I am an experienced Social Media practitioner with a strong passion for connecting with customers of brands. As part of a team, I presently work on the social media account of a leading European auto company. On this job, I have brought my vast experiences in journalism, marketing, search engine optimisation and branding to play.
By Morakinyo Babajide-Alabi
As the clock turned on midnight of December 2016 and we moved to a brand new year 2017, I had a flashback of my past new year celebrations. We all look forward to the New Year’s Eve every year.
As it is traditional, this year, I, like most other people, were in church to take “delivery” of the new year. Some of us joined the services at about five minutes to midnight. Because we must not be anywhere else when the shouts of Happy New Year went out.
When it was a few minutes to midnight some of us downed the last beer in our glasses, flicked the cigarette butts away, adjusted our shirts. While for some it was a hurried scramble for their underwear, trousers or skirts. They must be properly dressed after the “quickie” they just had with their mistresses or “undercover” boyfriends. That was “one” for the year about to end.
While in the churches, the few ardent worshippers had been in attendance since 7pm singing, dancing and praying. They were lost in their celebrations as the seats next to them were all empty. They could shout freely, throw themselves around and not step on any toes.
The clock went tick tock and the hours rolled on each other. Suddenly, the pubs became empty and the churches that were scantily populated now had no more seats to accommodate worshippers. There was pandemonium, as everybody wanted to be inside the church before the long hand of the clock touched the twelve.
This is the scenario every year. Only few people are willing to shout Happy New Year in the pubs or on a mistress bed. We must be in the sacred of places – the church. The aroma in the church changed, as the smell of alcohol, cigarette, weed, sex, sperm etc mix together and “dance around”. In the commotion, people are judging each other. The self righteous are identifying the worshippers who only make church once in a year.
Who cares, as the brother who is heavily “stoned” sat there seemingly confused and wondering if he would not have done better lying on his bed. The half “spliff” still in his breast pocket, the smell of which was very tempting to him.
And as the clock did its customary thing, with excitements worshippers moved about the church chanting “Happy New Year”. They danced, hugged, high-fived people – the ones they knew and even total strangers. They hugged their friends and enemies alike and screamed Happy New Year in their faces. They had to do this, because they have been conditioned to reason that to get the blessings of the new year, you have to start on a fresh slate.
Spare me a minute to pray to God, to forgive the readers who will judge me for writing this, as if it is not what we do every year. Forgive them Lord for some are going to question my Christianity after reading this. Some of them will make remarks such as “but that brother is always in church, what came over him?”. Yes, father forgive them all for they know not what they are talking about.
A few days ago I had a chance meeting with a “brother” who seemed disillusioned and disappointed in what he called the annual ritual. His story is heart touching. He is an ardent church goer. Not the type that strolls in on New Year’s Eve. He is always present at all services, whether midweek or Night vigils. He is religious.
Although he lives in the United Kingdom, where it is easy to find excuses to be absent from church, he attends religiously and even sings in the choir. No matter the weather – rain, snow, sun, hale etc, he must occupy his exalted seat on Sundays. Everybody in the church knows him.
This brother, an immigrant, with limited leave to remain, had some experiences sometimes ago that had made him question a few things. Suffice to say that he attends one of the “black churches” in the UK. These churches are tagged “black” not because they perform black magic in there, but the fact that 98 percent of their members are blacks. The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), The Winners Chapel and all Nigerian-exported churches fall under this description. Some of them have been accused of not making adequate efforts to integrate into the host society.
He told me he had some worries about religion and his personal development to which he discussed with fellow church members. Unfortunately for him, he is tagged as faithless or an impatient Christian. He asked me “Why is it that despite my ‘religiousity’ I am still an average person?”
To be honest, I was not the right person to be asked this question. I am an average Christian who strive to be a better man by the day. I am therefore limited by the answers I would give to this brother. I looked up and down, scratched my head, shifted on the seat, cleared my throat, but nothing came forth.
Sensing the awkwardness, he continued: “Many times I have been tutored it takes a lot of patience and faith to “eat” the fruits of Christianity, as if I do not know”.
He looked me straight in the eye (once again) and said “Sir, how can I survive this year again?” I did not really understand this question, but I have to pretend I did, so he won’t be disappointed.
I found my voice and I said “May be I should use myself as example to illustrate this. At the start of every year, I like other human beings look forward to pleasant and enjoyable days, weeks and months ahead. My energy level at the start of every year is usually at the topmost. I confront the years with renewed energy that I cannot explain the source of.” He was all ears, so I needed to sustain this or else.
“With this energy surging and almost bursting, I make New Year resolutions and plans on how to tackle the year. Because the bible admonishes me that I should set my desires (Psalm 37:4) so high and let my expectations be high as well, the plans that I draw up for the year are usually lofty.
“Also because the Lord said in Jeremiah 29:11, I draw mine to fit in to God’s plans for me. And coincidentally, in the first few weeks of every year in the churches, this bible verse is used more than any other. To key in to this, I also pray myself to coma, while claiming the benefits of God’s plans”.
The brother looked at me and shook his head. I was not sure if that was in agreement or disagreement. He said, he does basically same thing I just said. These have not brought any happiness or joy, according to him.
His words: “Year in and year out I have discovered that these principles, even the ones preached by my Pastor have not worked for me. How do you explain that every new year, I went on my knees and prayed out the debts, the bills, the taxes etc. I decreed and commanded all of them to get out of my life, by the end of the first week of a new year, I am “swimming” in demand letters and bills unpaid”.
In my mind I added the all important Christmas debts that we all incur to fit in with the Joneses. And to think of the many bills that would get passed to Debt Recovery Companies this January alone.
My mind was blank on what to tell this Christian brother. I cannot advise him that this is the reality of life as different from what is preached in the church. How will he look at me, if I tell him this? How will he rate me if I tell him that sometimes faith may not be practical? Because of his belief, he expects his faith to write off his debts, bills and even speak for him in the Home Office when he submits his papers for visa extension, even without an employer.
Do I go the route of “God is working something out”? He must have heard this many times. This is usually the line we hear when we are weary and fed up and we seek pastoral advise. Sometimes, I wonder if this is not a kind of dismissive way to tell Christians to work out faith. It still do not get us out of debts.
Now am lost in my own thoughts. How many times have I as a person prayed and prayed about a particular situation, day in day out, months and years and the “mountain” has refused to yield? How many times have we started a year with all expectations and by the end of the second month, you wonder why the new year was coming out exactly like the year before?
With this brother’s case, which I and many can relate to, we cannot question God. No. He is the all-knowing God, the One who knows the end from the beginning. And you wonder, He knows the end from the beginning, so He knows who will be successful and who would not. Even whilst praying to Him.
Now am lost. I need to change tactics for this brother. I asked “do you pay your tithes and make enough offerings?”
He knew I was as confused as hell. He smiled at me and said “Yes, I do. Now tell me why am I still stagnated? What has happened to my prayers, my offerings, tithes, service to God? I wondered if He has forgotten me, as the reality on ground do not reflect that He has plans for me.”
At this point, he startled me by a guttural laughter, thrusted his hand forward for a shake and wished me Happy New Year. In a jiffy he was gone.
I stood on the spot, as I watched him walk away. I almost kicked myself when I realised I didn’t ask him if he was born again. But he is the lead choir member, I said to myself.
A voice in my head asked “so what?”