Celebrating Love’s ‘Birthday’!

It’s that season again, when everything and everywhere turns red. People, young and old, paint the town and big city the colour of blood and Rose flower. Like light at the Stadium on the World Cup final night, smiles illuminate the faces of cake and chocolate confectioners as their orders increase. Their smiles broaden as they pocket their cash and cheques. Valentine’s Day is here once more and we will be celebrating love again!

Really, why fix one particular day for love like we are celebrating love’s birthday? Do you even know when love was born? Love is meant to reside permanently in our hearts and breathe through our actions, and we don’t have to wait till February 14 every year to now ‘do birthday’ for the ‘thing’. Or do we? Anyways, just like we have ‘Independence day’, ‘Democracy Day’, ‘Boxing Day’, ‘International Day for Youth’, ‘Eid-il-Fitri’, Eid-il-Kabir’, and those many holidays and special days, I believe it just makes some sense to set aside a day to celebrate love and emphasize that word, idea, or concept – you can take a pick!

“Love makes the world go round”, someone would say. But as we celebrate ‘love’s birthday’ this year, we need to ask ourselves, do we truly believe in love? What is your definition of love and how do you show love to those you care for? On Valentine’s night, as much as we may preach many beds and cushions and whatever will rock and feel pain, some will even get damaged, illegally! Many girls are likely to lose their innocence that very night in the name of love, only to wake up the morning after with a deep sense of guilt, regret and hurt that could last a lifetime. A few days, or even weeks, or even months later, the same person you go to despicable lengths to satisfy sexually is most likely to disown you. They would even blame you and call you names later, saying you are not responsible or ‘marriage material’, or ‘pure’.

This year, here’s a call that we all lead responsible lives and always be true to our conscience. Love entails doing unto others only that which you would like that they do to you. If you still have a warped definition/understanding of love, go get it straight. After all, ‘if sex were equal to love, then we could conclude that all prostitutes love their clients!’ This calls for crucial introspection and an advance decision never to seize control of our lives and selves, only to give it to our emotions and sexual organs – only lower animals do that. Let everything you do today, in this season and beyond be in moderation and do not be selfish. Show sincere love and appreciation to those who have made impact in your life in many ways over the years, in a special way. Call them, send a customized text, get them cake and chocolate, beautiful hand-made cards, and any of the wonderful gifts too many for this space. Surprise people who cannot, or are most likely never going to be able to, return your kind gesture and those who hardly deserve your kindness.

Let us all celebrate true love – that which is patient, kind and puts others first. Happy Valentine’s Day to you all and happy birthday to ‘love’! :)

Photo credit: www.ochorioscatering.net

Memories and the New Lands: “We wanna be your King!”


Through the gates we sent relief
Help across the borders we rendered
No strings attached; no strings!
The land we neither entered nor traverse
We hear of the good tidings

They say the land is filled with milk and honey
They say there are many children there
They say it is so sweet on the other side of the gate
Yet, we, labourers and all, do work
And neglect the thought to visit the city
The city we so much care about
Because we thought there were no strings!

Alas, where we thought there were no strings
Intruders had discovered
Our strings they found, and used
60 miles of strings, in fact, it was
The intruders climbed the mountain and crossed the gate
We now hear, that the intruders are now kings
In the land we cared so much for
But never cared to enter and visit
All because we wanted no strings attached
Now, what do we do?

Perhaps, we’ll find another land in need of help
A new desert to irrigate and plant with trees
Where we will walk on the streets
This time with strings attached!
And declare our intentions,
“We wanna be your king!”

(c) Gbenga Awomodu, October 2010

Random Notes on Friendship and other Relationships

Have you ever had friends with whom you thought you would never part? Perhaps you were seat mates in the secondary school for several years and shared many things together, time and resources. Are you still in touch? Friendship is a crucial part of our lives and like the popular saying goes, “No man is an Island.” This is because loners don’t last. They soon disappear.

