I get fascinated by just how complex our local languages are. I am not as multi-lingual as I would like to be (yes, I want to speak many more languages fluently) but there are things that catch my attention about Afrikan languages. These things may be true of other languages but I can only speak of what I know.
A few years ago, I was talking with an acquaintance from America about Kiswahili. She was frustrated because as soon as she understood one word and its meaning she would find out there were at least one other meaning. The bigger challenge was also that many people spoke Kiswahili with a mix of sheng (this word is actually only said by people of a certain age these days). She was so frustrated with the lack of clarity in our language. At first I was offended because how could she be so quick to judge our language then I realised that if I had been raised with only English as my language which is quite straight forward I would be that frustrated. Now that I think about it, the intricacies in the English language are around spellings and not the many meanings. Anyway I digress.
There are complexities in our languages (I am sure non Afrikan languages have them too) that would make others frustrated and in some instances angry; yet that is indeed part of the beauty and gravity of the gift of God in our lives. These complexities filter into sub languages like slang or sheng or lugha ya mtaa depending on where you are from and when you were born.
For instance, Sasa means how are you or now depending on the context and intonation. Tembeacould mean walk or visit. Poameans fine or getting cold in reference to food. There are also instances when a word in one language means is something innocent and in the neighbouring village or language group is a derogatory term. On the other hand, one word had a positive or negative meaning depending on context of use or intonation especially where the languages are very tonal like the Kamba people.
The only way to really understand any language is to learn it. Not just book learning but conversational learning. It is important to understand how to string the words together, how to intone them, how to pause for effect among others. I dare say it would be the same when learning French which has male, female and neutral words.
So what is my point?
There are many sides to each of us and things have different meanings too. Why do I say so? I have been working diligently to be gentle with the teams I lead but have found that being gentle all the time does not work. There are teams who will see my stern side and those I will handle with kid gloves. There are individuals I will call and check on all the time and those who will have to learn to seek information. There are people who will know my happy go lucky cheeky side intimately (yes it is there) and those who will only see glimpses.
So just as my language is God given and unapologetic of making people go through hoops to learn therefore I will be unapologetic of the many facets intricately woven together to make me the special human being I am. This is no excuse to be mean to people and say that is how I am rather it is a call to be true to who I am and how I know our interactions must be. It is a call to make time for the things that matter to me and say no to what is not aligned.
It is a demand of myself to understand that No is a full sentence and does not have to be explained if something is in contravention with my values. I have to be careful to speak my language right that I may be understood therefore I must live my life right to become all God has seen in me and accomplish the task that brought me to this earth.
Arise beloved of the Father aware that you are made perfect for His plan
Understand no one can make you feel unworthy unless for some reason you already think you are
Know that every twist and turn in you is a blessing and design feature not a flaw
The many sides of you are a blessing to make you unique and exciting to meet so be still
Above all, understand that there is only one of you so be the best version of yourself…unapologetically
You know how a song just changes your perspectives?
This week I found a rendition of Sinach’s Way Maker by The Pentecostals of Alexandria in an arrangement by Harvest Music Live that spoke to me. I was in the middle of an assignment, a little tired but determined to keep going because of an upcoming submission timeline when it came on. The internal sense of discord was so high I needed to re-calibrate, so I stopped to listen keenly and really allow it to speak to me.
It isn’t a new song, but it was the first time I heard this version and it was exactly what I needed in that moment. The most spectacular part of the song was the bridge towards the end…wow! It stopped me mid-thought and I had to go back a little bit…
Even when I don’t see it, You’re working; Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working
You never stop, You never stop working; You never stop, You never stop working.
Life has to be all about TRUST.
There was pressure all around me and my loved ones. Many are working through loss of different things; job, relationships, faith, hope etc, and a rise in fear. My work is intense and seemed to be more than I could stand and I had to stop. As I sat listening, I saw how high my internal pressure was even though it had not been evident. There was so much going on internally that I was not thinking about. So I took a deep breath and began dealing.
It got me thinking about those around me who are struggling with their faith; those who followed a clear instruction from God but life seems to have gone down the drain and God walked away; those who couldn’t see the hand of God in their situation let alone recognise His presence in their lives. There are also those who wonder if He still exists and if He is interested in their lives.
