, replaced most of the furniture. Unknown to her, my big sister had been doing some research job, which was bringing in some good money.

I don’t know what they expected to find…maybe they had thought we were living in deplorable conditions since they had not heard from us for a long time; and, members of my family are known to brag when they are making achievements in life…rubbing it in people’s faces.

They only stayed for twenty minutes tops, and each of those passing minutes was characterized by forced smiles, fake giggles…feigned pleasantries…but for the most part, it felt like we had just sat through an impromptu interview: what have you been doing? Are you guys dating? And judging by my aunt’s facial reactions, all our answers rubbed her off the wrong way…

We were not rude to them…nor were we snobbish or anything of the sort. However, it was unmistakably clear; all the raw disdain patent on her face. She had thought we were suffering, but to her utter dismay, we were actually doing alright. The one thing she had dreaded all through.

Since my aunt paid us that unannounced visit, she dropped her charade about loving us to bits and all. To her we were adversaries, who should be plunged into the chasm of desolation. All ties with us were unofficially severed, and it’s not until recently we bumped into her at my uncle’s wake. Even then, she was unable to mask her displeasure with us behind her characteristic ‘charming’ façade.

As usual, our conversation with her was more like an interrogation: whether we finished school; whether we found jobs; were we dating… To a third party, those questions might feel relatively harmless. Nonetheless, in this case, they are usually meant to gauge how my sisters and I are doing, and whether we are doing better than her children.

I can bet all my money she would sabotage us if she knew how. The way I see it, my aunt and people of her ilk are no different from the Biblical King Herod; people who use their power and influence to cripple others; people who would go to the ends of the earth to ensure others’ downfall.

As this year was starting, a recently ordained deacon in our church gave a beautiful homily. “In this new year, do not be someone’s Herod”, he said. “Do not do things or make omissions that will put others at a disadvantage. For instance, if you know someone who’s struggling with alcoholism, do not buy them alcohol, lest you’re faulted for derailing them. Build other people, inspire them”,

He went on to preach about the Magi. King Herod had instructed them to go back to him with news of the whereabouts of the new-born child once they saw him. No one would have guessed what his intentions were…but deep down he wanted to kill the baby, afraid he would dethrone him.

Our human nature predisposes us to the green-eyed monster; to envy. If we’re not too careful we get carried away and act on it, hurting the people we are envious of. We are called to be like the three Wise men. Once they saw the Star of Bethlehem, they did not go back the same way they had come. They used a different route. This is symbolic of people not sinning once they accept Jesus Christ.

Like the deacon preached, we should all aspire to build others, not destroy; our religious affiliations notwithstanding. If we are offering to assist others, let it be the type of help that arises from compassion; from empathy.

There is really no need of helping a hungry person with food, in the hope that the same food will kill them or incapacitate them. People can do without such kind of help. If the desire to help a person does not stem from love, do not do it.

Being Herod: Part 1

Sometimes we come across people who seem so kind and caring…they offer to help us out of whatever predicament we might be going through. However, unknown to us, their assistance/good deeds are nothing more than a ploy to set a greater stage for our downfall.

A story is told about a king, who sought to dim a newly born child’s dreams. He wanted to have the baby killed because he knew the baby was destined to become king; and that, made him pretty apprehensive. Kinda reminds me of some male animals, which kill young ones of their kind, as a way of taking out competition for the role of the pack/pride leader in future.

King Herod and the three Wise men

Personally, I have met such people who pretend to help someone out but it is never with good intentions. For instance, I have this aunt, who for the longest time, when my sisters and I were growing up seemed to have our best interests at heart. I remember this one time when we were struggling financially. My mom was unemployed and she offered to help her get a job.

Eventually she got her a temporary job at their office; one my mom would not have taken under normal circumstances, but which at the time felt better than staying home penniless, and at the mercy of my stingy dad. Needless to say, my mom was grateful for the job.

After high school, my big sister took a short business course in college, while waiting admission into university because at the time my dad said he did not have money to pay her tuition fees. My aunt was quick to jump to her rescue. She offered to find her a data collection job in one of those neighbourhoods where a caring parent would not let their daughter set foot in, for fear they could get mugged or raped…

My sister was so desperate to get a job, but after taking everything into consideration, we figured her going to collect research data in an unsafe neighbourhood was extremely risky, thus worse than her staying home. Subsequently, she turned down the job.

