I believe that the greatest gift my parents ever gave to my brother (Khosi) and I, was that of the foundation of faith. We were introduced to God at an early age. However, I’d be lying if I said I’ve always had a deep understanding of God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit.
My distorted perception of God
In my earlier years, I imagined God was this giant white man who sat up in the clouds on this big throne and, in his hand, he held this thunderbolt that he would use to either destroy or make wishes come true. Basically, somewhat a mix of Santa Claus, the greek God Zeus with the hint of a fairy Godfather feel.
My relationship with Him in my earlier years could be characterised as both fearful and full of bargaining. Fearful that if I didn’t do what was Christian-like then thunder would strike me and bargaining in that my prayers were mostly me asking God to save me from a bad situation that I had gotten myself into. The deal was always that if God could get me out then I would never get myself into the same situation ever again.
“Dear God, I know I was meant to go straight home and now I’m late. Please help me get home before my mom. Please delay her so that I get home in time to take out the meat from the refrigerator before she comes back. God, if you do this for me, I promise I’ll never dilly dally home ever again. I won’t even talk to that boy ever again. Please God. Amen.”
My life was full of these small bite-sized prayers. Most of the time it worked and other times when it didn’t I figured that I’d exceeded my bargaining prayers for the month. Now I look back and think, “he stayed faithful even when he knew I wouldn’t keep my promises.”
My relationship with God, as immature as it was, was later tainted by an unfortunate encounter at Church. I was about 15-years old, attending a church conference at our Thembisa branch. While standing outside of the building waiting for an opportunity to head inside, one of the Church pastors made a pass at me. He said something very inappropriate and I knew it was inappropriate.
I reported the incident to my youth leader at the time who then reported it to our First Lady. In the end, I found out that the pastor had denied this incident and in fact, turned it on me to say I had flirted with him. The matter was never raised again and the pastor never reprimanded. The experience was demoralising and I couldn’t for the life of me understand why a man of God would do what this man had done. I questioned the church and its values and subsequently questioned God.
I stopped going to that church specifically for years. Eventually, my mother’s death and funeral brought me back to the church. Walking out with the procession, I knew that the memory of Church and God would be further muddied by both painful experiences. I stopped praying and reading the Bible altogether. I was angry and hurt, and felt that God could have protected me from both incidents but he chose not to.
He wasn’t done with me
Every year following my mother’s death was marked by one tragedy after another. The bad stuff just wouldn’t stop happening and every time my family and I would hit another obstacle, I would rebel even further. Until one early morning when I got the call that our family home was on fire and that I should rush back home. I cried all the way to the house and on arrival, before stepping out of the car, I remember wiping my tears and praying for the first time since my mother’s death. I prayed for the safety of everyone who had been inside the house at the time of the breakout and I asked God to keep me strong because it was now, “beyond my own understanding”.
I stood outside of the house, now the fire had been out but there was no more house left. It was at that moment that I surrendered. I still remember the words that I uttered under my breath as I tried to not fall apart, “ok God, you have my attention. What now?”
It’s been a long journey since the fire but my relationship with God has only strengthened and I have gained wisdom in faith. I strongly believe that this would’ve never been the case if my mother hadn’t badgered us about praying every morning when we woke up, if she hadn’t enforced prayer before eating or if she hadn’t woken us up every Sunday to go to church. I became acquainted with God because she introduced me to him. However, it was through every trial, tribulation and joy that I got to know him in an intimate way.
This blog, especially the stories under the category, “God in Her” will speak to my journey of growing confidence in my faith – I call it “Gaining Godfidence”. We will laugh, we will cry, we will learn from each other and we will teach. It’s certainly not going to be how perfect my faith is but rather about how I’m using my curiosity about God to constantly work on my faith and there are a lot of mistakes on the way but stick with me, you may get something out of it.