When I completed my high school studies I was thrilled, to say the least. Perhaps my enthusiasm had something to do with resting my cerebral cortex after four years of cramming, reading and studying principles that I have still not put to application. I mean, really, who uses Flemming’s left hand rule in life? Or perhaps it had to do with the fact that I would not miss the soup-filled plastic plate with a floating mass of ugali and three strings of cabbage in the name of dinner. Or perhaps, it had to do with not seeing Mr. What’s-his-name for the rest of my life (so far so good!). Or perhaps it had to do with the fact that after seeing 800 boys for nine months a year, for four years, my testosterone craved for oestrogen presence; the girl drought was over! Whatever the case, I was done! My mum picked me up from school and as we drove home she announced that the family now had a new dishwasher. I have done dishes in the Wakhusama household since President Moi’s regime. To hear that a dishwasher had been acquired, just after my high school, was what I needed to hear. No more late-night chores. I was coming to a holiday! As we got home, I emptied the car of my school stuff and dashed to the kitchen to see the new dishwasher. I couldn’t trace it. I figured it had taken the place of the washing machine in the laundry room. I dashed there only to find that the washing machine was still intact. Where was it? Or perhaps they hadn’t installed it yet. I would do the honours and have tonight’s dinner dishes as the guinea pigs. I cried out loud enough for my mum to hear me from the other room.
“Mum! Where’s the dishwasher?”
My mum strolled into the kitchen with a grin on her face.
“Well?” I prodded.
“Son,” she began. She placed her hand on my shoulder and said oh-so calmly, “You’re the dishwasher. Welcome home!”
Have you ever felt cheated out of something? When my mum pulled that prank on me, I laughed at myself for thinking that her parenting that included 10 plus years of dishwashing would end in a day. I felt somewhat cheated but the laugh out of it cancels any hard feelings. It was a light-hearted moment. But life does not always give us light-hearted moments, does it? No it does not. The truth of the matter is that at times we almost feel cheated out of life when circumstances overwhelm us. We almost wish life would take a different trajectory in our favour or it had asked us to choose.
Death, the ultimate prankster!
Death cheats life out of us. We plan ahead but Hades plans faster. Every year since my high school graduation, my schoolmates have been committing suicide. A friend of mine called Anthony approached me asking to give his life to Christ. We talked at length and he confessed very personal and difficult issues he was handling at that point in his life. I was overwhelmed. I hadn’t prepared what to say to him but somehow I said the right thing. I put my hand on his shoulder and led him through the sinner’s prayer. I however had a gut feeling that what Anthony needed was more than a prayer. He also needed fellowship through friendship. I took his number and promised to keep in touch. I didn’t. I kept postponing to call him until one day, I received the tragic news. Anthony had committed suicide. The pressure got to him and he suffocated himself in a room with carbon monoxide. I was morbid with regret. I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What if I made that call?”
And with time, the knife of regret was twisted in its place. Jonah, a swell reserved bookworm who sat behind me for two years in high school, committed suicide. He left a note and hanged himself. We had shared novels and talked a bit in school. I was compelled once in a while to ask him about his life but I didn’t bother. Later, Paul, another classmate committed suicide. I had several interactions with him and to be honest, I avoided him a lot. He had questions about life after death that I never quite bothered to answer to his satisfaction. Later, Emmanuel, a desk mate in my French class stabbed himself to death, another suicide. I felt most guilty about him. Our class was intimate, only 12 students and I interacted with Emmanuel a lot. Later, I received news that Chiri, a roommate in my dormitory for close to two years took the same path of suicide.
Can we do something?
The purpose of this is not to take myself on a guilt trip or take you either for situations like those in your own life. The purpose of this is to show that life is pulling a joke on many and sadly enough, they are buying it. Fear, depression, failure, insecurity, threats, weaknesses, secrets, doubts, anxiety, worry are all agents in the loss of these lives. I do not believe I had the cosmic power in the universe to have stopped their deaths but I had something else. I had their company and I had their friendships. I had their phone numbers and I had their Facebook accounts. Perhaps any of these young men needed just one more friend or one more question answered, even if they did not get a satisfactory response. Perhaps they needed to know that if they died, someone cared enough. Perhaps they would have made a phone call before falling into the knife, poisoning themselves or hanging on a noose. While history’s canvas cannot be repainted, we can do something else about today’s generation.
