Lifted to Forty: A Story of Grace, Grit and Gratitude

Theme Quote

‘And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth.’ (Genesis 7:17)

The weight of the years is so heavy on you.

It is like a stone placed on your head.

You cannot lift your head, pressed down

So hard by all the pressures,

Surrounded by all these expectant

Witnesses, well-wishers and mockers alike.

Forty is a heavy word,

It means a lot and there are milestones

And yardsticks that the world deploys

To judge the progress made by the forty-fied soul.

Has he a wife? No

Has he a child? No

Has he a car? No

Has he a house? No

What has he then to show for living for so long? They ask. Nothing. They reply.

Forty is such a hefty signifier. It shows in the extra weight it places on your gait, you tend to walk slower as if restrained by existence itself, asking you to pause and think, telling you there is really nowhere you are rushing to. Existence restrains your steps, inviting you to join the philosophical cadre of earth-dwellers. You begin to reflect on all you have and have not achieved, the mistakes you have made, the weaknesses you should overcome.

So you turned 40 today. You? You of only yesterday? Forty you say? You who was born on Tuesday, the 29th of March in 1983. Remember your mother told you that it was in the late afternoon at exactly 5.p.m. Your birth happened at the Methodist General Hospital, Ituk Mbang, Uruan Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. Do you remember, Eyoh, that when you were growing up, you saw the world in terms of the realities that existed in your environment at the time? Do you recall that you once dreamed of becoming a bus driver just because there was a successful bus driver living in your neigbourhood? Pause.

Your mother had also told you, remember, that you were such a healthy child right from birth, beloved by all who liked to carry you; you who, as a baby, was black and full, full of smile, the same smile you later lost as an adolescent thrown into a stormy of world of penury and want, loneliness and discontentment. How did you go through all those years? What grace was there to light your path? Which angels were assigned to watch your steps and help you sidestep the pitfalls that plagued the youths of your time? How did you navigate the seas of existential madness of the 1990s? Do you remember your friendship with Peter, now an Apostle of God? How does God transform boys to men with only the intervention of a few years? How about your friend David who now sings and plays for the Lord? How does God change the destiny of young boys with just the intervention of the years? Friends are sent by God to keep us and help us fulfill our destiny in the world. Friends are earthly angels who work God’s wonders in our lives. How about Sunday, the very cerebral Sunday, who is now a medical doctor? How does God turn boys into instruments of glory in a world that did not believe in them? Friends are pillars that support us at every stage of our earthly seasons. Who was the writer who made that quote, that timeless quote on friendship: ‘. . . Friends in your life are like the pillars on your porch; sometimes they hold you up, sometimes they lean on you. Sometimes it’s just enough to know that they are standing by in case the weather changes.’

So you walked the streets of Ekpene Ukim and Bekumu, Cameroon, as a child dropped into two boiling cultural pots. You did not know then that your roots reached into the hearts of Odukpani in Cross River State and Atabong in Akwa Ibom State. Why does everyone always want to claim a piece of you? How sweet is your soul that people struggle for each part? How pleasing is your personality that every group usually wants you to identify with them? And why do you always refuse to be a part of their drama?

Let me ask you, Eyoh, how was it possible for you to live comfortably in ignorance all those years, especially the ignorance of origins? Perhaps, Eyoh, you must be good a citizen of the world because, as you have found out yourself, you tend to sit comfortably everywhere you go. The world is not strange to you because you come from the stock of wayfarers – you have that migratory instinct, capable of turning everywhere into a home and settling snugly in it. But then the world needs a home that is fixed at a place in time, where one can always point to and claim with love and patriotic sentiments. This has bred discriminatory tendencies which you started noticing as you grew up but never gave it a thought. You had simply dismissed it as a thing about human nature. What a lesson to always scrutinise things beyond the surface!

You are forty today and the age has a weight of its own because it comes with demands for accountability. How did you spend the forty years of your life? What did you pursue? What fears and goals kept you awake for most nights? Can you show tangible results for the gift of four decades on the earth? Or was it forty years of wandering in the wilderness of life and its existence? Was it forty years outside the Canaan land? Before you feel dissatisfied and depressed, remember that the world has their own way of measuring success, which has little or nothing to do with you nor God’s measure of marked achievements. You must think less today as a philosopher and more as a Christian, saved by Christ’s grace. The things you are yet to have are things for the future as long as you have life in you. What you should be thankful for, as Bodunde has advised, is the gift of life and health. With life, whatever is not available will be made available as God wills. It is time to live only in the perfect will of God.  

