Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Let Go of the Ego, Get Rid of the Id

By Akin Ojumu
February 25, 2009

Where was I again? Ah yes! I was reveling in one of my weeks of pride. Soaking in the sun as it pours down from a clear blue sky. These are days of my life when I’m at the mountain top of victory, having vanquished the fiercest of foes that could be dug out of the pit of hell.

But there are also days when I – allow myself to – wallow in the shadow of defeat, and made to eat dirt, having failed to live up to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

These latter days are particularly very painful. For a million minions of wickedness make mockery of my claim to membership in the chosen generation, lineage of a royal priesthood, and citizenship of the holy nation. As I sit there shrunken, nursing the wounds of my licking, and feeling sorry for myself, the pity party seems to send the enemies of my soul into a frenzy of schadenfreude. I hear them, intoxicated and euphoric, whisper gleefully into my ears,

“……Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head!!!!!!…..” (2Kings 2:23)

Indeed days such as this one are like a baldness of the soul to me. It feels that way because the areas of my Christian life where I’m most easily defeated are the very same areas where I seem to claim invincibility: a haughty spirit that comes just before a fall.

“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (1Corithians 10:12)

This is the story about my second battle.

It is a battle fought on the Hills of Haughtiness; on the heights of blatant and disdainful pride. It is a clash between my id and ego on one side, and the new man in me on the other side.

You see I’ve come to know something about myself that scares the living daylight out of me. It is that I am a hard man. And I don’t mean in the complimentary sense at all. I’m a pain in the “you know what”; a mean, manipulative, controlling son-of-a-gun.

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, “hard”, “difficult,”and “arduous” are all synonymous and they mean:

“Demanding great exertion or effort. Hard implies the opposite of all that is easy . Difficult implies the presence of obstacles to be surmounted or puzzles to be resolved and suggests the need of skill, patience, or courage . Arduous stresses the need of laborious and persevering exertion .”

All these are what I am, and probably much worse. You wouldn’t know this at all by looking at my calm and unassuming demeanor. I must have fooled a lot of folks into thinking I’m some kind of a holy man cloaked in a garment of pious righteousness. To you I’m probably that nice, easy going fella, who doesn’t have a whole lot to say. Well do not be fooled at all.

“The heart – of man – is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9.

You’re probably reading this and going, “How could he say such nasty things about himself? How could he be so negative?” Actually, what’s the point of not saying these things, if they are true? Let every man examine himself, the scriptures say. And I’m sure you all are also familiar with the saying,

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

Well I’m sick and tired of fooling around. As a matter of fact there’s one person I’ve not fooled at all. And that person is my beloved wife.

You see I’m married to the sweetest – and cutest – woman alive today. The best thing that’s ever happened to me, apart from my salvation, is being married to this Godly and God-fearing woman. She is God’s grace personified in my life; I don’t deserve her for sure.

This gentle-souled woman has borne the brunt of my nastiness. She’s been at the receiving end of my id and ego. I’ve hurt her feelings, crushed her emotions, and have trampled on her pride several times I can’t even begin to count. She has seen and experienced it all. She’s an eyewitness – God’s witness – to my blame and shame.

Yet through it all she has put up with me, and stood by me. Her resilience, and her willingness to accept me the way I am, makes me ashamed of the man I see staring back at me from the mirror.

For that reason alone, I’ve vowed to win this battle over pride and its destructive influence. In this war against haughtiness, there is no retreat and there is no surrender for me. I will put up supernatural effort, and put on all of God’s armor, to win the battle over the super-ego in me. I will not give up, I will not give in. When I fall, I shall rise. When I fall again, I shall yet rise up one more time. I owe this to my Lord and Savior. And I owe it to the kind-hearted woman He has blessed me with.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bro Akin What’s Up?

By Akin Ojumu

“Hi Bro Akin wat’s up???????????????????”

That was a message an old friend posted on my facebook wall-to-wall a couple of days ago. On the face of it, there’s really nothing unusual about my friend’s question. I probably know that my friend was simply trying to catch up with me after many years.

