Dang I wish I had a nice family like you do. But then I wonder and quite sincerely, if I would seek God the way I do if I did have that type of family. The dusty roads I walked from the bus stop getting home from school, the time alone I spent instead of talking with my mom because she was a busy single mother, the scanty letters I received from dad because he was a busy expatriate professor whom I barely saw, if those were all removed from life, would I have sought Him?
My family is all over the place. Three members of it are practically a different race. They’re from Papua New Guinea, funnily enough the place of my birth. A place I have zero connection with and know little about. And those same three I have never met, I don’t plan to meet. I don’t necessarily want these people who have grown up without me to suddenly consider themselves part of my life. That’s a mess and I don’t like it, I don’t want to be involved there.
But God has had it so. God has placed me here. God has made me born fourth to a man who’s had kids with four women. But God has brought me close. God has bent His head, to incline His ears to my voice. God has had a purpose in everything He did. So I’ll bend my head, I’ll incline my ears, till I hear His voice.
She leaned her head on the door post and sighed.
She didn’t like this life.
Church was over and it was time to go home. She had just sung one of her least favorite from her LP Aida collection. To her, it was a song with a distasteful melody but she was her pastor’s minstrel and so she did what she was asked to. When it came to singing at least.
When it came to other things, Efua was gradually wriggling her wings out of her larvae’s skin, because she felt ready to fly. She had had enough of the Christian garble. Every Sunday’s sermon sounded similar. It would be Soul-Winning or Tithing or Quiet-Timing. And she didn’t see how much of a difference any of those made in her life.They didn’t bring meaning and purpose to her. So she was through with all of it. But she would show up to church. For now, she would.
“Efua!” It was her roommate calling. She whipped her head and turned to see Harriet.
“Arri,” she responded and threw out one arm to embrace her. But rather, Harriet shoved into her hands her cell phone.
“Take a look,” she said while a mischievous smile crept on her face. “And it’s happening tonight,” she went on, her tone hushed.
Hand in hand, the two walked out of church. Harriet was her BFF. When things started to change for Efua and she started feeling way more at home outside than in the church, Harriet was there for her. Arri had her back no matter what and she loved her for that. When Efua got played on by one of the guys from church, Arri was there. When Efua got rebuked for mishandling church affairs that had nothing to do with her, Arri was there. The church had left several little scars on her ebony-colored skin. That made them hard for everyone else to see, except Arri. Arri not only witnessed her best friend’s pain but she emphathized.
“This party’s about to be so lit!” Efua squealed. She was loud. But she was mindful of her surroundings so not as loud as she could have been. No one at church needed to know where she was and what she was doing. It was her life and her choices. And when she needed them, she knew how to call.
And truth be told, it wasn’t like she hated everyone all of a sudden. It was just that she was tired. She had fallen into a rut. And she couldn’t really talk about it with anyone. She no longer had a desire to pray or worship and it all felt routine. Plus she was constantly stressed out. She didn’t know how to relax or wind down, other than to stay away from church for some time and listen to some good music, like some Adele. Boy, did she need that! Something was gnawing at her.
It was eating into her quiet moments. It was eating into her mind, bringing insecurities and fears to the surface. It was making her feel so alone, even though she had her friends and her boyfriend. It left her restless. So even as she left church that night and Harriet animatedly chatted her up, one would never be able to tell from her demeanor but her heart was on a search.
Sometimes I lose my faith. Very briefly. Inwardly. Not out loud and not really in my actions. Sometimes I just don’t believe this whole God-ministry-church garble. I just can’t see how it all makes sense.
Today was like that. I had tiny thoughts creep stealthily through the back of my mind as I watched our shepherd’s conference. What is all this and why should we be concerned about it? The melancholic’s mind is problematic, it swims way too deep.
It constantly wants to descend. I find myself wanting to throw everything into an abyss. Because nothing really matters and I can’t make sense of it all, I muse. With my mind.
