## Quick Maths

I have always struggled to understand the relevance of the number 1. It seemed almost negligible in the grand scheme of things; whether in addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. So one could understand my obvious discomfort when we were taught about reciprocals in school. A reciprocal is either of a pair of numbers whose product is 1. What was the point? If you’re already bored, I implore you to keep on reading; the mathematical jargon ends here.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 7:12 (NIV)

If you’re anything like me (human), you’d have at one time or the other struggled with the notion that God is largely unfair with His dealings and demands with and from His people. The audacity of someone to sit high and mighty and dole out a bunch of rules without giving a hoot as to the practicality of this way of life in this mayhem we call earth. In the above verse, Jesus taught on what I refer to as the principle of reciprocity; in simple terms, “Scratch my back, and I scratch yours.” While this verse does refer to our relationship with other human beings, it may hold yet another meaning.

Let’s illustrate how God holds Himself to the above portion of scripture using two virtues He demands of us; love and patience.

Love.

We love because he first loved us.

1 John 4:19 (NIV)

The most recurring theme of the new testament is love. It features in some way in every portion of scripture. It is what shapes our Christianity, transforming it from mere religious dos and don’ts to life itself. But the question to be asked is how exactly can one love accurately? The answer lies in the verse above.

Of ourselves, we are selfish, hateful and wicked creatures, unable to completely let down our lives in the sacrifice of love the way God demands. Because of that frailty, God goes ahead to show us what true love means.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:13 (NIV)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us… For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Romans 5:8‭ & 10 (NIV)

First off, God says the height of love is when one lays their life down for a friend. Then He goes ahead to lay His life down for a bunch of people He refers to as His enemies. After this, He now says we can love (both Him and others) because He is confident that we have seen Him love (not just as God, but as the man, Jesus Christ).

Patience.

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

James 5:7‭-‬8 (KJV)

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

John 15:1 (KJV)

Imagine a God who in a split second can speak anything into existence, a God not bound by time or space, one who could choose to just show up whenever, wherever and however He pleases. Imagine that God just sitting on His hands and waiting, seemingly helpless. Crazy huh?

The first words that God spoke to Adam were “Be fruitful…” It’d be several thousands of years later that a man would rise to the occasion and live out that order. In John 15, Jesus referred to Himself as the “true vine”. What reaches out to me in that statement was the qualifier “true”. It would seem that other men had risen and claimed to be a fulfilment of God’s mandate to Adam in Eden, but for those eons before Jesus showed up on the scene, each and every one of those men paled in comparison to the Son of God; the True Vine. Through it all, God sat as the husbandman, waiting. For He was sure of one thing – His word would not return to Him void.

James admonishes that as we look toward such a God who could wait so long before the fulfilment of a prophecy He had complete control over, we should learn His type of patience; not just a patience because circumstances are beyond our control, but a patience that knows the required times and seasons for events yet unfolding.

Why is any of this important? As a blueprint. For God will never demand a thing from a man without first demanding the same from Himself. If what we have received is His fullness, a fullness in which we receive His grace in the same manner in which He had it, then we must enter into all He demands of us. But we only do this on the strength of reciprocity.

Now, back to mathematics. Two things to note about reciprocals are:

The bigger a number is, the smaller its reciprocal.

The product of two reciprocals is always 1.

Whatever we see in God, we must take up a posture of humility; one that, while insisting on becoming what we see, also insists like John, that we must decrease, so He can indeed increase.

Secondly, everything we become in God is geared towards a singular purpose:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Romans 8:29 (NIV)

We conform to the image of the Son of God because God designed that everything in heaven and on earth be gathered into Him. All things must end in 1 – the Christ Himself – for He is the heir of all things (Heb 1:2).

Christ is the fullness and culmination of all there is in God. And we must lose ourselves till only 1 remains.

Not such a useless number anymore, huh?

## The Hanging Tree

“Are you, are you, comin’ to the tree?
They strung up a man on account of blasphemy,
Strange things are happenin’, and stranger things I see,
Are you, are you, comin’ to the tree?”