I’ve been asked – (and have asked others) – that same question in the past…….a gazillion times perhaps. It is a standard colloquial. So my initial – shall we say, reflex – reaction was to shoot back right away with, “fine, how about yourself?” However something about the question stopped me in my tracks. In a brief moment of reflective thoughtfulness, I couldn’t bring myself to respond with a cliché laced “fine, hw abt ursef.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those folks capable of analytical ruminations; I’m usually a fast eater and not given to chewing the cud at all. But this is a very rare moment of insightfulness for me.

So the question I ask myself is, “What’s really up with Bro Akin?”

The answer, my friend, is actually very simple. Bro Akin is up at war that is being fought on many fronts.

The first battle I’ll call the Civil War.

No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer (2 Tim 2:4 NIV).

This is essentially my identity crisis. It is a battle to remind myself whose, and who, I am: that I’m, first and foremost, a lean and mean soldier enlisted in the Lord’s army who ought not to get mixed up in civilian affairs.

I’ll be deceiving you if I told you this battle has been a cakewalk for me. I struggle daily to remember that I’m no bloody civilian. I’m scared silly to climb on the spiritual scale, because I know it’ll probably scream back at me,

“Obese, obese, obese!!!! You ain't fit to stand in the frontlines of the battle against the hordes of Hades!!!”

You see I wake up at the crack of dawn each morning. By 4am, on most days, I’m done sleeping already. By the time I’m done with all the morning rituals of accessorizing the flesh it is 5am and I’m pulling out of my driveway, hitting the road and heading for work. And that’s my routine each and every day of the week. So what time do I have to pump the iron for – (i.e. work out) – my salvation? How long do I have to stay in the drill at my spiritual boot camp? We’ll let the answer hang in the air for now.

So why do I rise so early in the morning? I do so because I take – preoccupied with the – thought of what I shall eat, what I shall drink and wherewithal shall I be clothed. I easily forget that I’m much better than the birds of the air: they do not need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because my heavenly Father feeds them.

Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with hard work. In fact God abhors the sluggard.

How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? [Yet] a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man (Proverbs 6:9-11).

And there is a rule that applies to all who will not pull themselves up by their boot straps and work:

Whoever does not work should not eat (2Thessalonians 3:10).

However the battle I fight is that my civilian job is crowding out my eternal responsibility. Instead of making my schedule fit into God’s eternal purpose I struggle daily to squeeze God into my packed schedule.

Does it then surprise you that I quiver in fright - and pee in my pants - when the principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places, bring on the fight.

I lose many of these battles because I often forget – and probably clueless as to how – to use every piece of God's armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle I will still be standing firm.

The battles I win however happen when I'm able to muster enough courage to stand my ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness. I surprise myself at those times when I rout the cohorts of hell, by exercising an itty bitty mustard seed faith in the Word of God.

The best days of my life have been those times when I’ve assumed the mindset of a Christian soldier; seeking first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness with laser focussed intensity. On those days it seems as though I have all my ducks in a row. And on those days the sun seems to even shine brighter, pouring forth through a clear blue sky.

Well it does not ever remain that way though. There are still other battles to fight and many more mountains remain to be climbed and moved.

So stay tuned for the second battle.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

You Can’t Friend Me, I Quit!

Steve Tuttle
Newsweek Web Exclusive

I was a late convert to Facebook, the social-networking site that turned five years old Wednesday. I joined about a year ago at age 47, swept up in the massive wave of people turning the corner to the back nine of life, and pitifully trying to do what comes so naturally to our sons and daughters. My own 16-year-old, Grace, literally cried from embarrassment when I told her I was signing up, and she begged me through her tears not to do it. When it was clear that I was serious, she made me promise never to "friend" her. Since I didn't know what that meant at the time, I agreed. Last week I redeemed myself in her eyes, because I signed off of Facebook forever--or at least until Tuesday.

I had one of those Hallmark movie moments. I was sitting here at work thinking up my next pithy "status update," which is where you broadcast to all your online buddies in a few words what you're up to at that very moment--and finally came to my senses. "What the hell have I become?" I cried.

