The Thorns In My Flesh and The Grace of God

By Bamidele Ademola-Olateju

Every five years, in the last two decades, I take stock and question myself. Where have I failed and where have I succeeded on this journey, the journey of life? I do this as a sort of lessons learned, self assessment, for improvement. Since age seven, I have been that person, whose entire life has been a search for meaning, the meaning of existence. Some days when things got tough, I have told God; I was not consulted before I was created. I trust, I would have declined to be here, were I consulted.

Like I have always wrote here, infertility made my journey into transcendence easy. Without infertility I doubt if I would have been who I am. At 35, my search for meaning started becoming manifest. I found my purpose. My purpose is to serve humanity. To speak for those who can’t. To champion goodness with my being. Throughout my journey, the totems of my life showed me, there are no coincidences in the lives of men. While I am not fatalistic, I believe there is destiny. I also know the choice we make affect our destiny. What governs those choices? What are the effects of geography and accident of birth on destiny? Those are valid questions.

I am the girl who did almost everything right and lived by the book of discipline handed out by my parents. While I am not religious in observance, I have embraced moral codes the way religion and my society defined them. Yet I have suffered infertility and ill health. Why? Over time, through questioning, worship and meditation, I became convinced, that, once one has passed through the infantile stage of life, one must embrace and recognize pain as a measure of happiness because there can be no human dignity without it. Despite my acceptance of randomness in life, I had no profound understanding of the challenges I have faced until 2017.

In April of 2017, I lost a very dear friend. I could not attend his burial because I had a seven hours surgery scheduled. In the month of my birth in 2017, I was subsumed in fear and melancholy but I kept a stoic mien. While recuperating from surgery, God sent one of his most faithful servant that I know, to me. He is Dr. Pipim – a teacher, minister, public intellectual and African leadership expert and widely celebrated in his Country, Ghana and in the Seventh Day Adventist world. At the time he was still at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. As he sat, he opened his Bible and asked me to note 2 Corinthians 12:9 – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

The verse got me thinking that life can involve hardship, even for those who do everything right and are faithful to God. Dr. Pipim counseled that God’s purpose of the ill heath I have fought and won, and my chronic asthma was for me to maintain humility. That the thorns in my flesh, the persistent “weakness” in my life is to keep me from becoming conceited given my intelligence and quest for knowledge. It sank in! He asked; would you have been able to do all you are doing, if you have four children? He said; isn’t God wonderful to give you a good man who lives with these thorns joyfully? Would you have coped with a different man? He told me that God has provided everything I needed to endure suffering. That God’s power is made perfect in my weakness and His Grace is sufficient for me.

Like he did in 2014 in his first Ministration to me. He reiterated Jeremiah 1:5 – “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” I am happy, I have embraced my calling and I am living with the thorns. They don’t even hurt, they are part of who I am. Truly, His Grace is sufficient for me. Which one of His huge favors can I deny, to paraphrase one of my favorite verses from the holy Qur’an?

I woke up this morning with those two verses ringing in my ears. Be a blessing to someone everyday. Be a better human being so Nigeria can attain greatness by your contribution. I pray that you will have the faith and grace to accept your portion. May His Grace be sufficient for all of you.

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