Category Archives: reflections

Humble yourself and God will lift you up

Imagine you got invited to a high-end party…and when you arrive at the venue, you find seats are organized in such a way that all the VIPs have their own special area reserved, as it usually is in most cases. Therefore when you get there, you quietly (without any drama) take a seat at some table meant for the rest of the hoi polloi.

However, when the host sees you, they happily walk over to you and tell you that you’re sitted at a wrong table. Furthermore, they respectfully walk you to a seat reserved just for you at the VIP section. How amazing would that feel? I know I would be stoked.

Then, consider a contrary situation where you’re already sitted at the VIP section, then some ‘big shot’ makes their way to your table, in the company of their entourage. Judging by their flashy clothes and accessories, you surmise they are very, very important persons. In their presence you feel very small.

When almost everyone is in attendance, the host walks to the ‘big shot’ sitted at your table, and whispers something in their ear. You just watch as they rise to their feet, their face awash with palpable rage and shame. Albeit you didn’t overhear what the host whispered to them, you gather from the rest of the VIPs at your table that the person was sitted at the wrong table and should have been at the ‘commoner’s’ area; moreover, the particular seat is reserved for some other VIP.

This hypothetical scenario is based on this past Sunday’s readings in church (Luke 14: 1 – 14). Jesus was invited to the house of a ruler who belonged to the Pharisees. There, on noting the sitting arrangements, He told a parable to the guests in attendance. “When you are invited by anyone to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honour, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him.

And he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man’, and then you will begin with shame, to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher’. Then, you will be honoured in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”.

Jesus also went ahead to caution the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite friends or your brothers, or your kinsmen or rich neighbours, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just”.

Jesus’ teachings encourage us to be humble. If we don’t go around blowing our own trumpets and seeking praise from others, God will Himself uplift us. In the parable, He would be the host who invites the humble guest to sit at the high table.

Most of us thrive on publicity, and as result we end up doing things that might be deemed despicable. Case in point is Farrah Abraham’s recent ‘wardrobe malfunction’ at the Venice Film Festival. While the jury is still out on whether the ‘malfunction’ was accidental or choreographed, I’m of the humble opinion her reaction was too blasé for it to be considered inadvertent. Methinks it’s just another case of ‘Bad publicity is better than no publicity’.

Based on what I’ve gathered over time, some people gain popularity without even trying. I know some people who are so successful in life, but you wouldn’t know unless you deliberately set out on a quest to find information about them.

There are these verses of the Bible I love:

Matthew 6: 3-4: “When you help a needy person, do it in such a way that even your closest friend will not know about it. Then it will be a private matter. And your Father who sees what you do will reward you”.

Matthew 6:6: “But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is unseen. And your Father who sees what you do in private will reward you openly”.

These verses encourage us to carry on with our affairs in confidence. Looking at it from Jesus’ perspective, one needs to be very humble for them not to go telling every one of their achievements. It really takes so much strength to keep good things to ourselves.

Sometimes we go ‘rubbing’ our achievements in people’s faces, partly out of excitement, and partly as a way of showing off. I suppose what Jesus is discouraging is pride. As the saying goes, “Pride comes before a fall”. Logically, one cannot be proud and humble at the same time. So it’s always a matter of personal choice.

 

 

 

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The Narrow Door: Part 2

The thought of dying feels scary to most of us…and I imagine it’s because the afterlife would best be described as ‘unchartered waters’. Yes, there are some people who’ve come so close to following the proverbial ‘light’, when they get to that Near Death Experience (NDE); and when they regain consciousness they try to explain what they saw on the other side.

I’ve heard some chilling stories about what some people purport to have seen. In this case I’m deliberately using the word ‘purport’ because sometimes it’s hard to draw the line between what one actually experienced, and the part of it that’s just a hyperbole. One of the stories I’ve heard is about a man who died (almost died) but came back to life.

He claimed to have seen heaven and hell and interestingly, he says most of the people he saw in perdition were people who while alive were renowned servants of God; simply put, priests and pastors. Now one may ask, assuming this man was telling the truth, and that indeed the souls keeping the devil company are those of former religious leaders, then where does that leave the rest of us, who may not be that religious (in the eyes of our fellow men at least)?

In church yesterday, the priest’s sermon reminded me of that man’s NDE. The sermon was premised on the gospel about the ‘Narrow door’. In a nutshell, what this reading says is that the road to perdition is broad, and laden with flowers and all manner of good things. On the contrary, the road to Heaven is very narrow and thorny.

The basic explanation is that it’s very easy for someone to go to hell; because when one is in a moral dilemma, it’s always easy to choose the easy way out. For instance, if one is almost getting kicked out of their house because they have outstanding rent arrears, then while they’re walking on the street they come across a wallet on the ground, the financial crisis they’re in will prompt them to pick it up and use the money inside.

