The In-between Period

Beginnings. These we understand to be the point at which something begins. They come to us in many different ways. Some are joyfully anticipated. Like the birth of a child. When he finally pops the question. The long awaited promotion to the corner office. An alcoholic pours the final bottle of booze down the drain. The laying of the foundation stone for your dream home.

Other beginnings, however, can be daunting or sad. Like starting a new job or relocating to a new country. The death of a loved one and learning to live without them. The loss of a job or the end of a relationship. A deadly virus declared a global pandemic. Such beginnings may seem like the end rather than a beginning. But Seneca was inspired in declaring: Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. Life is a cycle of beginnings and endings and unless you’re dead (the permanent ending), the ending is usually the beginning of something else. Every story has an end, but in life every ending is a new beginning. The beginning of a fresh story. Indeed, every new day is an opportunity for a beautiful new beginning.

Enough with the beginnings and endings. What about the in-between period? The interim time? The time between “here” and “there”? The journey from “Story A” to “Story B”? The long dash in your life? Oftentimes, we do not realize we are in the in-between period, but the truth is that the high or low of a beginning does not last forever. You soon realize the new baby is a lot of work. The excitement of marriage settles down and you discover marriage is not a bed of roses. You move into that new house and you have to contend with additional maintenance and utility costs. The intense feelings of despair characteristic of grief over the death of a loved one soon diminish to more positive memories of the deceased person. You adapt to the “new normal” of living with the Coronavirus. We are always in the in-between period. In-betweenness is a necessary human condition – the quintessential human condition to living. It is where everyday life happens.

Today is Good Friday. I thought about how Jesus’ followers must have felt when he was crucified and the world fell dark and silent. Did they consider it a beginning or the end? Imagine them going back to their homes with their spirits crushed to the core. They had given up their livelihoods to follow this guy for three years and now he was dead. Where were they to start again? For three years, Jesus had taught and guided them. He had even miraculously provided for their daily needs. Now what? Those three days between the crucifixion and resurrection must have felt like the end for them. Not forgetting they risked being hunted down and killed by the same people that killed Jesus. Without the full knowledge we now have that Good Friday would give way to Easter, the followers of Jesus must have been in a state of despair during that in-between period.

Then there is Joseph. The teenager with a coat of many colors. Favored by his father Jacob over his eleven brothers, he dreamt that one day his brothers would bow down to him. And for that, they conspired to get rid of him. They sold him off to some merchants for less than what a common slave was worth. That’s how bad they despised him! You know the story. After many years, thirteen to be precise, his dreams came true and the brothers bowed down to him when he was promoted to be the second most powerful man in Egypt. Yet the in-between period was not a walk in the park. He had to contend with tramped up charges by a crazy Potiphar’s wife. He had to do jail time. He had to deal with people forgetting to return a favor. All this while he was living in a foreign land, away from his family and way of life. Without knowing how and when his dreams would be fulfilled, the in-between period must have been difficult for Joseph.

It doesn’t help that the in-between period is often undefined. The followers of Jesus waited three days for a new dawn. Joseph waited thirteen years. But this was not known to them. The waiting was hard, as it is for us all. We do not enjoy waiting. We do not enjoy the in-between period. Even when the beginning is a good one, we soon tire of it and get anxious for the next high. It is human nature. The impatience at traffic lights or check out queues or waiting at a doctor’s clinic is just a glimpse of who we really are.

So, what to do during the in-between period?

It may sound stupid, but waiting is all you can do. What matters is how you wait. How you spend the in-between time. Your attitude during the in-between period. We can learn a lot from Joseph.

Do what you can with what you have, wherever you are.

Joseph was not in Egypt by choice. He had no idea what would become of him. But whatever he did, he did it with excellence. He performed his duties in Potiphar’s house so well, the guy put him in charge of everything. Well, except the wife! When in prison, he continued to excel and the warden put him in charge of all the other prisoners. It is amazing that he even excelled in the interpretation of dreams. Picture this. A foreigner in prison has the guts to tell a high-ranking prisoner, Pharaoh’s own chief baker, that he shouldn’t expect to leave the prison alive! He said it as it was even though he didn’t know his own fate. Throughout the thirteen years, Joseph did what he could to the best of his ability.

