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.