So goodbye 157 Facebook friends, 75 of whom I wouldn't recognize if I saw you on the street. Goodbye super nifty "Pieces of Flair" application, and the 1,332,359 members of the "I Don't Care How Comfortable Crocs Are, You Look Like a Dumbass" Crocs-hater group. Goodbye, William and Mary alums I barely remember from 25 years ago. Not you, Tom, the other Tom. Hello to actually working at my job again. Well, a little anyway. I wouldn't have been able to write this story about quitting Facebook if I didn't quit Facebook because I wouldn't have had the time.

When I think about all the hours I wasted this past year on Facebook, and imagine the good I could have done instead, it depresses me. Instead of scouring my friends' friends' photos for other possible friends, I could have been raising money for Darfur relief, helping out at the local animal shelter or delivering food to the homeless. It depresses me even more to know that I would never have done any of those things, even with all those extra hours.

I was so addicted to my imaginary playgroup, I put the Facebook application on my BlackBerry. That way I could know immediately when some kid who used to pick on me in elementary school was reaching out across the years to remind me that I still had cooties. Once I was so entranced reading my Facebook page on my handheld, that I lost sight of the actual faces of the people on the street around me, and came to only after I fell into the lap of a man in a wheelchair. I was hurt when he rebuffed my attempt to friend him, but it turns out real life doesn't have that feature.

Nothing personal, former Facebook friends: I'll miss those wall updates about doing dishes and changing the kitty litter. I'll miss seeing those artsy photos of beach sunsets and city streets covered with snow. I'll miss posting those, I mean. I'll miss your constant name dropping and updates that make sure we all know you're camping in a hemp tent on a sustainable emu farm in Costa Rica, or that you eat only dolphin-free tuna, and I should too. But most of all, I will miss those hundreds upon hundreds of baby pictures that remind me daily of how insanely happy I am that my kids aren't babies any more.

Then there's the whole anxiety-inducing to-friend-or-not-to-friend minefield that I won't miss at all. You get a request from, say, Spiffy McGee, but the name doesn't ring a bell. You see that you share a friend, so maybe he found you that way. Or you note that he went to your college, which makes sense, because there were a lot of WASPy "Old Virginia" guys at William and Mary with names like Biff or Buff or Ridge. So you think, what the hell, and you add him, and within minutes your wall is peppered with posts like "Spiffy McGee feels a deuce coming on" or "Spiffy ate the worm!" with photos to prove it. Then you feel pressure to say what you're doing to outwit Spiffy, so you write: "Steve is in a Honey Smacks mood this morning." Seriously, I wrote that.

Facebook status updates are the literary equivalent of inane cell-phone chatter, like when you're on Amtrak and the man in front of you can't stop talking loudly on his Bluetooth for one second, so you're stuck sitting behind him and have to listen to stuff like: "Hi, honey, I'm on Amtrak now. I'm sitting in my seat now. I'm taking off my coat now." Yes, I could always sit in the Quiet Car, but one of the last times I did that the train attendant kept waking me up every five minutes yelling: "This Is The Quiet Car! This Is The Quiet Car!"

Being on Facebook is like volunteering to receive spam, and the more successful you are at finding friends, the more spam you get! In the end, Facebook is really the emptiest, loneliest place on the whole World Wide Web. It's all static and white noise, and the steady streams of status updates start to look like ASDF, ASDF, ASDF after a while.

So I've decided now to do something more worthy and productive with all of my new free time. I'm going back to the original reality-based Facebook, the local bar where everybody knows your name, which for me is Off The Record at the Hay-Adams Hotel here in D.C. Status updates there are said in real time to real people, like: "That guy's got a problem with alcohol. I see him every time I come in here," or "How would the Civil War have changed if Abraham Lincoln had octopus tentacles instead of a beard?" (Thanks, Cliff Clavin). So goodbye, potential and former Facebook pals, all 150 million-plus of you, and hello, John Boswell, the best bartender in America. If any of you need to get in touch, check the third stool in, right side. If you want to friend me, buy me a beer.