Today, you are lifted to age 40 by the grace of God. It is a privilege, not a right. It is not because you have been too careful, too security-conscious or know the best meals and health routines. It is because God has preserved your life, snatched it even from those who wanted to take it. Remember that you are not better than those who died, some even in childhood. To live to this point is by the special grace of God. Remember always, Eyoh, that your preservation was to keep you to praise and preach the name of God. Remember that this is a matter of covenant, which you made with God. God has fulfilled His part, what then are you waiting for? You were preserved to praise and preach God’s name to the Youth of your generation. This was the divine pact when all the darkness of the past speakings wanted to claim your life and you had to call on God.

Once when you nearly perished at sea, you renewed the covenant and you were saved. Remember this and know that the time has come for you to rise and lead the Youth of your generation back to God. In 2017, you fell in the bathroom and hit your head on the toilet tap; the impact was such that the tap was broken and had to be fixed afterwards. You were dead, not unconscious. You were dead. But God brought you back to life with hardly a scratch or a bump on your head. You woke up and took yourself to the hospital and the doctor found nothing wrong with you. You were only given a drip and discharged the following morning. Six years down the line, you are still in perfect health and of sound mind. Why were you preserved, Eyoh? Why did God bring you back to life? Why are you witnessing your fortieth birthday? The truth is that you were preserved to serve God.

Remember that while you were living at Amia Estate, you usually raised your poetic and prophetic voice against the occult principalities in that environment and they, one night, shot a bullet through the kitchen window of your rented apartment when they thought you might be there. But you weren’t. God did not programme you to be there at the moment. The angel of God confused them. They thought they had shot you. How shocked they were when they saw you later walk the streets like the prince that you are! You only discovered the used shell behind the fridge many days/months later. Why were you preserved, Eyoh? It was so that you could serve God.  

You were equipped for this task years ago but you were immature then because you cared only to look at human beings in churches through their frailties. Now you know that all human beings are frail, including you. But that it takes God’s grace to overcome the vagaries of our nature. At forty, it is time to start evolving more towards fulfilling your divine assignments.

Eyoh, you were not preserved till this moment for nothing; you who came from nothing to being counted among the most gifted and promising scholars of your time. Your gifts are for your generational transformation. It is never for its own sake. Delays in your blessings might continue until you have fulfilled your own part of the covenant. Why is it that you have friends in all the high places but they have refused to help you? You have been well-positioned where you should function. Look no more to human beings; look now to God. Start functioning before it is too late. Do not worry about how you are going to begin; all you need is a willingness to serve. God will show you the way.

Whenever it seems as if you are not making any progress, remember where you came from and where you are. Then you will know the meaning of gratitude and contentment. Remember that the world will never help you because you are not a part of them. You are a light wherever you are and they will never like you. They can only tolerate you as long as they can.

In a world full of greed and discontent, gratitude will preserve you. You must be grateful to God and love the people God has put under your care. You must love God and everyone around you, even if they hate you, you can conquer with love. But do not joke with your mind and its health. Yet you must never give in to bitterness and self-pity. But then you must not put up with oppression and victimisation. You were not given your voice and poetic platform for fancy. The world is full of injustice at every point and many people cannot speak for themselves. You must rarefy yourself for this task ahead; certain changes must occur. You must evolve.

Remember to thank Mr Joseph Umo Eyo who housed you towards your final year in University when you had nowhere to go. You must remember to appreciate all the genuine friends and mentors in your life who had stood by you all these years. You will succeed more with gratitude than with complaint and bitterness. You no more live for yourself, you now live for others. Your life, at forty, is no longer yours; it belongs to God. Let God continue to live in you so that you can continue live through God. Life without God is meaningless in this world. Life with God is a heaven on the earth.

Happy fortieth birthday, Dr Eyoh Etim. Live for the divine purpose only, going forward.

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