Is the big guy upstairs still interested and in charge?
One of my friend asked that recently. Very often we doubt God’s interest and power when we are in challenging situations because of how we are raised. We were taught that when God is in control everything works and we are never under pressure. We are also told that when things are going ‘of the rails’ we are living in sin and rebellion but alas. Now we find ourselves in places that must make us rethink. Is God really the one allowing us to go through all this drama? Does he even care?
The questions are boundless. If He cares, why would He allow my business to fail? Why would He allow my father to pass? Why would He allow my partner to lose his job? Why is my child unwell? How come there is so much trouble in the world? Where is God in the middle of this sickness? Why has he allowed this?
God does different things every time and we must get used to that.
Most of us lose trust and become uncomfortable with life when we don’t understand things. Our natural perspective is to see and believe. Our most comfortable place is absolute sight and confidence but is that even true of life? Does everything always go to plan? Do we always know what is going on and how to respond? Are we always sure of the plan? I dare to say no!
I am yet to find anyone who knows exactly what God is doing all the time. I know many who receive revelation every moment that changes their responses and aligns them to the realities of heaven. It is interesting to watch them interact with life through understanding and insight beyond many. I pray many more of us get to that place of grace and strength.
I must find my way and build my tent at that place of divine connection.
The part of the song that caught and held my attention was the words ‘even when I don’t see‘…stop and think about that for a bit. He is in charge even when I do not think He is available. His presence is not defined by whether or not I feel or see Him. It is not determined by how clear my senses are. His presence is there, every day, every moment, every breath, every thought. He is all around and in me even when I do not feel it.
If I can be sure of the love of my partner even when we are fighting, why can’t I be sure that God is in control no matter what? If I can have faith that my work will bear fruit how can I doubt God and His abilities. If I don’t worry about my next breath, step or thought surely I can learn to trust He who put all these things in place.
There are things beyond me that cannot be fixed by work and declarations.
I must be grounded in something more than myself to remain focused and accomplish the fullness of my life. I must find a deeper source of strength and faith than myself. So, I choose to shift my eyes to He who know it all and even when I do not feel or see it, He is at work. He is leading the way. He knows what I need and when I need it.
So I fix my eyes on He who knows the end from the beginning, who understands the path He has set for me. The one who orchestrates my life including sending help at the right moment. The one who opens and shuts doors as He knows will work for me, who makes my life worth every breath and protects the impact my life is designed to produce.
Even when I don’t feel or see it, He’s working, He never stops working.
This season I have had disturbing conversations about friendship.
My heart breaks over and over hearing people talking about the pain of relationships in the time of hardships. I have been blessed to have long lasting relationships that are judgement free but deeply accountable and I have been judged and denounced by those I thought were friends. True friendship is intense and often hard to maintain because it needs extreme vulnerability that keep it alive. The hidden truth is that you cannot have many of these deep relationships. You cannot be naked and unashamed with many people.
Friendship is the foundation of all relationships even in the family. Just because we are born of the same father and mother and raised in the same home does not mean we are automatically friends; friendship must be cultivated. Many of us are closer to our friends when things are good and when trouble shows up things change. As a result, we often say that family sticks closer even in times of need, but I do not really agree because of the things I have seen around me. Friendship is foundational for a stable life.
Let me explain what broke my heart…
The heart-breaking side of the conversations I had was summed up here, ‘…people tend to leave when they don’t want to deal with other people’s issues.’ Yes, they get up and vamoose; gone, left, never to return. I have heard of many who have lost livelihoods and income and impact only to lose their ‘friends and family connections.’ If your family or friends walk away because you can no longer meet their needs or hang out with them, were they really friends and family? You judge that!!
I remember a few years ago when my own life fell apart. The business tanked, finances fled through every open window and door and I was marooned in the house. I already knew that though I live less than 20km outside Nairobi, most people thought I lived too far so no one would come to see me. I knew that most people believed that I was from an established family, married into a stable one and I was most likely to succeed so they couldn’t reconcile the place I was.
The truth was so far from their thoughts.