In essence, the right thing, in my opinion, would be to pick it up and figure out how to have it returned to the owner; say by contacting any numbers available in there. However, it is also understandable why someone would opt to use the money in it. It may not be right, but at that time it would be feeling like a tremendous blessing.

From a lawyer’s perspective, some of the cases I’ve interacted with have helped me realise that sometimes people commit grave offences, not because they have a penchant for crimes, but because difficult circumstances pushed them between a rock and a very hard place.

There’s this prayer/reflection about why saints became saints: they forgave when it was hard to forgive; they were patient when it was difficult to be patient; they were agreeable when they wanted to be disagreeable; they remained silent when they wanted to talk; and, they pushed on, even when they felt like calling it quits. What this reflection does, is that it makes one realise how hard it is to be a saint.

One of the recently canonized saints is St. Teresa of Calcutta, popularly known as ‘Mother Theresa’. The life she led, one would have to turn their back on all worldly pleasures to attain that level of holiness. She lived a very simple life serving others. Question is, how many of us are capable of that?

In the era we’re currently in, the people we celebrate as servants of God are giving us more questions than answers with regard to our quest to attaining salvation. This is because churches have been turned into money-making businesses. These ‘servants of God’ are preying on gullible people, minting money from them in the guise of ‘saying special prayers for them; or cleansing them…’

Our priest in church was saying, “Don’t be surprised if you get to heaven and find the local drunk was allowed in through the pearly golden gates, yet I’m still outside the gate begging to be allowed in. Going to church everyday, tithing, singing in the choir and joining all manner of prayer groups while commendable, are not enough to guarantee someone salvation.”

He continued, “Professing and proclaiming the name of the Lord is not enough. The life you live, must speak for itself. Because even if you dedicate most of your time to church activities, yet you don’t live a holy life, Jesus will tell you, ‘I don’t know you’. Aspire to live a life that pleases God. A life free of hypocrisy”.

His words gave me a lot to ponder on; sometimes we think because we’re always involved in church matters and always attending services/mass, we’re already guaranteed a place in heaven; and that those we perceive to be wayward will automatically go to hell? That is a huge misconception. Only God knows each person’s heart. The only thing we can do for ourselves is try to live holy lives, by following His precepts.

 

Who’s my neighbour?

As a lawyer, I know my neighbour is the person who is close to me, in terms of proximity, that my actions or omissions would cause them harm. This neighbour principle is intended to caution a person to be careful of what they do, or don’t do because they will be held liable for their actions/omissions.

About a fortnight ago, the readings in church were about a conniving lawyer who was trying to test Jesus’ wits, asking Him what he needed to do to attain eternal life. Jesus told him to be good to his neighbour. The rationale is, someone cannot love God, who they have never seen if they cannot love their own neighbour.

In this lawyer’s attempt to outshine Jesus, he asked Jesus who his neighbour is…and Jesus went ahead to tell him the parable of the Good Samaritan. When Jesus was done, He asked him who of the three people was a good neighbour.

In a nutshell, the moral of the parable is to be kind, even to those people we don’t know. The neighbour principle discourages us from doing things that might harm others. It teaches us not to do to others, what we wouldn’t want done to us.

That Sunday morning after mass, mom and I were at a petrol station checking tyre pressure, when we heard the distinct sound of shattering glass. On reflex, I looked over my shoulder thinking a driver had rammed into something.

But lo and behold! I saw a relatively young man, possibly in his early twenties, bending forward. He was trying to pick something from the ground, but his centre of gravity seemed very wobbly. His back and forth rocking motion bespoke early morning inebriation.

Then, I also realised, his pants had pooled at his ankles and he seemed to have such great difficulty yanking them up. He would bend, and his entire tall frame would tip forward, then he would attempt to stand.

I bet he was so drunk because he took like three steps forward, trying to find his balance, then he took a few steps forward. It was sad really. I would have been tempted to laugh, but the situation was just heart breaking.

When he was still trying to fasten his pants, which thankfully he had managed to pull up, he dropped his phone; and at that point he let go off his pants then bent forward again to pick the phone. Next to him was a broken window of a fast food restaurant, and shards of glass were scattered on the ground. That had mom and I thinking he had something to do with the breakage.

A waiter from the restaurant got hold of him and directed him inside. Then he locked the double glass doors from inside, I guess to prevent him from disappearing before they settled the damages. Though I doubt he would have, given his uncoordinated movement.

I could not help but wonder why such a young man would get himself into such unnecessary trouble on a beautiful Sunday morning. After seeing dad drink for all these years, and knowing the problems this has brought him and us, I am of the humble opinion people should just try to avoid the habit, difficult as it is.

Funny thing is, during mass the priest had said a good neighbour is one who doesn’t do things they wouldn’t want other people around them to do. Interestingly, he gave an example of a drunk man/woman, who comes home after three days. When asked where they’ve been, they turn hostile.

