Tag Archives: Suffering

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.

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Broken! God, where are you?

God, where are you? Have you ever gotten to that point where you look around, and the pitiable state people are in; the deplorable state of affairs just makes you wonder if God exists for real, and if He does, why He’s watching quietly as everything goes (seems to go) awry? This past week I’ve found myself in related instances. Seeing the world through someone else’s eyes might bring into view a very bleak perspective of things.

A couple of days ago, my small sis came home looking so broken. Her eyes were all droopy and, her shoulders slouched. I could tell all was not well with her. “I cried today”, she told me.

I was in the kitchen preparing supper, so I just paused, knife in hand to look at her. “Why?”  I asked her.

A dejected sigh escaped her, before she answered, “When I was coming home, I saw this child on the street. From my estimation, he couldn’t be older than five. He was seated, leaning against a wall. I wanted to give him some biscuits I’d bought because I figured he was hungry. He was asleep, so I tried waking him up but he wouldn’t open his eyes”.

I was expecting the worst at that point… and I started dreading that the next words coming out of her mouth would be, he was dead. God-forbid! She sniffled before continuing, “I thought he was on drugs or something. Maybe some other kids already introduced him to them.”

“For most street kids it’s some sort of coping mechanism,” I explained. Then I figured he was only a small boy. I don’t have much experience with babies that I can use as some point of reference but I know some fall into deep sleep when they do get to sleep. So I also told her the same thing; or maybe, he’d been hungry for so long so he was too weak. I hoped it was the former. I know how it feels to go for a long time without food and honestly, I wouldn’t wish that, even on my worst enemy.

“When I figured he wasn’t waking up I just tucked the packet of biscuits under his sweater so the older kids wouldn’t snatch them from him. Guess what Aly? That’s when I noticed he didn’t have legs”.

“What?” I couldn’t help my surprised look. It’s not unusual to see a street child whose legs have been amputated, or who was born with under developed limbs, but hearing that about a homeless boy, and who was of such a tender age for that matter, made my heart bleed. He was out on the cold streets alone, and helpless. It certainly had to be harder for him living out in this callous world, with no one to fend for him or defend him.

His mom must have left him out there when she figured he was going to be a differently abled child. How unfair, I thought. “I don’t know how I’m ever going to live, knowing I left him out there,” my sister interrupted my momentary thoughts. “I haven’t a clue where he is. I’m scarred Aly.” She seemed broken, as those words left her mouth.

It wasn’t hard to imagine how tormented she must have been feeling. She has a big heart, and half of the times she does things even I have trouble comprehending. Sometimes I ask her not to let people take advantage of her kindness, because that’s just who she is. If there’s any weakness in her, I can bet that would be her biggest weak spot. I fear it would make her too gullible. But that aside, there was a baby living out there on the cold streets alone. The thought itself made my heart ache.

“God knows where that boy is,” I told her, “so let’s pray for Him to provide for him and that He may also keep him from harm’s way”. Nodding, she acquiesced. I could tell she would have wanted to do more for the child, but as it is, we’re so strapped for cash it hurts. Nowadays we’re merely getting by…

This and some other incidents reminded me of this Lenten reflection/prayer:

“My Jesus, the world still has you on trial. It keeps asking who You are and why You make the demands You make. It asks over and over the question, ‘if You’re God’s Son, why do You permit the world to be in the state it’s in?’

Why are you so silent?”

“…Your humility frustrates me, and makes me uncomfortable. Your strength before Pilate as You drank deeply from the power of the Father, gives me the answer to my question- The Father’s Will. The Father permits many sufferings in my life, but it’s all for my good. If only I too could be silent in the face of worldly prudence- steadfast in the faith when all seems lost; calm when accused unjustly; free from tyranny of human respect; ready to do the Father’s will, no matter how difficult”.

“Silent Jesus, give us all the graces we need to stand tall in the face of the ridicule of the world. Give the poor the strength not to succumb to their privation, but to be ever aware of their dignity as sons of God. Grant that we may not bend to the crippling disease of worldly glory, but be willing to be deprived of all things rather than lose your friendship.

My Jesus, though we are accused daily of being fools, let the vision of quiet dignity standing before monstrous injustice, give us all the courage to be your followers. Amen”.

 

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.”

Close of the Year of the Divine Mercy

divine-mercy

Last Sunday but one marked the close of the year of the Divine Mercy. That sounds weird I know; because God’s mercy is timeless and lasts for all time. However, this year we have been celebrating the year of God’s Divine Mercy. Thinking of what that title alludes to; the hopes and promises… it’s so easy to get discouraged if those prayers don’t come to fruition just yet.

