What has commonsense got to do with it?

Reading time 7 min.

I have seen too many things that are so hard to say: A woman with severe high blood pressure, who against her doctor’s advice, slept only four hours a day because she must stay up and pray six hours every night with three different prayer groups. She caught stroke in the middle of prayers one dawn and never recovered. Too late to apply commonsense!

Last week, someone I called a good friend left me freezing at a bus station. She made a last minute appointment with God and had to rush to church.

She had promised me more than twelve hours earlier to be at the bus station at 8:30pm. I had lost my wallet in Virginia on my way to New Jersey; my debit card was blocked and I had no money on me.

“Anne,” her voicemail to me said at 7:30pm. “I just realized we are having anointing and revival service tonight.” The program had been ongoing all week but she thought the previous night was the final, only to realize less than two hours to our appointment that they had one more night to go. “The speaker for tonight’s service came all the way from South Korea, so I have to go and pray,” she said in a heavy accent. “Call me at 9:30, okay!”

I have been saying to myself a lot these days, “Whatever happened to the Book of Proverbs!” Can spiritual growth be complete without wisdom?

I have witnessed all sorts of things in my thirty-something-years on earth, half of it from my teenage years, which include when I “first” accepted Christ. That is how we termed it: “Accepting Christ,” even though we had always believed in Christ and worshipped God.

Why did she die?

Those two: God and Christ – three rather: the Holy Trinity – had been a part of my life all the way from my conception when my parents defied the doctor’s advice. He had asked them to consider terminating me to secure my mother’s life or go on with the pregnancy and lose her life. They listened to the Catholic Church.

My mother carried me through nine months, successfully delivered me, and they gave glory to God. The church couldn’t be prouder and more confident in their teaching. My middle name is Mawuli, meaning Emma: God with us. My mother – she died two-and-half years later at age 29.

Initially, I thought: “How amazing God is!” He knew he was going to call mum anyway, so He led her through the spirit to defy the doctor’s orders to give me life.” Not that my faith in God has lessened, but I have been reexamining my thoughts, asking myself: What if it was the defiance that led to her death? What if carrying me to full term and giving birth to me harmed her beyond recovery? What if that was what the doctor was trying to tell them?

Faith and realism

This is the path along which I think these days about many things. I mix my faith with realism. Yet, I cannot say I wouldn’t act like my mother if I were in her shoes. I just don’t want the truth to elude me regardless of the decisions I make. After all, doesn’t the good old book say “The truth shall set you free”?

Many of us teenagers in Accra were intimidated in the late 1980s to early 1990s. Not by the junta. Rather, those immaculate, straight-faced guys in their early to late twenties who scouted the city with their bibles – for souls to preach out of hell.

One afternoon, my father said to a young pastor who had come to share the word of God with us: “Don’t you realize these woolen coats aren’t meant for this kind of climate? See how you’re sweating!” Another day – a night – he chased a Bible student out of our house for being there at an “ungodly” hour.

The old boy hated those guys for four reasons. One: they wanted to disintegrate his catholic family. Two: they had no buildings of their own. Three: how the heck did they expect him to convert to a church he is older than? Four: What kind of church operates from a cinema hall, disco, or classroom! Those were his words; not mine.

He said other things too that I found difficult to fathom – like: “These young men are just looking for wives,” and, “The main target for these so-called churches is money.” I have to say I never shared in his contentions.

Evil things

If anything at all, his words had the opposite effect on me. I converted to a Pentecostal church. We called them “Charismatic churches.” All my siblings except one are Pentecostals to date. My father – even though he remains a very proud catholic who ranks among the top truants – he has no problem attending Pentecostal churches now.

I managed to convert my cousin Marie too. Once she left our grandaunt in a raw frenzy and all our jaws dropping. The old lady had entrusted her with a sack full of popped-rice to sell to her schoolmates while she was away for a funeral. She sold it all but never gave her a dime! She spent every single coin she collected on herself. I still can picture the old lady twirling like a bee and wailing like a poltergeist. Business gone bad!

The last time Marie updated her Facebook page, it was a picture of her and her family at a Pentecostal church in Italy, shaking hands with a man wearing a robe and hat similar to those of a catholic bishop. The caption read: “Exchanging greetings with head pastor after a powerful anointing service. Their oil soaked foreheads bore testimony to it all.

The head pastor’s outfit reminded me of all the evil things I heard in charismatic churches those days – directly and indirectly – about orthodox churches. Their robes, hats, holy waters, rigid organizations, and titles like – pope, bishop, deacon, moderator, father and so on. Today, many charismatic churches have bishops; even archbishops – and they adore the robes, hats, and holy oils. No qualms! Just reminiscing.

The trouser war

One late night, during those formative years, I was pulled aside by an usher as Marie and I entered the Baden Powell Memorial Hall – a state building rented by our church for an all-night church services. She asked if I couldn’t have dressed more decently. I was wearing a neat pair of light khaki-brown trousers and a loose white long-sleeved shirt. In her eyes, it was a sin for a woman to wear trousers.

We were trying to leave shortly after the service began when another usher – a male – stopped us. “Are you girls leaving,” he asked nicely. “Yes,” we responded. “Oh, why!” he asked. School was reopening in two days – rather the next day – as it was already 1:30am. We tried to use that as an excuse, but he pressed; suspecting something else was the issue, so I “confessed” to him about my discomfort with my “indecent” – “sinful” dressing if you will – as pointed out by his colleague.

“What!” He exclaimed. “God doesn’t judge us from our outward appearances. He judges us according to our hearts and intentions.” Those words remain some of the most encouraging I have ever heard in any religious assembly.

Years later, our head pastor’s wife started wearing trousers to church, many of the women followed her example – among them – my judgmental usher “friend.” Better late than never, huh!

Back to the bus station

I have seen too many things that are so hard to say: A woman with severe high blood pressure, who against her doctor’s advice, slept only four hours a day because she must stay up and pray six hours every night with three different prayer groups. She caught stroke in the middle of prayers one dawn and never recovered. Too late to apply commonsense!

Also, a young woman who found a job after a long search only to give it up because the training session temporarily made it impossible for her to attend mid-week church programs. It’s been over a year now since she started searching for another job. Hopefully, commonsense will be given a chance this time.

As for the person I called a good friend, I waited for her at the bus station till midnight. She never showed up or called, even though she knew she was my only hope of getting home that night. Hopefully, she will come to the realization that even a godly life requires some commonsense.

The Other Afrik  The Other Afrik is an alternative and multi-faceted information source from Afrik-News' panel of experts. Contributions include : opinions, reviews, essays, satires, research, culture and entertainment news, interviews, news, information, info, opinion, africa, african-american, europe, united states, international, caribbean, america, middle east, black, France, U.K.
Antoinette Herrmann-Condobrey
Antoinette Herrmann-Condobrey is a journalist from Ghana. She has a soft spot for magazine reporting, where she has functioned as editor and senior reporter. Her interests have largely been Arts and Culture reporting, Profiling and photojournalism – areas which she describes as ones that “bring out the human in me.” But don’t be surprised to find her exerting equal passion for a host of issues – from politics through technology to the environment.
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