The last few months have been trying with the emergence of Coronavirus or Covid19. When it hit in December in China, most of us stood watching on the side-lines shaking our heads and saying how sad. We didn’t think it would cross the oceans let alone become a pandemic. Then it started moving and we watched it cross to Hong Kong, Iran, South Korea but still we weren’t too bothered until it reached Italy.
In our lifetimes, many of us have never seen an epidemic outside Asia and Afrika. We had HIV/AIDS in the 80’s and 90’s and Ebola more recently but the greatest impact was felt in the ‘third world’ as we are commonly called. This time it is totally different because Afrika has been spared the initial brunt of infection and death and the developed world has been ravaged in ways we cannot begin to understand.
The facts are that there are many infections and the most vulnerable ones are the elderly. The facts are that it is a viral pneumonia that the body has to fight. The facts are that the elderly and those with weakened immunity with underlying chronic illnesses are at greatest risk because what actually kills is the complications from underlying conditions. The facts are that the things all media houses are talking about is the infections and deaths but not those who recover. The facts are that the virus has no respect for persons, social position and wealth. True right?
So panic set in and hording started and it has gone south from there.
The fear and panic is what has my attention. It is tangible and palpable almost thick enough to cut with a knife. It is in every social media post and every new bulletin. It spikes when a presser is called by a health or government official and when a new patient is found. It rises when you go to the cupboard and see the packet of rice or the vegetables getting finished. It rises every few hours and it will continue to rise if we don’t find ways to deal with the fear.
Have I felt the fear? Yes. Some reading this would wonder why? Well, to be honest, as I watched the growing reach and rising numbers I couldn’t help feeling the fear for a bit wondering what was going on and why it was happening. I couldn’t understand why in this developed world such a pandemic would happen. I had watched a documentary on the Spanish flu a few weeks ago and the similarity between that and Covid19 were so insane. So yes, for a little while, I felt the fear and it almost became a crippling year.
My daily pattern is to watch international news as I work and so this fuelled the fear because it was the main story with different aspects and additions breaking all the time. Even the documentaries would be interrupted with updates and long winded conversations about the virus and its devastating nature, countries on lock down, people losing jobs and lives being forever changed. It rose to a peak very quickly and almost paralysed me before I pulled back to look at it. Yes, pulled back to look at it.
Was there another way of dealing with this fear?
Yes, there was another way. Remember the saying, feel the fear but do it anyway? I choose to analyse the fear that was building. Why was I so fearful? What did I stand to lose? As I looked within I begun to understand what was fuelling the fear. The very fact that I couldn’t determine how fast it would get here, would my nation suffer excessively in terms of people, economics and social realities. There’s also the matter of misinformation and fear mongering.
I needed to understand so I began seeking information on the situation; how many have died, how many have recovered, how many are in recovery. What are the conditions associated with rapid spread? What steps are countries taking to take charge? Who are the most vulnerable? What supplies are needed? How long are they setting quarantine? All the information I could find and a lot wasn’t being told publicly or as loudly as the scary side of the situation.
Simple things would save lives: wash hands with water and soap or use hand sanitiser, social distancing, less physical contact, get medical help if feeling unwell and isolate if you are confirmed.
The biggest thing that was scaring me was the reality that at least sixty percent of Kenyans and maybe Afrikans live on or below the poverty line and they would be the most exposed. Why does that bother me? Simple…they are our workforce. Do you have a nanny, housekeeper, gardener, security guard, driver, and caretaker? Where do you think they live?
Our people live in informal settlements with small houses without adequate ventilation, without running water and unable to afford hand sanitiser. They share bathrooms and toilets and are in such close quarters that if one gets sick, cross contamination is a given and guess whose house or workplace it is coming to?
While many are running around and hoarding, it is easy to forget those who cannot do the same. It is easy to be selfish and cater only to your needs and forget others need help. So if you have all the hand sanitiser and your gardener doesn’t have any, don’t you think it could come back to you? many of us cannot survive without our housekeepers yet we are not taking the care we need to about their lives and their health.
I asked my Father for direction, insight, contacts, sources, and true to form He came through.