Over the years, my aunt tried getting us jobs, all of them relatively modest. We did not think much about it until much later when her own children, who are slightly younger than us, finished high school. Whether it was just their good luck or not, I cannot say for sure…but her connections got them very good jobs. When we realized she was deliberately trying to put us in a situation where we would not be more successful than her children, we started avoiding her.

Eager to keep tabs on us, she would call often to find out what we were doing…and we, having figured her out, would withhold all the pertinent information. However, as the saying goes, ‘A team is only as strong as its weakest link”, my dad, who tends to be a loose cannon when inebriated would call her, giving her every intricate detail about us. That is how, my aunt has managed to stay informed about us over the years.

We did not know what dad was doing behind our backs, until my aunt started calling, gloating about how privy she was to our personal affairs, courtesy of dad. Consequently, we started withholding personal information from him since we knew he would share it with anyone who asked. It is even worse that generally my sisters and I are very private people. We felt unsafe, knowing dad was our weakest link.

Like we had imagined, once we stopped briefing dad on our progress in school (we are not very tight with him therefore we don’t share much with him regarding our social lives), everyone was submerged in the dark, such that whoever wanted to know what we were doing would have to find out from us.

Still, we did not want to come off as unfriendly, so if my aunt invited us over to her place we would decline politely, citing financial hardship or any reason that would sound believable. The thought of our constant impecunious state seemed to bring her great comfort and as such, she wouldn’t insist. The less we had, the more she loved us…

Out with the old and bad…

Seeing as today is 30th December 2020, it means this dreadful ‘Corona year’ is finally coming to an end. Did I hear a sigh of relief somewhere? Yeah, this year has been an exasperating one. People have been tried…and tested… I can almost bet, as this year comes to a close and the New Year dawns on us, some of the things most of us want to turn our backs to are the hard times that have characterised this year.

However, I am of the humble opinion that it is not just the pain, anguish and hardship occasioned to us by Covid-19 that we need to let go off… Come to think of it, I would say Covid has taught us, or rather reminded us of some key things; for instance, how to be humane. One of the things I have found so poignant is the ability of people from different walks of life, to come together for a noble cause; to help those in need; those hardest hit by Covid.

As we usher in the New Year, we could purpose to ditch the deleterious habits we’ve been indulging in. For instance, I realize that in this era of social media, many people want to be famous/popular; and, that’s the hardly the problem. The issue herein, is that as it turns out, majority do not seem to mind how they get the likes/follows…

It is with great concern that I note, that slowly we’re forgetting how to be ‘human’. What I mean by this is that humanity is expressed through compassion for one other, empathy, acts of kindness… However, all this is being overshadowed by the desire to be famous/popular.

Nowadays a person will see another tripping and, instead of rushing to help they will be busy pulling out their phones to take pictures, so they can share them online. Sometimes I see pictures online and I wonder, who took that pic?

I remember once I saw this video of a man battering a woman on some deserted road, and I couldn’t help but wonder, who had the time to record it because ideally, empathy would have dictated that the woman be rescued first. Assuming whoever took it had good intentions, they could have helped the woman first, then continued to take photos, or a video of the perpetrator.

Later on I saw photos of the woman and she was badly bruised. That had me thinking, had she been rescued sooner, the injuries would not have been that extensive. By choosing to help instead of recording such sorrowful incidents, one might miss the ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ moment to share some trending photo/clip, but helping a person in need could be much more beneficial.

That aside, ‘netizens’ have been branded, ‘social media in-laws’, because it appears one’s followers will have a say in everything the person does. The ‘in-laws’ have an opinion about the clothes one wears…the food one eats…the people one dates… Worse still, couples pretend to fight so they can attract their follower’s sympathy.

In some cases, the cited breakups are real but the ‘in-laws’ seem so heavily invested in one’s personal affairs that they get to call the shots, with regard to whether a couple should reconcile or not. Last I checked a couple of weeks ago, celebrated singer, Cardi B, had fallen victim to this. She had to deactivate her twitter account just to keep meddling fans away when she decided to get back with Offset.

Privacy is a guaranteed right in various international legal instruments, but the instant one goes sharing their personal information willingly, they waive the chance to claim infringement of that same right. While I understand why/how people end up sharing so much information on social media, I also find it an unnecessary risk. Not every intricate detail about someone’s life should be publicised.