I awoke with a start, rivulets of sweat trickling down my forehead. It was a few minutes past midnight. My head throbbed in an attempt to recall the details of the dream. Echoes of the little girl’s song bounced off the walls of my mind. The pain in her voice made me shudder. The song was all I could remember, but along with it came a foreboding sense that there was something gravely important about this dream – a thing so weighty that forgetting even the slightest of details would prove criminal. With an urgency I stumbled across my unlit bedroom. A splash of cool water on my face and two tablets of paracetamol would do the trick, I hoped.

“He’s innocent!!!” A bloodcurdling scream stopped me short. I whirled round before I realized where the voice had come from. The images came back vividly. A man had been murdered. Washing my face to clear whatever grogginess was left, I grabbed a bomber jacket and rushed out of my room, down the stairs and out of my apartment building. It was as insane as insanity comes, but somehow I knew I needed to find that man.

The night air hung heavy as I inhaled. There was a reddish fog that seemed to envelope the high-rise buildings all around me. No, this wasn’t a fog. I looked closely at the sky; a star – or what was shaped like one – illuminated the night. A star that was coloured the bloodiest of reds. The more I looked at it, the more drawn I felt towards it. What in the world was going on? Trotting, I made my way eastward, following the star with no slight trepidation. Still, my body willed me to move in that direction. A noise behind me. A cat scurried off into the darkness after knocking down a trash can. I jumped, then chided myself for my nerves. Keep walking, John. Keep walking.

“Are you, are you, comin’ to the tree?”

Footsteps. It had been half an hour since I began my journey, during which I’d needed to convince myself repeatedly that I was alone. Now the pounding of shoes behind me made it clear that I’d not been imagining things. I hastened my steps, quickly ducking into an alley. I tensed my muscles and waited. Adrenaline surged through my blood, my heart pumping like it would explode in my chest. The feet drew near. Time seemed to come to a standstill. Nearer still. My stalker was barely 5 meters away. I tried to control my breathing.

Now!!!

I pounced on my would-be assailant, sending him sprawling to the ground with a shriek of fright. Only it wasn’t a he. I reddened as I realized I’d just attacked a woman. “John!” she gasped in bewilderment.

“Diane?! What are you doing out here? Why were you following me?” She was my neighbour; her apartment building was located adjacent mine.

“What?!!! Why’d I be following you?” she stuttered. “And why’d you jump me?!” Her voice was shaky as she struggled to fill her lungs with air. I hoped the impact from our collision hadn’t broken any ribs. Hesitantly, I filled her in on my strange dream and the red star I’d been trailing. Her eyes widened as she listened. Even in the sanguine overcast, I could see her face slowly blanch. “What’s the matter?”

“Strange things are happenin’, and stranger things I see…”

1:15 am. After I’d listened to her tale, an eery silence fell on both of us. What was going on? Who was this man, and what significance did his murder have on our lives? As if controlled by telekinesis, we looked up in unison at the strange red star. “We have to find out what’s happening,” I said. “I think the star holds the answer.” She nodded, still shaken, whether by the dream or by our physical encounter, I couldn’t tell. In silence, we walked, a mix of dread and urgency galvanising our every step. An hour passed. Then another. We were approaching the outskirts of the city. Suddenly, I became aware of others around us. Again I prepared myself to engage in a physical altercation. But as the footsteps echoed around us, I realized that they too had followed the star. “Goodness me!!!” Diane muttered.

The whole town had awoken. From the limping elderly, to the nursing mothers with babies wrapped tightly unto their backs, to inquisitive adolescents who would not be persuaded to stay within the confines of the safety their houses offered. Wordlessly, we all moved, each person preferring the solitude of their deafening thoughts to the option of confused conversation. We all knew enough to know that none of us understood what was happening. Only the star would answer our myriad of questions.

4:27 am. Again, memories from the dream played before my eyes. Apparently, the man in question was of royal descent. Who would want to murder a king in cold blood? The nerve of such a person. We had long since left the walls of the city, our faces a mask of discombobulation as the luminary continued to hold us sway. Suddenly it stopped, and seemed to rest on an oddly shaped hill. A shiver ran down my spine as I recognised what shape the hill had taken. We were approaching the infamous Skull Hill; a place so named not just for its shape, but also for its activities. For this hill was well acquainted with death. Murmurs flew threw the multitude for the first time that night. We were all visibly perturbed. Yet the star held an allure, and thus we drew nigh. The climb quickly begun.

