An Unfair Punishment I Once Did
We were having a Chemistry laboratory sessioin one afternoon in 2004 when I was in Form 3 at Starehe Boys' Centre. The teacher tutoring us was a gentle and soft-spoken lady called Mrs. Helen Ngigi. It must have been a hot afternoon because I removed my tie and unbuttoned the collar of my shirt. And when Mrs. Ngigi saw that I wasn't having my tie on, she asked me to go and see Mr. Obudho, the then Starehe Boys' Form Three Senior Master. She asked me to do so in a gentle way, so I didn't take her seriously.
At first, I chickened out by going outside of the laboratory and then coming back without seeing Mr. Obudho. But our gentle Chemistry teacher followed up on the issue by inquiring from me whether I had seen Mr. Obudho. When I told her I hadn't, she sent me again to go and see him. This time I did by going to Mr. Obudho's office which was just next to the laboratory. I knocked on his door and presented myself to him.
After telling Mr. Obudho that I had been referred to him by Mrs. Ngigi for not wearing a tie during a laboratory session, he took down my name and a few other details, then told me to go back. I headed back to the laboratory unworried by what would happen to me for I thought not having a tie during a lab session on a hot afternoon was a minor issue.
But alas! Come Friday evening of that week, I was astonished to see my name in a list on one of the school's main noticeboards - I had been crucified for "working party"!
"Working party" is one of the most severe punishments in Starehe during which culprits are forced to work shirtless for three hours on a Saturday afternoon. I don't think I deserved to be fixed for the punishment for just not wearing a tie during a lab session. There were other minor punishments that I could have been asked to do. To put it simply, my crucifixion for "working party" was a travesty of justice.
I didn't bother to appeal the punishment. And I doubt whether my appeal would have succeeded anyway because the then deputy director in charge of teachers used to think that the likes of Mr. Obudho were adults whose decisions were never to be questioned.
So on the following Saturday afternoon after lunch, I availed myself for the "working party" punishment while carrying a bucket, a broom and a mopping rag as I had been instructed. But I made the mistake of turning up in a T-shirt because as I have said, the punishment is done shirtless. When the captain in charge of the punishment that afternoon saw me wearing a T-shirt, he commanded me to remove it and immediately confiscated it.
After all "working party" culprits of that afternoon turned up, I was sent on my way to the other side of Starehe where laboratories are found and where I was to do my punishment. I felt embarrassed to be seen walking shirtless on my way to the other side of the school. It really was embarrassing.
As I headed towards the laboratories, I met Kenneth Karani - an old boy of Starehe who had left the school a few years before and who knew me very well. Karani was surprised and angry at me to see me do "working party". And he expressed his disgust by speaking to me briefly in a stern voice and walking away from me. How I wish he knew I had been punished unfairly!
During the "working party", I swept, scrubbed and mopped a whole laboratory alone for close to three hours. The prefect supervising me must have been a kind fellow because I don't remember incurring his disapproval over what I was doing. After I did the punishment to his satisfaction, he released me. And then I began another embarrassing journey back to the other side of Starehe. Remember, I was walking shirtless while carrying a bucket, a broom and a mopping rag - the equipment I had used to do the punishment.
And guess what! Just as I was about to cross to the other side of the school, I saw my father coming out of the gate of that side. He had come to visit me and my immediate elder Paddy who was also in Starehe that time. Because I didn't want my father to see me shirtless, I avoided meeting him. He therefore left the school without having seen me that Saturday afternoon.
When I went back to the other side of Starehe where dormitories are found and after dodging my father, I rushed to my house through a road that had few people because I was feeling ashamed to be seen shirtless. And when I reached the room where I was staying, I put down my punishment equipment and wore a shirt. Though I don't recall what I did next, I am sure I must have felt relieved that the whole ordeal was over.
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Growing Our Faith in God
The Bible is full of wonderful promises. It tells us that all shall be well for those of us who are righteous. It tells us to neither worry about the future nor fear sudden disasters. It tells us that God has great plans for our lives and that we believe He will answer our prayers. And it also tells us that God is fighting our battles, arranging things in our favour and making a way even when we don't see a way. Aren't those wonderful promises?
But the problem with most of us Christians is that we go through experiences in life that tend to destroy our faith in God and in His Word. We pray for our plans to materialize only for them to fail. We go through harrowing experiences that make us doubt whether we are worshipping a living God. We hear in the media of good people dying in accidents. We see friends who have less faith in God than us succeed in their endeavours while we are stagnating in our careers. Such kind of experiences and observations diminish our faith in God.
Personally, I know how it feels to believe so deeply in God only for my faith in Him to be shattered by the challenges of everyday living. Like early in the year 2008, I used to pray regularly that I get accepted at four top American colleges where I had applied for admission. I remember one night that time believing so deeply that God would answer my prayers as I gazed on a beautiful starry sky; I reasoned that the same God who made the stars and set them in place would also see me through to America for my undergraduate studies.
But come March and April 2008, I was crestfallen to receive rejection letters from all the four top American colleges. That April afternoon when I learnt I had been rejected by the college whose letter I read last, I felt like sleeping with a woman to relieve the depression that was welling up inside me.
Over the years since then, I have had recurring experiences of feeling so close to God at times and so abandoned by Him at other times. Truly, we are living in a fallen world with challenges that tend to puncture our faith in God. And we, as Christians, have a responsibility to nurture and grow our faith in God during our sojourn in this fallen world that is the Earth. The following are some of the ways I thought on how we can grow our faith in God:
- Reading the Bible regularly: As I have said, the Bible is full of wonderful promises. It's also full of enlightening words of wisdom. I suggest that you get into the habit of reading it regularly and highlight or underline the verses that speak to you. Commit some of the verses to memory and whisper them in your mind when confronted with situations in which they are relevant.
- Reflecting on God's faithfulness in the past: I don't know about you but for me, God has come through for me on numerous occasions in the past. He helped me get admitted at the prestigious Starehe Boys' Centre in 2002. And He kept me from sleeping with a woman that time in 2008 I have told you I got rejected by four top American colleges.. Thinking about all those divine interventions helps strengthen my faith in God.
- Meditating on nature and its wonders: I have come to believe that nature is a living proof that God exists. The blue oceans, the vast heavens, the ordered course of day and night, and the beauty in the changing seasons - surely, aren't these the works of an intelligent being? For me, that intelligent being is God, the Mighty One.
- Listening to hymns: There are many inspirational hymns covering such topics as gratitude, comfort in times of difficulty and the joys of trusting in God. I encourage you to listen to them and memorize the lyrics of the ones that touch you so that you can sing them when showering or commuting to work. They will help grow your faith.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on growing our faith in God, you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometimes back on "Proof That God Exists". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.