The priest asked, “If you wouldn’t want your partner or children coming home that drunk, why would you think it’s ok to do that to them?” Being a good neighbour means sparing a thought for those around us.

pressure to get married

I’m staring out at the sky, praying that he will walk in my life…

Where is the man of my dreams…I’ll wait forever how silly it seems

How does he laugh how does he cry, what’s the colour of his eyes;

Does he even realize I’m here…where is he…where is this beautiful guy…

Who is he…who’s gonna take me so high…”

These are the lyrics to Justin Roman and Natalie Soluna’s song, ‘Where is she’. When I was younger I used to sing it word for word, because I loved it (still do). Now it pops randomly as a reminder of what’s going on in my life.

See, when my two sisters and I turned 13 (at different times), dad automatically assumed we would give in to the raging hormones teenagers are usually said to suffer from at the onset of puberty. Therefore he always treated us like we were just sleeping around with boys. “I know they’ve done it…either in that bedroom, or that bedroom…”This, he would say during his drunken ramblings, pointing at the bedrooms while standing at the hallway.

As a result, we always avoided inviting guys over because we didn’t want to be judged. Even the ones who came over did so without our consent. Like this one evening my childhood sweetheart popped by on his way home from work. Needless to say, I had not invited him over. When mom got back from work, she found him there but since she knew him since he was a child, and was friends with his mom, she was generally happy to see him.

Only thing she was not privy to was that a couple of years ago he and I had been in a relationship. At the time we had already gone our separate ways and he had visited, hoping we would get back together. However, I had already moved on so that chapter had long been closed.

Then, 25 came and suddenly dating was the implied requirement…if one was not dating and introducing their partner to the family, people thought that person was slacking off. The pressure to get married started. Mom light-heartedly started saying she wanted to see her grandchildren before she turned 50.

One of my cousins got a baby at twenty and the entire family ganged up against her. No one wanted to be associated with her, and I couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about. I mean, at the least, she was above 18, if age was the issue. She stayed with us for a while and a couple of years later, everyone was doting on her little girl. Nowadays, in family get-togethers, the same people who had ostracised her refer to her daughter as her second degree, her first being her bachelor’s degree.

So question is, is it just in my family or that’s the norm? Where before one turns 25, dating is almost a felony…then after 25, there’s pressure piling from all corners for one to get hitched. Nowadays, all my dad’s drunken ramblings start and end with marriage; but in all honesty, I sort of understand why. Most of our cousins are getting married and having babies.

Dad yearns to be called a grandfather, like his elder brothers. However, he fails to realise marriage is an almost permanent situation, given that it’s usually intended to be, “Till death…” So the way I see it, it’s not a matter of having attained the suitable age for marriage, but about being prepared emotionally, financially…

I really do not want to end up in nuptials because I’m ‘ripe for marriage’. If marriage was merely about age, right now I’d be nursing my own children, and taking care of my husband. Nonetheless, I want to find a man I truly love…someone who completes me in every sense of the word; someone who understands me in all my ‘damagedness’…and that, in my opinion, should not be rushed. It’s not about whether dad and mom are ready to be grandparents, but whether I’m ready to start a family.

Angry because God is taking too long to come through?

Have you been praying incessantly, and after months, or even years of waiting you’ve still got nothing to show for your devotion to God? Are you so angry with God that you’re praying less and less, and slowly you feel your faith has been waning? If the above describes your situation, then this post is meant for you.

In church this past weekend, the priest was telling us about the importance of effective communication in a relationship. Ordinarily, most relationships break down because the parties are unable to communicate with each other.

When someone is hurting because their partner did something they didn’t agree with, the problem is resolved easily when they can express their emotions. That way, even if the other person didn’t know they had done something wrong, the minute that issue is brought to their attention, they start making amends.

Normally when a couple is preparing to get married in church, one of the essential parts of their preparation is going through counselling by a church minister or a priest. During this counselling, they are usually advised to be open with each other. This is because where there is no communication in a home, a minor disagreement generates into a glaring chasm, which at some point becomes impossible to fix.

This is the same thing that happens with us when we stop communicating with God. Our relationship with Him gets affected. In light of this, the priest was telling us to learn to communicate with God. If you feel angry because God is taking too long to grant your wishes, have that conversation with Him.

Tell him Him you’re angry…you’re frustrated…and you feel life is becoming unbearable. Break your problems down from the first to the last, making clear what is bugging you about the whole situation.

Now, you might be thinking, “But God is infinitely wise and He already knows my problems”. That is true. He does know all your problems. Essentially, the importance of this exercise is to decongest your thoughts, and chest. Personally I find it very therapeutic when I take time to meditate, having that deep conversation with God. Then when you’re done, ask God to guide you on the way forward because you feel lost.

This exercise is very important because when you stop communicating with God, despair sets in and before you know it, your faith becomes history…and I know, once someone’s faith weakens, rekindling it becomes a herculean task.

From experience, I find it calming when I know God has everything under control. So with regard to all matters faith, it’s advisable for us to talk with God, telling Him how we feel. If you’re feeling God has abandoned you, or He’s taking it too long to act, tell Him about it today…

Take me as I am: Part 2

For the last five years or so, I’ve been on a social media hiatus. Reason being, being a person who struggles with anxiety, I noticed social media is a constant trigger. So for health purposes, I made a conscious decision to just take a break; and I must say, it does feel calming not having to worry about things people are sharing or not sharing.

Since ours is a formal setup, we agreed we would share all important documents and information on Googlegroups. That way, no one would feel inconvenienced. Needless to say, not everyone would understand an odd situation like mine. One of our members seemed hostile towards me from the onset. When discussing issues she would always shoot me down, until it became so obvious to other members.

Growing up, I learnt that confrontations aggravate strained situations, so incensed as I was, I tried to be patient with her. One time, another one of our group members commended me for being so mature about it. This went on for a while, until one Sunday when she called all members for a Monday meeting on WhatsApp. Everyone else assumed she had notified me about it, so they didn’t inform me.

That Monday I got to school early as usual, oblivious to the fact that there was a firm meeting. I went on to do my morning studies before class started. Later after the first session, I ran into her in the washrooms and that’s when she told me the group had met up. I didn’t want to seem agitated so I told her it was ok. Since not all members had been present, we had another meeting in the afternoon to be briefed on what guys had discussed in the morning.

It was to discuss some assignment, but as I later figured out, some basic requirements on how to undertake it had been flouted. Subsequently, I brought the matter up to everyone’s attention. She argued that I should join WhatsApp as that was convenient for everyone. I felt she was being insensitive towards me and I told her it was unfair for her to treat me that way simply because I was not on WhatsApp like everyone else.

Her behaviour made me realise how most of the time we’re insensitive towards other people, just because they are different. In my case for instance, I seem like an outlier because I’m not conforming to the norm of being on social media. For someone else, it will be something different. That begs the question; must we all be the same for us to be considered ‘normal’? I think not.

I always like to think we’re all different, and those differences make us unique. It would be so boring if we all behaved and thought the same way. Taking this into consideration, I think we should endeavour to take people as they are. We might not always like or agree with what some people do, but chances are, if we cared enough to ask, we would find they have some compelling reason for being/behaving the way they do.

Take me as I am: Part 1

Three months ago I joined bar school. Even though things are anything but easy, I would say so far the going’s ok. When I got there, the first perceptible difference was the huge number of new faces. That was expected though, because it was an entirely different institution from the one I’d been in for the last four years during my undergrad. Thankfully, in that sea of foreign faces, there were some former colleagues of mine and that was a huge relief, taking my introverted nature into consideration.

Ordinarily, I’m those people who could walk into a room full of people, and after the end of the session, walk out without having spoken to anyone. Depending on the mood I’m in, sometimes it feels ok, but sometimes it makes me feel lonely. Since I was a child, I have always had trouble socializing because it does feel like a task, for the most part at least.

Nonetheless, when I meet someone and I get to know them over time, I could be the chattiest person. In such cases I consider myself an extroverted introvert. My closest friends could attest to this. Sometimes they think I’m just crazy, but in a fun way. In some previous posts I have talked about my introversion.

Therefore, when I saw familiar faces from campus, I felt relieved because I didn’t have to worry about making new friends and all… However, this being a new institution, some things were bound to be different. For instance, in campus I was my class’ president for four years; but when we got to elect our class president in bar school, I did not vie because I felt I needed to take a breather. Being in a position of leadership puts one in the spotlight and I was craving some sense of quiet and invisibility.

The other different thing is that in campus we had the autonomy of forming our own discussion groups. However, in bar school, we were divided into firms long before we even started classes. The effect of this is that in my case for instance, majority of my group members were foreign faces; and, given the bulk of work that is required to be carried out in groups, it meant I would have to familiarise myself with them all.

After our first class, my group members and I met briefly to introduce ourselves and we agreed I would be the firm leader. Given that I had been the president of a class of about one hundred and fifty students, being the firm leader of a group of twelve felt pretty manageable. But as it would turn out, that was a wrong assumption I made.

See, in my former class, my colleagues got to know me and they figured what kind of a person I was, and thankfully, they accepted me for who I was. They did not try to change me. In my firm on the other hand, my colleagues don’t know me and half of the times I feel they treat me with suspicion.

The genesis of this is I told them that currently I’m not on WhatsApp, or any other social media platform for that matter. Given that we’re currently living in an era where almost all social conversations and business negotiations take place on social media, they found it strange. One of my group members asked if it’s because I was trolled, and I told her I wasn’t.