Any good story of transformation begins with a friend inviting another for a fellowship one easy late afternoon after a heavy lunch. How it happens is neither imploring nor compelling, in fact, it is as calm and unwitty as a political handshake, at least for you. It happens as it would to a different friend after work for a fizzy drink in a dingy bar at the end of a long work day. You could not find it resistible even if you have weekly briefings with Lucifer himself. You do not even seem to notice that you are slowly been lured and sweet talked to an affiliation like an oblivious village girl on the mercy of a visiting town womanizer.
There is something about Christians, about their smoothness when attempting to recruit more sheep for the flock, it is smoother than an Oreo Milkshake at Cafe Deli (try it, mail me your thanks later, or not). Especially the ones that more than being Christians, consider themselves cool. Everything to them is casual. They talk to God in prayer like it is to a dear cool fellow friend. They critic your ragged beard and calligraphy t-shirts calmly like fashion designers, not from a moral point of view, but from a fashion point of view. They say things like…
Bro, your beard looks like the one Job had after he went broke.
And because you do not read the Bible, you will not know who Job is or was. Some are so cool, their reasons for not taking a glass of whiskey is that it is a bad concoction of nasty things put in a wooden container to accumulate salmonella and Escherichia coli (to be honest, I also do not know what these are) and then to be sold at ridiculous prices. I really do not think that whiskey has those things, not when we are protected by KEBS almighty, our light, redemption and salvation.
My recruitment which is still ongoing began with an offer of a book. Love is All by Joseph and Lois Bird. It sounds like a romance type of book, which is not to say I do not read romance novels. Everyone who reads books reads romantic novels, they just choose to lie about it. My first selling point was the word Love in the title. I am a big fan of love. I love love so much, I could have every day after supper and breakfast (see what I did? No?) I could live on love alone if I did not have to pay rent. So, when someone says that indeed love could be all, I’m sold. I graciously accepted and started turning the pages. The book starts by thanking Jesus “for being here and listening always”. The content past that is poems. Witty, charming and relatable poems that I found intriguingly musical. I cannot make this stuff up, let me read one aloud…
We talk a lot about communicating
but what do we mean by it?
Last night we threw away an hour or two
talking but not reaching,
producing sounds of irrelevance.
We phrased and re-phrased,
explained and clarified,
and said nothing
but we didn’t touch.
We tried to tie our feelings together with words,
They didn’t work.
Or we didn’t listen.
An hour or two we threw away
in loneliness of syllables…
I have always admired Christian stories and the values that it all entails, love, kindness, charity and loyalty. The stories and teachings about commitment, ambition and strength make me marvel at the possibility as well as the vitality and fragility of life. That to me is what Christianity has always been about since my parents took me to church for the very first time all through to adulthood. It made a lot of sense, I would like to believe that I am a better human being because of the lessons I still carry from that age.
In adulthood, I am constantly stuck wondering whether being a Christian makes you a better man than not been one. In one of the reminiscence conversations with my friends, a point came up that a good man is a good man, with or without any form of religion. But, a religious man who is only good because of the religion is a very dangerous man because when you take that religion away or misinterpret it a bit, what you are left with is a vicious hollow creature with absolutely no limits or values. This counts as the millions of evil people in the world who commit appalling crimes on one another. Mindless and rancorous crimes that would make you flinch with dread.
Go, look for them, there are hundreds of them on YouTube. There is this Switch TV Channel that has been documenting such; a mother pimps out her daughter at the age of thirteen for money, a group of men painfully rape a woman and leave her barely breathing with sticks plunged into her body. She then recovers and goes back to work and the same people find her in her home, repeat the rape and leave her barely breathing, again, with a rolling pin in place of the sticks. Terrorists. They are all there, things that happen right here in our city.
Look at how far we have digressed. I was reading out a poem to you…
Why Jesus, is it so difficult
to know each other through words?
Day after day we can be free;
We can know each other, unhampered,
and meet across a verbal bridge.
Then it collapses,
and language becomes a tangle.
But why do I ask?
Fear and self-interest.
Always, fear and self-interest
break down what we call communication.
We’re so afraid to expose ourselves,
to strip our emotions naked,
to show what we are, what we feel,
to expose the fears, the doubts,
to reveal the anxieties and petty jealousies,
to give to another the picture of ourselves
which might bring shame
or a javelin of accusation.