There is a way God is that makes Matt 6:33 true, ‘…Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.’ It also brought James 4:2b-3 to mind; ‘…Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.’
I hadn’t been asking let alone asking amiss. I just sat in my corner absorbing information that caused terror in my heart. So I recalibrated and focused on asking my Father the questions in my heart. I needed peace and calm and He gave it. I needed insight, He provided it. I needed perspective and He gave it.
There is a peace that we must all come to because God is sovereign and he will always provide a way out. He will direct when to shop, how much, who to shop for, how to help the community. We can no longer live with the degree of selfishness and greed that has driven the world because it has and will continue to separate us and dictate how we treat people.
We can only stand out and be confident in our Father if we truly believe that He is more than able to do everything He says he will do and make good on His promise to care for us. The anchor has to be God because He is the only one who is steadfast through any storm in life. He is a sure support no matter what.
What do you need to ask Him that you will find your peace and anchor afresh?
The anchor holds Though the ship is battered The anchor holds Though the sails are torn I have fallen on my knees as I face the raging seas The anchor holds in spite of the storm
Recently a sister and I were having a conversation about the state of affairs in Kenya and Nigeria and the similarities were stark…unexpected.
For many of us, it has felt like we are in a never ending cycle of pressure, stress, trouble and hardship. Many look at our lives and our nations and wonder what is going on, what we have done to deserve this and how we will get out. It is as if we stepped into a washing machine that was turned on to full power with hot water and in a never ending cycle of washing. It feels like it is unending…yet the end is appointed to come.
Many times, we feel helpless and wonder what to do to right things around us. We have prayed, fasted, asked, meditated and just when we think things are on the mend, a prophecy comes through that God is angry because we haven’t been faithful, we have not repented, we have allowed madness to happen in His land and He is coming in force to deal with us. Someone has a dream of disaster, judgment and violence that God has said He will release on the land.
It feels like watching a football game from the side-lines.
I don’t have an answer to the prophecies and dreams people have had off late, so if you are looking for those, you can stop reading right now. I cannot share wisdom on those items because I am still awaiting clarity and interrogating my response if there will be any. However, whatever happens, I will stay true to the word God has spoken to me and only that because everything else is confusing and scary.
Have I had dreams I don’t understand? Yes! Have I had conversations that confirm I am not the only one seeing those things? Definitely! Does it make sense? Heck no! Am I scared? No! Do I have a plan of action? Yes! What is the plan? Simple…be still and sit until I get word about my points of engagement and the required strategies.
It feels like watching a football game from the side-lines.
Many of us hear a word or a dream and we panic because it is scary and we think we need to be doing or saying something right here, right now and move…just to say or do something because a word has been spoken. If we do that we would be like Ahab when he went against Syria with Jehoshaphat. He wanted people to tell him they would win and this had created an army of 400 hundred false prophets who said what he wanted to hear and the one true prophet Micaiah was consistently side-lined and ignored (1 Kings 22).
As they went to war this time, Jehoshaphat asked more than once if there was a true prophet of God who could tell the oracles of God and ofcourse Micaiah was called tongue in cheek aka shingo upande. As usual he didn’t have anything good to say about the war because he was speaking the word of the Lord that remains true and had nothing about keeping people happy. He said to Ahab, ‘If you return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me. Take heed, all you people.’ He was confident that what he spoke was the word of God and nothing could stand in the way of its accomplishment. That is the certainty I am pursuing in this season and all the days of my life. I want clarity that I have heard and I am living out God’s word even if it is different from what others are saying because, He (God) watches over his word to perform it, (Jer 1:12).
In my instance today, Micaiah represents the ability to sit still and await a clear word from God with tactics and reasons for every move. It is the ability to understand that though there are many options of actions, the only ones that matter are the ones God has given. There certainty and conviction that a specific set of actions is right and no matter what will produce God. So if a fast or a day of repentance or a season of mourning is called, each of us can only engage as directed by God for to do anything else is to put the whole army in danger. It makes me think of the Bereans who took every word the apostles taught and went back to scripture to interrogate it and learn deeper.