That’s the situation my family and I find ourselves in. We’d hoped this year would somehow bring some relief after all we’ve been through but as this year comes to end what we feel is utter discouragement. Most of the things we had prayed would come to pass didn’t.

In any case things seemed to have gotten worse. For instance, dad’s drinking worsened and he squandered most of the money he had set aside for our school fees. So now we’re always getting in constant arguments with him because of that. Additionally, he completely neglected mom completely so basically the only thing that keeps them together is the marriage certificate.

Since he works out of town, he only comes home when he needs to withdraw a large amount of money from the bank. Normally he will call her to notify he’s coming home but as it is he’ll just take a detour, to some nearby bar and by the time he comes home it will be the next day at dawn, in a drunken stupor. It goes without saying that in that state there can be no civil conversation between him and anyone. When he talks it’s usually annoying because all he does is offend everyone.

Later in the afternoon he’ll wake up and go back to the bar. In all honesty, I cannot remember the last time I saw him eating at home. Mom, as a result of this, has been so stressed lately. If it wasn’t for the fact that I believe marriages are meant to be for keeps –in good times and bad times- I’d suggest she file for divorce and subsequently institute proceedings to get a church annulment.

Whatever little faith I had in matters marriage has completely waned. Now I feel like marriage is just a prison; an institution that one walks in filled with hope but gradually closes in on someone, leaving them constricted and without a way out. Mom’s a prisoner of love, and this year has left me absolutely doubtless that if she had married a different man she would have been very happy. A far-fetched dream from the misery, that is her life.

So now that the year of the Divine Mercy is behind us, I’m almost feeling desperate. Our lives completely denote the saying, that ‘the more things change, the more they remain the same’; even with everything around us changing, the only constant has been problems; which obviously everyone has. But my faith in God keeps reminding me that all hope is not lost because God’s mercy is timeless.

I would imagine there are very many people who are in similar situations; feeling spent because life seems to continue kicking even when someone’s already down. However, there’s one thing I refuse to give up on; hope. So if you’re feeling like my family and I are, don’t give up just yet. There’s hope. I know that because there’s this deep conviction I have that God listens; so if you have been praying and hoping, that big break is in the offing. Believe it…faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains, remember?

All through, since I became aware of my own existence, I’ve always believed God never disappoints those who hope in Him; and more often than not, He’s proved me right. So today, even if you’re feeling distraught, don’t give up; because tomorrow we’ll be a better day. Why, you ask? Because He lives.

Flipping the humanity switch off

humanity-switch

I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing, but lately I feel like I could switch my ‘humanity switch’ off; if I could. That sounds weird I know; but I’m thinking of the instances in the Vampire Diaries, where a vamp, say Elena Gilbert (played by Nina Dobrev), Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) or Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder), who are the three most popular actors of the show flip their humanity off.

In the show however, what usually happens is that when one of the immortal creatures runs into one of life’s inevitable painful moments, and it becomes unbearable, they just do one of the things their superhuman nature affords them, namely, flipping their humanity switch off.

Basically, what this feature helps them with is that they stop feeling. Emotional pain becomes just another trivial feeling, that’s barely discernible to them. Knowing how bad it feels to hurt, I would say that’s a pretty awesome thing; I mean, who wants to feel pain, right?

We lose loved ones; businesses we’ve worked tirelessly to build come crashing down like washed up sand castles at the beach; people we love to bits cheat on us without the slightest care in the world… truth of the matter is, we live in a callous world, and it would help tonnes if it were possible to flip some switch off, so we can stop ourselves from feeling some of this annihilating pain.

As it is though, we wouldn’t value life so much were it not for these painful moments we go through which make us human. I bet that’s why TVD’s scriptwriters called it the ‘humanity switch’. One thing I know is that the pain we feel keeps us connected to our humanity; it makes us refrain from doing things that would cause pain and untold suffering to the rest of the populace.

For instance in the show, Stefan Salvatore is usually a laid back vampire, whose determination to do good prevents him from feeding on human blood, even though he’s an actual vampire, whose main prescribed dish is warm/fresh human blood, straight from the vein; even blood bags are frowned upon by the rest of the vampires. To keep his craving for human blood to a minimum, he avoids the temptation all together by feeding on animal blood.

Sometimes however, he also bumps into issues which force him to turn his humanity switch off. Like this one time, a stronger vampire (an original), Nick Klaus compelled him to turn it off and once he did, what we (viewers) were treated to were gory scenes of beheaded humans, courtesy of Stefan. When he flips that switch off, he’s referred to as ‘the ripper’ because he decapitates people in a heartbeat and actually revels in it. That’s when one realizes how it’s important for one to feel, because feeling makes us human.

rainbow-without-a-little-rainbow

Lately though, I find myself confronted with situations which have me wishing I could flip some switch off, even if it’s for a day, just so I don’t feel the pain. Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I slept soundly without a care in the world. Even my waking moments are marred by conflicting thoughts, which threaten my sanity. I feel everything around me is pushing me towards the edge of the precipice.

