Last month I began to share the story of my Christian Walk. Thank you for joining me for part 2. In part 1, I explained how the unintellectual approach to the personage of God didn’t quite prepare me for life. I also pointed out a few lessons I learned from my early introductions to Christianity. You may read it here.
In my childhood, my parents were quite spiritual and scriptural. Folk tale has it that they belonged to and infact met at the Scripture Union. This is the era when you needed the approval of the fellowship pastors or a marriage committee before you could approach or start “talking to” a sister you’ve “received.” What then happens if the fellowship pastor (usually a contemporary) or a member of the committee is interested in the same sister? Your relationship is doomed even before it starts. But I digress. Adherents of this organization were typically called SU. You would think that SU is the acronym of Scripture Union but it really isn’t. It’s more like the prefix of suegbe na kpako. If you know what I mean. Suegbe is a term used to refer to fanatical Christians and people who are considered to be unenlightened. SU is not such a glamorous tag and it’s even considered derogatory in some quarters till today. So my teenage self wanted nothing to do with the ‘SU’ appellation.
The Scripture Union and many other denominations at that time were quite strict about women not wearing; trousers (pants), any make-up and complete head covering in church. Notice how these restrictions only pertained to women? But that’s a whole nother post. So I grew up to accept these traditional tenets as being a core part of the Christian faith. I remember the first time my sister returned from college looking all made-up and dainty. Two things happened; 1) I could not see the beauty in the embellishments because I wasn’t familiar with it. 2) I laughed because I knew she was going to hear it from mum. And hear it she did. Haha
Now, a part of me understands the attempt at asceticism and the need to be different and stand out. I am also not blind to the fact that the world seems to accept every form of enthusiasm except the spiritual. You can be as crazy as you like about #SuperBowl50, #ClimateChange, NBA Finals and the #WorldSeries. You can obsess over some musical group or a Football player. You can fall into formation with queen Bey and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. You can be infatuated with money, drugs or even sex. And in each case you are considered sane and normal. Even worthy of praise. But bring the same enthusiasm into your moral convictions, and you’re told you’re beside yourself and intolerant. You bring the same fervor to your faith – then immediately it is suspect. A grand and glorious abandon to your dedication to the Lord Jesus Christ seems to be out of style, else you’re thought of by many of your neighbors and friends to be mad or to have “gone too far” in religion. I get it. But care must be taken so that we do not become preoccupied with inanities as a channel to spirituality.
In the midst of this tradition and piety, I could also sense the wretchedness, mediocrity and ugliness. As a child, I had already developed a curious mind and a desire to not fit in. The oft repeated justification for this religiousness is Romans 12:2a “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind… ” You know it’s amazing how we sometimes seek “deep and extended interpretations” of scriptures and end up entangled in a cobweb of confusion in the process. This passage is really not about choosing skirts over trousers, au naturale versus make-up or scarves. It is about the transformation that comes when we choose to be different in the way we think and in the way we see the world. It is about the need to be counter-cultural not in our dressing but in our minds. Much in the same way as Joshua was instructed. Culture is not attire, music and delicacies. Culture resides in the mind. Skirts, pants and trousers are only cultural symbolisms.
I must admit however, that I wasn’t quite equipped with knowledge to sort these things out at the time, but there was an unrest in me. I could not countenance the poverty, ugliness and tastelessness that was prevalent in our churches and environment. As to the issue of “women wearing pants,” I struggled with this for quite a while up until my college years…Deut. 22:5 is usually the quoted verse, it says: “Women must not wear men’s clothes, and men must not wear women’s clothes. Everyone who does such things is detestable to the Lord your God.” The stilted treatment of this verse assumes that pants are men’s clothes. But that’s a fallacy of irrelevant grounds that doesn’t take into consideration cultural variations. In Indonesia and some cultures in Nigeria, men tie wrappers. And some parts of Nigeria consider wrappers to be women’s clothes. Men wear kilts in Scotland – kilts are essentially skirts. And those things look good on them, especially when they show off some nice calves. That’s a joke. What I’m saying is this – what constitutes men’s clothes and women’s clothes is largely dependent on ancient relativism, place and culture. And since God does not like confusion, he probably didn’t intend to cause confusion when he gave the commandment. Therefore this passage cannot be the basis upon which we choose who wears what, period. And when we lack scriptural basis for a doctrinal stand what we have is narrow-mindedness or ignorance or both.
Here are a few lessons I learnt from my experiences in this time period:
1) Don’t base your faith in God off the actions or inactions of Christians. We are to learn about God and his workings from the direct impartation of the Holy Spirit and not through testimonials.
2) Your DNA (and extent of self awareness) will ultimately influence your Christianity. I was cool, curious and inclined towards intelligence, so I am drawn to these aspects of God.
3) Your local church and the people of God define our concept of God. These days, God will not appear to you in physical form. His people showcase him. May you be fortunate enough to meet the right people.
If you have not started your own Christian Walk, now is a good time to start. Please say this prayer with me: Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus Christ died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my personal Lord and Savior. Amen.
In part three, I will share about how I found grace and how I fell in love with God’s word.
Lest I forget, Happy Valentine’s Day to Le Boo!
PS: I spent considerable time writing this, time I should have used in crafting a proper love letter to Le’ Boo.