So when you see me sitting still watching, understand that I am awaiting instruction or that is my instruction. Pursue yours!
I would rather be in the right place, saying simple prayers and doing the silent work of my Father than be seen on the frontline of things only to get killed or injured in the wrong place. I know who I am, I know my role in this journey and I know how it is to be lived out in this season. Did I always know it? No! But time and sitting under the right authority has opened me up to it.
The other thing I understood a few days ago is that I am specially designed for the role assigned to me so the very things people use to judge and dismiss me are the ones that God has placed in me to allow me access to hidden places and secret wisdom useful only for the assignment. I am not sitting on the side-lines doing nothing…I am there being, listening, making room, praying, activating and shutting down, to give my Father proof a life lived for Him.
It is incredibly easy to hold on to people and things too tight to remedy for our inner turmoil.
Do you have relationships that are challenging or have failed because of being tight fisted? Do people in your life say you are clingy? Have you described someone as high maintenance and demanding? Have you been described as such? What could the cause of this be?
I spent time digging into my life and found that whenever I was feeling lost and lonely or I was dealing with difficult things I had a few default responses. I would hold on tightly to the people around me and use them to validate my feelings; I would pretend to be okay but inside there is a war raging driven by anger and sadness because people couldn’t see my pain; I would stand in the corner terrified by my life and expect people to see I wasn’t okay so they would come and ask. How did I expect that to happen if I didn’t speak up?
I was stunned to realise that I wanted my people to be mine and no one else’s.
I wanted monopoly over their lives and attention. I wanted them to drop everything and come to listen to me regardless of where they are. I wanted them to answer my calls and messages immediately even during work hours. I wanted them to just know internally when I wasn’t ok and o know the actual thing that was ailing me. I wanted to be the focus of the lives around me that were core to my survival.
In time I had to realise that no one can be forced to be around me nomatter how much they say they love me and no one can really understand me unless they have an interest in doing so and have a divine instruction and revelation to stay around. Why? We are all special and not everyone is built to live and deal with us. There is a specific core. I also realised that this kind of connection is a two way street so I wanted their attention and devotion I needed to be willing to return the same attention and devotion.
I remember telling a friend, and I may have said it here, everyone in my life is categorised.
The journey to wellness and balance demanded a shift to a more realistic view of me and life. Everyone has a place and each place as a sense of expectancy to a certain end. It means that those in the inner circle have greater access to my inner sanctum and can ask questions and demand accountability. The further out one gets the less access they have to personal information. Why? Not everyone needs to know and not everyone can handle the inside of me. Sounds simple enough no?
My people and I can read each other from a distance, from the tone of a message or unction in the spirit. The part that really fascinates me is how deep the freedom to call one another out goes. There is little we can’t talk about and lots of strength we share one to another. We are driven to see each other become better people so where there is foolish we address it, sadness we assess and engage it, challenges we resolve them, joy we celebrate loud, long and hard.
The caution though, is to remain an individual even as part of the tribe.
Sometimes, when the journey has been long and arduous, it is easy to lean into people so much that they become the ones living our lives for us and directing every step. This isn’t healthy. Pillars are important to a building but they aren’t the whole structure and the same applies to our people. It became a stark reality that I needed to find and make space within and around me for myself and my people to feel free to be away and be confident that they will come back and the experience would make us stronger.
It has been quite a learning to curve to understand and accept that my people have friends and support pillars outside me and I cannot change that. In fact, these outside engagements could be the key to making our connection deeper. Even harder was the ability to give them the freedom to not only be away, but also to be silent even for months on end trusting that when they resurface we will be able to reconnect. (The silence for months is my current lesson…wah!!!) This applies to friendships, family connections and even marriages. So often we think that unless we do everything together in marriage we aren’t a unit now I know that to be rather false.
I found that, having and pursuing personal interests on one’s own adds incredible depth and variety.
It has been hard to realise that I may not know everything about every member of my tribe, but I must be grateful I at least know most of the things. The thing that gave me the most freedom was the realisation that these other friendships and interactions add so many dimensions to our connection through diverse experiences, interactions, ideas and expressions.
