The day I knew just how very different we all are, was the day I had a debate with a dear friend of mine concerning the fact that I believe that people usually have very specific preferences in taste regarding food or consumables, generally.
But she said, no. People simply eat something because they have to.
Then, I said, no. I don’t agree with you. If everyone buys anything to eat, why do people have favourite restaurants? Why would someone have a freezer full of local and continental assortments but on a particular night, crave fried rice from a specific Chinese or Thai restaurant, and then proceed to drive halfway across town to buy just that? Why?
Well, she said, “I don’t know, I won’t do that.”
And a professor whom I really respect immediately agreed, “I wouldn’t.”
I looked at their faces and they were dead serious. Like, they weren’t just insisting on this to win an argument; they meant it.
And I was shocked, to say the least. Because I know for certain that I have preferences and sometimes, I insist and go out of my way to get them. I know regular people and celebrities all around the world who always wear a specific design of T-shirts or swear by coffee from a specific franchise.
But I also respect my friend and that professor. And that night, although I strongly knew what I knew, I agreed to disagree with them. I was reminded that we are all very different. Or as I would prefer to put it, Unique. Pencils in the hand of the Creator, our God. Each to leave a different mark. Each endowed with specific mindset, thinking pattern, experience, background and journey. All different from the next person beside you. And each of us deserving of respect.
Because if you think differently, it means that there is a unique side that you will bring to the table, and that counts for something.
So, the next time someone questions your worth, you ought to hold your head high and say under your breath, “I’m unique. I’m special. I’m it!” And then, you go ahead and believe it.
“Follow-follow” is a popular colloquial we used growing up in Nigeria, to refer to a person who mindlessly and sheepishly follows and supports a person or an idea. We say you are a follow-follow in the Nigerian pidgin english. 😁
When I returned to Facebook after my 2 years long “social media” break, one of the things I really enjoyed was following people who posted very interesting content on their walls.
Some of them were people whom I didn’t personally knew in any way. As a result, I did not wish to send them friend requests. I simply clicked the Follow button, to receive and follow up on their posts.
Some of them posted about the Christian faith, some about business or politics, and others were just really good or funny writers. I mean, if I come to Facebook during my relaxation time, I might as well laugh, right?
That was how I started following.
Until I saw some things on some of their walls that made my eyes pop.
A few of them really liked to scorn or belittle men of God, clothing themselves in what felt like cloaks of superior self-righteousness or grace. A few others were unashamedly posting about things that should rather be spoken about in shadows or hushed tones. Some were simply hateful and full of bad belle negative vibes.
So, I was taken aback.
And then I backed out.
Because I cannot come and go and have you quench the kyn faith that I need fanned to blazing flames. Or to kuku turn my fun time into horror.
And thanks to the simplicity of technology, all it took was to simply click the Unfollow button. Shikena. And I was instantly rid of bad rubbish.
You see, when Apostle Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ,” he might as well be saying, “Unfollow me if I don’t follow Christ” or “Be a follower, but not a follow-follow.”
I have been richly edified to a lot of people whom I follow. They open a whole new world of insight. They make me want to become a better me, to grow and to spread my reach. I imagine how unfair it will be to let a few bad eggs spoil the lot.
I owe it to myself and to all the others in my life to have a constant access to rich content, uplifting, positive and upwardly mobile associations, beautiful and challenging pictures, lots of light and laughter. Right at my fingertips. Nothing less.
This is a note I wrote to my son a few weeks before his first birthday. Do enjoy with us!
Bobos, can you believe that it’s almost your first birthday? My oh my! How great is our God! One whole year has rolled by and you are now what they call “a young toddler.” Just how amazing is that?
So, about this time last year, I was quite heavy with pregnancy, giddy with excitement and couldn’t wait to finally meet you. You were due to be born at a very historical moment – the period when COVID-19 struck the world and sent all 7 billion of us in all 190+ countries around the globe into a complete lockdown. People were sick, dying and afraid. Everyone was ordered to close up businesses, stay indoors, keep clean and only work from home if they must; and everyone agreed!
But there was no stopping you!
It pleased God to situate your birth during this phenomenal time. I knew that I needed to keep active in order to ensure your well-being and safe delivery. And so, every evening, your dad and I would take these walks through the streets, holding hands, praying and praising, anticipating your arrival. It was inconvenient because you were a super big and healthy man inside the womb but I was determined not to lag behind. I would trudge on beside your dad, often out of breath, haha.