Many theologians agree that Joseph is a type of Christ. Jesus endured much suffering but he was faithful till the end. And as Jesus would declare at the cross, “Fatherforgive them; for they know not what they do“, Joseph forgave his brothers, declaring, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Forgiveness is the flipside of gratitude. It involves choosing to release things like offenses, hurt feelings, judgments, and condemning thoughts. Gratitude, on the other hand, involves choosing to focus on the positive and good things in life and giving thanks for them. Forgiveness is about letting go of the things that weigh us down. Gratitude is about giving thanks for the things that lift us up.

During the in-between, a grateful heart makes the waiting bearable. Even worthwhile. Psychologists tell us the person who feels gratitude is thankful for what they have, and does not constantly seek more. That’s contentment with the here and now. And even in the worst circumstances, there is always something to be grateful for:

“The world has enough beautiful mountains and meadows, spectacular skies and serene lakes. It has enough lush forests, flowered fields, and sandy beaches. It has plenty of stars and the promise of a new sunrise and sunset every day. What the world needs more of is people to appreciate and enjoy it.” – Michael Josephson

Another thing to do during the in-between is to let go of Story A in order for Story B to emerge. Many of us are tied up in the past. We specialize in the “if onlys”. Imagine if Joseph had remained stuck in his father’s household where he had everything he needed. Where he was his father’s favorite, remaining at home when his brothers went away to graze the flocks. His story would definitely have been different. The in-between story we now read wouldn’t have taken three chapters to tell. We must break away from the things that keep us stuck in the old story. This calls for courage to seek what we need to get through whatever our in-between entails. It will often mean saying “No, this is not what I need right now”.

Joseph’s story is our story. His hope that kept him going during the in-between period is also our hope. We individually wait in whatever narrative that is unfolding in our lives but we mustn’t miss the forest for the trees – God’s purpose in the in-between. He prepared Joseph to save his brethren for thirteen years. He let His own beloved Son die a shameful death for the fulfilment of His redemption plan.

Your in-between period may be hard but if you trust God, He will work all things for your own good. Live in integrity and be confident that He will come through for you at His perfect timing.

After all, Good Friday gives way to Easter.

Love Vessels

When I wrote this post, I had no idea a huge curveball was hurtling towards me. This was on Saturday 13th March. Come Monday, I took my first-ever Covid-19 test after an exposure in the workplace. Since going back to the office in January (after many months of remote working), I have been extremely careful, following all MOH guidelines and I was sure the test would be negative, and this was just a formal exercise to tick the box. Shock on me!

The following day, I received an email that changed a lot of things. POSITIVE, the report screamed at me! I read it several times to be sure I was not misinterpreting negative for positive. It didn’t help that the laboratory sent ten other emails with the same report, which of course I had to open to read just in case they had realised their mistake and were resending the “correct” results (Lancet Laboratories, I have a bone to pick with you)!

My medical history places me at the center of those most vulnerable to Covid-19, comorbidities, they are called. You can therefore imagine my worry, despite the fact that I had no symptoms whatsoever. But the objective I had set for myself in that post – to write on this blog, everyday, for the next two weeks – provided just the right opportunity for an escape. I had time to reflect on many things, which gave me content for the daily blog posts. I thank God for His grace and mercy that have followed me through those days; remaining asymptomatic throughout! Twelve days later, here I am writing the tenth of the ten posts I committed to. I am glad, I did not let the Covid-19 positive result curveball knock me out, and by God’s help I was able to optimise on the opportunity it presented.

I empathise with many people who have not been as lucky and have had to endure serious illness, even death, from Covid-19 infections. My prayer is that God heals our land from the coronavirus. May we find physical, psychological and spiritual healing that we so desperately need. Most importantly, may you and I be conduits for delivering this healing. The calls and messages I received from family and friends while in isolation kept me going. To know that someone cares and are concerned for my wellbeing was a soothing balm to the soul. I intend to pay it forward. The best we can do however, is to follow the MOH guidelines. Many of us are unknowingly moving around with the virus. You could be asymptomatic but if you do not mask up, you risk infecting someone who may not be as lucky as you are. Show some love for your neighbor and mask up. Properly, I might add.

