‘Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They have bowed down and fallen; But we have risen and stand upright.’ Psalms 20:7-8
Curtis walked the streets of Lagos with a slant. He abandoned the twice-repaired heel of his left shoe in front of the last office he visited. The sun beat down on his back like a drum, so the mixture of sweat raining down his body, and the mask he had to wear, wore the boy down. A 25-year old graduate of Economics, with no hope of employment. He sloshed his way home, amidst the stares he garnered, from Lagos island to his house, behind the market in Oshodi. He ignored the taunts and laughter aimed at him in front of the two-bedroom back house he lived in with his mother.
Curtis didn’t enter the house. He went straight to the back, dropped his folder in the kitchen, and took a plastic bucket to the tap situated there. Curtis filled the pail to the brim and carried it to the bathroom, built behind the house. There he removed everything he wore, from the stained white shirt to the heel-less shoe. He imagined that he scrubbed away the shame and pain that tagged along that day, the hopelessness that plagued him all the time, so he could show his mother a smiling face on her return.
She returned at 7 pm, and Curtis met her at the door, as he always did. A ready smile on his face, he asked her all the obligatory questions as he helped her to the kitchen. He stayed with her as she warmed their dinner on the stove and helped carry the food to the house where they ate. They discussed nothing of great importance as they ate, no questions asked. His mother watched the small tube T.V, while Curtis washed up, hoping she would fall asleep before he finished washing the dishes.
He opened the door to the house and entered. The T.V was on, and his mother snored on the sofa, his make-shift bed. On a better day, he would wake her up to go into her room, but not today. He sat on the floor by the sofa and prayed that she would continue to sleep till morning. His luck ran out at midnight.
Ijeoma, his mother, woke up with a start and looked around. She saw Curtis on the floor sleeping and shook her head.
“Curtis, Curtis, wake up.” She said as she tapped him on the back.
The boy sat up with a frown and rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand.
“It’s late mama, I need my rest for tomorrow. Go back to sleep.” He said, and lay back on the floor, turning towards the wall.
“How long will you live like this, my son?”
He did not respond.
“I saw your shoe. I will give you some money to repair it tomorrow.”
He didn’t turn around or get up from his position. “We don’t have enough to repair the shoe, mama. Don’t worry, I will wear my sneakers from tomorrow.”
“Don’t be silly. Sneakers to look for work? Who would hire you?”
“We are in the new normal now, mama. People are hiring all sorts for different purposes. I will find work in my sneakers, don’t worry about me.”
“I am not worried about your job search, my son, just your heart. Anyway, God is with you.”
Curtis muttered and hissed.
“What was that? Curtis, did you just make that sound at me?”
He still did not turn to her. “I’m sorry.” It was quiet, reluctant.
“Turn to me if you have something to say. Say it like the man you are.”
Curtis sat up and turned. It took him ten seconds, and he bit his lip, praying for control. It didn’t work.
“A man, mama? A 25-year old that has to watch his mother hawk food on the road to make ends meet. Did you just call me a man? I listen to uncle Toby thrash me left, right, and center anytime we beg for money. Do you see other men my age anywhere in this neighborhood? No. Those are men, mama. They understood the way long ago and took it while I depended on Jesus. Well, here I am a man.”
His mother scoffed, and he turned to the wall, tears falling from his face. He wiped them away, angry.
“Curtis, Curtis, I have watched you for a while now, struggling with yourself and your faith.” She smiled.” You have just started life, and you are this bitter, what will happen as you advance, my son?” She moved close to where he sat on the floor and tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned to her, she patted the space she made for him on the sofa. He stood from the ground and sat by her.
“Hmm, all your life, I have tried to impress on you the need to look up. My life is not yours, don’t make that mistake. What you see is wrong. You watch me come and go, thinking that the life I live in this world consumes me. I walk out of that door every day rejoicing because God already provided food and shelter, by His grace. I don’t care about tomorrow, nor about what people think or say. All I know is that I have a God who cares. Why have you allowed your daily existence to consume you, Curtis?
He shook his head.” Mama, you cannot understand. Am I not the man of the house? Shouldn’t I be caring for you, enabling you to live well? I have continued to fail at this, and it is eating my heart out. Every day, I see you carry your foodstuff back home from a hard day’s work, and I want to say sorry, to apologize for being such a failure.”
Ijeoma laughed; it was short and harsh.” You wear defeat like a robe. If you continue in this way, there is no need to step out of that door any longer. I taught you about God from childhood and about His kingdom. You have allowed the lie that strength is in horses and chariots to consume you. Remember God, Curtis, remember how we have lived all these years. I have smiled and rejoiced, not mourned my circumstances, so why have you allowed depression to beat the life out of you? God allows man to fall and raises another up, His will, His way. Why have you chosen to bow down and fall?”
She stood up and stretched. “God’s mercies and grace are new every morning. He allows us a reset with every new day. Take it, Curtis, and live before Him.” Ijeoma held his face up, so she could look into his eyes. “I am your mother, and I am so proud of you. Nobody except God could be prouder. Sleep, son, and rise up to a new day.”
She turned and left him there. The money for his shoes and bus fare for the next day lay on top of the sofa.
‘Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, That we may live in His sight.’ Hosea 6:1-2
Till next time, be transformed!!