Tag Archives: making choices

Power of forgiveness

Joel Osteen, in one of his sermons, gave an illustration of how our flawed humanity makes us try to avenge ourselves, though we all desire to be forgiven when we falter. He talked about a woman who had died and gone to heaven. When she got to the golden gates, St. Peter asked her to spell a word so she could get in.

“What word?” She asked.

“Any word you choose”, Peter replied.

“LOVE,” the woman said, before going ahead to spell. “L.O.V.E.”

With that, St. Peter opened the gates and allowed her to get in. Needless to say, she was beside herself with joy. She’d made it to heaven. Moments later, he asked her to stand in for him for only a short while. Dutifully, she agreed.

While the woman was manning the golden gates, her ex approached her. “What happened?” She asked.

“I had a heart attack”. He answered. “So, I’m I in heaven already?”

Begrudgingly, she said, “Not yet. First you have to spell a word.” She went on to give him a very hard word to spell, just so he she could deny him the chance to get to heaven. If we had that chance to condemn people to eternal damnation, how many of our foes would we sentence to hades?

Biblically, that illustration resonates with the story of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18: 21-35. Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times should I forgive him? Seven times?”

Jesus answered him, “No, not seven… but, seventy times seven. Because the kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a king who decided to check on his servants’ accounts. He had just began to do so when one of them who owed him millions of dollars was brought in. The servant didn’t have enough to pay his debt, so the king ordered him to be sold as a slave with his wife and children, and all that he had in order to pay his debt.

The servant fell on his knees before the king. ‘Be patient with me, he begged, and I will pay you everything!” The king felt sorry for him and he forgave him all his debt and let him go. The man went out and met one of his fellow servants who owed him a few dollars. He grabbed him and started choking him. ‘Pay back what you owe me’, he said.

His fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back’. But he refused; instead he had him thrown in jail until he should pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very upset and went to the king and told him everything. So he called the servant in. ‘You worthless slave!’ He said. ‘I forgave you the whole amount you owed me, just because you asked me to. You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you’. The king was very angry, and he sent the servant to jail to be punished until he should pay back the whole amount.”

And Jesus concluded, “That is how my Father in heaven will treat every one of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

In reality, most of the time we act like the unforgiving servant; we desire to be forgiven, but are so reluctant to forgive those who wrong us. It is that behaviour that our Lord condemns. When He taught his disciples how to say the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13), He still emphasised on that ‘thorny’ aspect of forgiveness. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…”

Furthermore, in Matthew 6: 14-15 He says, “If you forgive others, the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.

In roughly four weeks, we’ll be celebrating Christmas and a week after that, we’ll be ushering in a new year. November is almost ending and that means this year is pretty much over. Many things have happened; we’ve been wronged by people, and we’ve also wronged others. As this year draws to a close, it is imperative that we start mending fences…

We need to make peace with those who have stepped on our toes, or with those whose toes we’ve stepped on. I doubt anyone would want any differences they might have had with others to spill over to next year. Personally, I don’t… Let’s forgive… Every time I’m watching news I see so many atrocious things happening across the globe.

One party strikes, and the other retaliates in an attempt to avenge itself… the effect of this is loss of innocent lives and the destruction of property. Earlier this year, I was watching the news where President Trump proposed the reintroduction of waterboarding –an outlawed torture tactic of interrogation- as a form of countering terrorism. He said that with respect to terrorism, he would fight fire with fire.

In my very humble opinion, fire can’t put out fire. And you know how that saying goes, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Unfortunately, in most cases, this is the approach we use to deal with those who offend us. We come out guns blazing so at the end of the day we leave things worse than they were.

From my experience, forgiving is very difficult, especially if there was searing pain occasioned by the transgression. However, Jesus is calling on us to forgive… it is not easy, but it is the right thing to do… and right now, what the world needs is tonnes and tonnes of forgiveness, as this will create room for peace, love and unity to thrive. What we need to remember is that love heals… and there can be no love, without forgiveness.

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Eulogizing Fishy: lessons from a goldfish. Part 2

One year went by, then two, then three… by then, we’d forgotten all our previous reservations and we just loved Fishy to bits. She maintained some degree of sass, while still appearing adorable. If her tank wasn’t cleaned as per schedule, she would swim away when someone got close to her, splashing water with her tailfin.