That said, I’m of the humble opinion we should evaluate our choices so far, see the things we need to do away with, because even without Covid, there are things we engage in that are injurious; either to ourselves…or to our loved ones…or to someone somewhere; whether we know it or not, because social media has made this vast universe a global village.

Moreover, seeing as this year has been so hard on most of us we should not let the hard moments weigh us down… This coming year gives us another chance to dream again…a chance to work on our resolutions.

I had this conversation a short while ago with my big sis, where I was expressing my frustrations about writing down New Year’s resolutions. Nowadays I don’t bother writing them down. I get so discouraged looking at my unachieved resolutions because they are a reminder of unachieved dreams.

Therefore, I just do a mental note of the things I want to achieve… all through the year I try to achieve them… and in the event I don’t achieve them, I won’t have a written note to remind me of my ‘failure’. However, my sister pointed out something I had not thought of. Even if I don’t achieve all those set goals within the year I had planned, I might achieve them later God willing. At that point, my resolutions’ notes won’t be a reminder of failure, but lists of achieved goals.

What makes all the difference is our ability to remain hopeful and resilient; our ability to see our glasses as half-full. Year 2020’s resolutions might have been frustrated by Covid, but let’s not despair. 2021 is nigh…and with it comes a chance to rewrite our goals, and work towards achieving them. With 2021, it’s out with the old and bad… and, in with the new and good. Believe it!

I wish you a Happy New Year 2021; a year full of joy, peace, good health, love and success in all your endeavors!

Don’t despair… There’s hope!

When this year started, I had so many dreams… Dreams of getting admitted to the bar…moving out (can’t wait for the day)… I could see the light at the end of the tunnel…and I was so excited, like a child anxiously waiting for Christmas morning so they can unwrap their gifts.

Then Covid-19 happened! Next thing I knew, the World Health Organization was declaring it a global pandemic. I remember feeling a shiver run down my spine. I’d watched enough news to know what cataclysm Covid portended. It was like one of those horror movies where there’s an inexplicable wave killing people, and the best one can do is pray and hope that God will contain the situation soon.

This year has been one of a kind; a dreadful kind no one would have foreseen. The phrase, ‘The world is just a global village’, could not have felt more spot-on than it does now; for the first time in my lifetime, everyone, everywhere, in every continent has to walk around wearing a mask. Working from home has become the order of the day. States across the globe are imposing one lock-down after another in an attempt to break the transmission cycle of the virus.

When we’re about to celebrate because infections have gone down and the harsh containment measures can be relaxed, infection rates spike again and we have to revert to the containment measures. Everyone I know is suffering from ‘Covid-fatigue’.

Most people have grown weary of wearing masks every time they are in public places…and this whole business of sanitizing hands every two seconds is tiresome… Furthermore, nowadays one has to take a moment to consider the pros and cons of getting into physical contact with people, especially the close ones whom we would instinctively hug/kiss before. Covid has made us grow sceptical of our dear ones… and basic handshakes have become a dreaded thing of the past.

Now we’re all contending with what has been dubbed, the ‘new normal’. A ‘normal’ which has crippled businesses…led to mass lay-offs and reduced wages/salaries… This ‘new normal’ is hard. I miss the days I could comfortably get into a commuter bus, or walk into a crowded place without fear of contracting some deadly virus…

I miss the days when I could sneeze or cough without a care in the world…or hear someone else cough/sneeze and not think that could be Covid… So much has changed these last couple of months. Still, I believe there is hope… All is not lost!

The other day I saw this quote, “When you see babies being born, just know God has not given up on mankind”. It made me think a lot about the situation the world is in today. If God has not given up on us, why did He allow Covid to ravage the earth?

I was talking to a friend of mine a few days ago… Normally he’s very funny because he will make jokes out of every situation. However, that evening he sounded downcast… I tried probing and he told me he felt alone, and empty inside. because he’s had very many losses over the years…

My normal reaction was to tell him to trust in God because He knows why things happen the way they do., and his reply was, “I gave up on that shit!” That kinda shocked me, because I’ve always known him to be Catholic, although last year he’d told me he’d not been going to church for the last couple of years.

Honestly, I got concerned. His problems had pushed him over the precipice of faith. I didn’t know what to tell him. I felt he’d made a drastic move, but at the same time I tried walking a mile in his shoes. Sometimes it’s hard to believe in God when one has lost so much. Then, I remembered the Biblical story of Job. He lost everything!