In I Samuel 18:1-2, we witness the beginning a classical story, one that spans decades. David and Jonathan, the son of King Saul strike a life-long relationship.  It is more like friendship made in heaven. Have you ever had such an experience: someone you never knew from Adam, but you suddenly connect at the moment you set eyes on each other? David has just returned from the battle against the Philistines, where he has just miraculously brought down Goliath, the highly revered giant. This shepherd boy exudes confidence and carries an aura that Jonathan, the king’s son cannot not afford to ignore. They soon become covenant friends. In chapter 19, we see how Jonathan continually endeavours to douse the tension between David and King Saul, who has grown envious of David and now hates him.

The king continues to plot his death, but in Chapter 31, Jonathan and his father breathe their last on the battle field. Several years down the line, in II Samuel 9:13, Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan wines and dines at King David’s table, him physical disability notwithstanding. David remembers the house of Saul and honours the lame one from Lodebar, the only surviving son of Jonathan. He restored Saul’s estate and Mephibosheth was in charge.  This way, David kept his covenant with Jonathan, even in death. (Prov. 17:17; 18:24) Not all friendship stories end up this way. There are very few life-long experiences like the one above.

***

Some people come into our lives at some point in time and naturally transit after they have made their impact. We discover that when we try to force such associations to linger beyond their welcome, frustration sets in and we lose our peace. Also, there are times when God brings us in close contact with some people for specific assignments. It could be as simple as listening to them, praying for them, counselling them or keeping them company. In due season, when they have received enough courage and inner strength to stand alone, we need to be sensitive to know when to allow them grow into independence and stand on their own, helping others as they have been helped. There are times that such friendships blossom into deeper relationships, but we must be careful not to seek to possess such people as our own. We should not use people and take advantage of them. Help them get a life, but do not stifle their growth. No one owes you anything because you have done them any good. God in heaven sees your heart and the motives behind your kind actions. He will reward you accordingly. (Col. 3:23-25)

***

Leaders, especially in the house of God, are entrusted with the lives of people. We look up to them and they help young believers grow. Usually, a leader places a high priority on his/her relationship with his/her followers. S/he prays for them, listens to them, counsels and carries burdens in their hearts for people in their care. Sometimes s/he feels exhausted, other times s/he feels rejuvenated to continue to sow seeds of growth and happiness. In the course of service, s/he is privy to varying details of the lives of different people. The many fellowship meetings and activities help to knit people’s hearts together in unity and they begin to see themselves as blood relations. A family is birthed. But when a leader leaves an office, there is the certainty that not all relationships and connections to everybody remain the same. A few relationships remain and even wax stronger, but others gradually fade due to several reasons that will not be discussed here.

***

Wherever we find ourselves, let us endeavour to make the best of associations. Value people; seek ways in which you can give and not necessarily receive. Always remember the place of God in relationships with people. When people hurt you, forgive and forget. Granted, many times scars from broken trust linger, but God is a master at dealing with scars. He can truly heal your wounds and clear the scars. Always check and ensure your character is intact. When an individual’s character is sound, even when circumstances take us apart from other people for decades, when we meet again we find it convenient to reconnect with them. This is why old time friends reconnect after several years, and in a matter of weeks or months they begin to talk about doing business together. In all our associations with people, we should endeavour to be selfless (not selfish and self-seeking), genuinely interested in people, recognise when to part and give them a break, and never neglect God’s guidance and prodding through the Holy Spirit in us. Above all, we should develop good character, live by it and be trustworthy.

(c) August 2010

LOOKING FOR LOVE?

By Akinwunmi Akowonjo and Gbenga Awomodu

Relationships

Photo Credit: iStockphotos.com

Preach it pastor! Word! Mmmn…” The noise in the auditorium is almost deafening! Dolapo is among the very few who appear unexcited about the whole thing. She has come to this relationship seminar just because her friends forced her. She is just twenty two, but she has been in and out of five relationships in the last three years and she is very dejected. After gaining admission into the university to study Law at eighteen, she felt she was ready to conquer the world! She started on a very bright note and was ready to give the next four years of her stay on campus the best shot because her parents had spent a lot on her Diploma programme. However, she had a clique of friends who wouldn’t let her be. They kept on teasing and pushing her until she finally heeded their advice and started going out with Kunle, a final year Mechanical Engineering student who seemed to have it all – brains, body build, money, car, and everything any student would desire. But it would not last long! She was just not ready for the responsibilities and time-consuming attention the relationship required. He was just too pushy… Like a dream, she soon broke up and ended up with five breaks-up in three years. Now, she’s in her finals and again, she’s desperate to get engaged before going to Law school!’