It was just impossible to resist her charm. Before we knew it, we were singing her ‘happy fifth birthday’… Given the disappointment we’d suffered from the loss of our two goldies, this felt like a huge milestone. It felt amazing.

Though we couldn’t pat her or talk to her, we were able to communicate somehow. She expressed her emotions in a way that was relatively easy for us to figure out. Sometimes I would find myself wondering what she would say to us if she had the ability to talk…

Due to the symptoms Chibols and Finley had exhibited before they succumbed to septicaemia, I was always looking out for shredded fins and blood on her body. Luckily she looked perfectly fine. However, a couple of weeks ago, in early August, she started exhibiting disease symptoms.

Every time we fed her she would float at the top, with her limp body bent. Sometimes she would be floating, with her body upside down. When she wasn’t eating she was swimming normally. Due to this, we reduced her food portions and stuck to feeding her once a day.

Some nights we would go to bed, afraid we’d find her gone in the morning; but to our pleasant surprise, we would find her swimming, seeming as energized as ever. We got the impression, she was really fighting to be ok… Zealously, she would fight to get over what was ailing her. Two weeks ago, she appeared to have recovered so we went back to feeding her twice a day.

That, unfortunately, was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. She started floating with her body upside down again and by the end of the next day she had sank to the bottom of the tank. Realizing her health was deteriorating, we started panicking. This time we were almost sure she was going to die… and it was awfully depressing.

Mom, who’d also grown attached to her, kept monitoring her progress and subsequently she called a friend who works in a pet shop. He said Fishy had a bacterial infection and prescribed Sera Omnipur for her. All this while, she had lost buoyancy as her head seemed heavier than the rest of her body. She tried jerking herself up but no matter how hard she tried to swim up, she couldn’t.

The research I carried out indicated she might have been suffering from a swim bladder disorder and I was just praying it wasn’t permanent. Mom went and bought her the prescribed medicine.  At the pet shop, they warned her that Fishy’s halcyon days were behind her and that the medicine wouldn’t do much difference.

In spite of that, she still got the medicine and after administering it, we were still hopeful Fishy would survive. She had proved to us she was a fighter. Up until then, we didn’t know feeding her shelled peas was an option to help with the constipation. Since we hadn’t fed her for three days we tried feeding her the peas but by then she had seemingly lost her appetite.

Even while she was lying at the bottom of the tank, she determinedly tried to get up but her body failed her. It broke our hearts that she was fighting so hard to remain alive but her body wouldn’t cooperate.  We’d keep checking on her so she wouldn’t feel so alone and somehow it seemed to bolster her will to live.

What amazed me though, was that whenever my small sis tried talking to her, she would visibly shift into a different position, in an attempt to swim. I couldn’t comprehend that, but I imagined the two had formed a special bond over the years as my sis had been the one cleaning her aquarium; so she easily recognized her.

Sadly, one week ago, on Friday morning we found her gone. I knew she was going to die given her frail health, but even then, I was overcome by grief…I couldn’t help it. She had been part of our lives for six whole years and three months. As I looked at her lifeless body that once swam in the aquarium briskly, I felt an overwhelming sense of loss engulf me. I didn’t know a fish could have such an impact on me, or my family for that matter.

Now, days later, I still miss her. I was telling my big sis how ironic it is, that we grew so attached to her, despite the fact that it’s for that same reason we refused to name her. Taking into consideration how she fought unfalteringly to stay alive, I learned the lesson of resilience. As long as one can get air into their lungs, the battle is not over yet. The plan is to keep fighting; to push, until the end. Small as she was, Fishy taught me that.

These jars that we are…

Ever been in a situation where you’re travelling, you’re done packing…or at least you think you have, and then you realise there are a few precious items you forgot and there’s no more space left? Normally, the first instinct is to try figure what’s not so important, so that it (they) can be taken out to create space for the more important things.

Essentially, that’s how we human beings are fashioned. We’re like jars; and as is common with jars, they do fill up at some point. So the million dollar question is, what’s your jar filled up with? Are they things which under normal circumstances you would want to get rid of? Personally I know there are so many things I would want to get rid of.

