One day very recently, I was at home, with my kiddies, minding my own business (you must have noticed by now that I do a lot of that *wink*), like any Mama of two active toddlers would do. I was perched in one of my most common positions when I am at home; on my sitting room floor, between my kids, one on either side of me, with bowls of their food in front of all three of us, happily reciting one or the other variation of, “Swallow your food!” or “Don’t push your food out of your mouth,” or “Don’t blow bubbles when you have food in your mouth,” or “I promise I will give you hot chocolate after you finish your food!” It is no wonder that, as I turned back and forth from one Sunshine Baby to the next, futilely offering them spoonfuls of food, my mind swiftly convinced me that it had seen a blinking green light from above, and heard a voice booming from the clouds, saying, “Girl, what you need is a weekend getaway, just you and the hubs!” I know, right?! I mean far be it from me to refuse such compelling guidance from a green light, and a blinking one at that. So I snapped into action, etched out space in hubby’s work schedule, picked a location, sorted out logistics, “informed” my epic out-of-towner parents that they would spend one weekend of their coming trip to Lagos, babysitting our kids, and one-two, one-two, we were all set.
So off we went, on our romantic rendezvous, hubby and I acting all giddy like boyfriend and girlfriend! Haha! We were super-nervous about the both of us being away from the kids at the same time but there was no backing down now. I mean I had even put on sparkly pink nail Gelish for this! Gelish nogal! So you can imagine, our commitment to this uncommon opportunity for a solo getaway was 100%, no shaking! Fast-forward through the travel portion of the trip and we arrived at the idyllic coastal dugout about an hour away from Accra, Ghana. The ocean, the white sand and surf, the crashing waves, the beach cabins, ahh! It was gonna be epic! Come dinner time, we got cleaned up and dressed for dinner by candle light. I smelt fresh and looked takeaway as we say in my neck of the woods in Lagos. And my hubbylicious looked fetching. Of course, we soon realised that dinner by candle-light under the West African night sky can quickly erode the “so fresh and so clean-clean” bit, leaving you all sweaty and uhm, ‘a-glow’ within minutes, but once again, we had 100% commitment, no shaking. Even the mosquitoes munching away at my legs while I munched away at my meal, did not deter me! Nothing mosquito repellent could not handle! We had managed the impossible – a face-me-I-face-you getaway, just for the two of us? No mosquito stood a chance!
Well, let’s just say, it all came undone after supper! We headed back to our room, freshness used up and legs itching from being a mosquito clan’s main course, but we were still feeling all seaside holiday-ey! I headed for the bathroom sink to freshen up, and without bothering to switch on the bathroom light, I breezily turned open the dainty tap and let the cool waters cascade over my hands.
I withdrew my hands slowly from under the cold refreshing stream and was getting ready to close the tap just as leisurely as I had opened it, when I spotted a big, fat, round, MASSIVE, lizard on the surface RIGHT BESIDE THE SINK!!! Did I say lizard? I mean, reptile…I mean CROCODILE. Yes! CROCODILE! Okay, okay, I mean…lizard. But it might as well have been a crocodile, as far as I was concerned! And it was just there, lying motionless beside the sink!!!! ARRGGHHH!!!! Oh my gosh! I promise, you, you want to see me crumble into complete indignity? Slip me into an enclosed space with a “creepy slithery crawly”! Arghh!!
“Baby!” I hissed! “OH-MY-GAWSH!” and I turned away from the sink, gradually inching on my tippy-toes back to the room, leaving the water still gushing out of the tap. Hubby was like, “What?! What?!” and though my lips were responding and saying, “There’s-a-lizard-by-the-sink!” all I was thinking was, “Leave-everything, yes-even-the-hubby! Grab-your-passport! Run!”
Hubby kicked into action! I think the moment I said, “Lizard!” he saw visions of his hard-earned weekend getaway crumbling before his very eyes, because he knew that if he didn’t do something heroic right about then, his fearful wife could quite possibly flee right to the reception and demand to be ferried back to Kotoka Airport with immediate effect! And so my
hubby, slipped on his super-hero cape, and declared, “Don’t worry baby, I’ll catch it!”
And within the next ten minutes, he had not only teased the crocodile (bear with me here) out the back door of the cabin, he had also marched around the whole cabin swinging a thick wooden back scratcher at every piece of furniture in sight, to ‘scare off’ any other ‘crocodile’ or other unwanted element that was threatening to send his wife running for the hills, or worse still diving into the ocean to swim back to Lagos!