Following today’s lockdown announcement in five counties, life is about to get harder for many people. If you are in a position to help someone, please do. Businesses that had not fully revived will be further affected. Incomes for many households will continue to dwindle. If coronavirus has taught us anything, it is that life is fleeting.

Live not as though there were a thousand years ahead of you. Fate is at your elbow; make yourself good while life and power are still yours.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

As long as you have breath in your body, do not take this beautiful gift called life for granted. We spend so much time feeling sorry for ourselves, being selfish, crying over little things, that sometimes we forget what we have isn’t permanent. We forget what we have been blessed with and how quickly it can be taken away. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. What good is holding onto material things? What good is putting off what can be done today for tomorrow? What good is holding grudges? Nothing will last forever. Except the feelings we spread and the love we give. Our time on earth is limited – make every second count. Do not be afraid to become love in action. Be a vessel of love.

Let’s share some love!

Kirk Franklin’s My World Needs You has been on my mind today.

Every heart in the world, God, needs you to rescue
Storms have come and torn our hearts in two
We need you
!

These Three Remain

You can’t make people do what you want them to do. You can’t change them. Or even save them. You can’t make them see what you see. Or feel what you feel. Sometimes I wonder what it is all for. Why we need relationships. Why we crave them. Why we fight for them. Why we feel compelled to save and salvage them. Especially when we know there’s nothing left to give. Sometimes I wonder, you know? What makes us want to go through these things. What makes us vulnerable and overly sensitive to the people we love. It’s hard to explain. – R.M Drake

If you haven’t read Drake’s works, you are missing out. The guy is phenomenal and his poems on social media have a way of striking just the right chord for me. This particular one was unusually long but I’ve been struggling with a certain relationship and it’s like Drake read my mind.

Have you ever felt exhausted from loving and caring too much? You know the other person doesn’t give a hoot but you just cannot give up on them? You have done all you can and time and time again you have told yourself you are done, but you find yourself the next day reaching out to them? Because you cannot stop thinking if they are ok, if there’s something more you can do. You know you cannot change them but still, you cling…

Why do we put ourselves through the wringer over and over again? As I thought through my own situation, the following came to mind:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

Faith in the context of the Bible is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hope, on the other hand is wanting an outcome that makes your life better in some way. The two are closely related and it is almost always the case that people who have faith, have hope; and people who have hope, have faith. Strictly speaking though, this relates to faith and hope in a higher being; to God. With human beings, I dare say it is foolhardy to have total faith and hope in them. You can tell someone you have faith in them, but really? They leave your presence and go and do the very opposite of what you had agreed. They will stab you in the back, while you sleep.

I will not even consider why we need relationships. Or how imperfect they can get even when we have given our all. But what is a relationship without faith and hope? Human beings are hardwired to hope even in the worst of circumstances. Hope helps us get through a tough present situation by envisioning a better future. That’s how we have made it this far through the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s how we will get through this third wave that is threatening to get us back into lockdown. We are optimists by nature, always looking for the good and expecting things to improve. Pessimism is a learned behavior – due to life’s battering and bruises of disappointments and unmet expectations.

And so it is with the ones we love and care for. Our optimism is heightened as we hope for the other person to love us back. To get the relationship back on track. Even if it is our self-designed track. We do not give up even when all signs say we should throw in the towel. We fight on even after the closing bell has sounded. We hope. For love.

Love, even flawed human love trumps everything else. To love – a choice we make every day. Do I want to love this person and commit to them, or am I going to let this person go? Once I make the decision to love, the work begins. Work that comprises making many other choices. Choices that will often have me giving and giving even when there’s nothing left to give. All for love. Even the smartest of us does foolish things. For love.

These three remain. Faith, Hope and Love. But the greatest of them is love.

It’s Time to Shift

“When you replace “why is this happening to me” with “what is this trying to teach me?” Everything shifts.”Anon

I came across this quote on the streets of LinkedIn. I couldn’t find who it is attributed to but whoever it is, sure had (or have) a good head on their shoulders.

