Inspired by the Story of Job
A True Story
on Dec 1, 2021
When I was matriculating at the university in JKUAT in May 2007 to pursue a degree in Electronics & Computer Engineering, my Mum was proud of my achievement. She told her closest relatives about it and then requested them to buy me some of the things I would need at JKUAT. Thanks to her efforts, I got sheets and blankets from one uncle. And from another uncle, I received the suitcase I would use to carry my things to JKUAT.
My Dad was equally proud of my admission at JKUAT. In the weeks prior to my reporting at the university, he kept pushing me to have everything ready. He had me apply for the loan that would cater for my living expenses at JKUAT and also ensured I had the class materials that had been listed in my admission letter. And on the day I reported at JKUAT, he came to the university to deliver a document that was missing.
Looking back, I think my parents were proud of my admission at JKUAT not only because I was to pursue one of the toughest and most prestigious degree courses in Kenya but also because it was an opportunity they didn't have themselves. (They both have no university degree.) And they must have thought I was destined for great things in life.
After I reported at JKUAT on that lovely day in May 2007, I went ahead to have a fantastic first year at the university. I used to rise effortlessly before dawn to prepare for classes. And during classes, I would make interesting class contributions that mesmerized some of my classmates. In the evening after classes, I would head to the library to do some private reading. I remember reading on one evening a captivating booklet about Charles Lindbergh, the first aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
Then over the weekends, I would commute to Nairobi City to attend choir practices and church services at All Saints' Cathedral. I came to enjoy being part of the cathedral's 9.30am English service choir so much that I would look forward to weekends just to be with it. Imagine from the time I matriculated at JKUAT in May 2007 till around August 2008, I only missed church service at All Saints' Cathedral only once. I was such a highly motivated young man.
Probably due to my motivation and good looks, a few women at the university and at the cathedral showed an interest in me. One even bought for me a cake to celebrate my graduation with a diploma in Information Technology which I had studied before matriculating at JKUAT. On the evening I ate the cake, she texted me a message asking me to never forget her.
Anyone keenly following my life would have thought I was truly destined for great things but come August 2008 when I was in my second year, I started acting out of character by missing classes at JKUAT without communicating home. I took a cavalier attitude towards my engineering course. When time for exams reached, I left most of my answers blank since I hadn't been studying the classwork for that first semester. And when we broke for a one week holiday, I didn't go home. I slept on the streets of Nairobi like a homeless vagabond.
Because I didn't head home to be with my parents for that one week holiday in August 2008, I had no fees to pay when we reconvened at the university for a second semester. That meant I couldn't book a room to board at one of JKUAT's hostels. With no room to stay, I slept in such strange places as toilets and playing fields. My weird behavior worried the people who knew me, more-so my family. They started inquiring what I was up to. And when they finally caught up with me, they forcefully took me to hospital where I was diagnosed with a mental illness.
After I was discharged from JKUAT hospital in early November 2008, during that time when everybody's attention was fixed on Barack Obama's presidential race in the U.S. elections, I came out a completely different person. I had grown plump which lowered my self-esteem. And I found it hard to get out of bed in the morning; on some days, I would stay in between the sheets till as late as 1.00pm. Worst of all, I lost interest in such hobbies of mine as reading and attending church at All Saints' Cathedral.
A year later, my situation went downhill when I began suffering from bouts of guilt and insecurity. Sometimes I would feel so guilty that I would stay at home to avoid meeting people. And when circumstances forced me to venture out, I would sometimes have an uncomfortable feeling that people were talking about me. Owing to my changed nature, the women who had shown an interest in me disappeared from my life like mist under a rising sun.
Over the past five years, I have striven to repossess the motivation I had before I went astray at JKUAT in August 2008. I can now proudly report that my efforts are bearing fruits given how I have lost weight and regained my youthful swagger. And for the past six months or so, I have been consistently getting out of bed before 6.50am. Even though my ideal waking up time is 5.15am, I can say rising before 6.50am consistently has been a remarkable improvement.
As I endeavor to regain my motivation, I am drawing inspiration from the story of Job in the Bible. You see, Job was a very blessed man. That's until he went through a nine-month period when everything that could go wrong did. He lost his business, his health and his family. But after that harrowing period, he came out with twice the blessings he had before. He had twice the livestock, twice the joy, twice the peace and twice the victory.