I push play on a podcast I’ve never listened to. It’s a sermon by Bishop Oko Bortei-Doku. And then my eyes tear. I love this man and I don’t know why.
That’s when it hits me. I don’t love him with my mind. Because it doesn’t make sense. Who is he? Bishop Oko? We don’t even talk at all.
I love him with my heart. When I hear his voice, in the midst of my lowness, in the darkness of my mind, things churn, things stir, things warm on the inside.
It’s things like this that make me realize. We can only reach out to God with our hearts.
For with the heart, man believeth… Romans 10:9
Salvation begins in our hearts. With our minds, salvation and right-standing with God can’t make any sense. Our wrongs stand before us so clearly. How can we be righteous?
It’s a heart thing.
How can I be righteous when I am so fallible, so prone to cause offense? It’s such a heart thing. He won’t love her because she’s perfect. He won’t leave her because she’s never hurt him. But he’s gonna love her because she’s found her way into his heart. And he wants to keep her.
If you want to keep God, keep it a heart thing. Worship with your heart. Analyze and rationalize all you want but keep your heart the center of it. The word of God is capable of piercing us in our hearts. So you say religion, but I call it the heart thing.
Oko and Emmanuel rushed up on the wooden school desks and stood on them. They clapped their hands, then Oko said with his recently adolescent broken voice, “Jesus is giving us an opportunity to speak to you about the gospel!”
Just a handful of students remained in the classroom because school had ended for the day at least half an hour ago. The bell had rang and majority of the class had rushed out, like birds flying out of a cage to freedom.
But Oko was not deterred by the number. He wanted to speak to whoever he could because he cared about the salvation of souls. From the day he had given his life to Christ, this subtle burden had been placed on his heart. He could remember that day clearly, like a movie he had watched too many times, he had played over that scene in his head several times. He had raised his hand up when the minister asked for those who would like to take a decision to be born again. But when those who raised their hands were asked to walk to the front of the church, he hadn’t wanted to. His father had nudged him right then. He had seen him raise his hand and he was expected to do what was right. So with heavy feet and a repentant heart, he made his way to the front of the congregation. Repeating words after the minister seemed so simple, but what was really taking place? Now he knew the sinner’s prayer for what it really was. It was the signing of a marriage; it was consent to his adoption; it was the purchase of a one way ticket on the flight to eternity; it was the unlocking of prison doors; it was the tearing of the veil that kept him blind and unable to see God. The sinner’s prayer seemed really simple in the physical but spiritually it could be compared to an earthquake. His whole world would rumble and shake one day because of what he uttered that day.
“Please, give your life to Christ,” were his last words. Emmanuel jumped down from the desk but Oko remained. Standing from that height he could see the students he was addressing. They were his age, he played with them in class, he got in trouble and they knew it. The desk was the same one he drew on, stuck his old chewing gum under and slept on when his class lessons ceased to interest him. But in that moment, he envisioned the desk a preacher’s pulpit.
He couldn’t tell if his words had registered with his audience from the look of their faces. But he had done his job. A tear fell out of the side of his eye. “Save them Lord!” he silently prayed.
Then he stepped down. And being far from in the mood to speak to anyone, he stepped out of the classroom. It was time to go home.
This morning as I stared at some messages in my inbox, I noticed how I’ve been apologizing back to back. I felt my apologies sounded pretty pathetic. And how much good can apologies do? They’re so feeble and weak. They are just words and they do not have the power to glean forgiveness from the one I’ve offended.
If he forgives me, it’s not because my apology was powerful. (It’s because he is gracious and has the love of God in him.)
Apologies are honestly pretty empty. Apologies do not warrant forgiveness. Think about it. Forgiveness can only flow from benevolence and mercy.
Because vengeance is sweet.
Evil requires pay-back. It’s just how evil is. Offenses can hardly truly be reversed.
And the evil we do as men, it warrants judgment and repercussions. It warrants death.
