KNOWING MY GOD
As a child my mum used to take my brother and I to church and I remember always looking around at a crowd of people go to receive communion but not be allowed to join them and wondered why: ‘why did I have to remain on my seat while many others approached the wooden rim that separates the altar from the congregation to receive the white disc from the Reverend Father into their mouths, even though I was in the front seat?’ I may have asked mum why but I really don’t remember. But it always beat me those Sundays that I had to kneel back and others received the white stuff from the white priest. I didn’t even really like the overwhelming presence of the crowd towering around and above me at the time but somehow the atmosphere felt safe and cool. I was only four years old or less then, living in Badagry, an outskirt of Lagos.
When we eventually moved into the centre of Lagos few years after, perhaps when I was seven, I started attending catechism so as to receive the ‘Holy Communion!’ That is, the small white disc I was so curious about but had to go through a one year or more period of catechism and pass its test before being qualified to join others in receiving it.
By the time I had come of age to attend this catechism I had become less curious or even forgotten my interest in the small disc because I started attending the church with other friends and neighbours who rather stayed and played outside the church than be part of what was going on indoors. But whenever with my relatives, we ended up indoors but back seats where I see others progress forward to the altar for the white disc, and this jolted my interest again. But I didn’t have to wait long at all, I had come of age to grasp the knowledge that lingered ahead and my whole being seemed to be craving for it.
In catechism we learnt about praying to God with our simple prayer book and the sweet white elderly Reverend Sister … [Dipner? Why don’t I remember her name presently; and I loved her so much. I wonder if she’s still alive. She kindly soothed my spirit with her sweet presence and answers to some bothering questions on my mind at the time.] taught us beautiful children’s hymns [because ‘children’ were mentioned in the hymns but adults sing them too since we are all God’s children].
We were taught about God’s commandments and other dogmas of the Church and all these leave me with good feeling so much so that at home and alone I raised my head up to heaven [in the room I share with my siblings] where the catechist said God lived in and ask Him: ‘who are You and if You created me, who created You?’ And it felt good during contemplating Him and the feeling lingered farther than that moment of contemplation. I was happy in Him and I became interested in reading the Bible to know Him more. This is because even though I did not hear a voice answer my questions to Him I felt Him happy with my communion [conversation] with Him; and the urge to read the Bible where I would find answers, seized me.
After first Holy Communion my brother and I immediately enrolled for confirmation class where the Holy Spirit would be strengthen in us. In this class, God simply told me what I needed to know to satisfy a haunting curiosity: who made you – God made me; why did God make you – God made me to know Him, love Him, serve Him and be happy with Him forever in the next. Strangely, this seemed enough to satisfy me and help me accept that He is uncreated, a Spirit and the Creator of all. The satisfaction was so whole and complete that all I needed was His grace to help me fulfil His request of me – to know, love, serve and be happy with Him into eternity. And it was not an easy battle in a world where the media indoctrinates sin and secularism.
Then came the influence of the media in my life. Films beyond my age rate [horror, ‘romance’, etc] shown on television and romance stories in books and magazines were my favourite media consumptions as a kid [asides the unbelievably fantastic cartoons we enjoyed at day time and early mornings] growing up and which disturbed my peace with my God. But God seemed to have had a vested interest in me and so my life became a struggle between concentrating on my God and indulging in the ideas these media gave for the momentary pleasure they offered. And these reflected in my nightmares, some of which calling the name of JESUS gave me victory or wakes me with relief. Also whenever calling JESUS was tedious to do I resolved to trust in my thinking of the name in the nightmares and that also gave me victory all the way. It had seemed as if this resolve in my dreams to think ‘Jesus’ was connected with my conscious resolve when awake. The nightmares continued many nights that I dreaded to go to bed. I later read that such nightmares of slow struggles is a sleep disorder, a kind of sleep paralysis. Yet, I did not like the result of some of the dreams as they scared me immensely and I did not know why I should dream like that but, while I prayed, something told me I had to cut down on the kinds of things I consumed in the media that usurp the precious time with a good God whose own inexplicable ethereal pleasure I had limited to too little in my assessment. And I was not even up to fifteen years yet.
The media, whether we like it or not, have come to stay, and it is not the media that are wrong but the people who chose to put bad contents in them and those who succumb to not putting good contents in them. For Jesus said that the people of the world are more astute in doing the things of the world than the people of the light are in doing things of the light. Luke 16: 8.
I heeded to the good voice and acknowledged that my consumptions in the media were wrong and was the cause of all the things that cause me depression [an entirely opposite of the good feeling of my God]; I speedily lost interest in the bad consumptions and only watched and read good contents. Sadly, the good contents gradually waned to secularism where the name of Jesus is being made unpopular and God dishonoured.
Knowing someone forms knowledge in the mind; knowing the person more creates some bond that causes a sense of loss and mourning at the demise or distancing of the known person. Knowing God and then distancing yourself from Him is total foolishness and wastefulness. I know because that is how I feel remembering my foolishness and wasted times. But I don’t dwell on these but thankful for His patience and faithfulness despite my stubborn self; because He has faith in me for the purpose He created me.