5:13 am. The metallic smell of blood. The rancid odour of stale sweat. We knew we were walking into danger, but our resolve was now unshakable. Whoever this king was, we needed to see if he was truly dead. We went through a copse of trees, and burst into a clearing.

A gasp. A scream. Someone in the crowd fainted.

In the middle of the clearing, strung up on cross-like contraptions, hung three men, all unclad and battered beyond recognition. This was inhumane. I took the gory image all in and suddenly fought down the urge to vomit. Retching, I tried to turn away from the sight, yet the star held my gaze like a magnet as its spotlight beamed on the man in the middle. A hush fell on the crowd. It was as if someone had turned down the volume to the lowest. No, a sound still remained. I strained to listen. It was the man in the middle. He was still alive!!!

From his mouth came sibilant words that echoed through the silence. Wait… Was he… It couldn’t be… He was speaking a blessing on us!!! Who was this man? I could see the pain etched on his face as he continued his prayer. I didn’t have to know him from Adam to be convinced that this one had done nothing to deserve his current estate. I wanted to run to him, to bring him down from his cross, to offer him relief for his pain, but I remained in one spot, fixated on his visage. He looked at me; a knowing look that told me he understood. Then he smiled.

“It… is… finished.”

Death. It was a whisper, but it might as well have been a deafening roar. I burst out weeping, feeling ashamed at my inability to help him. Or maybe I was mournful because this man reminded me of my helplessness. Another sound stopped me short. It was at first a trickle, rapidly growing in intensity, till it crescendoed. I looked up. The red star had suddenly vanished. Golden sunlight broke forth on that hill of death. The sound I had heard, it came from his body. Red blood and crystal clear water gushed from his side; a beautiful contrast. It was at once strikingly picturesque and terribly frightening. At that moment, a reality dawned on me. For this story hadn’t just ended. Indeed, this would be the beginning of many beginnings.

7:00 am. A new day.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
John 12:32

And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
Hebrews 13:12‭-‬14

Happy Easter, people.

## The Unveiling

Pomp, circumstance and fanfare befitting only of royalty. Happy faces, hearty guffaws. Indeed, there was not a sad countenance. With merry hearts they gathered, for it was said to be the biggest wedding the world had ever seen. Everyone who was someone was present. And not just the bourgeoisie, for the convener of this wedding, the father of the groom, was a philanthropist that made all of John Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and Bill Gates’ charitable efforts put together pale in comparison to his magnanimity. What better place to showcase his wealth than the nuptials of his first and favorite son?

And so they gathered. The young, the elderly, and everyone in between, all in their Sunday’s best. If you were not at the town hall, you were either dead or mentally handicapped. People who could not find their way into the large hall crowded round huge TV screens across town. Even the bedridden woke with a zeal never before seen, as they gazed intently at the screens from their sickbeds. Radio stations were buzzing with by-the-minute updates of happenings as all awaited the commencement of the event. Nobody was about to miss the greatest occasion in the history of that city’s existence. Pictures and videos flew everywhere, with all sorts of filters and hashtags, as social media statuses were updated by the millisecond. And then, by the stroke of noon, a hush with the verisimilitude of a library in a graveyard came over the entirety of the crowd.

There she stood. Dressed in white. Glorious from head to toe. She had a demeanour only worthy of the royalty she was about to become. The Instagram models with their vast array of eyebrow designs and colours knew; they would not be the most beautiful people on the scene that day. Even though she remained veiled as she walked down the aisle, there was a glow emanating from her that dispelled every doubt about her beauty. There was a confidence in her gait. This one had waited her whole life for this moment. She was born for this. The organist played the most beautiful rendition of “Here Comes The Bride” ever heard. Still she walked, the cadence of her soles satisfying souls staring solely to unravel the pulchritude shrouded beneath the veil. Yet, all the stares in the world would not uncover the mystery that was this bride’s face. Only one man had the prerogative, and he beamed with the pride of one deserving of such an honour. His betrothed was beautiful, he knew.