It also dawned in time that if I want to rise as an individual who is part of a strong tribe, there are people in my tribe who want the same. Could I be the one holding them back by my application of behaviour, culture and traditions that are archaic and non-beneficial? As I have interacted with more and more young people, I also realised that there are things we are the older generation see as the bedrock of relational stability that mean nothing to them because they don’t have the same social context as we do. This forced me to think through finding ways to connect with people around what is important to them and show them what is important to me.
So I say love deeply, connect honestly but hold loosely.
Holding loosely demands that I deal with the fear, anxiety and pain within me that demands I have certain people and conditions around me for stability. Holding loosely means I must address and resolve the internal sources of uncertainty that make me feel imbalanced. Holding loosely means I trust God to know and orchestrate the right elements for my growth and rise. Holding loosely means I have to trust that the value I give to my tribe is enough to keep them coming back. Holding loosely means that when a member of the tribe needs to leave, I can allow them that privilege without guilt trips and fear.
Holding loosely means that I can admit when I need help and find it even if it means looking for it externally. Holding loosely means I take responsibility for my inner state and do all I can to resolve the challenges and build strength. Holding loosely means I love, accept and forgive me first then share the same grace to my tribe and the rest of the world. Holding loosely means I am can forgive and move on even if the other party isn’t exactly repentant because forgiveness is for me. Holding loosely is letting go of the pain and learning to live without expectation but full of expectancy. Holding loosely is learnt over time and gives freedom to love oneself and grow into the most beautiful version of myself.
Have you ever been told get over it and move on? So have I.
I am still on the subject of pain because it has so many facets. I remember periods in my life when on the outside I got over it and walked on but it wasn’t true inside. If you met me, I was happy and carefree but on the inside I was bleeding, dying and in very deep pain. Why? Life had been hard and it was taking its toll on me but the need to be strong and stable striped me of the ability to be vulnerable and actively address the pain in my life.
A few years ago I met a young lady, let’s call her Ally, several times in different settings and on the third meeting she asked me if I was, ‘The Kyesubire?’ I had an idea what she meant but I still asked ‘Which one?’ Oh my! She described me in living colour based on things based on a previous broken relationship and I simply said, ‘Yup, the one and only.’ What was it? I had walked away from a relationship without a backward glance into a beautiful life leaving the other person reeling. But was it true that I walked away scot free? Without any knowledge of my side or state of heart and mind, she and many others judged me as mean and unfeeling.
That day we had a long conversation that has come back to me the last few days.
She had never met me but those who saw me ‘walk tall and go on with life’ without knowing what was going on inside told her about me. In turn she judged me as unfeeling from people’s interpretation of my outer face without even meeting me or knowing what I looked like. I knew this was happening because people I had never met were cold as ice and I only made the connection when I realised which circles they walked in. The pain shook me because I had never faced such widespread hatred by people I didn’t even know.
‘Why did you make it appear like you were fine?’ Ally asked shocked to find out how a strong outer experience can be a mask for deep pain.
‘It would be used against me if I was broken, so I toughed it out,’ I replied.
‘Didn’t it kill you inside?’ she asked.
‘It almost did, but I survived,’ I replied
‘How did you survive?’ she asked
‘I shut down and didn’t deal with the pain until I had the strength to do so,’ I replied.
‘Why?’ she asked.
‘That was all I could do at the point.’
It took me many years to deal with the pain of this situation but I grew in the process.
I have since walked away relationships and friendships when I realised I am or can cause the other person pain and things are unlikely to change. The hardest part in relationships is realising that there is no end to the pain and we are better off apart. As one who loves deeply and totally this has been one of the hardest things to learn but I now understand that if I being with me will cause one of us to fail in the end I must leave even if you don’t understand right then. I fight for important relationships but when I also let go when being together will create a form of death or loss.
It is very easy to be judged because of a side of me that people don’t or didn’t see. They didn’t see the years I spent second guessing my worth because of making an unpopular choice. They didn’t see the deep sadness and loneliness in the ensuing days because of lost routines and networks. They didn’t see the struggle of faith because the very people I expected to walk with me shunned me for a choice they thought wasn’t good but in time has proved to be the best choice ever. They couldn’t see because I couldn’t dare show it to them without looking foolish; or so I thought.