We’ve all at some point had that inner voice saying, “why me?” or “what’s wrong with me?” This is particularly true when things aren’t going as per our expectations. A relationship isn’t getting along as you hoped. Out of so many colleagues, your job is declared redundant. You or a loved one gets a difficult diagnosis. Going through changes and new experiences can be daunting and frustrating. It is easy to play the victim and ask “why me?”

Rather than dwell on the situation and play victim, we are being reminded to focus on the opposite, more positive angle. The opportunities for growth and new experiences that lie ahead. It is true our lives are continually in flux, and it’s not always going to be a walk in the park. If it were, we would never learn. For we are a sum of all of our life’s experiences – good or bad. And the only way to learn is by boldly asking, “what can I learn from this?”.

This positive U-turn determines your REACTION. And we have all heard the famous saying, “Life is 10% of what happens and 90% of how you react to it.” It is true. Reacting with light instead of shade, with responsibility instead of blame and in the future not the past, means the battle is already won.

So, forget about “why is this happening to me” and shift your focus and energy to “what is this trying to teach me?”

Someone also sent me a message about replacing “I’m sorry” with “thank you”. For example, instead of saying, “sorry I’m late”, say “thank you for waiting for me”. Instead of saying, “sorry for taking up all your time”, say “thank you for spending time with me”. While “sorry” exposes your weakness, “thank you” acknowledges the other person and their contribution.

I am sure “sorry” has its place, but for now I need to unlearn one of the essential magic words. It’s time to shift. Positivity and gratitude over negativity!

Judah and Tamar

“You know what I learnt from this IVF experience?” He says. “Forget everything else man, forget buying a house, or passing an exam or building a new roof in shags, life is biological and it all boils down to continuity.” – Baba Milan

I will come straight out with it and say I am a huge Bikozulu fan. I always look forward to his regular blog posts on Tuesdays and today’s post written in his characteristic style was captivating. The quote above was by the interviewee in the story. Life is biological and it all boils down to continuity. Mmmhhh…

That one sentence took me back to a story I read recently of a woman named Tamar. She was the daughter-in-law of Judah, one of twelve sons of Jacob. I hope you know Jacob was the grandson of Father Abraham. The story is documented in Genesis chapter 38.

This woman suffered a great injustice in the hands of Judah’s family. She was first married to Judah’s first-born son, Er, who did some wicked stuff and God said: “Enough is enough.” He died before he could have heirs, and in keeping with tradition, Tamar was “inherited” by Er’s younger brother, Onan. This is where the story takes a twist – Onan knew about coitus interruptus long before the act was given a fancy name. Due to his own selfish reasons, he didn’t want his dead brother to have any offspring, and he thought he would fool everybody by having his cake and eating it too. Wait a minute – the Duke of Hastings must be from Onan’s lineage! (All ye Bridgerton fans know what I am talking about, don’t you?). Anyway, you can fool others but you cannot fool God. Because of this wicked behavior, God put him to death also.

Judah had three sons. Two are now dead at the hands of the same woman. In my community, such a woman would have been in the league of “atumia a ciero ndune“, which translates to “women of the red thigh”. These femme fatales were to be avoided at all cost unless as a man, you wanted to end up in an early grave. You can therefore sympathise with Judah for wanting to spare his youngest son, Shelah. He thought he would trick Tamar by sending her back to her father’s household to wait for Shelah to grow up.

I need to summarize this story but Tamar knew she had been tricked when Shelah grew up but she was not invited to procreate with him. She deviced her own trick and my oh my! Judah ends up being the father of her twins! I watched The Bold and the Beautiful back in the day and it was scandalous the way Brooke Logan-Forrester moved from one Forrester man to the next. We now know she took lessons with Tamar!

Life is biological and it all boils down to continuity.

Human beings have been able to create many things but life remains elusive. Yet, that is the main purpose for which we live. “Be ye fruitful and multiply“, was the order given by the Creator of all life. One’s offspring remains their greatest heritage; the arrows in the hands of a warrior. They continue shooting off when everything else has fallen silent. The greatest heritage but no one can obtain it by themselves. People will go to great lengths; not even counting the cost involved. Look at Tamar – she could have been killed (burned to death, in fact) if she hadn’t been clever to retain evidence from Judah’s escapades. All for want of an heir to carry on the bloodline!