At last, she stood before the one to whom she would be espoused. The music ceased, and again, a hush fell over the entire world, or so it seemed. The unveiling was nigh. Still grinning from ear to ear, the groom stepped up to his lover, and with a lot of theatrics, threw back the veil. A mixture of mirth and shock filled the atmosphere, for alas, there remained yet another veil over her face. The groom smiled still, not fazed, and with even more thespian movements, threw back this second layer. There was a chuckle somewhere, a slight gasp somewhere else, followed by what sounded like a sigh. If this was someone’s idea of a joke, it was getting boring quickly. Yet the handsome groom smiled, apparently oblivious to the murmurs around, and undaunted by the unrelenting shroud over his lover’s face. His hands moved over her face again, and were met with yet another veil.

The charade went on and on, with the attendant fascination with the number of layers of veils diminishing with each unveiling. Yawns could be heard echoing across the entirety of the hall now. A few who were fed up and bold enough packed up and left the event. This was not what they had dressed up to see. Most stayed behind, only out of respect for the one who had invited them. The hall became rowdy, with side talks ensuing – anything from Ashley Young’s heavy pockets to happenings on Twitter. Nobody cared anymore about the ceremony, except of course that it end soon. An eternity seemed to pass, and still, the groom’s handsome face was cut with a smile even broader than when he had started. Another yawn. Another phone call.

Suddenly, it was over. Her face could be seen. Men, women, children and animals perked up with rapt attention. At last, the wait was over. A foreboding fell upon some; what if the anticipation would only result in a terrible anticlimax? What if the heat from the multitude of clothing over her face had obliterated the fine details of whatever makeup lay underneath? Again, silence flooded the room. Slowly, the bride turned, and her face became visible to the millions of prying eyes. There was a unanimous gasp. A few guests fainted.

Her face was, for lack of a better word, handsome. The uncanny features – humour-filled eyes, a pristine nose, the broadest smile one could ever see. Onlookers moved their eyes from the bride to the groom, and back to the bride. It was surreal. For alas, the bride looked exactly like her groom. What madness!!!

…to be continued.

## Real Estate/Realest State

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)

I’d always had my qualms with this scripture. It seemed antithetical to how I felt and all that I’d experienced in my stuttering attempt to walk with God. How in the world were the old things passed away when I could still feel the urges of sin ravaging my mind and body? What exactly was new about my life, save the day or so of reprieve from guilt I felt whenever I “regave” my life to Christ? (One would wonder how many times I’d need to give my life to Christ before He actually and completely took it). And so went my struggle, and possibly, yours too.

The first thing to understand when faced with such questions as the authenticity of your salvation is the phrase “in Christ”. It connotes a positional reality and an awareness of one’s identity, both of which are equally important in the working out of our salvation.

Take for example, a baby. Normally, a foetus should spend an average of 40 weeks in its mother’s womb before being born. At the time of birth, up until 28 days of its extrauterine life, this baby undergoes a name change; it is no longer called a foetus, but rather, a neonate. If this baby was born prematurely (before completing 37 weeks in its mother’s womb) or if it was a prolonged pregnancy (spending more than 42 weeks in utero), it would still be called a neonate at birth. The point to be made is, the factor that determines its name change is not necessarily its age, but a change in its environment. Because the baby’s ecosystem is suddenly different, it is conferred an equally different nominal reality. Likewise, when we turn our lives over to Christ, we come into a different ecosystem. In Him we live, move, and have our being.

What we experience in salvation from a positional point of view is a change of a source of life. A baby does not start breathing at birth; radiological imaging shows that breathing movements occur in utero. However, these breathing movements take up an entirely different function because of a change in environment. Where once the source of life (oxygen) for the baby came from its mother’s blood via the placenta, now, it must take up oxygen through its lungs if it is to survive in this new environment. In the same way, our positioning in Christ is made evident by some conformational changes. If your source of life and meaning had been in anything prior to salvation (money, education, family, a significant other etc), it changes to Christ Himself. A lack of an understanding of that change can be responsible for the stagnation you may have experienced in God.