Have you ever asked yourself why people die? There’s no simple answer to that. But from God’s word, we know that the reason why people die is sin. Death is the payment for sin.
Death was not part of the plan from day one. And as you can see, death presents a huge problem for us humans (for some reason, this is not obvious to people. Many people live without considering death). Death makes foolishness of all we do and gain on earth.
God’s plan was not to have temporary human beings. The plan was to have humans that would last till eternity. But we are dying- dying on war grounds, dying in hospitals, dying in accidents in the thousands.
Thus the problem of death had to be solved. How would God solve this? The sins that man has committed against God cannot be reversed.
So God’s Son had to die. He died to conquer death. He died to single-handedly stand in the place as the punishment for all our sin.
When we choose to believe that He died for our sins, we are choosing to believe that our righteousness and right standing with God is not as a result of our own good works but because of Christ’s work on the cross.
And so yes, “He died for our sins.” He died for our sins because there was a huge penalty and we couldn’t simply say, “God we’re sorry.” He died because death needed to be conquered once and for all, so life could be restored to us. He died so that the power of sin would die. So that we could live righteous. Our spirits would have new life. We would have life, more abundantly, life everlasting, even into eternity.
Have you ever hurt someone and just wanted to do anything to get them to forgive you?
Forgiveness is so pleasurable. And that’s who God is. He’s an ocean of love and and a sea of forgiveness.
Thank God for forgiveness. Now let’s bask in it.
“Let’s go all the way up,” Ralph turned to Serwaa with his eyes gleaming and stood up straighter. She grinned back excitedly.
He was leaning on the wall of the elevator and she was facing him. She hit the button for the penthouse and relaxed again. She could feel the swish underneath her feet, and then inside of her as well, she felt fluttery. What was up at the top of the building, in the penthouse? She was asking herself inwardly.
“There’s a pool and a nice lounge,” he immediately said.
“Ei,” Serwaa exclaimed softly and then laughed. There was no way he had heard her. But that was what she loved about Ralph. They were constantly in sync, with their thoughts, their sense of humor and their feelings.
The elevator reached their destined floor and he grabbed her hand.
The top floor was an open space with a pool area. It was much too late for anyone to be out there that night. So they could be alone and enjoy privacy, for a change.
The top floor offered a beautiful sweeping view of the city with bright lights everywhere.
“I’m scared of heights.” Serwaa let the cat out of the bag. She was clearly embarrassed by this. But why wouldn’t she be? It was only her first month in Seattle and very far away from her home in Ghana. Ralph just laughed. He wouldn’t understand. She was the first Ghanaian girl he had been with, and he knew very little about Ghana. They were from such different worlds. But she had met his parents, and they had told her they loved her accent and her beautiful skin. She liked their American accents too, she just couldn’t understand all they said.
“Nothing to be scared about,” He put both his hands on her arms. Standing so close in front of her, every breath she inhaled carried with it a whiff of his cologne. She wanted to lean into him, closer. Instead she just looked at him carefully. What did she like about him? His long nose and the way his face seemed so perfect, like God had worked overtime? Or the way his eyes lit up with mischief and made her wonder what was coming next? Or the way he gazed at her intently as though she were some type of prize? She truly felt love coming from him, and reaching her as though it was heat from a fireplace and she were seated very close. He was warm. The warmest person she ever knew. But –
“Wait, you don’t like this?” He was sensing there was something wrong. He could read her so easily.
Serwaa heaved a sigh. She couldn’t shake off the feeling in her gut. She smiled slowly so her face wouldn’t give away her true feelings.
“I’m scared of heights. And I’m also scared of you. All this. You. Everything. It’s too much for me. I have to leave.”
And with that she scampered away. Ralph was frozen and could not say a word. She ran, hit the button for the elevator but took the stairs instead. The faint sound of her feet echoed softly, like the patter of rain on a glass, like the last song whispered from a lover, the goodbye song. She was gone.