Baba Milan is right. No achievement compares to procreation. Do you agree?

Niceness

“Nice people with common sense do not make interesting characters. They only make good former spouses.” – Isabel Allende

I am a nice person, I think. I am respectful, hardly ever raise my voice (except with my children – children have a way of testing your patience, you know?) and I am a peace-loving person. I wear a smile a lot of the times (I believe in letting age do its work naturally without aiding it with scowls and frowns!) and only ruffle a few feathers when it’s absolutely unavoidable. I am a nice person (I said that already). So what?

The above quote by Isabel Allende isn’t from anything I read today; rather it’s from her 2007 TedTalk titled Tales of Passion that popped up as my recommended talk for the week. Allende is very engaging and incorporates humor in her speech in a manner that made me think “when I grow up I want to be like her”. But those two lines made me pause and wonder, “What’s wrong with being nice?”

You’ve all heard the clichés: “Nice guys finish last” and its contra “Bad boys get all the girls”. There’s even a book that is sitting pretty on my shelf almost two years on: Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers by Lois P. Frankel – I just did not like it. The tacky title aside, the few pages I gleaned felt like the advice was one has to fake it to make it. Maybe we should change the corner office rather than change women to fit in. I might be convinced one of these days to finish reading it but for now I am with Robin Sharma on Leading Without a Title.

Where was I going with all these? I remember – “What’s wrong with being nice?” “Why has Mr Nice Guy, in particular, received such a bashing?” Nice people are friendly, pleasant, gentle, compassionate, sensitive, kind, the opposite of a “jerk”, a term used to describe a mean, selfish and uncaring person. Add common sense to the niceness and you have the making of a good, decent human being. A good parent. A good spouse. A good leader. Why would Allende say such people only make good former spouses? Or did I take her joke too far? Maybe I “overthought” the idea, as I am told I am wont to do.

Indulge me for a moment. A person who cannot handle their nice spouse may have deep-rooted problems that need “a-shrinking.” Unresolved past hurts? Trust issues? Feelings of inadequacy, undeserving, low self-esteem? I am no psychologist so let me not dive into uncharted waters. What do you think? What’s wrong with being nice? Google gives me almost 2.3 billion results. Help me narrow it down.

Jannes and Jambres

Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone. 2 Timothy 3: 8-9

We are living in perilous times and one almost always has to question and find different versions before settling for one’s truth. Fake news and disinformation is the order of the day and reality isn’t always clear. The internet, of course only exacerbates the problem and depending on who you follow, you and I could have opposite versions of the same matter, begging the question, “What is the truth?” If only things were right or wrong. True or false. Black or white!

Today however, my question was, “Who are Jannes and Jambres?”. I was reading the book that is the source of my truth. But how come I have never heard of these fellows? I thought I knew the story of Moses! You know, the helpless baby found floating in a basket on the River Nile by Pharaoh’s daughter? Brought up as an Egyptian Prince, later turned Pharaoh’s foe? The guy of the burning bush who delivered the Hebrews out of slavery? Not forgetting the plagues and parting of the Red Sea. The ten commandments. Oh! I even know his brother was Aaron and sister Miriam (I forget the parents’ names though). Who are these guys being associated with Moses?

Anyway, as any good student should do when faced with a challenge, I looked up Jannes and Jambres – thank God for the internet despite its fake news! By the way, I wish I was a student in this internet era! With just a click, you get so much information from varying sources than you know what to do with. It is a whole world of knowledge and my search for Jannes and Jambres did not disappoint.

Apparently, these guys were the Egyptian magicians/ sorcerers that tried to outdo Moses during the plagues. Paul who wrote the passage I was reading today must have been a pretty good Torah scholar to bring up their names even though Moses failed to mention them when he wrote the earlier account. Anywho, they were able to mimic the plagues of the bloody river and frogs but for some reason they were defeated by gnats (or lice) and could do no more. You might wonder, like I did, why they couldn’t manage gnats but their failure was such a let-down for Pharaoh who, out of frustration, eventually agreed to let the Hebrews go.

