I’ve always thought I know who I am, and I do to some extent. But I’ve also put myself in situations I’d rather not be in, and in such moments, doubt sips in and I almost cannot recognize my reflection in the mirror. My mum says she named me after a Pastor she used to watch while pregnant with me. I’m lucky the Pastor’s name wasn’t Hugh, kids would’ve mispronounced or taunted me to death. She has always been big on religion, and so when she had me, I was slowly assimilated into the doctrine, like most of us were. The thought of someone watching over me from the clouds was both fascinating and fairytale-ish, but it also instilled a certain degree of fear within me. So for a generous part of my life, I did everything I could to stay in God’s good books.
Then I grew a little older, and my growth, mental especially, got me in a space where I could question some of the things that didn’t really add up. But I couldn’t voice my doubts, not yet at least. I just carried this burden that was now becoming heavy everywhere I went. Every ‘good’ Christian I knew had had God speak to them at some point. And how they explained their encounter with this God had me feeling that I probably just hadn’t prayed enough to have him speak to me too. I was in high school at this time, and looking back, that’s probably the time He should’ve had that chat with me. But I still wanted to believe that I was the one not doing enough. That I hadn’t fasted as long as I should’ve, that my sinful nature was the reason I couldn’t experience this God the same way my brethren did. So I gave up trying. I thought, if this God really wanted me to experience Him the way others have, He could’ve done it by now, but He hasn’t. Eventually, I took that personally and abandoned my quest of attaining this elusive level of spirituality.
So I stopped praying, I stopped reading the Bible and I stopped searching for the Old Man that supposedly knew me before I was born. And for a while, my life eased out. I no longer felt watched, and to a 17-year-old who has lived all his life believing God policed him everywhere he went, that was more than I bargained for. For once, I began doing as I pleased, not what God wanted me to do. And a small part of me was surprised and equally thrilled to find out that I can do whatever the hell I wanted and no lightning will strike me down. And it’s not that I committed capital offences, I was already too good to hurt a fly, but my commitment and relationship to the ‘Divine’ wasn’t what it had been, and my newly found freedom pushed me out to the world. My mother on the other hand thought Satan had eventually caught up with her son. She said that I was ordained to serve God in the church and that my rebellious path would eventually lead me back to God again (by rebellious she meant my new hairstyle and the secular songs I listened to).
This was my ‘religion is the opium of the masses’ phase. I was convinced that a lot of people, and Africans specifically, only turned to religion because they had no better option, and to a certain extent, I was right.
But again, I never really filled the void that the God I was serving had left inside me. I was free to do as I pleased, but with time, I realized that whatever I thought I was choosing out of my own free will became my new prison. And it didn’t help that I woke up the next day still feeling hollow and without any concrete sense of meaning. By this time, I was at The University of Nairobi, living life as I should and enjoying every bit of it. But there was always that still voice within me that kept reminding me that this isn’t it. That there was more to life and experiences than stimulating pleasure points in my brain. But again, what was it? What was this thing that would mean more to me than fun or religion? But before I could get an answer, I graduated… then COVID struck and we all locked ourselves down.
It is during this pandemic that I met God for the first time. And it was merely an accident than anything else. You see, all my life, I hadn’t really spent time alone. I thought I knew myself until I began living alone. It felt like I was a book that I should’ve read ages ago but had not. Certain things in my life that I didn’t know I was unconsciously burying brought themselves forth. I had all the time in the world to contend with myself and my feelings of inadequacy. Such moments felt like I had been on a journey all my life and that I had just realized that I didn’t know where I was going.
Then somehow, one day, I realized that the most alive I’ve ever felt was when I was creating something. I’ve always had a knack for stories, like all humans do, surprisingly. Just that we all tell our stories differently; some tell through their music, others pour their soul into innovation, some give themselves a voice through fashion … I couldn’t name them all even if I wanted to. And so it hit me, isn’t your God that which gives you purpose on this floating, giant rock we’re on? Isn’t God that still voice within you that says, ‘take this path, you don’t know where it goes, but I do…’ That experience was so profound, I doubt I’ve felt anything that deeply before. And just like that, my perspective changed. It’s what Christians may refer to as being born again. And again, isn’t the devil the other voice in your head that crushes your spirit from the inside. The voice that convinces you that you’re better off chasing anything else other than that which lights your soul on fire.
For me, I was sure I’d never be a writer. Not because I was terrible at it, but because it called me to it like a moth to a lamp. And that scared me to bits, partly because I saw no promising future as a writer, but also because writing meant that I thought I had something to tell people. And it didn’t help that I’ve always been the quiet one in any setting I have ever found myself in. I felt what Moses felt when he was given the task to address a whole Pharaoh yet he stammered. But if you’re reading this, it means I’m doing the one thing that made my stomach curl from the inside, the one thing I least expected to do. So here we are, and I can attest that our biggest victories lie beyond that which we fear the most.
So if there’s anything in your life that’s announcing itself to you as in need of your attention or effort, do it. Try and give it all you can, because work is a form of worship in itself. You don’t have to pray for hours on end to be close to God. God reveals himself to you when you allow yourself to chase what your spirit wants. And I’m not referring to the God of Christians or any religion for that matter, I’m talking about the eternal, expansive force that brought everything into existence, including our consciousness. And it is funny how no one else will judge you harsher than you will judge yourself if you made the wrong decision at that fork in the road. So collect yourself and be wary of the voices in your head, for at the end of these two roads, Heaven and Hell awaits.
And in case you’re wondering where all this came from, I’m getting a year older this Sunday, so pardon my mid-life crisis please, haha.