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The More I Seek You

Some time ago I had a quiet event that changed me forever.

I stood in church – heart swollen, eyes swollen, pained and loved. There’s that moment during worship when your worries and God’s love collides. The later enveloping the former, in a moment peace settles.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 NLT

My troubles were numerous. They crowded my mind and pinched my nerves. Mimicking darklings that crouched just in my periphery, with claws extended ready to dig into me at any sign of weakness. Sometimes I’d sit or lay still, allowing myself to recede to my core. There I could curl within myself and wrap quiet around me snuggly. In those moments, nothing reached me. Not disparate finances, family wahala, brokenness, fear… absolutely nothing. Even then my corporeal body continued to play. My face would smile and my limbs would move in their own due process. In this way, I lived.

This Sunday, felt a bit different. Maybe I was tired of playing or maybe God was tired of it. There’s a point in worship when you realize you’re being singled out. People around you are moving and singing but it feels far away from you. At least it felt that way for me. If you asked me to recall the song we sang, no answer would come. Nor do I recall who sat with me or who led worship or ministered that day. What I do remember was feeling open. It was as if I was cracked open and filled till my spirit ran over. Did I hear His voice? Or his gentle whispers? I wish I could tell you I did. That He spoke to me as we speak to each other – in words and phrases and with a voice. However voice or no voice, I did feel we’d spoken. His words were not words but feelings and confirmations and words that were not encased in edges or hard lines. If man spoke by mind and not by mouth it might be similar. For the purposes of relating to you some of what was spoken, I will try to lay words down as best as I can.

“Why do you worry so? Am I not your Father with which all things are possible? You have such little faith in my faith in YOU. My love is not limited by your frailties and weaknesses. Your sin forgiven is gone. Washed white as snow and never remembered again. Accept what is new and LOVE as you were meant to. Joy is your name for reasons you do not fully understand yet. A Joy you will be and a Joy you have been. Forgive those who have hurt you. As I have forgiven you who have hurt me numerous times over. Most importantly forgive yourself. In that forgiveness, you will set yourself free. Get to know me again Little Eghonghon . . “

Little Eghonghon is my name from when I was very little. In just a simple name, so much meaning was relayed. I understood that He wanted me to be childlike again in my faith. Only in this way would I be able to accept Him fully and gain the Kingdom. He “spoke” of much more that I choose not to write here. Since then a lot has changed. I can’t tell you the same troubles that belabored my steps then have all gone. No they haven’t. In fact they’ve multiplied. However I can tell you that I am very happy. Doesn’t make sense, right? The thing is, my perspective has changed immensely. The bigger the conflict the more I get a chance to strengthen my faith. The troubles are there but my faith says they are taken care of in due time. My hope says my testimony will be great. My love that is ever growing says love covers all good and bad. Sometimes we need to be broken to reach a humble place where we can see God truly and depend on him fully. I was so overly independent, strong headed, and proud that brokenness was the only way for me to change. A change that I am still taking on day by day, scripture by scripture, prayer by prayer. My old ambitions and regrets have gone and new life has taken its place.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Cor 5:17 NLT

Naija Chronicles

DANFO RIDING!

The first time I rode a danfo I felt like I was flying. Probably not a statement you’d expect to hear from anyone.

When I received notice I would be riding public transportation to get to and from work I remember feeling tense all over. No more cushy chauffeured rides to and from work. Where the A.C blew constantly even when it was already cold. It was a privileged bubble from what the less fortunate Lagosians were enduring. Now my reality was either the bus or legadeze benz to carry myself go work. Though I would soon learn that riding danfos involves BOTH.

I’d been apprehensive about taking local transportation because of the unlucky stories I was told. All I needed to hear was “one chance” to have my skin crawling. Small buses, or danfos, that were not really danfos but vehicles of thievery. As I was told, it was always on that day that you carried “big moni” that you ended up entering “one chance”. (Read more here).

It was a breezy weekday morning when I walked with Precious, the driver out to where the bus stop was. Precious was a blessing to me really. I’d depended on him early on to figure out how to maneuver around and handle Lagos life. The path to the bus stop wove out of the estate down roughly cobbled streets and through a large grassy alley-like area. As we walked he told me to be careful of that area particularly at night. There were narrower paths on the side that area boys liked to hide in and prey on tired victims returning home from work. When we arrived at the stop he turned to me giving me a solemn look. That look that most locals gave me as a “JJC” (Johnny Just Come). It pitied and doubted my ability to thrive while laughing at me for coming to Nigeria in the first place. I smiled back in return giving a courageous front.

“Dis na “F” bustop. Take bus wey go drop u for CMS, tell d coducta say him go drop u for ontop of bridge. Frum der u go come take bus wey go come drop u for Costain. U don grab? make u no forget oh!”

Nodding I repeated in my head CMS CMS COSTAIN COSTAIN. By force I would not get lost. The thought was too scary to fathom. After what felt like ages we heard “CMS! CMS!” or at least what I thought sounded like it. The guttural thickness of the local Yoruba accent was taking some time to get used to. Before I knew it Precious was pushing me forward and I jumped inside a metal skeleton of a bus. Wow. . Where are the seatbelts was my first thought. Then I laughed at my own foolishness. There weren’t many of us on the bus. About four, not including the bus driver and the conductor, the latter hanging out precariously where the side door was supposed to be. The conductor shouted out periodically “CMS! CMS” and shouted in Yoruba. His Yoruba was deep and sounded like the words were fighting with each other and the people hearing them. I’ve been told that this is the authentic Yoruba, wey you go know say person dey from Yoruba land well well. The breeze coming through the door-less side embraced me energetically. Leaning forward, I welcomed it happily. This wasn’t so bad. Other than the rough driving that threw me every which way I quite enjoyed it. I broke out into a grin and peered through a window as the island passed by. This JJC was going to make it!

When I arrived at work later that morning I strode in and dumped my suitcase on my desk. Waiting to be noticed. Sure enough when people noticed and asked how my morning ride in was and wondered where was the driver and Oga, I tittered with barely contained excitement and pride. Regaling them about my ride on a DANFO and how I’d made it to work, I strutted around and gestured broadly mimicking the actions of the conductor and other passengers. Looking back I must’ve seemed comical in my joy at taking public transport. They must’ve pitied me since I hadn’t really tasted suffering yet… but I would and soon. I would learn why people said you could never bath enough in Lagos, and why traffic was TRAFFIC in all caps when you rode transport, why a lack of change could cause riots on the bus, how Yoruba was more important than English to land at any destination. I learned to stop smiling and “showing teeth” that survival was better that way. How 1000 naira was more of a nuisance than lesser bills. That contrary to what Precious advised loose skirts were better when riding the bus than pants because and this is also a point – propriety gets lost and ignored in the cramped and sweaty boxes of survival called danfos.