What foolish fears, Lord.
What groundless anxieties!
We no longer need fear.
We no longer have reason to doubt one another.
Can it be that never can two trust fully
or love totally?
I am not going to lie, I struggle with words a lot. Particularly, when I am trying to say something and it is not being understood. I put so much effort into words that it rips my heart apart if the same words are misunderstood. Some people express themselves using their wit, others using art and music, for me, I use words and when I need to explain myself further, I use even more words. Words are a constant tool like charity is to a corrupt politician.
Say, for instance, we are having an argument with my girlfriend. Say I used her private information in a public caption or story and she is furious about it (happens a lot). My idea of solving this whole scenario about using her private words publicly is to sit and use more words to logically work out the whole words situation. I have very high regard for diplomacy. Of course, that will not happen because she prefers to express herself using her silence and my ravenous words will be met by a cold wall. In this poem that I am reading out loud as you are, when the poet says, “We tried to tie our feelings together with words, they didn’t work”, that shit really got me on another level. Okay, where were we?
And the self-seeking.
The efforts to ‘prove points’
and win arguments,
but not to give.
This, far more than fear, erodes understanding,
It eats away the roots of ‘knowing.’
Dear Jesus, the temptations are so present;
The demand to be understood,
to be accepted.
The refusal to understand
You’ve given us the gift of language, Lord.
Help us learn to communicate
It seems so very close to loving.
(Love is All by Joseph and Lois Bird)
Now, because I am a good friend who simply cannot sleep on a compliment, I carried it all the way to my friend and it was cordially received with a wide smile. The kind of smile that is heavy with hidden intent. There is an emoji for this kind of smile. I call is the cannibal smile. It is one that a cannibal would give you while trying to trick you to spend the night at his house in the middle of nowhere since it would be getting dark and cold outside.
A long while back in high school, I had this phase, it was experimental and I had conclusively decided to put a lot of effort on Christian-related activities around the school. I read a lot of the Bible (partly because my Goosebumps and Harry Potter novels had been confiscated by the teachers because I knew nothing in Chemistry, still don’t). I prayed while holding hands with other committed people and walked to fellowship Saturdays to admonish those who went to the entertainment hall to watch profoundly porn infested movies that would make Ezekiel Mutua’s head spin on its axis. I was a Christian on a highway to heaven. Then one day in a fellowship, this preacher pointed at me, (I can’t make this shit up even if I tried), and said, “Njenga, I spoke to God about you and he showed me your future”. He did not even giggle when he said it. That was the line.
See, I bank a lot on surprising people, pulling things out of my ass when least expected. I feel cheated when someone can predict my behaviour and this preacher did not only know me, he had mystical help in figuring what I would do. That was it for me. I left the fellowship and only went to church on Sundays because it was mandatory. The next falling out was September 2015. We had just lost our first born, Karol, and we were chilling at the funeral doing whatever it is people do at funerals. Then, again, a preacher called out the family, that he needed to pray for us so that death would not knock on our door again – his words. Well, that was not the case at that time because Karol’s husband, whom at that time we had all grown very close to, succumbed to a headache from the loss and died. Two weeks later we were at another funeral beside Karol’s grave.
The falling out was fairly permanent after that. In one of the many pages of the Bible, there is something in there about how you cannot ask your father for a loaf of bread and he hands you a rock. So what was the point of trusting a prayer only for the opposite to happen? Even computers understand that they can only return garbage if the input beforehand was also garbage, it has the acronym GIGO, Garbage In, Garbage Out.
I was invited for a fellowship a few days ago. It did not even have the name fellowship, she called it a meeting. A nice calm meeting with casual people to talk about things with a little sprinkle of Christianity.
A relationship with me often turns out to be permanent. I really do not like losing friends and I would avoid it even on the blink of a catastrophe. If I grow to care about someone it often always turns out to be permanent and lifelong. Then, again, friendship is about reliability, being able to count on someone when shit hits the ceiling. Of course, the natural impulse is to go for this meeting, meet people, get stories, potentially make great friends but I am not ready to rekindle a relationship with praying or believing. It is tough out here to place your trust in something you cannot rely on. Not now and possibly, not ever.
But, I really loved the poem…
but we didn’t touch…
…Help us learn to communicate
It seems so very close to loving…
This is just deep on another level. What is love if it is not in the words?
Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri