I have been pushing myself lately and it’s beginning to tell on my body. Yes, my husband always says, you need to teach yourself to rest, but anybody in the publishing industry in Nigeria would tell you how very stressful and demanding publishing is. So you would understand how irritating it could be when some people say- ‘Is that all you do?’ I am usually sorely tempted to give them a piece of my mind. Coupled with the demanding task of my job; I’m also a wife, mother, coach, entrepreneur and pastor. You cannot imagine the hectic schedule sometimes, but for the grace of God that abounds towards me on a daily basis I would have collapsed beneath the weight of it all.
But I know I am not alone in this, we all encounter people at times whose words or actions could demean our efforts and lives. Or we could have been at the demeaning end- judging other people by the things we see on the outside.
We haven’t been in their shoes or walked their path, so what justifies us to judge and pass comments on them. How can you condemn a young widow who has not been able to come to terms with her husband’s death, when you’ve never been a widow? A woman gets separated from her husband and immediately becomes an outcast. We don’t know the pain she might have had to endure, how she has suffered countless violent attacks from her husband, who to us is sweet and gentle looking.
I was studying a particular scripture recently (Numbers 12) about how God dealt with Miriam because she and Aaron were condemning Moses for marrying a non-Jewish woman. Miriam’s insecurity was evident in her criticism, maybe because her baby brother; Moses who she had helped babysit had suddenly become the most important man in Israel or she was just being a busybody. Whatever her reason, God was angry with the two siblings and struck Miriam with leprosy. Wow, can you imagine how many of us would be struck down with one ailment or the other if God were to still act in this manner?
Condemning or critical responses from others have boxed a lot of people into the “What will they say?” corner, where they suffer unduly because they don’t want to bear the brunt of people’s waging tongues or accusing fingers. People have gone into debt because it must not be heard of that their children did not go for summer vacation or that they flew economy class or that they did not take that expensive aso ebi (fabrics picked for friends or family members for an event), even though they should have used the money to support their husband with the house rent.
All these pale in comparison with the serious ugly wave of people feeling suicidal and some actually committing the act. Do I hear you say how does that concern you? I beg to disagree; we are all guilty of this, especially Christians, of which I am one. A lot of times we come out declaring what wonderful lives we have and leave out the challenges we face. People listen, compare our stories with their lives and begin to feel there must be something terribly wrong with them. Some look at their lives and say “I have misunderstandings with my husband but my pastor CLAIMS HE HAS NEVER FOUGHT with his wife, so there must be something wrong with my marriage,’ they think. Or the fact that you sometimes don’t feel like praying, but you’ve heard that except you pray an hour a day there is something wrong with your Christianity, you begin to feel like a spiritual failure. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating COMPLACENCY or saying that we should not aspire to be perfect like Jesus, but please let’s help deliver people by letting them know that it’s okay to be imperfect while releasing ourselves to the grace of God that will work on our imperfections.
So here goes a few of my imperfections and challenges- I get angry at times then I wish I didn’t; I worry when I should always hand over everything to God, there are times I don’t have a dime in my bag yet I am all dressed up and looking pretty…. My list of imperfections is no way exhausted, but I have learnt to count on God’s grace to daily help me in conforming to the image of Christ. So next time before criticizing someone else, we need to pause long enough to discover our own motives. What is often labeled constructive criticisms may actually be destructive jealousy, since the easiest way many use to raise their status is to bring someone else’s down.
Or when next you feel tempted to look at your life as less than anyone else’s, please remember, it’s ok to be imperfect. One major thing that got me pondering for some time was the added fact that God was listening to the conversation Miriam and Aaron were having. I wonder if you have seen that painting that has written on it- ‘God is the silent listener of every conversation’. And the truth of this statement is clearly evident in this Miriam and Aaron’s story. When next you are tempted to join forces to pull down someone else, please remember, God is listening.