Now before I get to the spiritual aspect of this whole saga, I just want to say, in my own defence, that I knew the whole hubby marching around the room and knocking on furniture bit was more fodder for his amusement than anything! But I wasn’t going to stop him. Anything to make sure that all lingering reptiles came scurrying out of hiding and scuttling out the door! ☺
Phew, what a blog post hey? Where is the spiritually rousing THE NARROW GATEWAY crescendo in all this?! Well, I decided to draw you into my getaway shenanigans for two reasons. One, because, well, hindsight being what it is, I now think the whole thing was completely hilarious! And there’s only one thing I love more than a good laugh, and that is sharing the laugh with others! (And by the way, I’m totally sure that not taking yourself too seriously is totally THE NARROW GATEWAY thing to do! Haha!) But my second reason for telling you this story is that the whole thing replayed in my mind the next morning while hubby and I were praying together. At some point, smack in the middle of a ‘worship song’, just as I hit a lekker high in my spirit, I was reminded of how freaked out I had been just about twelve hours earlier, and how I had clutched at my chest, hissing, “Lizard! By the sink!” completely and unglamorously petrified! But now I had this mocking voice, spitting fire at my heart. And now? Look at you trying to be all spiritual now. When just yesterday you were freaking out because of one small lizard! If your Narrow Gateway people saw you like that, what would they say? What happened to “sorry fear, grace took your place” [my second last blog post]?! Narrow Gateway, Narrow Gateway. And you crumble into indignity at the sight of a lizard! Nawa o!
For a minute there, I felt ashamed. I felt unqualified for what I do here at The Narrow Gateway. How can I put words and images out there, all about living out loud and boldly for Jesus and entering through the Narrow Gateway that leads to life in Christ, only for me to fizzle into scaredy-cat mode when faced with one of my phobias? Sigh…But Hallelujah! I thank God that He did not allow me to dwell in self-pity and self-condemnation for one more minute! Because, next thing I know, I had a song in my heart. Now if you’ve read any of my blogs, you must know by now that I think, cry and love in Heartsongs. Here’s the song that my spirit sang: The Heart of Worship by Matt Redman.
“When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come. Longing just to bring something that’s of worth, that will bless Your heart. I’ll bring You more than a song, for a song in itself is not what You have required. You search much deeper within, through the way things appear. You’re looking into my heart. I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, it’s all about You Jesus. I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it, when it’s all about You, it’s all about You Jesus.”
Ah! Well, you can guess what this week’s Heartsong on my YouTube Channel will be. “When the music fades, and all is stripped away, and I simply come!” I belted those words out with all my heart boy. Who wouldn’t? Hmmm…I would. When you know that you are not necessarily one of those who look, sound and preach the part; when you know that your story has some nooks and crannies that are not sprinkled with moonshine and rose petals, and the glory that people see when they watch you online and read your blogs, is 100% Jesus and 0% you, yeah. You will sing o. That’s why I sing.
The Lord is not on some tip of locking us up in a box labelled “the fearful ones”, and throwing away the key, but rather, He entreats us to come to Him exposed, warts, farts and all, and render to Him a heart that is truly desirous of transformation; a heart that really wants to key into the grace that is available to enable us to live out loud for Christ, working the works that He prepared for us to do from beforehand, being the solution to our world! What a mystery it is, to be unravelled before the One? Where else does this happen in all of the universe- to be running scared of “life’s lizards” and other creepy warts lurking around in your life, yet the Lord’s response is to beckon for you to just come, stripped of the pomp and flair, naked before the Lord, unravelled, undone, exposed, yet, not ashamed. No one else can look at you and I, fully beholding us in our weakness, our moral inadequacy and yes, our lily-livered fear of all things creepy-crawly, and still beckon us lovingly to come to Him, so that He can exchange our ashes for His beauty. You see when you do life behind The Narrow Gateway, you do it for the Audience of One, that is, the Most High God. It’s all about desiring in your heart to follow Jesus completely, and then going for it, believing that as you pour out of your depths to the Lord, He will also pour out His transformation work into your heart and life, breaking you, remoulding you, filling you and launching you into His divine work for your life; enabling you to become this person that makes even you be like, “Huh? Who are you again? And what did you do with my petrified, unqualified self?”
So…anyone wanna join me for life behind The Narrow Gateway? A place where you find people who may seem weak and poor, yet they are brazenly bellowing, “All we have is Yours [warts and all]! Every single breathe!” as they fall, facedown, before Him (Leviticus 9:24).
Critically, I end this by saying I am Toyin, still flipping scared of lizards and all things creepy crawly, quirky writer of this piece. I am very much convicted by my own words, and indeed still under construction in the hands of the Father.
Toyin is a writer, blogger, speaker and host of the online chat show, The W.I.T.N.G Chat Show. She is married to Fiyin and they have two toddlers, a.k.a their Sunshine Babies. They live in Lagos, Nigeria. Toyin is a commercial lawyer by profession.