The Clear-headedness I Desired
A True Story
on Jun 14, 2021
When I joined the 9.30am English service choir of All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi in April 2007, I was immediately hooked to the choir. The choristers were welcoming, they had high standards of discipline and music presentation, and there existed among them a camaraderie that gave me a wonderful sense of belonging. What even made me enjoy being in the choir more were the tea and buns we partook after choir practice on Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons.
Now, the choir had a policy that every new member had to stay on probation for one month before being permitted to robe and sing in the pews during Sunday services. I did stay on probation for about one month and during that period, I looked forward to donning the choir uniform on Sundays and singing in the pews.
Once my one month of probation was over, I was on one Sunday summoned for an interview by a committee of four senior choristers. If my memory serves me well, the choristers began the interview by asking me how I was faring in the choir. I informed them that I was enjoying being part of the choir and then suggested that we be having tea and buns on Sundays after church service, just like we did on Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons after choir practice.
Guess what! One of the interviewing choristers cut me short and told me they were concerned about my spiritual growth. They then proceeded to grill me on spiritual matters. When one of them inquired whether I ever read the Bible, I lied that I did. And when he insisted on knowing which version of the Bible I read, I again lied that I read the King James Version. The truth was, I didn't believe in the Bible back then.
The interviewing choristers discerned I was an unbeliever from the way I appeared. And when they continued grilling me, I became defensive. I asked them what good it would do them if I told them I was saved just to please them and then behaved differently when I was out of the cathedral. Then I beseeched them to allow me to sing with the choir and grow with it. But the choristers would have none of my pleas. They mocked me and one of them suggested I needed a good spanking. Another one, having observed how confused I often was, brazenly told me I had to learn to think clearly.
What the interviewing choristers didn't know was that the confusion they saw in me had nothing to do with my unbelief in the Bible. It was a weakness I had always had since my days at Starehe Boys' Centre, a prestigious institution where I had my high school as well as college education. And telling them I was saved just to please them would not have made me clearheaded.
Yes, I had always been confused since my days at Starehe Boys' Centre. And I tend to think that I was also confused during my primary school years; it was just that Starehians were the only students bright enough to discern the confusion in me and bring it to my attention.
When Starehians began pointing out to me how confused I was back in 2002 while I was in Form 1, I was perturbed by their comments. And when they persisted in doing so, I was in denial that I was confused because I wasn't conscious of that confusion and I was as orderly as other students. I even outperformed in academics some of the clearheaded classmates who commented on my confusion.
But when I was in Form Four in 2005, I began noticing there were days I would feel fuzzy in my thinking. On some days, the fuzziness would get even worse to a point I would feel like there were some rocks in my mind. I remember telling some of my classmates that how well I would do in my KCSE Mathematics papers would depend on how clearheaded I'd be during the exams. So it was kind of true that I was a confused person.
Interestingly, Starehians kept commenting on how mixed up I often was well into my college days at Starehe. I particularly recall the Sunday evening in 2007 when a housemate who was in junior high school remarked to another housemate that Starehians knew me as a confused guy. His remarks stung me deeply, a proof that the Bible is right when it says in the book of Proverbs that thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword.
I tend to think I was as confused on my last day in Starehe as I was on my first day in the school. That's a history of mine that the choristers who interviewed me at All Saints' Cathedral didn't know. After I botched up the choir interview on that miserable Sunday in 2007, I strived to be clear-headed as time went on. I believed in the Bible and in Christ. And there were times I would sit down to meditate on the knowledge I had gained - all in an effort to be clear-headed. From those efforts to attain mental clarity, I learnt that it hurts to struggle to attain something which seems to occur so naturally in others.
With a profound sense of gratitude, I can now say I have attained the clear-headedness I once desired to have. That feels to me like an achievement as great as winning a Nobel Prize. Having known how demoralizing it is to be known as a confused person, I have resolved not rest on my laurels. I will continue endeavoring to know what I know clearly and definitely. And when I die, I would rather have it said of me that I thought clearly than I died rich.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on the clear-headedness I desired, you might also enjoy another one I wrote a few years ago on "Developing Mental Clarity." Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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The Sister I Never Had
A True Story
on Jun 9, 2021
Have you ever had someone who draws out the best in you while others are putting you down? Someone who encourages you to pursue your talents? Someone who speaks up for you when you are too shy to say anything? Someone who wants you to grow into a responsible and mature adult? My friend Ruth Wangire was all that to me.