Worse still, I was angry!!! Oh boy, angry at God for letting me down, at myself for failing, at the world for not knowing me, at everything including those who were enjoying their lives. The things going on around me left me so bruised and broken that I lashed out at everything and everyone around me out loud or in silent defiance. I spiralled into a very deep depression because I couldn’t understand how my life could be so unfulfilling yet I had done everything ‘right’. In the middle of the darkness, a couple of my people refused to leave me there.
One called me every day, checking on me, making me smile, giving me things to think about that moved my eyes from the mud and murk I was stuck in and all the excuses I was giving to possibilities. Another always had a long, warm hug waiting for me when we met and a reminder that the strong, decisive girl they met in our youth still existed somewhere in there. Another regularly reminded me I was loved until I believed it and in time I rose out of the darkness, into a breathtakingly beautiful, incredibly bright and deeply loved and loveable human being.
This is why I am heart broken in this season.
Many people are hurting because they have lost their jobs, opportunities, families and friends while others are holding their breath waiting for people to walk away because that has been the pattern of their lives. Ouch!!! I remember one of my friends asked me why I still stay even when they are so far and have nothing to offer. I didn’t answer because for a while, it was hard to put into words the depth of my commitment to be true to my people.
In time it came to me clearly. As long as I live, I will remain a true friend of anyone sent my way because I have had the blessing of having someone in my corner no matter what and that has given me the strength to be insanely deep and vulnerable. It taught me to love deeply and care enough not to coddle anyone but push and refuse to let them stop. To some I am hard and harsh because I want results not excuses but I have very little space for people who don’t want to grow because my true tribe doesn’t allow me wallow and stagnate.
To my people I say:
You have provided a safe space for me and I bless God for you. I am not indebted to you to return any favours; I am here because we are destined to greatness. I love you dearly and you have my friendship period!!! I have said it before and I will say it again, you are worth every minute of the airtime and there is a plan for your life even when it looks bleak and dark right now. Our lives are inexplicably intertwined for a reason, season or lifetime.
Your space is available for as long as it needs to be. You are free to be yourself. There is no judgement in this space only honest conversation, a pursuit for growth and God. Don’t judge me by your past experience, only give me time to prove to you that I am here, committed to you and this space because it is an assignment.
To others around me I say:
Find your tribe, know who is critical to your path, know whose life must be shifted by yours, commit to be that available and faithful friend before you are brother or sister. The knowledge of love could heal a love. To love is to forgive. To love is see the good in the other. To love is to seek God about each other and work diligently to ensure each becomes God’s dream.
What is friendship?
It is not that hard when we understand that friendship is a gift…a precious, precious gift.
Friendship is a tool in God’s hand for healing and restoration.
Friendship is an avenue to heal, strengthen, and secure.
Friendship is a place where growth can be demanded and supported.
Friendship is a place of restoration and revitalisation.
Do you know how the people around you are doing…really doing? It is important to find out how people are and know that you are important.
Take time to know your people and take care of them as God leads.
Be gentle when needed, be firm when demanded.
Be strong at the right time; break down and deal when needed.
There is no end to the depth and richness friendship brings.
We are in the days of deliberate choices. True dedication. Clear focus and commitment. We can no longer be complacent in our pursuit of Him who created the heavens and earth. We must do the work, walk the talk, live lives that speak of Him alone all our remaining days.
I know that is heavy, but it is true.
It is easy to think that when God is walking with us, we should have everything on a silver platter, but have you really looked at scripture? Who had an easy life in the Bible? Who did not have anything to give up or deal with? Who walked in easy and comfort? Do you see anyone? Is there any life that accomplished anything for God that sat on the beach all day or in the shade all their lives doing nothing? No!! Not even one!!! Not even Christ the one who was indeed God sent to the earth to lead men back to God. So who do we think we are that life should be easy?
This weekend this reality hit me in the face and wow, I was floored. I looked back at the life of people around me and no one who had attained even a semblance of the path God has assigned to them has received it free or on a platter. Each one has lost something, given up something, walked away from something, chosen something, lived for something, loved God more than themselves, those around them and things of love.