Anthony, Jonah, Paul, Emmanuel and Chiri may have had instant deaths but their obvious frustration is nothing compared what’s going on today; men and women are dead on the inside with warm bodies walking on the Earth. Inside many men and women today is the loss of life, despite the outward grins and smiles. There is a search for satisfaction from acquiring things and using people. My friends committed suicide because they held a common belief: Life was not worth living. They did not necessarily say it aloud but it was reflected in their actions. If you knew these guys, you would agree with me that they were the last guys on the list who would take their own life. Yet men and women with life in their bones today are no different. For each time, we trivialize our sexuality by not regarding it as precious we declare that life is not worth living. For every time, we pursue money over relationships we declare that life is not worth living. For every time we maintain destructive company, we declare that life is not worth living. For every time we indulge in entertainment to give us our direction in life, we declare that life is not worth living. For every time we laze around and refuse to achieve our dreams, we declare that life is not worth living. Like my suicidal friends, we too are suicidal with our souls, unlike them our death is just a slower more painful one.
There’s nothing at the top
But will ambitions stop the death? Will a successful career give us purpose and hope to live? No it won’t. Tennis star Boris Becker was at the top of his game. He had won the Wimbledon title twice (once as the youngest player) yet he was on the brink of suicide. Will the ambition to make money do so? Nay! Famous and bestselling Author of books such as The Eagle Has Landed, Jack Higgens when asked about some of the things he wished he knew when he was a boy said, “I wish I knew that when you get to the top there’s nothing there.” Will having dozens of relationships and pursuing the highest forms of pleasures cure it? Nay it won’t. You know the examples there. Heck, you may be in it yourself but in your heart of hearts there is a seeking that all the money, education, sex, fame, talent, justice, morality, achievement, awards, innovation, admiration, beauty, charm, good looks, health, diversity, art, music, knowledge, entertainment, and earthly treasures cannot satisfy. You’ve probably made more millions than Jack Higgens yet you identify with him, Beloved, that there’s nothing once you get to the top. All those things are good things to pursue and to use to improve life but realize this Beloved, as an end in themselves they will demand more and more of your heart and they will never satisfy you. A pursuit of these things as an end in itself is vanity! You cannot live for your career. You cannot live for you money. You cannot live for your husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend or children. Every pursuit to live for something that is mortal will lose purpose, meaning and ambition when they perish/ change the states in which we preferred them in.
Leo Tolstoy once said “What meaning is there in my life which the inevitability of death does not destroy?”
Stephen Baldwin (from his autobiography) – Hollywood start – Invited to the playboy mansion, meets Hugh Hefner then writes… “Wow what am I doing here? If you think about it all of this is pretty meaningless. This isn’t working for me anymore. There has to be more to life than this.”
Mark Twain Shortly before his death, he wrote, “A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle;…they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; …those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. It (the release) comes at last—the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them—and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence…a world which will lament them a day and forget them forever.”
Beloved, you identity cannot be in your good looks. If it is, you will collapse the day Botox loses power. Your identity cannot be in your job or your education. Markets rise and fall, wars ravage economies, accidents happen and retrenchment is real. When you put you identity and purpose in something infinitely cosmic and Immortal, then no fear, worry, doubt, anxiety, intimidation, performance, failure, depression, doubt, secret, threat or anything in creation can shake you. Your hands may be chopped off and deny you work but your immortality is intact. Your loved ones may pass away but your immortality is intact. Circumstances will adapt to you and you will not be subdued by every wind of opinion. Beloved, that crave and hole in our hearts is a God-shaped hole that only Christ Jesus can fill. Unlike an education that shows you the way, He is the way. Unlike an experience that can show you the truth, He is the truth. And unlike a fellow human that makes you lively, Jesus is the life. And you will be surprised at the things he can do using your education, money, sexuality, career and the things of this earth. Start living, Beloved, otherwise you will pursue the wrong things in life and feel cheated when you discover that you are the dishwasher.