My healing came when I learnt that I am not perfect and I can cause pain to others. Healing was a journey with lots of help along the way. There are a few things I need to highlight that helped me along the way:
Self-reflection: I had to look within and understand who I am, why I am here, whether I am on track, where I got on track and if I could get back on track. I had to look and see the pain I had and continued to cause others. I had to face it even if it was hard because in life we aren’t taught to easily accept that we have made a mistake or a wrong turn and need to course correct. This step set the important pace to healing because it enabled me realise I wasn’t perfect and also have an end game to work towards. I am still working towards that goal.
Honest People: I remember the thing that kept me going at the beginning was an unlikely group of friends. A few of my male friends came alongside me and became my crew. They checked on me every day, the caught me up on all the things people were saying about me, they invited me to hang out and made sure I ate. They taught me that I have to be deliberate in life to build a community who believe me, stand by me, are confident enough to challenge my ideas and opinions. They taught me the value of total acceptance and no judgement. It took a few more years for me to really be able to accept totally and not judge but they set the foundation for me. In the ensuing years, we are no longer close but I know I need to have a few close people to hold me to account.
Emotional outlet: It was important to let the pain out in tears but mine used to be non-existent so I didn’t have that outlet. I didn’t even know how to throw things or scream to relieve the internal pressure. What did I have? I had words and hands, simple huh? I poured out my heart, fears and would be tears into a heap of journals, some of which I destroyed as I dealt with matters. They became the outlet I needed to deal and the place to find peace at the end of the day. They still allow me to go back to the remaining ones and remember how I need to keep growing no matter how challenging it gets.
Counselling: There were things I couldn’t handle alone so I sat with a professional in to work through the issues. What was interesting was all the people I sat with emphasised that I couldn’t change the other person so I must focus on dealing with me and the things within me that needed changing and growing. It was hard at first because we would identify how I felt, why I felt that way, who caused it, how it was affecting me and how to get back to healing. These sessions helped me realise that I could only change me and that had to be my focus.
Closure: I learnt it wasn’t always possible to find closure on my one so as often as I could I went back to people I had differences with and had difficult conversations. In these chats we had some of the most intense conversations. In time I realised that sometimes when relationships end, one side may not know what happened or why things went south while the other has a clear idea. I found that both sides have differing opinions of why and how it affected and honest deep conversation could start deep healing. I found that I had to be so present and honest and even though it was hard we came away as better, more grounded people. What could be better than that?
Forgiveness: The thing that has blown my mind is how the simple act of asking for and receiving forgiveness has major healing power. It was unreal when after a long conversation one of my friends asked for forgiveness for the pain caused yet I was the one who walked away. Another apologised for not protecting me when people begun to tearing me apart by telling his side. I was always the culprit who assumed they knew why I left so I was always on the hook apologising for the assumptions. In the last year I have seen how forgiveness changes situations and I am glad to be part of them.
There isn’t a simple way to deal with the pain of life but to deal, deal, and deal. We cannot hide from it or walk away, but we can deal with it and use it as fuel for the next phase of life. Once through the process, I realised that the pain of my past was the best classroom and launch pad for my life. I learnt to walk free and light because even when I could not talk it out with those causing me pain or those I have caused pain, I could work through it and come out on the other side stronger and better.
I am better because of the pain I have been through. I am less judgmental and legalistic. I am more compassionate and understanding. I still demand 100% from myself and my people but I no longer expect people to move at my pace but push them to move swiftly at their pace. In the middle of pain it feels really bad and we want it to end but on the other side of pain I find that we have more strength that we ever thought possible.
I therefore say, don’t avoid pain, deal with it, learn from it and become the best version of you.
Recently I have had many conversations about stagnation, self-doubt and struggle. One thing I didn’t expect was the common cause of the situation; I mention it in a moment. Remember what I said about setting the stage at home for potential radicalisation? Let me take it a little further.
