He said he wanted to pray for me, so we all stood up. He said it was a very special prayer, so we shut our eyes tight in anticipation. He was younger than me. His name was Shedrach...
It was about seven years ago. I had been invited by a friend called Femi O. to co-conduct a training session of some church ( believe it or not!!) volunteers, or at least that's what I recall they were, though they were all professionals in their own right. The training took place at the mainland office of a well known Pastor, who is also an accountant. I can't remember the exact topic, but I think it had to do with Time Management or Organizational Skills. I remember their suprise on finding out that the second of the two trainers was not only a woman, but also not of the faith. And so this shock, which was followed by deep suspicion, and slight resentment, set the pace for the two day training.
I knew from Day 1, that my work was cut out for me, when my first direct challenger, Shedrach, asked how I, a non-Christian, could expect to teach anything to pious 'helpers' such as themselves. But, not being one to scare easily, I charmingly ( or so I thought ), explained that the topics at hand had no religious coloration, and were neutral, and applicable to anybody irrespective of faith.
And so we began. I remember during our first coffee break, Femi winking at me, to reassure me that he figured I was making progress...not on the topic alone, but at breaking down the barriers and reducing the suspicion. They seemed to be particularly impressed by my knowledge of the Bible, which I quoted, when applicable to put them at ease.
By Day 2, I had them where I wanted them, by the special Grace of God. I remember coming in with alot of sweets and chocolates to 'bribe' them into relaxing, as this was my main day with them. This 'habit' of disarming the trainees, is something I learnt in the Junior Chamber, a Worldwide Leadership Training Organization, also called Jaycees, of which I was President of the oldest chapter in Africa, Lagos Metro, at that particular time. And believe me it hardly ever fails!
Anyway, Day 2 was a fantastic day! As my niece Bahijja would say, 'I was in character!' It was flowing, they were with me, Femi was happy, I was happy, and Shedrach, well Shedrach for the most part was....silent? And I must admit, because we were such a small group ( 10 or 12, I think ), I was kind of worried.
I remember, I kept checking on him from the corner of my eye, and kept trying to pull him in, but he remained pretty reserved. So, I just figured " you win some, lose some ", and proceeded to round up the session. When we had finally finished, being Africans first and foremost, Femi suggested we end the training, with a prayer from one of the participants. It was then that Shedrach, before anyone could volunteer, requested to give the closing prayer. Oh oh, I thought, now I was in for it. He was, I was sure going to pray for me to be 'saved', and use the opportunity to express his displeasure at having to spend two days with one such as myself...
So, we all stood up, Femi and I were at the front of the room, and as we were about to close our eyes, he asked if he could come and stand close to me, as he wanted to specifically pray for me....and so we bowed our heads...and Shedrach prayed. Shedrach prayed a prayer, the like of which up till today I haven't heard before...and I don't think I will ever forget the essence of that prayer.
He raised his hands above my head and said...." Dear God, may this woman you sent to us die empty." Everybody opened their eyes and looked up shocked! I didn't know what to say. Then, noticing the effect he had had, he started again, but this time mentioning my name! He said; "Dear God, may Shade Biggar die empty..." there was total silence, then he continued... " may You keep her and us, until we are empty of all the Inspiration, Motivation and Knowledge, You have filled us with, to share with others..." and on and on Shedrach prayed, and prayed and prayed. After the prayer, he gave me a big, big hug, and explained to me the reason for his silence. He said, prior to our two days 'together' he had had such a bias against anyone who was not of the same religious persuasion as himself, and as such he never took the time out to listen to them speak. He said, he was so overwhelmed by the way I was able to interact with them, and them with me, that he was at a loss for words. Shedrach also said that the prayer he prayed for me was a blessing. That insha Allah, the more I shared, the more I would make space for more inspiration, continuosly filling me up, while I continuosly emptied these messages, in essence it was a prayer for a long life, full of giving and recieving. Do I hear an Amen!! After the training, Shedrach called me from time to time to say hello, but I haven't spoken to him for some years! Infact I should google him, finding him shouldn't be too difficult, afterall how many young Nigerian men are called Shedrach!!!
And here lies the lesson in this story...many of us today are walking around 'Full'. Full of Knowledge, full of Wisdom, Full of Inspiration, Full of Talent and more sadly, Full of Love. When are we going to empty it? What are we hoarding it for? What are we waiting for? We need to use these gifts that God has bestowed on us. We need to use them NOW, because the truth is God WILL take us back unto Him whenever He deems it fit, and woe unto us, if we are recalled 'Full'.
The ironic thing is that it is only through giving that we can recieve. The more we bless others, the more we are blessed. Some people utilize their God given talent and more, to such an extent that when they do depart this earth you know that they fulfilled their mission...I don't know why Michael Jackson comes to my mind...We must determine to Mentor, to Share to Love, and Love, and Love again, if need be. Life is so short. We are here today and gone tomorrow.
The transient nature of Life was brought home hard to me on December 8th, when I was told that my father, whom I had spoken with just about 12 hours before, who prayed for me that day, before he boarded a plane from Istanbul to Lagos, on his way home from successfully completing his Hajj, ( just the way Shedrach had prayed for me several years earlier ), had passed on in his sleep, at his home, in Abeokuta...we can only thank God that he ( Dad ), had emptied himself. Emptied himself of all the Wisdom, Experience, Prayer, Dedication and Love that he had in him. May it be the same for all of us.
" When A Dying Man Cries,It Is Not Because Of Where He Is Going, Which He Knows Nothing About, But Of What He Wishes He Had Done In The World He Is Leaving Behind." - Nigerian Proverb
We Can Do This! Really we can! We can maximize our Potentials. Utilize our Talents. And Live, really Live, the life of our dreams!!! I am determined to try! How about YOU...
You CAN Do It!