Like Job, I am now feeling that I am coming out better than I was before I went astray at JKUAT in August 2008. I am coming out wiser and more peaceful. If I keep on that trajectory, and I am believing that with God's help I will, I foresee myself becoming a successful writer and musician, thus making my parents proud of me, now that I didn't finish my engineering degree at JKUAT.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on how I am drawing inspiration from the story of Job, you might also enjoy another one I wrote a few years ago on "Celebrating JKUAT: Kenya's MIT". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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Wisdom From St. Paul
A True Story
on Nov 26, 2021
The story of St. Paul is as fascinating as it is inspiring. A man of book learning, he was one of the leading persecutors of Christians when the Christian church was at its infancy two thousand years ago. He participated in the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian faith.
Paul's life took a dramatic turn one day as he was travelling to Damascus, an old city in the Middle East. That day, a strong light from heaven shone on Paul and made him blind. It turned out that the person who shone the light on him was none other than Jesus Christ whose followers he had been persecuting.
For three days after Jesus shone a strong light on him, Paul was blind. And when he was finally able to see upon being laid hands on by a disciple of Jesus, his spiritual eyes were also opened. He began to see sense in the gospel of Christ. And you know what? He ended up becoming one of history's most tireless preachers of the gospel of Christ.
As a converted believer of Christ, St. Paul travelled throughout the Roman Empire and ancient Greece to preach the good news of the gospel of Christ. He preached with unmatched zeal and conviction. Not even the setbacks he faced could diminish his zeal. In fact, the trials he went through only served to strengthen his faith in Christ.
Besides preaching the gospel by word of mouth, St. Paul also penned letters to the Christians he was mentoring as well as to the regions and churches he was proclaiming the gospel. The letters now comprise almost half of the New Testament Bible. In their clarity of expression and depth of wisdom, they have few equals in literature and no superior.
St. Paul, in those letters of his, advised Christians to love one another just as Christ loved the church. Describing love as the greatest virtue, he opined that love is not proud, envious or boastful. Neither is it rude, self-seeking or easily angered. Instead, love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always peserveres.
He also advised Christians to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Instead, he urged them to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave them.
Understanding the importance and dignity of labour, St. Paul exhorted Christians to refrain from stealing and instead engage in meaningful work so that they can provide for their families and not be dependent on anyone. He also exhorted them to mind their own business.
St. Paul also advised Christians to be joyful in hope, patient in tribulation and faithful in prayer. And when praying, he cajoled them to have faith in God and believe that He exists. He beseeched them to walk by faith, and not by sight.
Furthermore, St. Paul advised Christians to practise gratitude. Again and again, he implored them to be thankful always and in every circumstance, for that was the will of God for them in Christ Jesus. He urged them not to worry about anything but instead pray about everything with a grateful heart. By so doing, they would experience the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.
Aware of the ups and downs of life, St. Paul advised Christians to drink a little alcohol for the sake of their stomachs and frequent illnesses. But he cautioned them against engaging in debauchery and drunken orgies which lead to sin. (Last weekend, I read in the "Nation" newspaper that recent research had shown an occasional glass of wine is good for health; it is excessive alcohol consumption that is harmful. St. Paul knew all that two thousand years ago.)
There is so much that we can glean from the letters of St. Paul than I can narrate here. Knowledge such as how we should raise our families, how women should dress, how rich people should conduct themselves, the kind of company we should keep and the kind of thoughts we should entertain in our minds. Lots of good stuff, I dare say.
Truly, St. Paul was a great apostle who left an enduring legacy with his writings. That's why St. John Chrysostom, writing in the 4th century, extolled St. Paul this way:
He who was constantly concerned for the whole world, for its nations and its cities, but also individually for each and every one, with what can he be compared?... Put the whole world on one side of the scale and you will see that the soul of Paul outweighs it... And if the world is not worthy of him, who then is worthy? The heavens? Before him, even they are small...As great as St. Paul was, he confessed in his lifetime that he had a thorn in the flesh that kept him from being effective in his work as an evangelist. He didn't disclose what that thorn in the flesh was; I tend to think it was either sexual desires or feelings of insecurity. But he was eventually thankful for that thorn in the flesh because it made him dependent on God and kept him from becoming conceited. Long live the spirit of St. Paul!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on wisdom from St. Paul, you might also enjoy another one I wrote last year on "Wisdom From a Departed Friend". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.