Just a couple of days ago I woke up being a bit nervous. What am I saying? I was very nervous: my brother was going to do his last (oral) A-Level exam. He simply needed to pass this time! You see, it was his second take at “Business Administration” and for his own sake, he just needed to make sure he’d pass. With more internal than eternal or external pressure, he simply needed to have it over and done with.
And so, I felt his anguish. Most probably even more than he did. Why? Because he’s my baby! And so, that very morning (Monday, it was), I woke up praying; went to work praying; and then hit myself for not praying when work got too busy. As soon as I was done and ready do leave the office, however, I continued praying, having received a whatsapp message stating “Chill, I’m still waiting. Should be the next person though.” Needless to say, what followed was some serious tongues spitting! I needed him to find favour with his examiners.
Long story short, he didn’t pass and he was sad. Naturally. I felt his tears and upset through his mellow voice and could not help but hate myself for not being there to stand in on his behalf. How I wish I had taken that exam for him! Not that there was any chance of them permitting me to do so; but as an older sister, I simply wanted to protect my brother. Shield him from the pain of trying and falling short, the hurt of disappointment; I was desperate to protect him from any- and everything unpleasant that could ever dare come his way. But I couldn’t and I wasn’t.
And as I paused to examine my thoughts and feelings closer, I realized some things I wanted to share with you today.
Pain, hurt, failure, disappointments. All these are experiences we cannot possible (always) safe our loved ones from. No matter how hard we try, we cannot! Perhaps, we shall not.
I remember a conversation I had with an acquaintance of mine some time ago; well, I’ve had similar discussions with a number of people over the years,
“See, even if you don’t fear God, think ahead. Think tomorrow. One day, someone is going to have to pay for what you’re doing today. And it will most probably be your unborn child.”
“God forbid!” It came, “Are you okay? What kind of curse is that? None of my children will have to pay for any of my sins. So don’t even go there.”
And I simply replied, “Well, we choose our actions but we have very little control over their consequences. A human being sows, a human being must reap.”
I smiled though; for regardless of how evil or wicked man is, he always wishes better; if not for himself, surely for his offspring. We all want to make sure those we love are safe, sheltered, well looked after, cared for. But how much of that can we really assure? And if we can, for how long?
Today, I look at myself and smile at my scars. Today I wear them with pride. Looking back, I find how true my name has been to me. How powerfully working within: Victoria! I look at my scars and embrace them, they make me feel victorious indeed. But there was a price to pay. With all the sheltering my parents did, they could not protect me from it all. And it was good that way, for it prepared me for life.
Even though certain steps seemed extremely difficult at the time and I often felt like giving up, I am now glad I did not. So now, when challenges of whatever sort come up, I look back in time and space and tell myself, “You can overcome this too!”
However, I also look around and see how many people simply cannot say this. Not because they are “weaker” or have “less faith” but because they’ve never had to. And so, what they lack is strength of character, conviction, confidence.
This has done so much more evil than good: living with a firm belief that certain things one enjoys are rights, rather than privileges; blessings, rather than just claims.
To some extent this worries me..
An excess of shielding, sheltering, pampering has made empty people of too many. Where all we possess is a “sense of entitlement” and sweat, labour, hard work are no longer virtues but stresses needed to be avoided. Where nothing is earned or awarded, but simply demanded and received. Where one cannot truly appreciate what one has, but makes do with it anyway.
Today, my brother whatsapp’d me again at 2.a.m. saying “Oh Vicky, I’m so happy. God really favoured me.” Turns out the lady in charge of his examination felt really bad for him, seeing as he had passed all other exams and was just struggling with this final one; not being able to move on fully and enroll at university until this was complete, and so offered him to attend another semester free of charge. Sure, she could do nothing about his blackout at the exam, but what little help she could, she would give him. He was overjoyed.
And so was I, his very own testimony! Now, it might not have been anything major or ground-breaking as such (I’m sure some of you probably thought they informed him that a mistake had been made and he passed after-all; that was my own initial thought, I admit!) but it sent a message still; maybe even more to me than him: he’ll be okay!
We all worry about how our loved ones (will) fare.
I, for instance, see my brother and see his messy room, his love for designer clothing, his inability to cook a proper meal, and wonder just how prepared he is for real life. I see him complaining about little things and look at myself and my own inherent strength, questioning whether he has what it takes to make it out there. This world is cruel, yo! (Sorry, just had to throw that in..)
Anyway, truth is: we all do! Given a chance and perhaps more “room to suffer”, we can and will all survive. If God didn’t think you strong enough, He would not have formed you, created you, released you into this world.
What has been resounding in my ear these past fear years: the development of character. I simply love reading and meditating upon Bibl-characters; most especially those within the Old Testament. Characters like Abraham, Isaac, Joseph and David. One thing they all have in common: a sense of (godly) integrity that was birthed out of adversity. Let this be our call today: to allow challenges of life shape us into better selves.. both us and others.
Today, let’s decide to stop robbing people of the opportunity to develop strength and build character. How else would one grow into a mature and integer human being? Let’s stop trying to shield and shape and form others and simply allow God do that: through the challenges we overcome in and through and indeed with Him.
Let’s give “suffering and smiling” a good name!
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (James 1: 2-4, The Message)