A couple of days ago I got a chance to listen to one of Joel Osteen’s enlightening sermons. It was edifying, Joel likened human beings to jars. He said that if one’s jar is filled with guilt, self-pity, anger…etc. there will be no room for good things like peace, love, confidence…

Every once in a while when I’m talking to my sisters, I’ll remind them that if one’s worrying too much about something it diminishes one’s faith, because one can’t believe in God and be afraid at the same time. That’s the same thing Joel said; if one’s jar is filled with anxiety, that takes up the space for peace and serenity. If one allows their inner voice to convince them they’re always making the wrong choices, then that takes up the space for confidence.

If we want to receive God’s blessings, then we must create space. So, like that suitcase we need to empty out to make space for a few valuables we left out, we need to empty our jars to make room for the good things God needs to fill us up with.

Empty out the anxiety, the anger; empty out that self-pity, that self-loathing; let go off of the remorse that has been burdening you…for all those things happening in your life that you don’t understand, let go off the thousands of questions which have been tormenting you; and God, who’s got everything in control will fill you with peace that surpasses all understanding.

It’s only by so doing, that we’re going to receive God’s blessings in our lives. Life’s too short to dwell on the negatives, and much as we may all agree unanimously that being happy is an uphill task, emptying out all the negatives will create room for joy and cheer.

Joel Osteen made me think of something I’ve never thought of before. In a hypothetical setting, Mary the mother of Jesus, bumps into another woman in heaven; the mother of Judas Iscariot. If you were Mary, how would you deal with her, taking into consideration the painful and humiliating death her innocent son was subjected to, thanks to Judas’ betrayal?

Most of us usually strive to get over the painful moments we’ve gone through in life. That might be a very high bar that will likely put us under so much pressure. Truth is, we might never get past the pain and the hurt, but we should endeavour to get past it; and gradually we’ll get to a point where that pain doesn’t feel like an earth-shattering experience. It’s just a matter of getting rid of the bad things, so that we can create space for the good things.

Like Joel said, we shouldn’t go through life looking through the rear-view mirror. The voice of the enemy will be there, reminding us incessantly of the failures we’ve had in life; the wrong choices we’ve made…but that’s the past. If we hold on too tightly to it, we won’t have space in our hands to receive the immeasurable blessings God showers upon us.

So when the enemy reminds you of your past, remind him of his future; he ain’t got one, because God’s got it all in control.

Red flags? Run, baby run… Part 2

In reality, when one loves for real, they lack the willpower to pull the plug on a relationship that already feels dead. One keeps holding on, tolerating all the pain, in the hope that the relationship will work out somehow. If experience has taught me anything, it’s that a failed relationship is just that; a failed relationship. Most of the time our instincts warn us, but we choose to ignore them.

I’ll keep saying it over and over again; sometimes it’s better to walk out than hold on to a relationship that’s already dead. The consequences are just not worth it. For instance, the friend of my friend’s sister is only twenty six years old. That’s too young to be going through marital hell. She knows her husband cheats on her but she doesn’t seem to find that an issue, and why you ask? Because she loves him.

These past few days alone, I’ve witnessed mom going through untold hell. Dad’s only getting meaner with each passing day. He’s already said he won’t be paying my sister’s school fee and mine. He doesn’t seem to care that I’ve only two semesters of law school to go. So now I’m putting all my faith in God. Only He knows why all things are happening this way.

One of my greatest consolations is that my big sister finished her masters degree and she managed to do it without dad’s help. So maybe after all, we won’t need his help either. I live for the day we’ll be freed from his imposed dominance. For instance, I’m unable to point out when he errs because he holds my school fee over my head, so if I openly disagree with him he threatens to cut me off.

Nowadays I avoid him like a plague because I won’t feel the need to lash back if I don’t hear or see him doing irksome things; and as it is, that’s who he is. Unfortunately, he still gets under my skin because he treats everyone else with utter disregard for their well-being. I’m pretty sure I hate him, but I’m constantly asking God to grant me the grace not let hate corrupt my soul.