Again, if I travelled to another country – one with rules different from Nigeria – I would be required by law to subject myself to these new rules solely because I found myself a legal occupant of that country, even if those rules were against my natural inclinations. What this means is, in the positional connotation of the phrase “in Christ”, our feelings are secondary to whatever God’s demands are. As long as we are in His ecosystem, then we must play (or better yet, live) by His rules. Anything contrary would prevent maximal use of the strength and resources made available in the location referred to as Christ. So, when scripture says “The just shall live by faith”, it means any life under God not based on the principle of faith is a life ignorant of the positional reality of the believer; in Christ.

The phrase “in Christ” speaks also of a change in identity. God cannot allow something or someone alien to His being into His kingdom. To be in Christ, you must quite naturally first be of Christ. You cannot have one without the other.

Here’s what I mean: while in a foreign land, even though you would be expected to play by its rules, these rules would essentially be foreign to you, disagreeing with your very nature. What would be required for you to enjoy, rather than endure the governing principle of the land would be a change of your nature. In addition to changing our position, God also changes our nature. So, we are of God, and as such, we have overcome the world. Our victory over the world and its lusts is based on our identity; we are of God.

It is with the combination of these two realities that we can truly live a new life. Scripture commands that we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, on the premise that God works in us, both on our willingness and desires, and also on our actions, till we do only what pleases Him. Working out speaks of our positional reality in Christ; because we are in Him, then we can and should live for His pleasure. God working in us speaks of the new identity that we have in Christ; because we are of Him, we have no other option but to long for that which pleases God. You cannot appropriately do His good pleasure if you do not long for it, and you cannot long for God’s pleasure outside of God Himself.

Now, you may ask, how does any of this knowledge change your attitude towards sin and the much dreaded “old things”? The key to moving from head knowledge to an experiential knowledge of what it means to be “in Christ” is captured in that same verse.

“Behold”

It sounds like an exclamation, almost as if the writer is in disbelief as to how this old man suddenly is dead, and everything about him is now new. At the same time, it connotes an order. To enter into the reality of our newness in Christ, we must behold.

What do we behold?

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (KJV)

We behold God’s glory, not for the glory’s sake, but we look at God’s glory to become the very image domiciled in that glory.

How do we behold?

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

James 1:22‭-‬25 (KJV)

We behold God’s glory and become His image by constant study and practice of His word. Only then can we know what it means for one to be in Christ.

Photo Credit: https://www.stefanoboeriarchitetti.net

## Soul Searching

A great philosopher once said something along the lines of “Man, know thyself.” While that statement is profound on so many levels, it is essentially flawed on one. It is a statement that has set mankind on a journey from as far back as we can remember till date. A journey both inward and seemingly forward.

It is the knowledge of oneself that has birthed the marvels and technological advances we see today. Men, in a search for meaning have refined their lives over time, with the heart of science and technology being an amplification of man’s strengths and an attenuation of his weaknesses. All this being done with the hope that one day, this search inward would birth perfection; a utopia where the weaknesses of mankind no longer exist.

But this search, while showing us our numerous abilities, has further shown us something that is a cause for alarm. A weakness that abounds beyond any technological advancement mankind can and will ever know. Another wise man, fraught with a lifetime of exotic privileges and profound knowledge that only a few have dared to scratch its surface, came to a saddening conclusion; man’s efforts in all their magnanimity can be summed up in one word – vanity. The earth-shattering implications of such a statement have made man ignore the wise man’s findings, preferring to go down the vicious cycle of soul searching, in a bid to prove the wise King Solomon wrong.

Sadly, man was designed with a defect the size of eternity (Ecc 3:11), and it is only that which is eternal that can stopper the gaping black hole that is the soul of man.

This would be grave news if the Eternal God had not given us of His eternal nature (John 3:16). Now, by connecting with God, we can discern what is the purpose of life. We can bridge the gap between soul searching and “utopia”.

There is no statement with a greater promise of fulfilment than “Man, know the Lord.”

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

John 17:3

Photo Credit: http://www.alamy.com

## The Elephant in the Room

The story was once told of a group of blind men, the number of which, although varied, has little bearing on the emphasis of this particular rendition of that tale. They congregated in their numbers, stumbling one upon the other, a cacophony of feet and canes.

“There’s an elephant in The Room!!!”