One of my long-time friends loves saying, ‘Forgiveness is for you.’
As I was thinking tears filled my eyes when God reminded me about how forgiveness had changed my life. My friend and I had a big fight many years ago that kept us away from each other for more than ten years. It was the kind of separation that tears the two parties apart because you assumed that life would always be good, and you would always be close. It was the kind of tear that destroys the balance in life because you were pillars to one another then suddenly a bomb explodes and brings down the whole house. Oh, the pain…no words!!!
For a long time, I would catch feelings and anger would simmer every time I heard his name, saw him or he reached out. Couldn’t he see how much pain he had caused me? Did he just expect me to forgive him and continue talking? Did he think he had the right to disrupt my life and appear at will expecting happy smiles? Who the heck did he think he was? Why did he think he deserved this kind of attention and freedom to be around me without apology?
Didn’t I deserve a heartfelt apology? Of course, I did!!! Or maybe not.
In time I realised he did not carry grudges even when hurt. He did not hold it against me and neither did he give space to things he could not understand. He simply parked them at the foot of the cross for Father to let him know when to deal. I on the other hand, was fuming and assuming he knew how much pain I had suffered. But alas!! I had shut down, hidden the tears and brokenness and I held onto that pain as the identity of this lost friendship, stability and decade.
Imagine my shock when God began to deal with me about holding grudges and projecting my pain onto others. After all, I was party to the split because at the time it was good for all parties, so how could I blame it on the other? How could I determine in my heart he would bear all the blame, yet I too caused him pain, I too said, thought and projected mean things? To blame him was to declare that I was innocent and we both knew that was not true.
Then Papa said…’You need to forgive your brother.’
Did you just say brother? There is no way he could still be my brother. There is no way I would be around him. That was just impossible!!! And I stomped my foot and stalked off, angry with a stiff spine. Oh, how God does not relent. How He makes His point clear and His judgement true. Over the next few months, God and I dealt with every part of that piece of the past. He showed me my part, the pain, the break, the anger and resentment and the barrier it was creating to my successful progression.
How every time a new opportunity came, I judged His sons and daughters with the same harsh position I had taken against one. How every time someone looked like they could hurt me I walked away in advance to protect myself. How I used this broken friendship as the reason not get close to people since people hurt people right? It was shocking to realise how bound I was. Stuck in solitary confinement and I did not even know it. Lost in the middle of the crowd with no hope or way out.
What? You mean being angry was holding me back? Absolutely!!!
So, we begun the path to healing and my oh my, it was ghastly painful. I had to let go of all the pain I was holding in and using as a shield. I had to cry and let the pain out one tear at a time (my gals used to say that to me cry was a matter of national importance). I had to let go of and burn every memory that had become a hindrance to my healing and restoration.
One day, I realised I as different…less angry, more joyful, more hopeful, and eager about life. I found release in the separation from the hurt and pain. I found healing in forgiveness first of myself and then of my brother. Finally, one day we had the big conversation. We talked about life, the destruction of our friendship, the reasons behind it, the years of pain and tears, the weight of sadness we both carried for a long while, the sense of imbalance until God stepped in and the healing we had to walk into. I realised he didn’t understand things the way I did, and I didn’t know exactly how he had felt. There were so many assumptions around everything that caused us more pain and so few words for so long. We couldn’t heal fully until we both forgave each other.
The difference was…he dealt with things faster than me.
It became clear that forgiving my brother was the route back to wholeness and peace. It was the pathway to an easier yoke and lighter burden. It was the pathway to a new move of God in my life. It was the pathway peace and harmony.
Over time, I have learnt a lot from my brother especially unconditional love. The kind of love has no bounds and standards other than God’s. The kind that will see me falling flat on my face in the mud and come to sit with me in the mud so we can figure out why I keep losing my footing. The one that sees me walking into the dark and will light a floodlight and call me out. The kind that sees me in the middle of pain and seeks God diligently for me then walks as close as possible cheering me on to deal or holds me as I cry on the other side.
I have found true brotherly love on the other side of forgiveness.
Indeed…Forgiveness is for me!!!
And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Matthew 7:3
Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. Romans 2:1