But there was no stopping me either!
Well, the cool night breeze in streets devoid of people with only a few cars speeding past is every walker’s dream. And so, we walked and learned new songs and simply enjoyed waiting for ya.
Then eventually, you came! Sweet, calm and everything baby. Fussy nights, long hours of nursing, careful carrying, countless diaper changes and bath times – we experienced them all. God has used you to bring us immeasurable joy and a whole new level of maturing. Not just us, but also everyone in our lives including your grand parents, uncles, aunties, our Christian community here and around the world. Everyone dipped into this jar of raising you. For several weeks after your birth, the world remained behind closed doors as world leaders and researchers struggled to get the pandemic under control.
But there was no stopping everyone from showering you with love and excellent care!
Technology was wonderfully maximized so that family and friends were able to participate in your baths and feeding, even if they were miles away! Those who could, went out of their ways to bring you gifts and food, taking optimum precaution to keep your environment healthy in our new found normal. Everyone supported and encouraged us. And you thrived and flourished.
Until you grew to the stage when you could smile and chuckle. And that brought our joy to yet another level that we didn’t know was possible, wow! You are a big-time charmer. I bet that these your big and warm smiles could wake the dead and even melt iron. And you give the sweetest, mushiest kisses too, just at the right times. The God who wrote the programming for babies must be a genius, to say the least!
Because I keep wondering how you were able to recognize sweet words so early in life! I mean, from the first few days of your life when we sing “I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family, with a great big smile and a kiss from me to you. Won’t you say you love me too” and blow imaginary kisses at you, your face would literarily light up! And in the months that followed, your eyes would always follow to see if we were actually blowing imaginary kisses or not! See enjoyment!
I won’t fail to mention when you grew to become “a mover!” That period when you would shuffle, crawl or cruise all over the house. We had to start thinking SAFETY! There was literarily a siren going off in my head every time you moved, analyzing whether this object or that room was safe for you. We baby-proofed every space and our alertness is on an all-new high.
And there’s no stopping us!
It’s been a pleasure caring for you through both the routinely days and the unpredictable days of marking milestones. We look forward to a million more in the future, as Christ our saviour tarries.
But if there’s anything you take away from this walk down the memory lane, I hope that you always remember that:
You are loved. Oh yes, you are deeply and unconditionally loved by God your Heavenly Father, your parents, your big daddies and mummies, your grandparents, your uncles, aunties, brethren, peers and acquaintances. Let this knowledge settle deep in your heart because it is true and it is never going to change. God is everlasting and we are all bonded to Him and so, I can tell you this for sure; no matter where you are in life and what is around you at any time (t), you belong to a community whose language is love and whose foundation is Love. As you see the world through this lens, you can trust that everything else would assume their right colour. You are loved, my baby.
God’s hand is upon you. God’s presence is with you and He controls everything our lives are about. You can take this knowledge to the bank and cash out- it is sure and true and dependable! Because He loves you, He works in you to make you want to do His good pleasures and also to do those His good pleasures through you! What I mean is, you are God’s child as well as His ambassador, His representative. How cool is that? So cool, huh? My baby, I have to tell you, you are going to have the best life ever simply because you have the Most High as your God! And we all will enjoy it with you.
You are blessed and highly favoured. You are anointed and appointed for the deliverance and joy of many. You continually grow in wisdom, in stature, as well as in favour with God and people. You are taught by the Lord, great is your peace and oppression is far from you. You are established in righteousness, you are an eternal excellence. Your feet bear good news, your breath gives life and healing, your hands always produce prosperity and restoration. Your body carries God’s spirit and your head, His oil. You are fortified with strength, you touch others with kindness and you have godly wisdom beyond your years. Your life is preserved and you are an answer to your generation. You serve the Lord all your days and at the end of time, you will enjoy eternal rest with great rewards! With long life, God satisfies you and He shows you His salvation in Jesus mighty name.
Soon to be your day, please do shakara! Happy 1st Birthday, Manuel.
This morning, I was reading the story of Ruth and Boaz and it struck me how God exploits the ordinary occurrences in our everyday lives to bring to pass His good intentions and to take us where He wants us.
God is sovereign, He is a master strategist, the CEO of the entire world and of our lives – the Master of the Universe.