With that body of knowledge, I could now relate the fake news to Jannes and Jambres. These type of people are just hot air with no substance – they just create distractions from the real story, the truth. More like the ultracrepidarians I wrote about here. They will seem to be winning for a while, but their luck will eventually run out. Woe unto those who believe them! Woe unto you if you are a Jannes of Jambres! What you gonna do when there’s gnats all over?

My friend, do not wait for when your folly will be clear to everyone. Find the truth. There is only one truth, the One who says, “I am The Way, The Truth and The Life. Follow Him. Forget the likes of Jannes and Jambres!

Potent Love

I was watching the Lost and Found musical-drama series with my daughter today and the words “potent love” from a song the young musicians on the show were practicing caught my attention. I had to google the lyrics of the song later but that’s besides the point. According to the dictionary, potent means something or someone with great power, authority or effect on another. It is about wielding force, authority, or influence, none of which denotes an active, positive experience for the recipient. That’s very different from my understanding of what love is. Potent Love? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

Then President John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania died. Okay, he died yesterday or even before that according to some sources, but his death was breaking news today. A lot has been said about him. How he started off as the kind of leader Africa needed. For a region bedeviled with major corruption scandals, we applauded his no-nonsense stance on corruption. We cheered when he ordered civil servants to earn their keep. We whispered “bless you” when he cancelled extravagant public spending. We ululated when he told off foreign investors who wanted to have the upper hand in Tanzania’s development agenda. For the better part of his first term, it appeared the light had shone brighter on our neighbors with President Magufuli carrying high the beacon of hope.

Lord Acton once wrote: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.” By the end of his first term, there was noise from our neighbors of crackdown on dissenting voices and curtailed media freedom. And who can forget his stance on not allowing teenage mothers back into mainstream education? His re-election in 2020 amid claims of fraud and intimidation had us shaking our heads as the all-too-familiar narrative was retold.

But his poor handling of the Corona virus pandemic will unfortunately, be what the late president will be most remembered for. The world may never know the actual Covid-19 statistics in Tanzania; as Magufuli made sure the country remained an outlier, having declared it Covid-19 free way back in June 2020. He called Corona virus a devil (which I agree it is), but to say it cannot survive in the body of Christ; that it would burn instantly, was idiosyncratic.

Or was it potent love? Love that turned a blind eye to what was best for his countrymen. Love that could not accept anyone else’s opinion. Love that had to have its way. Love that killed. Love that is the opposite of the best definition of love there is:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

May President John Pombe Joseph Magufuli R.I.P. My Tanzanian brothers and sisters, we join you in mourning a great son of Africa.

There’s something eerie about these lyrics…

I like who I like
No matter what you say
I say be real or die
You’re nothin’ if you’re fake

I don’t sugar-coat it
They love me or they hate me
Yeah well, my folks
They done tried
But they can’t even save me

They say the ground’s waiting for me
But I got a good heart, they don’t know me
I get away with too much
Running out of my luck
But I’m just living off of no fear, no hate

Potent love (pour it, pour it up)
Potent love (pour it, pour it up)
Potent love (pour it, pour it up)
Potent love (pour it, pour it up).

Dear John

My friends and I have been studying the Gospel according to John for the past couple of months. We use the Bible app and the 10-part plan we were reading even had the movie, The Life of Jesus, as an accompaniment. It’s such a great way to connect every day, you should try it.

Anyway, today was the final day and the last verse of the biography of the Man Jesus by John, caught my attention. He wrote:

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

Hello! You didn’t live in the era of the internet, John. The internet affords anyone and everyone a voice. Look at me. Tucked in my corner here trying to shout myself hoarse! I bet if Jesus lived today, a lot more would be said about him. There would be cameras following his every move. We wouldn’t miss a detail. I noticed how you skipped some parts and I had to confirm with Matthew and Mark whether my mind was playing tricks on me. Really John? How could you not write about the Judas kiss in chapter 18? Or the fact that after Simon Peter had cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant, Jesus touched the man’s ear and healed him?

Anyway, with today’s keyboard warriors, every move would be documented. I would watch a TV show, A Day in the Life of Jesus. Who was healed today and how. What he told those two-faced Pharisees. Where his brothers and sisters are and what they are doing. What the eye witnesses to the five-loaves-two-fish miracle have to say about it. I can imagine CNN or Al Jazeera reporting the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead – Bethany Man “Resurrects” After Four Days! Movie makers would fall over each other seeking rights to the story.