I first met Ruth Wangire in April 2007 at All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi when I joined the cathedral's 9.30am English service choir of which she was a member as a soprano singer. Back then, I was a shy, naive and self-conscious young man about to matriculate at the university. Shortly after I joined the choir, we were divided us into several fellowship groups. I was put into a group of about ten choir members headed by Ruth Wangire.
As the head of my fellowship group, Ruth Wangire went out of her way to help me overcome my shyness. In an effort to get me talking, she asked me on one Sunday in 2007 to tell other fellowship members which hymn I had liked most during church service. If my memory serves me well, I told them that I had liked the wonderful old hymn "Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken".
During another fellowship group meeting, Ruth Wangire had us read the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis on how he was seduced by the Potiphar's wife into sleeping with her on several occasions but he resisted the temptations. I was smart enough to realize it was me that Ruth Wangire wanted the message of the story to hit home. And the message did hit home in my mind.
Because of my shyness, it took me a long time before I started singing with the choir in the pews. And that bothered Ruth Wangire a lot to a point that she stopped singing with the choir till I was allowed to robe. She was that concerned about me.
When I finally began singing in the pews on Sundays in late December 2007, more than eight months after I joined the choir, Ruth Wangire was happy. She was even happier when I started accompanying the choir on the organ during Sunday services. I fondly remember her referring to me as "the organist" while talking of me to other members of our fellowship group.
Ruth Wangire became such an encouragement to me that she asked other choristers not to be jealous of my music talents. She spoke up for me at a time when I was too shy to speak up for myself; she was the kind of Christian that the Bible exhorts us to be in the book of Proverbs.
Sometime in August 2008 when I went astray at the university, I abruptly stopped attending church at All Saints' Cathedral. I later gathered that some fellow choristers became worried about what may have happened to me since I didn't have a phone they could use to reach me. After I acquired a mobile-phone later on in the year, Ruth Wangire was among the few choristers who phoned me to find out what had transpired to me. I informed her that I had been taken ill, a fact that made her sympathize with me.
About two years later (in September 2010), I tried to resume attending church at All Saints' Cathedral. The first Saturday afternoon in 2010 when I turned up for choir practice in the church, I struck a conversation with Ruth Wangire. I had grown rather plump and had had a badly done haircut. Thinking I wasn't the same attractive young man I had been a few years before, I asked Ruth Wangire how I appeared that Saturday afternoon. To my surprise, she blurted out, "You are looking good!"
A week or two after I resumed attending church at All Saints' Cathedral in September 2010, Ruth Wangire bought me a daily Bible reading guide for the year 2010. And guess what! I only read that book a few weeks ago. Imagine it had been lying idle in my room for more than ten years! Had I read the book back in 2010 and understood it deeply enough, I would have grown into a Christian maturity that would have saved me from the foolish mistakes I have committed in the past one decade, mistakes that have left me reeling with guilt.
Well, I didn't succeed in consistently attending church at All Saints' Cathedral in 2010. Ruth Wangire strived to be the same encouraging person she had always been to me. She phoned me one evening in early 2011 and advised me to attend my local church if I was unable to make it to All Saints' Cathedral. A month or two later, she took me to an upscale restaurant in Nairobi where she listened to my talk about how I admired flawed but great men like Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy. She then counseled me on the way forward.
I developed such a liking for Ruth Wangire that I would sometimes message her as the years rolled by. Probably after realizing I was more of a nuisance to her, she stopped responding to me with the same enthusiasm that had been characteristic of her. And when she ceased replying to some of my text messages, I at one time in 2013 called her a self-absorbed woman using derogatory language unworthy to be uttered by a person who professes to worship God.
Of late, I have been feeling guilty for having called Ruth Wangire a self-absorbed woman. She is actually one of the kindest and most caring ladies I have ever encountered. Having grown up in a family of only brothers, I feel she is the sister I never had. Now that we no longer meet in church or communicate, I hope she forgave me for anything negative I ever said to her. And if she is reading this story, I want to let her know I treasure the memories of our time at All Saints' Cathedral.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on the sister I never had, you might also enjoy another one I wrote last year on "My Caring Friend Mike". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.