As the year 2007 rolled up like a stale and overused scroll, I wondered if I'd be able to still have some days away from Abuja for a personal retreat. So many important things had clamoured for and taken my time that I scarcely enjoyed the Christmas holidays in quietness as I had planned. Then came the afternoon of 31st of December 2007, while I was busy reading a writers' course module on how to write a novel (one of the genre of creative writing that I want to explore in 2008), a friend's wife puts a call through from the city of Jos and asks, 'Felix, are we still expecting you today? ...Please don't come into Jos late'. Without much of a defence left, I answered in the affirmative. The call jolted me as I had almost shelved the idea of visiting Jos despite repeatedly promising my friend and his wife, to no avail. This was one last opportunity for me to prove that my word is my bond, so I quickly stuffed a few clothes and books into my little bag and headed straight for the park and we arrived Jos at twilight. I have always enjoyed listening to his wisdom and deep insights on a lot of spiritual issues, and our discussions always has an intellectual tilt. So coming to Jos itself was as refreshing a trip that one can take at the end of the year.
We read portions of the Bible that served as the backdrop for the end of the year prayers which we had corporately with his wife and another couple that visited from Minna. Just before the firecrackers lit up the Jos skyline, we prayed together, thus ushering ourselves into the New Year. My friend, Musa and I talked into the wee hours till about 3am before I reluctantly released him to join his wife and little daughter. But before I retired into the guest room, he selected 6 books from his study for me to read through before my departure in 2 days time. They were books that dealt with the prevalent ideology in our post-modernist generation, and how the Christian should confront such worldview that has negatively influenced our world, and eroded the sense or morality and values. He also gave me books that explored the warped and reductionist concept our generation have of God which has made Christianity so shallow and almost irrelevant to the social and spiritual realities of modern living. Though not an ordained pastor, my friend ; a Family Health consultant physician and the MD of one of the largest missionary hospitals in Nigeria, has grown to live a balanced Christian life that incorporates personal witnessing and discipleship. I have always treasured every moment I spend with him either in Jos, or when he visits Abuja on official trips.
For the whole of January 2nd, I was indoors reading one of his books titled "LISTENING TO GOD" by Charles Stanley. Though I have read a couple of books on contemplative prayer and the practice of God's presence in the past, this book forced me to think deeply and meditate on the importance of not running off with my own plans, or crafting my own lofty agenda and asking God for his stamp of approval. I had come to Jos to sit quietly, reflect and think deeply about the plans and goals to pursue in 2008, but after a long period of reflection, I decided to let go of 'my dreams' and sit still in God's presence. No longer did I set out things I must accomplish; I just sat still in the room thinking about the profound insights that I have read about God...with birds punctuating
the silence with their lovely chirps as they visited flowers in the compound!
At sunset, I decided to take a walk along Joseph Gomwalk Road, while the cold harmattan breeze gently blew. Earlier in the day, I had read through Times Magazine's interview of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin who was named the Times Man of the Year for 2007.Incidentally, Putin has been someone I secretly admired for his strength of character though he lacked the charisma that politicians are known for. My thoughts were however not on Putin despite my respect for him but on God and how I can make an impact in my lifetime and beyond. I thought about Jesus Christ, his disciples and the impact they have made on my life and countless others, yet they lived centuries ago. No sooner, I began to 'hear' from the deepest part of me, words that hit me like a thunderbolt which resounded throughout my whole being:
"The future is meant for men of steel and character. The future waits for those who ignore their fears and go against the tide of popular opinion and thinking. They don't just make history, but history makes them for having left their footprints on the shores of time. They are not afraid to stand for something and are willing to give up their lives for a noble cause. Those who don't stand for something will always fall for anything. They subscribe to a higher value system that doesn't vacillate or change at will.Those who stand courageously for something are never blown away by the wind of popular opinion. They immortalise their name by living in the hearts of men they had impacted or changed their lives...!"
I walked on as these thoughts wafted through my consciousness but was oblivious of the cars and bikes that fleeted past as it really is a busy road. Then I wondered and asked myself, what I really wanted to be and how I wanted to be remembered when I am long gone and my bodily remains interred in a tomb. I wasn't afraid of thinking about death and what happens thereafter. I looked inwards and realized that my greatest dream is not to build a financial empire like a Bill Gates or a Richard Branson. I realised that I was not too keen on being one of Moscow's 20 billionaires much as I desire to be rich and prosperous. I realized my greatest desire as a writer is not to compete with Mrs. J.K Rowling who became the first billionaire writer through her best selling Harry Potter series. I realised that much as these goals were desirable and held great allure for me, honestly speaking though, I deeply desired something that is grander and much more sublime than being a billionaire.
I realised that what would give me joy and fulfilment is to 'Incarnate' the God kind of life in another's life. I realized that life was much more than what we achieve or acquire. I realised that the quality of a man's dreams or accomplishments is best measured by the lives that he had impacted and touched positively and the values he had modelled and promoted. I reckoned that life was about the people that experienced true love and forgiveness through me. I realised that life was about the number of people whose despair turned into hope on account of their encounter with me. I realised that the best way to immortalize my name is to be 'incarnated' in the hearts of others like the main character in a classic novel that outlives the writer himself. Above all, I realised that I can't be anything useful to myself or others outside of God. And above all, I realised that I am to be a model of God's love to humanity; a dream which would keep me busy through out my life on earth. I realized that truly, God and humanity are waiting and watching how I would express God's kind of love, his values and worldview through my writings, words, actions, gestures, intentions,...and all, in this year, and in the coming years ahead!
Obi Felix is a Physiotherapist and writer based in Abuja. He is a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors, as well as Abuja Literary Society. The writer has written many articles, poems, short stories and essays which have been published in Nigerian newspapers and anthologies