And when he was at the verge of giving up on God, God came through for him, and He gave him back everything he’d lost in double. Given the hard times we’re living in, it is easy to despair. Like my friend lamented, “I’ve lost so much, yet I believed in God”.

I know there are so many people like my friend, who gave up on God because He’s let them go through untold suffering. And just like I told my friend, do not give up on God, because He will never give up on you. When we’re suffering we tend to think we’ve hit rock bottom, and there’s no hope of getting back up. That is not true.

Jesus died on the cross to give us hope. If we see how he suffered, we will be encouraged to persevere, when we’re going through tough times. Count your blessings…every small one…starting with the gift of life…and by doing so you’ll realize just how much God is present in your life.

Most importantly, Pray! The Bible (Philippians 4: 6-9) says, “Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers, ask God for what you need, always asking Him with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe, in union with Christ Jesus”.

Don’t get tired of praying…and don’t give up on God. He has not given up on you…and He never will. Believe it!

What do you want?

Half of the time we walk around…going through life, fumbling…uncertain of what we want. Do I want to go to law school? Do I want to write? Sometimes we have everything we want…but we don’t realize it…so we go through life, searching… and searching for that perfect thing…perfect job…perfect partner…perfect house… perfect family…

Question is, what d’you want? Second question is, is there such a thing as ‘Perfect’? Earlier today, my small sis and I were talking about happiness and success… which of the two would you pick? She picked happiness…then, being the ‘devil’s’ advocate, I told her it’s hard to be happy when you’re hungry… I mean, we should know that better…hunger has been the one constant thing in our life. Smh!

So agreeing with me, she rephrased her earlier statement. “I’d want just enough, to enable me to be happy”. I couldn’t agree with her more. Sometimes we get derailed by thoughts of grandeur… so much, that we become blind to the beautiful things happening around us.

A short while ago we were watching the movie ‘Permission’, starring Dan Stevens, Jason Sudeikis… It’s about a man (Will), who wants to propose to his college girlfriend (Anna), but on the night he intends to propose, he is discouraged from doing so by Annna’s brother and his partner. They suggest that Anna should try dating other men before she finally agrees to be tied to Will in nuptials.

Will seems reluctant because he is sure he loves Anna. She, on the other hand, is open to trying out new relations. The movie focuses primarily on these two trying to date different people, while they are still together. Sometimes, the focus shifts to Anna’s brother (Hale), who desperately wants to have a child but his partner (Reece) is opposed to the idea.

Towards the end of the movie, Will realizes he loves Anna and does not want to lose her. Therefore mastering enough courage, which he did not have at the start of the movie, he goes down on one knee and pops the question. Unlike the first time when they were in Hale and Reece’s company, this time they’re alone. Anna says yes, but later in the night, she changes her mind and retracts her acceptance.

Hale on the other hand, realises that while he loves Reece, he cannot continue being in a relationship with him because they clearly have different desires. He wants a child but his life partner won’t support him. Eventually he packs his clothes and leaves.

At the end of the movie a dejected Will is left alone in the house he had personally constructed for himself and Anna, as she sets out on her quest to find her happiness. Hale and Reece go their separate ways. I did not like the movie’s ending because it did not have the proverbial ‘happily ever after’…

However, it is a reminder that such is life. We do not always have everything figured out, and even when we do, we don’t always get it. As I watched the movie, one thing stood out: sometimes we spend so much time, trying to find that perfect thing… that perfect moment… those perfect words… For instance, at the start of the movie, Will knew what he wanted; to propose to Anna, but he was too nervous.

I’m thinking, if he had followed his gut then, and made that proposal, he would have known then, if she wanted to be with him or not. Furthermore, his woes began when their friends suggested they try dating other people before settling down.

In my humble opinion, the company we keep is crucial. Sometimes our friends/family mislead us unknowingly, therefore we have to be strong enough to stand by what we want, even if they do not agree with it. If one knows what they want, they should be ready to fight for it even if means they will swim against the tide.

Furthermore, we need to appreciate the things we have and the people in our lives, so we can treat them with the love and care they deserve. Sometimes we take them for granted, waiting for the ‘perfect’ ones to come along, until we find ourselves at the verge of losing them.