I’ve even started questioning my faith; maybe I’m not praying enough; or maybe God turned His back on me. That’s the thought that crossed my mind as I walked the short distance to church this past Sunday. Then in the midst of all that anguish, I remembered that God never gives up on His people. He never abandons those who call on Him.

As it is, I feel my life’s a mess right now and the thought of a new day makes me tense up. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but I’m hopeful it will all be well, because God lives. So as I desperately wish I could flip my humanity off so I don’t feel pain, I also appreciate the fact that pain plays an integral part in our lives. That pain makes us human; mindful of other human beings and creatures. So we just can’t wish it away, much as it makes life miserable.

Perfectly imperfect

Do you ever wake up and wonder why you’re on this earth? What purpose you’re meant to achieve? Sometimes I feel that. Lately my sisters and I have been asking that a lot. The stage we’re in currently puts us in that situation where we constantly question the purpose we’re meant to accomplish. Sometimes life does that to people…

Like an answer to these questions, I found an old post I had written a while back but it was just a rough draft I’d scribbled on my notebook. As I was reading it, I felt some sense of calm descend upon me, as I was reminded of something important; each one of us has a purpose we’re meant to accomplish. We might not have realized it yet but in time it will be revealed to us.

That particular draft I’d written one Sunday evening, after hearing the story at mass earlier that day. While giving his sermon, the deacon had told us about a man who owned two jars. One was in perfectly good condition, while the other one had a crack on it.

Every morning this man would wake up and he would carry the two jars down to the river. Given the jars’ condition, it always happened that the man would get back home with the perfect jar full, whereas the other one was almost empty.

For many days, the broken jar wondered why its owner insisted on using it when he should already have discarded it. It was broken; imperfect; of what use was it? Eventually it asked the man why he was still using it, yet it always got home almost empty, unlike the perfect jar, which served its function perfectly. Affectionately, the man asked the jar to pay close attention the next day, when they’d be coming back from the river.

Anxiously, the jar waited for the next morning. Soon it was going to find out what purpose it was meant to achieve. The next day finally came and as instructed, the jar watched closely as the man carried it and the perfect jar back to the house.

On its side were beautiful flowers lined along the path. The man explained that he had noticed the jar’s defect and had decided to make use of it. He had planted flowers along the way and watered them every single day with the water leaking from the jar. From its imperfection, the flowers had been nourished. The man further explained that its perceived imperfection made it perfect for a different purpose.

Given that humans are flawed beings, I would say each one of us is like the broken jar. In our own way we’re all broken. We’re imperfect. Like my sisters and myself, someone might be looking at the life they’re leading and they might be wondering what good could possibly come from it.

Well, here’s the thing; our lives might not be perfect; we are undoubtedly imperfect, but the good news is that God focuses on our little imperfections and He brings out the best from them. If I could use examples of people we know or might have heard of; Simon Peter had imperfections of his own. He denied Christ three times, among other things, yet Jesus chose him to be the rock on which His church would be founded.

St. Paul, formerly known as Saul, was a persecutor of Christians. Yet, unbelievably, he became one of the most acclaimed men in history. God didn’t shun him, instead he chose him as one of his humble servants; through someone society detested He made His name known. St, Augustine was also a flawed man and we now celebrate him as a saint…

Imperfections may vary. It could be a physical challenge that one has; it could be the abject poverty which hinders one from achieving their dreams; it could be a sinful life one is living…but as the saying goes, ‘all saints have a past and all sinners have a future.

Point is, we shouldn’t let the current stage we’re in, in life discourage us. We’re capable of so much, even in our imperfections; because those imperfections are what make us unique and therefore perfect. So if you’re there wondering what purpose you’re meant to fulfill, don’t give up on yourself, or on life. Because like the broken jar, in time God will reveal to us too what plans He has in store for us.

We’re not put on this earth because we’re perfect, or to lead perfect lives. On the contrary, God appoints each one us for a special mission, fully aware of our imperfections; and He doesn’t love us less. So if He, who is the quintessence of perfection accepts us in all our ‘flawedness’, who are we to love ourselves, or our lives less?

Since it might take a while before we discover what we’re meant to accomplish in this life, we should take each day as it comes…and be the best we can be…and whatever the situation is, we shouldn’t despair.