“An elephant? What’s that?”

“Come, see for yourself, brother.”

And so the search for the great beast located in the grand hall nicknamed ‘The Room’ was born. Word spread like wildfire amongst the folk of the town. The words ‘elephant’, ‘The Room’, ‘come’ and ‘see’ had been presented in every form and language possible, and quickly, the journey to behold the much talked about elephant gained momentum. An innocent bystander would have been forgiven for thinking this motley crew was nothing more than a set of extremely insane people. And for good reason. For as much as the word ‘see’ was circulating amongst the townfolk, all the residents of the town were completely blind.

And so they rushed, drawn by the allure of the elephant. On arrival, as many as could fit into the room struggled to make contact with the elephant. Even in the din, they knew this beast exuded an aura that was deserving of kings.

“What does it feel like?”

“Please we can’t touch it from the back here. Help us describe its shape.”

And behold, yet another mysterious journey began, for alas, the elephant was a beast like no other. A man, grabbing hold of its trunk exclaimed:

“Oooh!!! Step back everyone!!! It must be a big snake!!!”

“No!”, another shouted as he pressed his palms firmly against the broad side of the elephant. “It is a wall! A wall that breathes!!!”

And yet another voice erupted in disagreement, as a woman took hold of a tusk. “This is none other than a hunter’s spear!”

“But it cannot be!!! It’s a big leaf!!!” A boy with his hands wrapped around an ear made his voice heard.

“You’re all wrong!!!”, thundered an old man. He could be seen grasping the hind limb of the beast. “This is an iroko tree. A sturdy one that has its roots run deep below the ground.”

A fair lady, as slender as the tail within her hands, would not be outdone in this battle for depiction. “Na wa o!!! No be rope be this? The type wey them dey use tie goat.”

And at last, pandemonium ensued, with every Tom, Dick and Harriet having their own revelation of the animal at hand. It was indeed a strange and sorry sight. More confusion in one room than children fighting for the right of ownership to a much treasured toy. The uproar went on for hours, and then days, and then years, and it never dwindled. Newer parts of the elephant’s gross anatomy were discovered daily. And it only fostered the ongoing animosity.

If only there was such a person with sight. One who could give the people the full picture of what lay before them.

Little did they know, that the beast they had groped and tugged at was their only saving grace. For, in the midst of the back-and-forths amongst the gropers, a soft voice could be heard.

Alas, the elephant could speak.

But they had grown deaf, feeling and describing, yet completely ignoring, the elephant in The Room.

… to be continued.

## Not That Deep

I stumbled on something I wrote a few years ago…

Have you ever had a candlelit dinner with time and chance?
Where they hold you by the hand like “May we have this dance?”
Lap dance with no pleasure, violently grinding you,
Dust you will slowly turn into, feel time deserting you,
Pay me no mind, I’ve got the sands of time in my eyes,
Unwashed mud, because the pool was acidified,
And I am not basic, this complex cannot be neutralized,
But even the simple and beggarly soon realize,
That where sunny beaches lie, tsunamis abound,
For every silver lining, there’s a shade of black in the clouds,
Humans forever fighting for zeros and points like decimals,
In my head, I’m in a capsized boat, struggling to stay afloat,
My thoughts, a shoal disguised with a Mariana Trench coat,
Yet I search for meaning, wondering what I’ll find,
Pay me your eyes, I’ve got the sands of time on my mind.

## When the Heart Murmurs

Murmurs are abnormal heart sounds produced by abnormal patterns of blood flow in the heart. Many murmurs are caused by defective heart valves. Heart valves help to prevent a retrograde flow of blood with each heartbeat. Heart murmurs are a good illustration of what happens when Christians murmur (complain or grumble). Philippians 2:14 implores believers to do everything without ‘murmurings or disputings’. This is a piece of scripture that Christians have overlooked over time, causing detriment to the body of Christ.  In medicine, heart murmurs point to heart valve defects, which are of two types; valvular incompetence and valvular stenosis.

