By Debbie Ogunjobi
A very skinny and almost haggard looking lady walked into a gathering of some friends just as last year was rounding up and quite a number of people were concerned about her appearance. Not being a close friend I had kept my opinion to myself but listened to those who voiced out theirâ€™s.
Everyone assumed it must have been a diet gone wrong but listening to the ladyâ€™s explanations got me thinking about utterances and misguided wishes and prayers. Her explanation was told with wit and clarity and it began thus. She had been feeling very frumpy, over weight and middle aged when she muttered a prayer to God about shedding some of the extra weight and she remembers saying â€œLord I donâ€™t care how you do it, please just help me lose a serious amount of weight; I could do with some malaria!â€.
She had forgotten about it and was going about life as usual when she had passed out in her office just a few days later. She came back to consciousness over a week later to find herself strapped to machines and tubes in a hospital battling for her life suffering from cerebral malaria.
Her recovery had taken months and she had lost the serious amount of weight she had prayed about but at what cost? So could it be a coincidence or was her prayer answered? Iâ€™m sure we all have our opinions but the evening got very interesting as quite a number of people shared similar experiences.
Another woman shared her experience and hers was even more touching. She had spent a lot of her time in prayers, churches, and crusades to get her husband to spend more time with her. She had married a very ambitious, socially and politically active man who was everywhere at every time and somehow she had felt short changed and lonely in her marriage.
It had been bearable when she had the children to look after but they were all grown up and the empty nest syndrome which most women suffer from when their children grow up and move out was exaggerated by the huge house that was now almost frightening to live in. She also remembers saying a prayer half heartedly asking God to do whatever it took to keep him in the house and I am sure you can almost guess what happened next. Her very handsome and vibrant husband was on his way to a meeting when he was involved in a ghastly motor accident that incapacitated and deformed him. He was home with her just like she wanted but barely recognisable and without his two legs.
His sense of humour was completely gone and he bore very little resemblance to the man she married. He needed her for everything and she said she wondered if her asking God to do whatever it took to keep him home had something to do with the tragedy that befell her.
That gathering came back to mind when I found myself in a strange country for an extended visit when my big brother took ill. His wife and I have been best friends for a while and we had always wanted the opportunity to travel together. When we left Nigeria on that flight on the 31st of December 2009, heading towards an uncertain future we had commented on how that wish manifested in the most horrible of ways. What we really wanted was a trip that would include lots of massages, spa treatments and shopping.
What we got was an extended stay nursing a sick husband/ brother in an ICU and later Rehabilitation. During those early dark days, we had stayed up gisting one night when she made a joke that we should have been very specific in our prayers instead of just throwing out a vague request that the devil had managed to distort into a complete nightmare.
I was watching a musical video earlier in the week by hip-hop artist Jay Z and one of the kids had asked me if I wanted to be forever young (title of the song) and I had quickly replied with a sharp God forbid! I am taking care to watch my utterances and my prayers so I donâ€™t inadvertently start a chain reaction of horrors! I explained that people like Marilyn Monroe, James Dean were forever young and considering they died young; I didnâ€™t want to be forever young at all.
Forever young in my opinion would mean I was stuck at a particular stop in the journey that is my life and my prayer request would rather be to see the entire spectrum of life from youth to old age peacefully, in good health, happiness, abundance of all things good and surrounded by my loved ones.
I donâ€™t believe God would answer prayers in such twisted and malevolent ways but I suspect the devil would find it funny to grant such wishes so I have decided to treat prayers as blank cheques and I will fill out the sums/requests properly before I send them to the bank. Since I wonâ€™t sign my blank cheques and leave them on a cashierâ€™s table for some else to tamper with my account, I will not be making abstract wishes and mutterings.
It could all be a coincidence but I donâ€™t buy it; I believe we have a lot to do with our eventual realities so I am going to be careful about praying right.