The storyline above is a very common one. The relationship topic is everywhere right now and, in fact, many people are tired of those relationship talks and seminars! It appears to grab the attention of most young people even more than the salvation message, but a lot of times one wonders why despite the numerous tips, books, and audio-visual materials on this topic, many young people still do not get it right. If people do as much as they hear, we should have less relationship mistakes and casualties.  Many people just attend relationship seminars, marriage talks, and youth/singles retreat only to savour the excitement in the air and have fun. We hardly reminisce and meditate on those vital lessons passed amidst the noise and screams of energized youths. We do not even take a second look at the notes we took or the self-help materials we were given, talk less of putting the lessons learnt into practice!

The purpose of this article is not to tell you again, all those things you have heard over and over again about how to start or improve a relationship. This is not another attempt to tell you five steps or twelve principles of a happy marriage. No! You’ve probably gotten tired of hearing and reading those terms. Take a pause. Let’s approach the issue of relationship from a different perspective. Why hurry out of singlehood? We need to enjoy and explore singlehood and avoid pressure and haste. Many people out there are eager and ready to attach themselves to the nearest love-professing guy or that lady who catches their fancy and most of these people even claim to have the backing of the Holy Spirit since they have “peace” in their heart. The reason why many people are looking for attachments is because they have not come to appreciate the purpose and beauty of the years of singlehood, and they are not even willing to explore this unique period in life. Are we asking you to stay single? Of course not! (We don’t intend to either). But before you attach yourself in a relationship, be sure that you have explored the benefits of singlehood.

Couple

Photo Credit: gettyimages.com

Singlehood is a time for finding purpose. Before two companies merge, each company first finds out its own strengths and weaknesses. There is a detailed analysis of their vision and purpose in business. After serious introspection, each company realizes and clearly states its projection for the future compared to its present state. When such a thorough assessment has been made, it becomes easier for the company to select or properly choose the other company which would effectively complement its strengths and weaknesses, and shares similar values and business ethics, amongst other protocols. This helps in a mighty way to determine the future outlook of the single company that emerges.  Why attach yourself to someone when you have not even discovered your own purpose and assignment in life, let alone what role your partner is supposed to play in helping to fulfil that purpose? While you’re still single, find your purpose and begin to work tirelessly towards achieving it.

Remember the Adam story. Genesis 1: 18 records that the Lord God said it wasn’t good that man should be alone. He would make him a help-meet. Does that strike any chord in your head? While Adam was at work in the Garden, God saw that it would be good he had someone with him. She would be someone who would keep him company while he was at work and help him to achieve more and be more efficient. Scriptures say God made woman and brought her unto the man. Where was the man? He must have been in the Garden, on the field doing his assignment, fulfilling purpose. So, love-seeking folks, please seek thy purpose! Once you know it, it would be easier to know by the Holy Spirit which kind of person to marry, who to marry and where your partner is supposed to fit into that purpose of yours. With a good knowledge of your purpose, you would be able to define the purpose of your relationship and marriage and eventually come up with a vision for your family.