My sister tried talking to him the other day after he publicly threatened to call some young men to beat mom up, and that was after he’d almost run her over. I knew he has a dark soul, but deep down I hoped he had changed. This wouldn’t be the first time he hit her in public, but the last time that happened was about a decade ago. My small sister is still traumatised by the events of that day.

One thing I’m pretty sure of is that if mom could go back in time, she’d make different choices. Lately she’s been saying constantly that there were red flags all around her when she and dad started going out; but she was a young naïve woman, who actually believed love conquers all. Apparently, it doesn’t always. In my humble opinion, love only triumphs when both parties in the relationship are willing to fight for their love.

Yesterday when we were leaving for church in the morning, dad was getting home after spending the night out drinking. He even had the audacity to ridicule us. According to him, God’s punishing us while He’s blessing Him. On a bad day, that might have crushed my spirits; because on the face of it, that’s how I’d interpret this dreadful situation we’re in.

Dad’s getting meaner by the day, yet he doesn’t seem to be suffering in any way. On the other hand, every day my mom, sisters and I feel like God has given up on us. But deep down I know He hasn’t. He acts in time, so we just need to continue hoping in Him.

The things dad said when we were leaving for church had me thinking he’s become the devil incarnate. Worse still, when we came back from church we found he’d locked the door from inside and had left the key in the keyhole. We panicked. I rang the doorbell a couple of times, hoping he would be kind enough to open. But he didn’t.

My small sis tried pushing the key out with another key but she failed. My big sis, who had gone to sit on the steps in anguish, afraid we would stay outside until dad decided to show mercy on us just rose, deciding to try her luck.

After a few attempts she finally managed. I just can’t explain how overjoyed we were. That felt like a major triumph. The possibility that dad might have fallen into deep slumber, given his inebriated state had us terrified. Worst part is my big sis had locked the door herself when she was leaving but dad – in an unnecessary show of might- opened the door and locked it from inside, so that had us reading malice into the whole thing.

When we walked into the house, mom obviously went straight to their bedroom and lo, and behold! Dad was just standing at the window, casually looking outside. Meaning he had seen us walking to the house, and even heard the doorbell ringing, but he chose not to open the door. Where I am right now, I feel like we’re living with the enemy.

Financial dependence is incapacitating. I can only think of one reason why my sisters and I are still living with dad. But where I’m at, I’m so convinced that when I move out I don’t want to remember I have a father. So in my humble opinion, one should run if the relationship they’re in feels dead. There’s no need waiting up to a point where everything just comes crumbling.

Red flags? Run, baby run… Part 1

You’re in a relationship, and there are red flags flying all around; alarms are just ringing… when is the best time to run? If you’ve been asking yourself that question, now might be the time to run. Don’t wait till it’s too late. A few weeks ago I was walking from class with a friend, and I was asking how she’d been the previous day since I hadn’t seen her. She went on to tell me how she had visited her sister and how she witnessed her sister’s friend, who was also visiting, go into labour.

She said it so casually so I just figured it was no biggie. It was just another case of an expectant woman realizing time had come for their bundle of joy to come into the world. At first I thought the lady’s labour pains were just a false alarm, until it hit me that she was actually going into labour. Only difference is, she hadn’t been rushed to hospital yet because she had rung her husband and was waiting for him to come drive her to the hospital.

My sister’s friend was nursing an infant herself and therefore couldn’t drive her friend to hospital. It took them a while to realise the dad-to-be, wasn’t going to be arriving soon. The lady obviously started panicking, afraid that her baby would die if she didn’t get to hospital soon. She had lost triplets before, so naturally she was afraid the same fate would befall this unborn baby.

Two hours later, on realizing that the friend’s husband had bailed, my  friend’s sister called a cab. About an hour later, the dad-to-be showed up, just when the cab was also arriving. Disappointingly, he was drunk. I had trouble understanding why the guy was acting so slothfully when the matter at hand sounded like it required urgent attention. If they hadn’t lost three babies already I just might have understood him, but realising what was at stake made me judge him harshly.

I’ve seen guys who are excited about the thought of being dads. It’s usually that excitement, coupled with the love they feel for their wives/baby mamas,. This particular dad-to-be however, couldn’t have seemed far from interested. He didn’t seem remotely concerned about the grief his wife would be subjected to if she lost a fourth child. My heart bled for the lady.