Home is meant to be the place of building, encouraging, mentorship that will raise a solid individual for life. Yet there’s no perfect home because homes are made up of humans creating life and doing the best they can with the skills they have. So imagine a person raised in an abusive home unaware of the impact and having built in the mechanisms to cope joining with another similarly crippled. What kind of environment could develop? Contrast with one raised in a stable loving home. How different would this home be? Now find these two together, building a home…I won’t even go there.
Many of us were unwittingly exposed to extreme situations at home and we acquire certain behaviours as we grow up based on this. An abusive parent creates an atmosphere of fear, doubt, anger and hurt with no possible solution and outlet. An absent parent creates a gap in training and connection leading to confusion, hurt, anger and pain. An overbearing parent creates a sense of uncertainty and the inability to decide.
The common result is…Pain…lots of pain.
Ongoing conversations around me have uncovered insane levels of pain covered up in low self-esteem, self-hatred, demanding behaviour, a sense of entitlement, anger, lashing out, withdrawal, silence, mood swings, binge behaviours, outward conformity, ‘obedience’, and a plethora of other things. We learn early to appear to be what is expected of us regardless of how we feel until we are outside the situation and are able to become ourselves.
Have you ever wondered why people ‘change’ when they leave home or get that dream job or get married or leave the country? Well, often once we are out of the environment that makes us feel the pressure. What we don’t realise is that the pain is still there in the background, undercover, hidden until we get to a trigger situation and it comes out like a full on explosion breaking through the veneer of calm and goodness.
A recent conversation has me looking back at my own journey with pain.
I lived under the spotlight of the Christian community, active in church, engaged in ministry and loving it all the way. Our home had an open door policy and so many people were in or out. I was a stellar student until high school and on the surface it was all good. The truth is different because I was struggling but had learnt the skill of masking and covering.
Different situations created pressure, hurt and anger that was simply put aside after prayer assuming it would go away. Intense emotions were shoved into the background because I believed that when you walk with God pain is not my portion and so it will just disapper…poof. The pain of broken relationships, disappointment, personal failings and societal expectations became the press that would in time break my external shell and me.
One day in my adult life, it all crashed and I wept for days then walked through it for months.
The pain was so deep and being one who didn’t cry it was the most insane feeling ever. It has taken a lot of deliberate daily dealing to remain in balance including walking away but these had to be learned. Looking back was almost impossible because it was dark and bleak but I knew I had to and I knew that was the way to healing.
I couldn’t reach out to many people for help because I was a pillar in my community and most couldn’t deal with this struggling side. Finally, my can do personality and strong exterior was the perfect deterrent for questions. My saving grace was the love of a Father, medication, the ability to journal, a form of prayer and psychology knowledge gained from reading my mother’s books since I was twelve. Story for another day!!!
So what about those who don’t have access to information and the services needed to deal? What happens in families who believe that certain behaviour or traits like anger are part of their genetic makeup yet it is a learnt pattern of dealing with it? What happens to the young man who is struggling with a sense of failure who takes it out on a weaker person? Does he find peace? What of the woman who finally explodes after years of abuse, picks the knife and stabs her man? Does jail or the death penalty really help her?
Pain is part of our fabric and we need to deal with it carefully.
Pain fundamentally changes who we are and will keep affecting us until we deal with it. Pain can cause individuals to do seemingly unconventional things. Despite how difficult, dealing with pain is the best way to come to terms with our past, accept the things we cannot change and make the choice to be different and thrive in the present and future.
Some of my children are wounded deeply. The pain is driving them nearly insane and they don’t know how to deal. Asking them to track the pain leads to deep sighs because it will hurt like crazy to do so and many walk way. Some take out their anger on God, others on life, others on family and even others on themselves. Some, very few, are choosing to deal with the pain, one breath, look, tear, scream, conversation, hope and dream at a time.
Just like me, there have been and will be instances of breakdowns, some private and some very public, that though embarrassing, are the key to resolution. As I look at my young ones, I realise that we all must deal with our pasts and the behaviour that is affecting others. Each one must see how their upbringing has affected them and is affecting their present.