That’s when we realize just how much they mean to us, and ‘perfect’ is pretty much a figment of our imagination. In essence, what we need to do is to figure out what we want… and once we identify it, we should fight for it, no matter the odds.

Seventy times seven

Cold wars are a serious problem in my family and lately they are becoming annoyingly common; for instance, for the most part of last week and the previous week, my big sister and I were not talking to each other. What’s funny is that we’d fought over something so trivial – splitting house chores. At first the conversation had been going ok, but after a while we started disagreeing and before we knew things escalated…next thing we were going our separate ways.

A day later, I’d already gotten over the anger and I was ready to reconcile. My sister, on the other hand, seemed grumpy. I tried talking to her a couple of times but she blatantly ignored me. At some point I started panicking when I realized she was so bent on keeping to herself, that she would use alternative doors, so we wouldn’t bump into each other.

After a careful examination of my conscience, I realized that even though the things I’d told her were true, they were hurtful. Furthermore, the situation had been worsened by the fact that I’d said them with my voice raised. Possibly if I had said the same things calmly under different circumstances, they would not have stung as much as they did. Granted, I had said them in response to what she had told me and that’s why I had gotten angry in the first place. Since I knew she wouldn’t talk to me, I sent her a text apologising.

Still, she did not talk to me. I gave up trying and asked God to soften her heart because I could not understand how she could carry anger around for that long. I missed talking to her, but I did not know how else to reach out. Eventually, she started talking to me after a week. Of utter silence.

Over time I have realised that when I hold grudges, they consume me from within, so if I stay angry for long I end up hurting. That’s why I try not to stay angry for longer than necessary. Furthermore, there’s that reading about not letting the sun go down when still angry; meaning, even if it is alright to get angry sometimes, we should not drag it out.

“If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day… Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you…

Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God as has forgiven you through Christ”. (Ephesians 4:26-31).

Those words keep ringing in my head whenever I’m angry…and I thank God for them because they keep me from holding grudges, even when I feel someone has really hurt me. Coincidentally, the Sunday readings in church the last two Sundays focused so much on forgiveness.

One thing I got from this past Sunday’s reading is that if you want God to forgive you, you must forgive others as well. That is a prerequisite we must fulfil before seeking God’s forgiveness. That got me thinking, most of the time we walk around holding grudges against people, yet when we sin, we ask God for forgiveness, forgetting we haven’t forgiven others ourselves.

Jesus’ parable about the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18: 21-35) teaches on that. In a nutshell, it is about a servant who owed his king millions of dollars, so the king ordered that he be sold as a slave, together with his wife and children. The servant dropped on his knees, imploring the king to be patient with him because in time he would pay everything. The King felt sorry for him and forgave him his debt and let him go.

When this servant was on his way, he met up a fellow servant who owed him only a few dollars. Enraged, he grabbed him by the collar, asking him to pay all he owed him. The poor man fell on his knees asking for more time, just like the servant had begged the king, but he wouldn’t hear any of it. Instead he had him thrown in jail until he cleared his debt.

Other servants saw what had happened and they reported it to the king. Incensed, the king ordered that the unforgiving servant be brought to him. He castigated the servant for not showing mercy to his fellow servant. Subsequently, he had the unforgiving servant thrown behind bars, where he’d be punished until he repaid all the millions he owed the king.

As Jesus told His disciples, that is how God the Father will treat all those who do not forgive others. We should forgive each other seventy times seven times. This is just figurative. What Jesus was trying to say is that we should forgive as many times as possible because our human nature makes us prone to sin. That way, even God will forgive us.

On that same note, we are highly discouraged from avenging ourselves. In Romans 12:17-19 we’re told, “If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Never take revenge my friends, but instead let God’s anger do it”.

One of the lessons I’ve learnt during this covid period is that being cooped up indoors with your loved ones could easily make them seem like foes, because everyone starts focusing on the small, insignificant things… We need to overlook those trivialities, because it’s in so doing that we can live in peace and harmony…and when fights inevitably break out, forgiveness is key. That way, our humanness doesn’t pull us away from God’s grace.

 

Lord Save me

Since Covid-19 became the most talked about phenomenon of year 2020, I’ve come across several covid-related memes; and, I thank God for humour because in the wake of this invisible monster, it’s one of the few things keeping people afloat.  This pandemic has made life relatively miserable…most of us thought we had problems, then covid came and proved to us that even when we feel things are bad, they could get worse in the blink of an eye.

