The minute I heard the knocking on my door at 12 am, I knew. Something in my spirit had denied me sleep that night and I was restless. My mother walked into the room I shared with my younger sister, sat by my bed, and sort of just blurted: “So they said your Daddy is dead oh…” There was so much confusion in her eyes.
The two years leading up to this night had been a living nightmare filled with hospitals, pills, and vomit. I will never be able to fully describe the feeling of watching your father, the broad shouldered figure of strength in your life, debilitate to the most child like version of himself; to explain the pain of seeing the hero who carried you on his back, and told you stories about winning martial arts competitions in his younger days, unable to walk, read, control bodily functions, or string coherent sentences together.
Circa 1:00 am, the commotion in my house was Steven Speilberg meets Nollywood material. Someone, somewhere, was threatening to throw herself into the gutter. There was a choir of gut-wrenching tears-complete with alto’s, tenors, and soprano’s- in my backyard. There was my mother sitting on our faded green leather sofa in the living room, staring into space, lost.
My own theatrics were different: no tears, no words. Instead, I took my Bible, opened it up to Genesis chapter 1, and began to tear out the pages and shred them, piece-by-piece, page-by- page. I was mad at God. If my Father could die, God had to be a liar. This was the only thesis that made sense to me. The Bible said pray and fast. My mother literally packed her suitcase and lived in church. She prayed and fasted so much that she went from a US size 16 to a size 8 within the space of a few months. Famous men of God abroad and at home had prayed for him. Still he died. The Bible said to have faith: my faith wasn’t mustard seed status-it was at the very least golf-ball sized faith. Still he died. The Bible said sow seeds. We sold so much, to give to the church—clothes, DVDs, our car, everything. Still he died. The Bible said we had to forgive. I let go of some of my deepest and seemingly legitimate grudges. Still. He died. The Bible had to be a lie– a book in the same genre as Le Petit Prince or The Alchemist: filled with great life-lessons and profound nuggets of truth, but fiction nonetheless. So I continued to rip my Bible, until my friend who had heard the news and rushed over, stopped me.
As I got dressed in my mother’s room the night of my father’s memorial service, amidst the make-up everywhere, the head-ties and gele’s, I heard a calm sweet worship playing on her CD player. It was “Jesus Lover Of My Soul (It’s All About You)” and the chorus goes:
It’s all about You, Jesus
And all this is for You
For Your glory and your fame
It’s not about me
As if You should do things my way
You alone are God
And I surrender to your ways
That song was the first glimpse of light in the darkness that enveloped my spirit. While I can’t say I stopped being mad at God right there or then, or that I stopped having questions, in that moment, I felt God’s presence so thick that He was undeniable, and I felt like God had wrapped his arms around me.
Fast-forward to a conversation with my flat-mate, Rebecca, in Paris about 3 years down the road. We were both enrolled in the same study abroad program, and on many nights, we would stay up late into the night arguing about politics (it was the year of Barack Obama and John McCain), talking about our plans for the future (I wanted to go to law school, Rebecca wanted to eventually get a PhD in Finance) and reflecting on life. On one of those nights, Rebecca started to tell me about her experience watching her best friend die from cancer. With tears in her face, she asked me “How do you get over something like that Blessing? How?” I knew it was rhetorical question. One never really gets over things like that, but the world moves on with or without us, forcing us to bury or heal. Rebecca paused for a minute, and then said something I will never forget: “I don’t have the answers, but that’s what makes God, God. If I had the answers, God would not be God.” Another glimmer of light.
There is an Arabic phrase “Insha Allah” which means “If God wills it” or “God willing” that Muslims and Christians alike often use in Nigeria. The phrase acknowledges submission to God, and the person who uses it put his/herself and his/her plans into God’s hands. Over the years, I have found that sometimes, you just have to put some things in God’s hands and leave them there. It has been 10 years since my father passed away, and I have found that there is a beauty in knowing that you cannot rely on your strength or wisdom. There is sweetness and wisdom in surrender. I am not perfect-and neither is my faith- but I rest in God who is the author, and the finisher of my faith. I’ve learned to pray: “My father in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”
Sometimes, God’s answer to my prayers is yes, sometimes it is no and sometimes it is not now. Many times, I don’t even hear the answer. But still, I hope like my life depends on it–because it does. I don’t always understand God’s ways-but I trust them. I don’t always like God’s ways-but I respect them. There is no one plus one equals two in this. No logic. No solution. God alone is God, and I…surrender.
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