Valvular incompetence means that the heart valves do not close properly, so blood meant to flow out of a particular heart chamber flows back in; a phenomenon known as regurgitation. Again, this is a good illustration of what happens when Christians murmur. Speaking about the children of Israel, Psalm 106:25 talks about how they murmured in their hearts and chose not to listen to God’s voice. Now, the primary way God speaks is through the Bible. Any other utterance from God’s mouth will tally with His written word 100% of the time. So, it’s safe to deduce that when we murmur, we do not have the word of God in our hearts. How is this equivalent to regurgitation? Ephesians 6:10-18 speaks about spiritual warfare, and how we are to stand. The components of our spiritual armor are all different depictions of the word of God; both as a shield and as a sword. When valves are incompetent, they cannot withstand the pressure in the ventricle or vessel containing blood, so they reopen, and blood regurgitates. When we do not have the word of God in us, we cannot stand when situations requiring that we do arise, and instead, we murmur.

The second cause of murmurs, valvular stenosis, involves the narrowing of the valve orifice, resulting in less blood flowing out of the heart chamber involved. Hence, the heart has to do more work than was previously required to pump an adequate supply of blood. A stenosed valve is a picture of a Christian not in total submission to God’s will. 2 Corinthians 6:12 talks about a group of Christians “straitened in their own bowels”. What that implies is that they were being cramped (straitened, constrained) by their desires or passions (bowels). These people were not ready to let go of their wills, and the resultant effect was a feeling of complete unease. What’s the natural response when you’re cramped up in a tight spot? You obviously complain about the discomfort. So, murmurs are also born out of our reluctance to let go of our wills and embrace God’s. Jude 16-19 speaks of how these murmurers are distinct, in that they indulge their senses rather than live according to the Spirit.

Murmurs are associated with significant morbidity and mortality if unaddressed. Valvular regurgitation or stenosis could progress to heart failure if not managed early enough. In the Old Testament, many an occasion caused the children of Israel to murmur, eventually leading to deaths and a wasted generation (Numbers 14). This pattern is also seen in the New Testament where even Jesus’ disciples murmured, turning their backs on Him (John 6:61-66). It’s obvious that as inconsequential as we think complaints and grumblings are today, they can result in our missing out on what God has in store for us.

Is there a treatment? Philippians 2:16 gives us the solution for spiritual valvular incompetence; holding forth the word of God. We need God’s word to take root in us so we can indeed stand without murmuring when obstacles arise. For stenosed valves, a procedure called a valvotomy (cutting open of the valves) is done. 2 Corinthians 6:13 encourages those stenosed Christians to be “enlarged”. In other words, open your heart to God’s will. It’s not an easy process, as it would involve some form of cutting or stretching, but the end product is worth it.

## Growing Pains

Crawling because I can’t stand this torment,
One day I’ll fly, but for now, I’m stuck in this torrent,
Bad weather and frequent domain switching,
I can’t take off because my whole body’s twitching,
Wait, I think I have my thesaurus opened wrong,
My whole body’s a jerk, singing the same old song,
My mind’s struggling to forget the lyrics,
Back and forth like a boat rocking in the Pacific,
I hide in my crawlspace, wondering if I’d sink or swim,
Fighting to remember my God controls rain and wind,
“Peace”, I long to hear, dry land, I hope to see,
But that’d only happen when I stop letting things move me,
So I stand, because this movie called Life isn’t rated for toddlers,
Toss the toys and plastic cups, and drink from the tumblers,
Even if I fall and roll in shards of glass now,
My mind is on my growth, and pain is part of the how.

## Still I Rise

Head’s in the clouds, feet on the ground,
Daunting heights, afraid of even looking down,
Step by step, struggling to make an ascent,
Loses focus for a second, and it’s a humbling descent,
There’s a loud crash, and Humpty Dumpty’s disabled,
Other eggs ignore his pleas, everyone scrambles,
Nobody wants to be walking on eggshells,
He looks around helpless, while everyone excels,
Treading without a sound, actions speaking volumes,
Echoes of sympathy much like the rhetoric of legumes,
Just beans talk; not worth much without jack,
So his famine continues, and the future stays dark,
But there would be no omelettes for breakfast,
Down comes a Kingsman, and broken limbs are cast,
Crutches in his hands, fire burning in his eyes,
Humpty fixes his gaze at the sky, whispering, “Still I rise.”

🚶✌