By Lillian Tindyebwa
Many years ago, when I was in primary school, we used to create riddles and the rest of the class was supposed to tell us what it was we were describing. I think a number of us may remember those days with a little nostalgia.
So I will indulge myself and travel back to that wooden little desk in my P6 class, amidst fellow expectant, wide eyed eleven year olds, shivering in the morning cold. I will sit back and in a jubilant voice describe to you something and see whether we can agree on what it is and after we have discovered it, it will form the topic of our conversation today. So here we go:
We have heard it so often. We all say we believe in its existence and have set our lives according to it. We repeat it to ourselves and laugh out in happiness and shout alleluia and amen when we say it. God Himself described it to His prophets like Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. In recent years even a book has been written about it that has become a bestseller. What is it?
Before I let you know what it is, I will travel back from my cold P6 class and come to more recent history, taking place decades later. A number of people have gathered in another room, that is warm and airy and evidence of modern technology is visible. The room is situated in a building amidst lush gardens with flowering plants all around, giving a warm and serene environment. It is the first training as writers and they hear, with alleluias and Amen, of this thing.
If you were not in this gathering, you are excused if you fail to guess the riddle. But for any member of the group that met that month of June 2010, it is my prayer that you all remember the words from the servant of God to us. The right answer is ‘your purpose’ or your ‘calling’ or your life ‘assignment.’
These three are versions of one another and they lead you to the same destination which is – to accomplish the will of God for your life.
Many of us pen a few lines at times but we believe we are called to write. If indeed, God has called us to write, or given us an assignment to write or decided that the purpose He has created us for is to write, failure to do this writing is nothing but disobedience.
Eh? We say, how can this be? It is not clear in our minds. Before we go to look at examples from the Bible, let us remember that if the Almighty God, the One who created us for his purposes, decided that that is what He wanted us to do then it has to be that. We have to obey!
Writing is very important to God and anyone chosen to write is special before God. Now that we have discovered what He has chosen for us as our assignment, let us press forward for the crown that awaits us as excellent writers. He has chosen us to hear from Him and spread the message through our writing.
If not we might go in the category of King Saul:
Let us go to the book of 1 Samuel 15, verses 22-23 and see what happened to the first king of Israel. The Lord sent King Saul to fight Amalek and He commanded Israel to destroy ‘all they have and not spare them’. So Saul fought the Amalekites but ‘spared Agag the king, and the best of the sheep, oxen, fatlings and all that was good.’ He claimed that he wanted to sacrifice these animals to God, and yet God had told him to destroy them. God had a good reason in instructing the king of Israel to accomplish this task for Him. But the king distorted God’s instructions and although he defeated the Amalek, he did not follow God’s word and decided that God would love to have the sheep and oxen of the Amelikes as a sacrifice for Himself. So God was displeased and He sent Prophet Samuel to tell King Saul that the Lord has rejected him from being king over Israel and explained his sin thus:
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has also rejected you from being king.”
Could God be seeing us as such when we do not rise up to accomplish exploits through our writing? There are many things God would like us to talk about in our writing. These things we choose to lament about, to murmur about and generally blame everybody else except ourselves.
We need to remember that a writer is like a prophet of God. God speaks through his or her pen. A good writer can be a good mouth piece of God. And God is waiting for us to do just that. Remember when Prophet Nathan went to David after the king had committed adultery with Bathsheba. The prophet of God did not tell him directly but he made up a kind of parable. And after listening to the story, David was ready to condemn the man in the story.
When the Prophet of God told David that it was him, David, in the story, the king was astonished and immediately cried to God for forgiveness. I believe there are many Nathan-type of stories that we can write that can teach the lost, the searching and even kings like David, to get back to the path of life giving truth. The meeting of David and Nathan was momentous because David, who was also a writer, penned his prayer of repentance and he has left us a model of crying to God for forgiveness as we find in Psalm 51.
Our prayer is not to be in the category of those who disobeyed but in that of those who obeyed. As you quickly pick up your pen with a trembling but determined hand, let us first share a little bit of encouragement from those who obeyed and the legacy they have left as servants of the Most High God:
In Revelation 1:11, Jesus tells John: ‘I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last. Write promptly what you see (your vision) in a book and send it to the seven churches.’ We also know about Moses, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and all the other prophets. The common denominator for them all is that they were obedient, and so we still hear about them. We hear them talking and giving the message from God. That is their legacy.
This brings me to another important thing that we struggle for but it would come easily only if we could understand our calling and obediently carry it out. The other day I was talking to a friend and we were marveling at the greed behind the corruption in the country. Then she told me that people do it in the name of leaving a legacy. For them, the more money one amasses at whatever cost, the better legacy he is likely to leave. Of course to anyone with their senses right, this reasoning is upside down. A number of times, Nathan is missing to bring the point home to these people who have their priorities upside down!
The truth is that legacy will be taken care of when one is obedient. For an obedient writer, it is automatic. As one of our Bishops likes to ask: if you do not do anything commendable and impact people, how will those who will be there in generations to come know that you once walked on this earth?
So I am going to end by narrating one little anecdote that is real and which highlights the task at hand. I was travelling from Kabale to Kampala one Sunday. At a town called Ntungamo, which is some miles before Mbarara, the taxi turned into the park to drop off some passengers and possibly pick up others. As usual in such a place, hawkers crowded the minibus taxi trying to sell varieties of edibles to the passengers. Notable among these hawkers was a young girl of about fifteen or sixteen who was selling roasted grasshoppers. I was sitting in front next to the driver. When I looked behind I saw that there were a group of men who had taken a keen interest in the grasshoppers and were buying them as if there was no tomorrow. They were old men with grey hair and unkempt beards, but one of them seemed to be offering them a treat and he indeed paid! And I thought, ‘Oh what a generous, good old man.’
Soon the driver warned everybody to conclude and the taxi was on its way. It drove through the exit gate. This taxi park is built like a courtyard with shops around it.
So as soon as the taxi turned the corner and was turning up to join the main road, we saw the grasshopper girl emerging from a side entrance, running and waving hands in the air signaling the taxi to stop. The driver noticed her and stopped and asked what the matter was. She walked straight to the window and started shouting at the old man. She claimed that he had given her a torn five thousand shilling note. The old man vehemently denied.
“He gave a note which he had folded so I could not see that it was half a note, the other one having been destroyed and lost!” she said.
At that point the driver took over. I admired the way this young man handled the issue.
“Mzee, give this girl her money so that we do not waste time. I know that you also were given that note by some conman last night as you sat in the dark bar. Now you decided to get rid of it by giving to this girl. Just pay her so that we can leave! I understand and sympathize, but just pay this girl her money.”
The old man continued to deny that he was the culprit.
“You girl, this is your note. You had it already,” he told her.
“No, I did not. I do not even have any other money… that is all I have.”
The driver stuck to his guns as the old man kept up appearances. The more he continued to deny that he was the one who gave the girl the torn note, the more the driver kept up his accusations as if he had been there when it happened. Then slowly I saw the old man put his hand in the side pocket of his coat, get some money and start counting it.
Eh, I thought, so this man is actually guilty! Attempting to cheat this poor little girl! Oh gracious and merciful God, instead of ‘dreaming dreams’, the old men are stealing dreams!
As writers, can we hear what the Lord is saying?