Singlehood is also a time for self-development. It is amazing to find a lady looking for a soul mate when she doesn’t even have a good character that would win and keep the soul mate? Remember Rebecca, how she became Abraham’s daughter-in-law. It can be inferred from the account in Genesis 24 that she was a lady who had taken time out to explore her singlehood to and had built up her character. The servant prayed in verse 14 that the damsel who would be Isaac’s wife would not only offer him water, but also the camels. That is kindness! How many ladies today have that endearing kindness to go the extra mile, out of their comfort zone, to help people? Giving the servant a drink is understandable, but camels! Camels consume a lot of water. An average camel can gulp up to 30 UK gallons (approx. 136 litres) of water in ten minutes! They store up a lot of water for long journeys as they drink. Imagine Rebecca having to fetch and pour water over and again, yet she didn’t complain. Some may say that it was the servant’s prayer that worked. Yes, but Rebecca’s character helped the job. Good character is not expected of the female folk alone. No matter how much of a fine boy you are or may be you are even on a 4.89/5.00 CGPA and have rich parents, no right thinking lady wants a man who can’t genuinely express love, is stingy, hot-tempered, or can’t control his hormones and emotions. Before you attach yourself to that lady and end up taking her through hell on earth, find out which of your habits and character traits will give any lady a hard time and work on them. Some guys are just dirty and unkempt. Some can’t even spend money on themselves let alone someone else and you want to go into a relationship? Sit and think. Everybody wants a guy she can show off to her friends and family and be proud of. Please, make her job easy and work on your lapses.

It is also a time to plan. Some people don’t even know what they want to do after university! Some do not even know whether they would like to study for advanced degrees, get a job or start their own business immediately after school. Others do not even know what career to pursue. Even if you are part of those who blame the government and leaders for the scarcity of job openings, if you fail to plan, others will plan your life for you, and you most likely would not love the outcome!  Planning is a vital part of every man’s life. Explore your singlehood to plan your life, but be flexible about it. Do not plan your life so rigidly and expect that one lady must fit into that plan irrespective of what she had planned too. Please plan your life with the leading of the Holy Spirit as you allow for flexibility to accommodate your partner’s plans too. You will need to effectively balance your individual plans to the benefit of your home. When a lady has spent time to develop herself, not just any kind of guy will come to ask her out. What a lot of people don’t know is that you attract your type of person. If as a lady most of those who ask you out are wayward guys then you may want to re-check and reassess yourself. If you want to attract a sound person, BE SOUND! Let us say at this point that you must be careful not to set unreasonably high standards for you partner just because you have developed yourself. There is a need for balance.

lady

Photo Credit: iStockphotos.com

Relationship is a time-consuming and energy-sapping endeavour. For people who haven’t grown up spiritually, it could be just another disaster. When you are in a relationship, you are spiritually responsible for yourself and your partner. But you wonder what happens to a man who is not even spiritually responsible for himself and wants to carry someone else along. Let me ask this question? Who told Adam that Eve was his wife? Having spent time with God, he didn’t have a problem knowing what God had prepared for him. Spiritual depth is a proper foundation for discovering a common purpose and vision for your relationship. You should be able to discern the purpose for your relationship, marriage and future home.

  

Finally, use your singlehood to build family values. Men who come home unnecessarily late and don’t value their wives didn’t start after marriage. It had always been a part of them, but it just didn’t surface until marriage for full expression. If God is interested in your relationship, then He is interested in the family that results from it. You therefore must learn and imbibe core family values. Learn to value everyone in your home and respect them.  Some guys do not respect their mothers and sisters and they go out there telling a lady that they love her! That’s a lie! You can’t value your wife if you don’t value female members of your present home. Ladies, you are not exempted. Rebecca in Genesis 24 impresses me. You want to know why? Though not expressly stated, Rebecca must have been someone with good family values. The way her brothers treated her and her guest, and the prayers said strike me! Her people who were responding to the love and respect their sister and daughter had shown to them. They must have been thinking, “Her good character and family values have paid off finally!” Her brother and mother even pleaded that she be allowed to stay with them for perhaps ten more days! They were going to miss her big time! She had made lasting impact in their lives. The prayer in Genesis 24: 60 shows that she valued her family and they valued also esteemed her.

  

Are you looking for love? Look within and ask yourself whether you are what any man would go the extra kilometre to have or whether you are the kind of man that your dream lady can’t resist yelling out “YES” to. If you must marry the right person and build the right home, then you must be the right person!

  

This piece was originally published in the 2009 Edition of Campus Mirror, an annual magazine of the Lagos Varsity Christian Union, University of Lagos, Nigeria and has been slightly modified. Akinwunmi Akowonjo is a former President of the LVCU and recently graduated from the University of Lagos.