Saturday, 17 January, 2015
The searing sounds of revving engines keep me awake though my body is in desperate need of a long and deep sleep. Still trying to navigate out of the crowded parking lot, the incident from a few hours earlier rises again.
So I was feeling sleepy at 2am (having dashed from the office to church with no time to rest) and I chose to step out from the choir section at the vigil. The last thing I wanted was to be caught on camera, eyes shut and lower lip hanging loosely as I sojourned through dream land. What would be my excuse? Oh I’m sorry, I had a long day at work and a stressful commute and didn’t get any chance to catch a nap. Hian! Indeed.
Anyways, I stepped out to ‘shine my eyes’ and right there, to my right was my dear friend seated on the cold marble floor, mumbling what sounded like a prayer. Having friends in Lagos sometimes feels like the relationship between ears and the nose- so close but never seeing each other.
I walked over, plopped down by her side with a smile and positioned for a power nap. In keeping with the rules, I took off the choir robe, transformed it into a comfy ball (the robe was huge!) and handed it to her. She smiled.
It was getting colder by the minute and as she had no cardigan or anything else to keep warm, she draped the folded robe over her shoulder.
Then came over sabi.
“Ah you should have some respect for this robe na!” She fumed at my friend. Lati is a petite lady. A petite lady with a folded robe draped over her shoulder, sitting on the marbled floor. Put those together and what you had was a choir robe slightly grazing the floor. The over sabi obviously wasn’t having any of that.
“Are you even a choir member, you’re wearing trousers and look at the way you are treating this robe.”
Her tone was blatantly disrespectful- especially how she said “you’re wearing trousers”.
“He is a choir member“; Lati was referring to me, trying to explain how she, a trouser-wearing lady succeeded in getting her hands on the ‘holy robe’. Lati is also a member of the choir but didn’t join us for the vigil.
“It’s a mantle na!“, another over sabi chimed in.
The first over sabi snatched the robe from her and tried to hand it back to me. Shocked (and probably angered too) by her embarrassing behaviour, I deliberately kept my hands limp so there was no way to hand it back to me. Then she did the unthinkable. Over sabi dumped the robe on my head and walked away!
You know how it is when you get so shocked by someone’s audacity, you’re left speechless? That’s what happened to me.
“Wait. Is she even a choir member?” My voice eventually found me.
Ik, don’t say anything.
No, I hate it when people are just zealous but without knowledge. I was already getting into that let-me-tell-her-a-thing-or-two mode.
“Does she understand what a mantle is? Elijah’s mantle that fell was just the equivalent of our modern day belt! The mantles from Paul (Acts 19:12) that healed the sick were actually sweat rags and regular clothing items. They were not anything special in themselves”.
Ik, please don’t say anything. Just forget.
I felt like walking over to her and reminding her about David and his men when they were starving and at the temple, David served his men the shewbread which was otherwise strictly reserved for the priests, and God didn’t knock their heads from heaven (Matthew 12: 3-4). God valued the hungry men more than the ceremonial bread. Relationship above rules. Several times, Jesus healed folks on the sabbath which was ‘against the rules’. Once again, relationship above rules.
I felt like asking her, which is more important? A daughter of God getting really cold and needs to be protected or a piece of choir uniform barely touching the floor? Like seriously, who would God be more concerned about? The ‘mantle’ or the person?
These are some of the things that happen when we get stuck up on rules and ‘religion’ and ignore relationships and people. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that PEOPLE ARE GOD’S HIGHEST PRIORITY. Afterall, Jesus came to die, not for rules, but for people!
Don’t get me wrong, I love rules and order but not at the expense of treating people with respect. Rules were made for people, not the other way around. And as much as we seek to enforce rules, we must remember that even the right thing becomes wrong when done incorrectly.
I should have said these to her but there was no way to do that at the time without conveying my annoyance and a dint of disrespect (Disrespect is reciprocal, right?). Lati was right. It was best not to say anything at the moment.
Of course, by this time, feeling sleepy was history. Over sabi helped to ‘shine my eyes’ – albeit in an unwanted way. I retrieved the ‘mantle’, put it on and returned to the service.
Away from the emotions of the moment though, I guess what I wanted to say to her, I could say to myself too. Rules are great- but never at the expense of treating people with respect, kindness and genuine love. That’s what I came away with.
Thanks over sabi – you taught me well today.
Live by Design.