I mean, if you imagine this world to be an organization, then God is definitely sitting on the Board, making policies and rolling out strategic plans, programs and projects that would all coordinate to achieve the business value of His kingdom. This is without doubt a very powerful position – top management and all. Normally we should be concerned about one single Being having such enormous influence under His wing but guess what? We aren’t! We are not concerned or worried about God’s greatness. On the contrary, we are thrilled by it because we know that God is absolutely loving and is working for our good at ALL times.
And every now and then, He utilizes the situations of our lives, the people we meet and the even our mundane routines to accomplish the most amazing things.
Check out what happened with Ruth.
She had just migrated to a new country in search of greener pastures with only a single family member (who was a dependent!) and a baggage of bereavement, personal loss and uncertainties. She must have been plagued with the concerns that every single/widowed, immigrant woman would have, even in the best of circumstances:
Will life in Bethlehem be significantly different from my country of origin Moab?
Will I experience the much-spoken-of culture shock?
If I do, how long would it take me to overcome it?
Would my skills be relevant in the foreign land?
Will I be able to make a livelihood and care for my mother-in-law who is now advancing in age and very much depends on me?
Will I get a second chance at love and marriage?
How much would it matter that I had once been married?
Will I have the opportunity to mother a child?
How different will I be? Will my difference matter?
How receptive will the Israelites be of a formerly heathen woman?
Nothing seems to be working right now. What if I ‘fail’ at life again?
To be clear, these are very legitimate concerns that anyone in Ruth’s shoes could have. In fact, these considerations may be helpful for preparing one’s self for what lies ahead. For instance, if an immigrant woman notices that her skills are inadequate, she might consider acquiring skills that are suitable for her new location.
But very often, the unknowns in our lives fast become worry- or depression- traps.
Last year, I was doing a research for work on the various personality traits and I found IBM’s (now deprecated but enlightening) description of someone who has a high range of depression as a person who “thinks quite often about the things they are unhappy about;” and someone who is prone to worry is described as a person who “often feels like something unpleasant, threatening, or dangerous is about to happen.”
Needless to say, depression and worry are two emotions we definitely should not cultivate or aid in any way. And guess what breeds them: dwelling on unhappy circumstances or unpleasant happenstances.
So, what did Ruth do in her case?
She refused to succumb to the appeal of depression or worry. She would not throw in the towel. She braved the unfortunate situations of her life and faced the uncertainties with her back as straight as a ramrod and her eyes in the future. I imagine that she woke up one morning a week after their move, had the talk with herself, took a bath, threw on some clean cloths, made breakfast for herself and Mamma Naomi, and set out! You know the talk I mean. That frank conversation we often have with ourselves when we need to come to terms with some hard realities in our lives and then proceed to take definite decisions or steps. I have had the talk countless times in my own life and I am sure that you also have.
I can picture Ruth having that conversation in her head maybe in front of a mirror,
“Girl, let’s face it, life's been tough! These past few years have been dry and unpleasant with the famine and hardship in my home country, the demise of hubby and Papa Elimelech, and Mamma breaking down in despair, now merely a shadow of herself. And now, you both live in this unfamiliar land. Honestly, you are all you’ve got, gurl. Yes, everyone has been warm and supportive so far but very importantly, you’ve got to be strong for yourself and for Mamma, and if the God of Israel is anything like Mamma Naomi says, then I think that things will get better. The future that now looks bleak would become bright! But first, I need to get up and get out!”
We read in Ruth 2 that she said to her mother-in-law, “Mamma, I’m going to work; I’m going out to glean among the sheaves, following after some harvester who will treat me kindly.” (MSG translationparaphrased) and Naomi gave her thumbs up.
Now, see Jehovah El-happenstance at work! See how the Lord ordered Ruth’s steps in a most spectacular way on this day that anything – good or bad – could have happened.
Ruth 2: 3-4, “And so she set out. She went and started gleaning in a field, following in the wake of the harvesters. Eventually she ended up in the part of the field owned by Boaz, her father-in-law Elimelech’s relative. A little later Boaz came out from Bethlehem, greeting his harvesters, “God be with you!” They replied, “And God bless you!”