Wait a minute! That already happened! Dear John, I’ll have you know that since you gave us the outline to the story of Jesus, there’s no one in history who has been discussed more, had more songs and books written about or inspired more artwork. And you were right, if every person who has been touched by Jesus were to write their story, even the internet couldn’t hold the many volumes.

I loved studying John’s gospel. You can tell by the way he writes that he was in awe of his master. He couldn’t help himself but keep writing about Jesus. No wonder he had to wrap it up the way he did. Steve Farrar in his book, Finishing Strong, said it better:

To tell the truth, John never got over those forty-two months with Jesus. Even when he wrote his gospel, he had a tough time ending it. How do you end a book about someone who has no end? How do you put a period on an infinite story?
John finally saw that he had to wrap things up, and it’s a good thing; otherwise you and I would be packing our Bibles around in a wheelbarrow. I’m guessing he scratched out these last words with a deep sigh.

Dear John, I am with you on this one. It is impossible to get over such an awe-inspiring Savior and Lord!

Positive Vibes

The first thing I read today was an email that ended up being one of those curveballs I was telling you about here. You know those ones that knock you off balance? I didn’t think I could master to write a word but, lo and behold! I had help from the most unexpected quarters.

About three weeks ago I got a copy of The Screwtape Letters a Christian apologetic novel by C. S. Lewis. I can’t quite remember how I first came across one of the letters but I was shocked that someone would take the trouble to impersonate the devil and try and live out his daily life. Even in writing. What shocked me more however, was to learn about the author, a man I often quote. And who doesn’t love The Chronicles of Narnia? Lewis brought to the world what is considered to be a classic of children’s literature. To imagine the two books were written by the same person? That’s one active imagination!

Back to The Screwtape Letters. The letters are theology in reverse and Lewis starts off in the preface, by warning readers to remember that the devil is a liar. Otherwise one might confuse the Enemy for Our father below! Screwtape is a senior devil who is mentoring his nephew, an inexperienced devil named Wormwood, on how best to tempt a man, only referred to as “the Patient”, into sin and eventually, into hell. The book is a collection of 31 letters from Screwtape in which he advises, encourages, admonishes and even rebukes Wormwood as he follows the Patient around on earth.

You may want to read the book for yourself and this is not a review, but when I started reading it, I couldn’t go beyond the first few letters. For some reason, I was conflicted – have I heard enough from the One above that I now want to hear what the One below has to say? Yet the book remained open on my laptop. Today though, maybe because that early morning email left me feeling screwed up, I found myself turning to the book. I am not sure what I was looking for but I needed a distraction. And there, in letter no. 6, I found positivity all wrapped up in such irony, that it is easy to miss it.

In his characteristic address, Screwtape begins the letter with My Dear Wormwood,

I am delighted to hear that your patient’s age and profession make it possible, but by no means certain, that he will be called up for military service. We want him to be in the maximum uncertainty, so that his mind will be filled with contradictory pictures of the future, every one of which arouses hope or fear. There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.

Friends, have you ever had a wake-up call after the wake-up call? I knew right there and then that I was playing into the tricks of Wormwood or whichever devil is assigned to me. There is no chance that I will called up for military service, but the uncertainty of my situation had me brooding most of the day; wondering how it will all play out, what my next course of action will be; while forgetting it isn’t my cross to bear alone. Screwtape continued to preach:

Your patient will, of course, have picked up the notion that he must submit with patience to the Enemy’s will. What the Enemy means by this is primarily that he should accept with patience the tribulation which has actually been dealt out to him—the present anxiety and suspense. It is about this that he is to say “Thy will be done”…It is your business to see that the patient never thinks of the present fear as his appointed cross, but only of the things he is afraid of. Let him regard them as his crosses…

It was a eureka moment. Sometimes you think you know things deeply, only to realize you don’t know a damn thing. And you never can tell where your next lesson will come from. Even Screwtape can be the source of positivity. Unknowingly of course seeing he delights in our misery. There’s a lightness in my spirit and I will endeavor to complete reading The Screwtape Letters.