Remembrance V: Spiritual Anniversary

My favourite lecturer in university was an atheist. No, he wasn’t my favourite because of his atheism, though he did try to influence our young minds in that direction. He taught me Phil 201 – Logic. It was compulsory for first year law students. In teaching us syllogism he would illustrate with stuff like this: “If God exists there will be no evil in the world. Evil exists in the world. Therefore God does not exist.” Of course the first premise is contentious, if not fallacious. Who said God and evil cannot coexist? By what exclusionary law can God and evil not coexist? And why juxtapose God and evil? Shouldn’t the proper juxtaposition be God and Satan, or evil and goodness? And if God represents goodness how come goodness and evil can coexist but God and evil cannot! Nonetheless he was a wonderful lecturer – hardworking, approachable, fair and dedicated. He represented what teaching should be. He critically engaged my teenage mind, made philosophy most interesting. I think I took four philosophy courses that year, though outside of philosophy I also enjoyed sociology and economics. These were powerful foundational knowledge and they would prove very useful to our brand consulting practice. We drew from so many disciplines. The irony though is that I got born again right in the midst of this rational assault on faith. How strange!

I didn’t get born again because I had problems. The false narrative in those days was that you got born again if you had issues. It’s a problem defined paradigm of salvation which Christians themselves perpetuated. Yes, Jesus solves problems but to be honest, it doesn’t really matter what brings you to Christ, just come. The problem paradigm of salvation ignores the depth of the human. I didn’t have a problem. I was not an emotional casualty of some misbegotten impassioned entanglement with a fellow teenager and my grades were great. In fact just about the time I became born again I won my scholarship. It was a competitive scholarship awarded yearly to the 7 best students in the university spread across disciplines. However there was something I was searching for, something I couldn’t quite define. I was looking for God. It was a genuine search for God though virtual.
I did not come from an irreligious background. Generations of my family attended Methodist Church. I was brought up a Methodist. That was my childhood. The liturgy however couldn’t answer to the deep issues in my heart. My childhood friend had tried to interest me in the born again stuff when we were in Kings College. He gave me a Kenneth Hagin title to read. Kenneth Hagin was a well-known faith preacher who understood the mechanics of faith. He’s late now. Died 2003. But I never got past the cover of that book. It had a logo of Kenneth Hagin Ministry. That logo was graphically powerful and that was all I was interested in, that logo. My friend must have been disappointed. I never opened the book!
The last person you want to engage with in an argument about faith in those days was a law student, especially my classmates. These were hierophants in training. One of my classmates was nicknamed Logician. You don’t want to tangle with such. It was therefore difficult to engage the average law student in my set in a rational argument on the need for faith. Faith itself is irrational, or is it? I did have another friend who was born again. Though we were on opposite sides of the salvation divide we were extremely close. Her name was Bukky. We both wore glasses, hers thicker than the base of a beer bottle. As will be expected with students someone’s pair of glasses sometimes broke. When that happened one of us would serve as the eyes, taking notes from the blackboard in those cavernous auditoriums. The blind party simply copied the other’s notebook. This blind Bartimaeus co-dependence made us even closer. There was a third friend though but he was more my friend than Bukky’s. He also had a vision challenge. We were like three blind mice. Because Bukky had atrocious handwriting, even by chicken scrawl standard we sometimes ended up copying rubbish. Our third friend would die in his prime. He had set up his law firm a few years after graduation from law school. He was doing very well. He died in a car accident. But Bukky and I were the primary friends.
Well, it was Bukky’s birthday May 14, 1982. As was expected of a friend I bought a birthday card for her, but I addressed the card in the name of myself and my other friend. I can’t remember how we celebrated that birthday exactly but Bukky being popular in Christian circles got a lot of birthday cards. Bukky went to bed at night and she had a visitor. In one of those hyper realistic dreams that take place in real time God visited her. He showed her all the birthday cards she got and then picked out a particular card – mine! She went into panic mode thinking she had offended God. Perhaps the card was lewd or naughty. But when she examined the card there was nothing suggestive, naughty or vulgar about it. It was a mushy sentimental type, quite a healthy card. God pointed to my name on the card and told Bukky he intended to use me. But then he gave an ominous warning: if anything happened to me before she preached salvation to me he would hold her responsible. Poor girl. She was nineteen or twenty at this time. Understandably she was scared stiff. Well, unknown to Bukky I was looking for God too. Stage set.
Bukky couldn’t share her dream the next day, or the day after the next day. She was probably praying, mulling her approach, summoning up courage. She finally came up to me during a cancelled lecture three days after her birthday. This was about 12 noon. I was with my other friend. She led us down one of the terraced patios of the medical sciences complex to get some privacy. There she narrated the whole story, how God came to her in a dream, and then she waited for response. For me, it was what it was. I didn’t know what this born again stuff was all about but it seemed to be the end of my search for God, somehow. Bukky led us in the “Sinner’s prayer” – the confession of faith, and that was it. No drama, just a simple prayer from the heart. Though I noticed she was visibly happy. Her friend was born again. As we walked back to our hostels I could see a spring in her step. She taught us a song – I’m a new creation, I’m a brand new man. Old things have passed away, I’m born again… The lyrics are taken from 2 Corinthians 5:17. 2 Corinthians 5:17 was my first born again scripture. Before that day I never knew about the scripture, had never seen it.
Well, Bukky was off God’s hook, but implicit in what God said to her was the fact I would have died young. We never think of death when we’re young. It always seems a remote event. Yet death is particularly notorious about going after young people. And he picks randomly. Death always does random. There’s no chronological queue into hades – old people in front, young people behind. Death’s selective algorithm resembles a lottery pick. But whatever happened that day stirred something in me. God became a centrality in my life, not in a religious way (I hate religiosity), but in a real and cool manner. I could relate to him even though I didn’t know enough about him. Bukky had encouraged us to read the Bible and before the next day I had finished reading the two letters of Paul to Timothy. For some reason I thought Timothy wrote those letters. Well, his name was the bold header in the Bible. I got to class the next day and began to tell Bukky about “That Timothy guy!”, how brilliant he was. I was taken in by the construct of the letters, the structure of the arguments, the flow. It was vintage Paul – organic freeform. Paul was a lawyer. It’s understandable therefore that his writing appealed to a law student, especially one steeped in humanities. Paul was cross-disciplinary too.
It’s been a very long journey since that fateful afternoon on campus – the day I struck an intimate friendship with someone I can’t see – God; though you know he’s with you. You can feel him. He’s been extremely supportive of me, been most generous to me, in every respect. He’s generous to a fault. He’s also loyal and understanding, and he’s most accommodating. God!
What I find most intriguing about God, what gets me the most is the sheer quality of his mind. He’s truly, truly brilliant, staggeringly intelligent. What a fecund mind!
If you’ll like to know this God, please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”
© Leke Alder |