At first one would imagine the guy was just nervous about how this delivery was going to turn out; and in such a case, that would be perfectly understandable. However, what I gathered is that the man’s a philanderer. He’s always getting involved with younger girls because apparently he feels he’s very hot so in his opinion they find him irresistible.

“He must be on top of some woman, when his wife is here waiting for him,” my sister’s friend had speculated when she saw the panicky state her friend was in. Thankfully, the lady got to hospital safe but delivered through C-section as she’d taken too long to get to hospital since she went into labour. She had a bouncing baby girl. That was a miracle if you ask me.

It’s only been two years since lady got married to this guy. In my books, they should still be in their honeymoon stage, where they are still madly in love with each other. In other words, the marriage is still too fresh for the lady to have started living her unhappily ever after.

“Why is she still with him?” I asked my friend. “Does she depend on him in any way?”

“She recently took a loan to buy him a car,” my friend answered.

“So she’s financially independent. She can walk away now when it’s still early,” I replied.

“She loves him terribly. She doesn’t feel like she could live without him.”

I pitied the lady. She’s madly in love with a guy who doesn’t even seem to remember she exists. “That’s one-sided love,” I said. “At some point that marriage is bound to fail. Problem is, when that separation happens, it’s going to leave a very bitter and scarred woman in its wake. If that woman knew half of my mom’s story, or even the life my sisters and I have lived, she would take to her heels.”

Family life, not meant for all? Part 3

Some people are clearly unmoved by children’s sentiments and if you ask me, it’s pretty unwise of a grown up to take offence when a child makes an innocent comment. Dad’s like that. He forgets that it’s commonly said, ‘if someone wants a really genuine answer or opinion on something, they should try picking a child’s mind’. They are honest, because they see the world through pure eyes; their emotions haven’t been coloured by biases yet.

They don’t see colour, or different religions… It’s no wonder Jesus said, that anyone who wants to get to heaven should be like a child. That said, dad didn’t dig deep into his conscience to see where he was erring as a parent. Instead, he felt comfortable telling himself all these years that my small sis was at fault for telling mom we should find a new dad.

There’s also a grudge he harbours against me because years ago, when I was only two years old, I ‘rejected’ him. As it is, my parents had parted ways when I was about six months old. Dad’s mom had been pressuring him to leave mom and find a girl from a wealthy family and somehow he had heeded to his mom’s advice.

For more than a year they were separated, so while I was growing up, I didn’t know dad. Eventually, he decided to get back with mom and when he came for us, I didn’t recognise him. So I ran. That precisely, was what he accuses me off. That I ran away from him, instead of running into his embrace. Now that I have an idea of how dad’s mind works, I try not to let that incident bother me.

When Saturday came, he left. I’m not sure whether he left for his brother’s, or he travelled back to his other house so he could prepare for work. Given that he’d gone back on a Saturday, it wasn’t hard to tell he couldn’t stand our presence.

Midweek, he sent mom some money. He didn’t call though. After assessing the situation, I told mom it would be better if she gave him back the keys; not because he deserved it, but because we should let nature take its course. We have tried our best. As it is, we can’t force him to do anything he doesn’t want to do. If ever he changes for the better, hopefully he will, it will have to come from his heart. In the meantime we’ll just leave everything to God.

Earlier today, mom gave him back the keys. He was ecstatic. He even said he was going to church. He asked me if I needed a lift and I told him I’d already attended mass. He left. However, I wasn’t fully convinced he’d gone to church because the mass he purported to attend was half way through and the other would be starting in an hour’s time. I figured time would tell.

About two hours later, he came back. Mom asked him how mass was and he said he wasn’t from church. I felt disappointed he hadn’t been there but I also appreciated that he didn’t lie about it. Lately he’s become a pathological liar; guess that’s a characteristic of people getting into an advanced stage of drug addiction. His alcohol breath was a clear indication of where he’d been.

Five minutes later, he left again. Turns out he’d only come back for more money. As my big sis was on her way to get some items from some nearby supermarket, he offered to give her a lift and as she had spent the entire night up, working on a client’s research-related report, she just agreed.