As it is, we’re living in very precarious times. Even when making future plans, there’s that nagging thought at the back of one’s mind, that nothing’s certain anymore. I have across poignant stories about people who were ok before covid struck, then things went downhill too first…lost job… lost house, and before one could fathom what was happening, they were out on the streets…cold, with no place to call home.

This year has been very hard… Personally, I’ve been trying to find motivation from wherever I can, because what I have realised over time, is that if one has faith and hope, they can withstand, pretty much any predicament. In the same vein, if one has no faith, it becomes a matter of free-falling.

One such story is that Biblical story of Simon Peter, when he was out in the sea. One night, when he was in a boat with the rest of the disciples, they saw Jesus. Peter, asked Him to command him to walk on water, and Jesus did. However, after a while, Peter’s faith faltered and he started sinking.

Simon Peter walks on water

“Lord save me”, he cried out. More often than not, we forget God’s watching over us and the only prayer we need to say, is ‘Lord save me’, and He will come to our rescue. As seen during Elijah’s time when he was hiding in a cave, for fear that Queen Jezebel would have him killed, God appears to us discreetly. Chances us are He won’t come in a powerful wind, or earthquake…

As many may have noticed, He comes when someone’s about to give up. This means, we should not despair when things are not going the way we want… and we shouldn’t get tired of praying. Like I have said in previous posts, God may take time to answer when we call, but when He shows up eventually, He answers our prayers in style.

Destroying bougainvillea

Bougainvillea

If one purposes to nip something wrong in the bud, it means they will stop it from happening by destroying its core part, that way there won’t be any part of it that could possibly sprout again, and give rise to the same problematic issue. Ever seen a Bougainvillea hedge? It’s so thick, and while the flowers are beautiful, it has spiky thorns as well.

As a child, I played around it a lot, because it was easily available. I’d pluck a flower, tuck it in my hair. Sadly, as I grew up I started realizing it was most people’s preferred choice for funeral wreaths around my neighbourhood. Gradually, I stopped fancying them as I associated them with mortality. Sometimes I would come across them and they would feel ominous.

One time I passed by a bougainvillea fence that had been near our house, and I realized someone had sheared the branches off. I felt so elated. I wouldn’t have to see it again. At the time my mom was with me, and I quickly pointed it out to her.

Nonetheless, her reply made me feel like someone had punched me in the gut. “It will grow back again,” she said. “If someone wants to get rid of it completely they must destroy the roots”. At that point I realized, I’d have to get used to seeing the purple flowers, which were the most common. Weeks down the line, the detestable flowers were already starting to sprout again.

To date, I still hate the flowers, and whenever I come across a bougainvillea bush, my mom’s words ring in my head, “One must destroy the roots”. I remembered this flower a couple of weeks ago, when I heard a related anecdote from a Bishop during one of the online Sunday masses.

The story was about a small community, where the residents used to draw water from a communal well. One day, residents noticed there was a film of bubbles on the surface. Without paying much thought to it, the residents had the layer scooped out. At the time no one cared to have the matter investigated further, to know what had caused it.

The next day, the residents woke up and went to draw water from the well as usual and to their dismay, the film was back. They started getting concerned. However, no one thought to find out the cause of the intrusive film. Unanimously, they decided to seal the well, since it had always been left uncovered. That way, they reasoned, whatever was contaminating the water would not have access.

Relieved, the residents went on with their daily chores, satisfied that they had fixed the problem. Nonetheless, their joy was short-lived because when they went to get water the next morning, they noticed it had the same filthy bubbles. That’s when they thought to check the bottom of the well, because clearly, whatever was adulterating their water was coming from within.

A brave young lad, volunteered to go inside the well to check…and as one would expect, the root cause of their problem lay at the bottom of the well. Apparently, a dog had accidentally fallen inside the well and had subsequently drowned. This entire time, the residents had been using water which had been contaminated by the decaying carcass of a dog. Consequently, the carcass was pulled out and the well cleaned.

In more ways than one, most of us are like those residents; we see a problem, but instead of getting to the bottom of it and destroying the roots, we slothfully cut the branches, forgetting that the issue will continue recurring, since the roots are still intact. If something is bugging us, let’s destroy the roots…that way we’ll be sure we’ve destroyed it; because in essence, most of our incessant vexations are recurring issues that we purport to address, but never get to actually deal with.