Lessons On The Bare Floor!

by Felix-Abrahams Obi

As a little school kid, I had a wonderful teacher who helped in 
moulding my intellect. She’s the famed Madam Ogoke who taught me, A B, C, 1 2 3, and not to forget the Igbo Language alphabets; A, B, GB, CH,  with its sweet rhyme of “Aka Bekee Gbo…!”

We snuggled together on the bare floor, and had neither chairs to sit 
on nor desks to write on. We had our black slates which we carried on our heads, and white chalks wrapped in used paper. We were “otakara students” whose only snacks were “akara” balls. We had no lunch packs or chocolates wraps. And some daring lads added frills by sharing crumbs of dried stockfish and booties they pilfered from mother’s kitchen. Each day, we looked intently as this lovely grandmother and seasoned teacher taught us rhymes and fables that stirred and fired our imaginations. She made learning sweet and fun. We sang with gaiety and cared less, and the sound of the dismissal bell was followed by the resounding echo of “School Dismiss…Hurraaaay” . With speed we rushed back home to showcase the generous”good marks” the kindly Mrs Ogoke liberally gave us.

Then we began to crack English grammar like “Obi is a boy” and ” Ada 
is a girl”. “Is it a man?” and we chorus “No it is a boy”. We began to 
combine alphabets to spell words. With time, words transmuted into 
sentences, then paragraphs and whole story passages.

And with each successive advancement to a higher class, the lessons we 
learnt changed considerably. Soon our slates were discarded and 
exercise books and pencils took the space.A dozen years fast-paced by 
and I became an undergraduate, and a person of letters made up of 
building blocks of A B C, and  1 2 3!

But not all lessons of life are transmitted within the walls of a 
classroom. The lessons that so much matter are those that are learnt 
in “classrooms without walls”. These are the unbounded classrooms of 
everyday life that etch reality into our psyche. It is in real life 
experiences that the seeming conflict between the ideal and the real 
are resolved without the help of an unbiased umpire. Life arrogates to 
itself the role of an arbiter who pays dividends on the investment 
portfolios that we have sowed our energy and efforts into. Sometimes 
the Return on Investments seems far from our expectations, either less 
or more than we bargained for. In all we gain wisdom from all that 
life dishes out to us.

Much of this year (2006), I have learnt some hard lessons. I have had 
to come to terms with certain realities that I found to be unchanging. 
I realized that when I evade or fail a trial or challenge, a similar 
one shows off no sooner than I had heaved a sigh of relief. Going thro 
the rigors and motions of passing an earlier test gave me wisdom to 
pull thro it the second time. Yet the imbibed wisdom may not 
necessarily help, save I apply the principles garnered properly and 
with the right attitude. A positive attitude often is a predictor of 
the outcome of a trial or challenge. I pulled thro difficulties when I 
didn’t let them overwhelm me.

The greatest lesson I learnt this year from my failings is profound, 
yet simple. That has been preached from pulpits but least practiced. 
It is said that “a prayer less Christian is a powerless Christian” and 
no one needed to drum home this point. For months on end, I slipped 
from progressively from quickly muttered prayers upon waking to 
“no-muttered prayers” each morning. At night, the bed had more 
alluring pull on me than the floor that needed my “bended knees”. My 
Bible (I have 4 versions at least) only had markings I made years back 
when I was so hungry to dig out nuggets from the Holy Book. That was 
when I fed fat from the Revealed Word. I felt inflated having a big 
study Bible which became a decoration rather than a means to an end. 
Yet, like the average Christian, I bubbled on Sunday and felt ecstatic 
during praise and worship. The momentum generated died down faster 
than it was generated unlike a self-generated fervor at the place of 
personal prayer. Hence Sunday service had become a dull routine with 
each succeeding week.

With time, I began to feel weak on my inside. My spiritual perception 
became hazy, and with time it became difficult to make accurate 
decisions based on what I perceived as God’s will for me. It was 
difficult ministering to folks I mentored because I lacked the 
spiritual strength to hold them up. I became easily distracted, and 
felt stressed up by simple things. Traveling frequently became a 
leeway for my prayerlessness, though an unjustifiable alibi. Miserable 
could define an aspect of the inner feeling that pervaded me for a lot 
of time. I sensed I must do something or accept this state of 

I tried on my own to pray alone, but it was all a whimper in muffled 
tones. Then I cried out and ran to a willing friend for help. Then we 
revived a prayer partnership that was left in limbo for years. In a 
couple of days, I began to see a difference. My seemingly disorganized 
inner life began to take shape. It was like a magnet drawing iron 
filaments together. I felt less under pressure and not like an atypical 
burn out working class Christian. With each passing day, I began to 
rediscover my spiritual rhythm again and though am still a long way 
from standing from the “knocked-out and floored” state. I am learning 
to now sit, crawl, stand and hopefully run at the place of prayer.

What lesson did I learn from my travails: That it’s dangerous for a 
child of God to take his/her personal prayer life for granted. 
Prayerlessness makes a Christian vulnerable to the whims and caprices 
of the enemy. It makes the travails and vagaries of life pummel us 
like bulwarks such that we cave in on the day of adversity. But that’s 
not our portion as those who believe in CHRIST and submit to His will, 
plans and purposes for our life.

Now it makes more sense to me when Jesus Christ declared, “Without ME, you can do nothing”. I would be wiser if I follow the path trodden by the Heroes of our Faith, who persevered to maintain, a daily intimate fellowship with God. I now know why DANIEL’s face was perpetually turned towards Jerusalem while working in Babylon .

” Let your gaze be upwards and heavenwards continually”.

Shalom and cheers.

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Ayda December 25, 2006 - 4:23 pm

Yes o, my brother. I can totally relate. I once used to pray fervently, i don't know what happened, guess i let my gaurd down and i'm now in a comfort zone. Anyhow, i intend to go back to my 1st love in christ. Thanks for writing this article.

yuzzed@yahoo.com December 10, 2006 - 11:52 am

hei! i didn't see this your masterpiece before i pushed the submit button. it reminded me of so many things which i could have plagiarised to beef up my little histoical contribution. but man, you did it well. School Dismiss…Awayyyyyyy

OBI December 8, 2006 - 1:25 pm

The article, was alluring to read going by his story telling, at the end the message was unambigious. He drove down his point perfectly.

Peculiar December 8, 2006 - 12:31 pm

wow!!Beautiful piece Mr! May your writings continue to bless people in this generation and the ones to come! I am deeply touched by this!


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