While he was driving, he told her he was going to sell the car because he couldn’t use it when he wanted to see his mother. That admission rubbed me off the wrong way. I know, while he’s so fond of his mother, I can’t say the same of us. He treats us like we’re an obstacle; the greatest setback in his life.

A few days ago, I just found myself wondering why God would give an irresponsible man such as him a family to take care of, yet he seems so detached. As a brother and son, he may have been perfect but the way I see it, he just wasn’t cut out for married life. He seems to have picked the wrong vocation because as a husband and father he’s performed so poorly.

The only thing that gives me hope is the fact that God took a chance on him.  So maybe there’s something worth saving in him after all. Only time will tell.

Family life, not meant for all? Part 2

The entire week he didn’t call and he refused to pick up calls. Since he comes home on Fridays, we waited to see how he would handle that sticky situation. Eventually the week ended and as was expected, he called mom to tell her he was coming home and he wanted to find the car keys in their usual place. From what I gathered, he practically barked the order over the phone.

When he got home, he found my small sis and I. We didn’t have classes that day. First thing he did, he asked for the car keys. It didn’t escape my attention that he had alcohol breath on a Friday afternoon, meaning he’d imbibed before making his way home.

We told him we didn’t know where the keys were. Disappointingly, he dialled his brother and I must say I felt ashamed as I watched, and listened to him pouring out his heart to him about how we had hid his keys. According to him, we were colluding with our mother… which wasn’t entirely false. He went on to say some things I would have preferred remained unsaid since those are essentially family ‘secrets’; and all these he did, thinking we would be intimidated into giving him back the keys.

I couldn’t help but wonder, what authority he thought his brother had over us. He’s never come through for us when we’re in dire need of some assistance. Worse still, the last time he visited us while in the company of his mom and siblings, they tried to show mom how bad she was for dad and he (dad) blatantly took their side. Because of that and other unfortunate incidents, I do not feel his authority is binding on us. If at all he has any, it would only be persuasive.

As a daughter, I must admit I felt disappointed and ashamed. Disappointed that my old man was too blind to notice obvious things; that there are issues in our family which need to be addressed and it won’t be an outsider addressing them; and ashamed that by implication, he was giving up his ‘man card’. Because he was indirectly creating the impression he is not strong enough to handle his wife and kids, so only his brother could.

When he was done, he said he was leaving and was never going to come back. That again, he thought would function as a threat, which obviously didn’t serve the intended purpose. Shortly after, he left. Of the things that really got me so worked up was the fact that he didn’t care to ask how we’d been doing since he’d been gone, given that he knew mom had told him we were experiencing some serious financial challenges. All he cared about was his mother. The rest of us could go to hell.

Later in the evening, his brother called mom. He didn’t tell her why he was calling and only said he was inviting her to join them in some trip they had the next day. The one that had dad taking an early off on a Friday. Courteously she refused because it was on such short notice. Even he, was surprised dad hadn’t told us in the least that there was a family event; not that we would have attended anyway.

Mom asked him if there was anything else he wanted to tell her and he said there wasn’t so she just told him she knew he wanted to ask about the keys. She explained to him why she had taken them and unexpectedly, he actually understood why she had done it. He even asked if dad was still going to church. It wasn’t hard to tell he was also concerned about his brother’s behaviour. She also told him she wouldn’t be giving dad back the keys until the underlying issues were resolved.

When dad came home from the bar later, he said he was washing his hands off of us. He didn’t want anything to do with us. I had trouble understanding where he had prioritised us as his family, seeing as he was readily going out on a limb for his extended family, yet when it came to us, he seemed unperturbed.

The other day he was drunk, he got cross with my small sis, apparently for something she did ages ago, when she was around six. “You asked your mother if you could go find a new dad,” he scoffed, “maybe it’s time you did. Go find yourself another dad”.

That got me really concerned. All these years, I never knew he heard when my small sis had said that. Clearly she hadn’t said it out of pride, or anger. It was an innocent child speaking her mind out as a result of the misery our own father was putting us through.

So why would he in his right mind, not take a moment to ponder over that? Why would an innocent six year old say that of her dad? Personally I would freak out if God-forbid, I heard my children saying they wanted another mom.