Wow! What coincidence? In an unexplainable turn of events, Ruth just happened to walk into the area of the field owned by Boaz who also happened to be her late husband’s relative. Bear in mind that it was normal practice in those days in Israel for the less privileged to glean after the owner of the land had harvested. This was part of the policies that God had given his people to ensure that the poor or foreigners were fed; you do not get to harvest ALL your crops – you leave some behind for anyone who might need them! (Leviticus 23:22) Therefore, as a matter of fact, Ruth could have been in any other person’s farmland at the time because everyone left gleanings behind. But I am persuaded that God in His infinite wisdom and power controlled Ruth’s steps to somehow come into Boaz’s portion at when she did!
And yet in another baffling coincidence, Boaz happened to come out to greet his workers at the same time when Ruth was still in his farmland! And as every responsible business owner would do, he noticed an unfamiliar face, asked to know who it was and when he heard that Ruth was that Moabite woman who had shown kindness to Naomi his relative and when he heard about Ruth’s stellar work ethic, he instantly gave her an open cheque and open arms. I imagine him saying to her, “From now on, please do not bother to go to any other farmland, stay with my people, work with my young women, harvest, harvest, harvest all you want. Take breaks with us and eat whatever we are eating! I’ve got you, and in all humility, I am a prosperous man. Frankly, this is the least that I could do because my dear woman, you will be immensely blessed by God for all the help you give Naomi!”
No way! Ruth couldn’t believe her eyes. Just yesterday, it looked like her and Naomi’s morning would never break. But today, the God of Israel has changed their story! She was beyond excited! She took the goodies home and told Naomi everything. The latter was shocked! She said, “Why, God bless that man! God hasn’t quite walked out on us after all! He still loves us, in bad times as well as good!” This was the same Naomi who not in the distant past had lost all hope and even legit changed her name to Bitter-lyn because she just couldn’t!
But from that day, their good fortune did not end. Things got better and better.
Ruth very much enjoyed her new and significantly different life in Judah
Her skills and values were relevant and even commended in the foreign land
She made a living and secured a good life for Naomi and herself!
God gifted her a second chance at love because in yet another wonderful chance occurrence, albeit aided by an idea given to her by her beloved Mama Naomi, Ruth eventually got married to Boaz her benefactor and guess what, they had a son together! Apparently, it didn’t matter to Boaz that she was a widow. If anything, that may have been a catalyst itself!
Ruth served the God of Naomi, the God of Israel, the God whom she realized loves them very much!
She was accepted and became a part of the community. The towns-women literarily threw a dance party for Naomi after her delivery.
Ruth’s life was a huge success, so much so that she, a once bereaved, seemingly-forsaken and once foreign/heathen woman became a part of the direct lineage of Jesus the Messiah. Her name is one of the few five female names listed in this prestigious family tree of Jesus! That is like modern day Guinness book of records, but in a class of its own. She was an all-round success.
Personally, I have had countless ‘coincidences’ that in retrospect could only have been God’s hand at work, pulling through His good plans. Many of the people who made significant impact in my life seem like I met them by chance, which makes me wonder, “Was it a coincidence after all? Or was it as a result of a master plan from a Master Strategist?
Anyone who feels like they have had it with life, that everything seems so wrong; or anyone who has been expecting a particular thing for such a long time that they are on the verge of giving up hope must remember this passage;
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
There is a God who created the heavens and the earth, who has a good purpose, and who will work out all the many details of your life if you love Him. Just picture a master chess player and the way they maneuver the pawns till they win. God is a way better strategist and He always wins. And every time He wins, you win also!
To wrap this up, there are 3 considerations I would like you my dear reader to mind:
Notice the condition for the Romans 8:28 promise where God works out the details of life for our good: We have to love God. What does it mean to love God? It means to obey Him; to treasure His words and do what He asks us to in the Bible. It means saying, “I will no longer be in charge, I want the God who created all things to be my master. I accept forgiveness for my past wrongs because Jesus – God’s son died for my total pardon and redemption. From now on, I am free to serve God!
I have learned that sometimes, in the course of life, we have to wait! In those seasons, God is working behind the scenes and all we have to do is wait. I mean, no matter how thrilled an expecting mother is at the prospect of receiving her baby, she still has to wait some 9 months for the baby to be fully formed.
While waiting, by all means, we must do what we can. Do whatever the present situation allows you that is fair and right.
There is a Jehovah El-coincidence – a God who would maximize our situations and efforts to give us a story as beautiful as Ruth’s.