And in the space of time
between your eyelashes
your lower eyelid,
stretch the arms of your mind
to things above
and then breathe.
A thousand years
is still like a
if you let your heart
then spoon out music
from your lips
even if it’s completely
if you let your heart be stirred
so it’s not still
but it’s moved, and shaken
and completely wrapped up,
taken and involved in,
enveloped and surrounded,
covered and deeply embraced
in the Savior.
if you let your heart be stirred
so it’s not disparate
it all becomes
if you let your heart be stirred
so it’s a little more awake
and ready to hear voices
still and small
to make room,
to say welcome,
Kwesi didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t sure if he understood her completely. But she seemed intent on communicating something to him. Clearly her visit had an objective. Just what it was though, he wasn’t sure.
“Sorry, how do you mean?” he managed to say, tugging the bright yellow shirt he had on.
Sophia burst out laughing and grinned at him, revealing the broad set of white teeth that haunted his memory from his first experience at the First Love church.
“I’m sorry, Mister -” she realized she did not know his last name.
“Landroff,” he filled in for her.
“Mr. Landroff” she smiled again saying, “Perhaps you would like a more traditional explanation of the gospel?”
“I don’t believe.” Kwesi blurted out.
Sophia showed no sign of being offended if she was.
“That’s why I’m here to explain,” she offered.
“I don’t want an explanation,” he shot back. He was beginning to sound irritated. Not by choice. But it was something he had no control over. He did not know why he had even let the young lady into his home. He knew he would not want to have anything to do with her or their church.
A moment of silence ensued as the pretty evangelist gathered her thoughts.
“You’re in the gray, Kway.” she began softly.
Wait, now she was on nickname basis with him? The nerve! But he remained quiet. He was not one to argue lately. Since reuniting with his grandfather, he had assimilated the art of listening. Now he was a pretty good listener. Only that one would be a fool to presume that his silence implied agreement.
“Gray is the confusing place. Gray is such a confusing word that we can’t even decide which spelling works better for us! Do we use an a or an e?”
Her joke fell flat. Kwesi stared on.
“I’m just saying that I see where you are. I know what you’re feeling. I know that you can’t make up your mind and nothing makes sense to you anymore. You can’t trust in God. Although perhaps you might like to. And you’ve known God before but now things are different. And there’s logic and reasons why His existence is questionable. And then there’s how you’re feeling and your own life experiences that make it even more doubtful. What with your mother’s death -”
“How did you know?” Kwesi interrupted. He was suddenly inflamed.
“Nana Adu mentioned to me.” She couldn’t say anything further than that. It was too sensitive a topic to discuss. It was an exclusive party for Kwesi and he had not chosen to invite her. She had to be about ending her conversation.
“But you gotta keep moving, Kwesi! You have no choice. You either sit here in the gray and keeping knocking your shins like I did. Or you move. You come out and you find out your own answers. You come and see what it is, in a different way than you’ve known it. First Love is different. You felt it yourself. I don’t need to tell you this but I will. I don’t let my experiences paralyze me. I don’t let the lack of answers lead me to throw my hands up and admit defeat!
“I’m always on my runway. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to fly.”
There were tears in her eyes. He wasn’t looking at her. But he could hear them.
“But I’m willing to stay out and try.”
She stood to her feet. He had offered her a glass of water and at that moment, she completely downed it. Then placing the glass on the table, she said coolly, “I’ll be here Sunday at 12 noon. I’ll drop you off after church wherever you want to go.”
Kwesi just looked at her. This young lady was bold.
He responded with a “mhmm.”
And she walked out, quietly closing the screen door behind her. She got into her car. Kwesi came out to open up the wine colored iron gates to his house that usually remained closed.
He lifted his hand up- his way of saying “bye” or “later.” And she backed her car out. Gone from his sight, but she was oh so much more present now in his thoughts.