I think secularism is caused by the limiting of knowledge and choice of only things of the flesh and world and the desire to simply satisfy these. Compared to the Spirit, knowledge of the world is like a grain of sand in not just the mass of a desert but in the mass of the world and beyond. The knowledge of the Spirit [of God who is a Spirit] is steps beyond the world which is an element of the universe. It is steps that uplift to the abode of God and His Being. So who can ascend the mountain of the Lord and stand in His Holy place but those with clean hearts, virtuous and honest. Psalm 24: 3-4.
Whereas the limitation of self to the knowledge, indulgence and contentment of the world and what is of it, are stagnation from the bliss of what is beyond it, because we are not only made of flesh but, it is flesh that covers the spirit we actually are, and the spirit is God who breathes into us that we might live and so He [the Spirit] lives in us. Hence, we ought to search deeper into us to know this Spirit more and so know our God and know that His ways are not those of the world but greater and beyond it and His ways are right and good even if it is inexplicable in the fleeting eyes of the world. The more you search deeper the more of Him and His truth He will reveal to you because that is why He created you: to know, love, serve and be happy with Him. Since this is the reason He created us, then it is only in living in this way that we can attain happiness and no other way. We are meant to fulfill His will and He will direct us to doing so if we keep step with Him.
Not that all this is easy with the prowling satan restless and sleepless to deceive and to frustrate. His [the devil’s] mechanisms make life a struggle in a battle of fulfilling God’s purpose in our lives. For it is written that at the hour of sleep the enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat – Matthew 13:25. So, although God made all thing good and perfect, the devil desecrated His creation with deceptions so that man would think that he is sufficient with his limited knowledge and free as well as entitled to satisfy what his flesh desires. Hence, homosexuality, fornication, materialism, nudity and all forms of immorality have become lawful and proclaimed to be right in today’s media to change the conventional view of morality and godliness.
But hope is not lost as our Father’s patience gives us the chance to embrace His Son’s easy yoke to enable us return to His Truth and Way and endure in righteousness and fight the good race of purity of soul that will help us experience heaven even while on earth.
Sometimes, in order to relieve myself of the weight of His presence in me, I excuse myself from my God awhile [but not entirely]. The intensity of His presence in me felt too great to carry. It felt like my body couldn’t carry the overwhelming presence and I thought I needed such escape to relieve me. And each time I came back to Him, it was to strengthen myself to withstand as much of Him as I could until I now feel mature enough to withstand much of Him but never enough. But who can really stand before Him talk less of carrying His whole presence in him? He gradually built and strengthened me to withstand as much as I can daily – God is so greatly greater than me, the world and the universe and all thing that I can’t possibly carry the whole of Him just as I can’t possibly empty an ocean with a table spoon into a small hole – St. Augustine. To withstand Him came with the urge to know Him more and this helped me to withstand Him. Hence, a continuous reading of the Bible; attending the Basic Christian Community where the Catholic Christians in my community meet to pray and share His word; read other books about Him; and ask questions whenever the opportunity availed me to. I disturbed my parents so much of my desire to know my God much more that my dad took me to our church parish office to ask the priests on duty the questions that bothered me since their [parents’] answers couldn’t satisfy me. I also attended religious activities hoping for more answers.
These moments that I escape from Him [conscious that it is not entirely] I certainly felt some relief but the world afterwards felt bland and tasteless because I could now compare it with the experience of God the Holy Spirit. Keeping away for too long led me to worldly indulgences and my challenges seemed to grow and the battles to combat them harder to fight, not to talk of the nightmares that worried me. I knew I couldn’t keep away from God for too long for the fear of being defeated by evil and knowing that my God loves me dearly and lurking within me patiently to return to Him; I always felt Him as He remained always in my mind still and I secretly desired that He did remain and not let go. It felt good and comforting to recourse to Him humbly in tears and His ready consolation. I often regret taking Him for granted. But every return seemed to make me stronger. In reflection I realized that my errors have slowed down the manifestation of His will for me and I feared that I might not attain them at all or completely. Now, I know for sure I can’t just live without my God; He is my consoler in depression, my help in need and my love in my emptiness. Like He did Jeremiah, He has seduced me and I love Him back – Jeremiah 20: 7-9.
Now, for me to live, is Christ, and even though I am weak I cling to Him for strength. And when He puts me to test in spite of my supplications that He shouldn’t, I seek His advice for what He would have me do. Life is a struggle until you absolutely and firmly decide to choose and follow God. I have resolved no longer to linger, so help me God. Because knowing You, Lord, is knowing Truth and Life.
Now back to the question, WHO IS GOD? God is the creator who gives life and the Father who further made me His heir/heiress. He is the Son who is love and sacrificed His life that I might live mine to the fullest into heaven. He is the Spirit who fills me with His Truth and the joy of it all.
My God is indeed love and He who abides in love abides in God and God in him – 1 John 4:16. He is not hate that destroys and seeks selfish and pervert ends. No, He is LOVE. God is eternal love, life, truth, peace, joy and all good. Lord, give me the grace to stick with Thee and experience these of Thee. Through Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.
By Ifeanyi O.C
Culled from my diary – 3rd of September, 2014