Some days I’m in the city. Other days I’m on the outskirts of the city. This day, I was on the outskirts of the city preparing to head into its inner parts.
The sun, under which I had walked for a few minutes to the vehicle park, was unusually intense. But I was fine under it.
Usually, I love to find a bus half or almost filled when I arrive at a park. This lends me the belief that I wouldn’t have to wait too long for the journey to begin. I was thus glad to find a half-filled bus waiting, and didn’t mind so much that for some minutes I couldn’t board it.
A teenager, about 14, stood at its entrance. He sold sachet water to the occupants of the bus. I am sure he would have moved for me to board the bus if he had seen me, but he didn’t – I stood behind him – and as a result kept at his business. I was patient; felt I had nothing to lose in waiting for him to be through.
Soon, a kind passenger who noticed how I had quietly waited spoke “kuro lona, eyan fe wole.” Move, someone wants to come in. And in those few seconds during which she spoke, I had shifted my line of sight to the face of the boy, immediately recognized him, stretched out my hand to hold his arm that was closest to me. And just as I about held his arm, he had turned and looked at me, smiled and offered greetings which I responded to in kind fashion.
He was someone I knew from church. He was often quiet; I don’t remember hearing him speak, except once when I requested for his name. “Segun” he’d gently offered. That evening, I’d expressed my concern about how late he’d turned up for church. We’d smiled through the conversation and he’d accepted lateness wasn’t such a good thing – I am not sure he changed after that day.
But in that moment, when I held his arm, I hoped he could hear the words I was offering without speech. I needed him assured, unashamed about what he was doing. I wanted him to somewhat hear me say the words “It’s fine. There’s no need to feel bad or ashamed about what you’re doing.”
He’d smiled innocently, a bit shyly, stepped away from the vehicle having responded to the request of those who needed water and moved elsewhere.
But I didn’t immediately stop thinking about him – it’s been more than 27 hours now that I am writing this still thinking of the brief event and how I was affected by it. I left the park thinking that’s just one out of the many youths we sometimes have opportunity of speaking to in church or elsewhere. They come around, sleep off when they aren’t getting the sermon or the sermon isn’t getting them. Their instructors may sometimes scold them for being lukewarm, cold and uncommitted. They often don’t seem to be doing so well at school. And we have no idea the things they go through, just like no one has no idea the things we personally go through.
Maybe your parents provide enough to keep you from hawking on the streets, and you don’t fail at school, but the hurt you face is more: you fall sick all too easily; you are susceptible to being depressed; you are a victim of a broken home; you’ve been abused as a child or an adult; you, as a child, lost one or both parents to the chilly hands of death; self-doubt has such a hold on you; you’ve been a victim of awful addictions; or you simply hate your life and feel no one cares; I need you to know YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are others, innumerable, who bear weighty burdens, just like you.
But I know someone – Someone Who loves the broken and flawed, Who lifts weights off our shoulders and burdens off our backs, or at least gives us strength to bear them. He offers comfort, He offers rest, He offers joy, that makes the pain fade.
I know Jesus.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls]” He says.
He knew before you were born, He knew you before the burdens came; He knew you before now and has made necessary preparation for your comfort. He longs to give you rest. Will you receive His rest?
And for as many who have the privilege to lead a group, a gathering, a fellowship, know this, there are people who break, who suffer, who fight, cry and smile all at the same time. Offer them comfort, offer them life. Preach, teach, rebuke, correct, and if by some means, for some reason, you break someone more than they are already broken, please ensure the extra brokenness you offer is only the first step towards moulding, towards comfort.
Again, offer people life. Love them back to life.
Jesus is life, not death, not prejudice, not bad news, not a Christian religion thing.
So let your speech, attitude, actions and reactions be graced, seasoned, such that they bring grace to anyone who hears or is affected by them.
Words break. They also heal. Use them wisely.
I do not speak this as someone who knows more; I only speak to you as I speak to me. I pray for you as I pray for me: may we ever find the life and comfort that God gives in Christ.