Bestie or Bully? It depends on how much power you give her.
I grew up in Lagos, it isn’t unusual to see people running and others joining the race without knowing why. You run first and ask questions later. Lagos functions in a pattern of organised chaos, that makes the smell of calm at any given time seem like the air was borrowed. Unfortunately, this social behaviour resulted in over a thousand deaths that could have been prevented one day in 2002.
It was a regular Sunday, clear skies and a glorious sunshine permeating through and kissing my brown skin. I was holidaying at my aunt’s house and in true Nigerian style, we were dressed to kill for church service.
I grew up believing the church is a sacred place where showing up only in our best clothes and headgears granted us access to God. To my utter surprise, while attending church for the first time in a western country, I saw people in jandals, t-shirts and shorts, as though they were going to a picnic and it turns out they too had access to God.
After the service, my aunt decided we should visit some extended family members who lived not too far from the church. My 17-year-old mind couldn’t bear the torture of just sitting and listening to old boring family tales when I could be getting my groove on at a house party I had been invited to. I politely declined her offer and headed home to change clothes and head over to my party a few suburbs away.
The windows shook angrily, the floor trembled under my feet and the sound was deafening. It felt like an earthquake but sounded like an active war zone. I had never experienced either, but all of a sudden I saw pictures of displaced families from war movies and documentaries I had watched flash through my mind, my stomach turned in a panic, I wondered if my aunty and the rest of the family were okay. I worried about my mum and brother, but they were quite a distance from where my aunt lived.
I walked outside the house and my street looked like the scene from when the Israelites were running from Egypt towards the red sea, there were people everywhere, big and small, young and old carrying bags of personal belongings and running. There was pandemonium and nobody knew why.
Fear had taken on a human face and it was the faces of everyone running through my street as I stood in front of the gate watching on.
Fear just like any other emotion that we feel was designed to help us express our feelings. It is one of the many tools God equipped us with to guide us through our terrestrial existence.
We understand joy because of sadness, calm because of anger, healing because of pain, in the same way, fear is the emotion that allows us to understand courage.
We humans have an intrinsic need for self-preservation. Fear in the right doses is a biological warning to the presence of danger and can help preserve our lives but like a relationship with no boundaries, it becomes a thin line between love and hate. In other words, fear is our ally who has our back until she becomes an uncontrolled bully. How much power we choose to give her can make or break us.
In the midst of the confusion and hysteria, I also felt peace and faith or maybe it was another kind of fear, maybe it was the fear of running from the known towards the unknown that kept me still. It was uncomfortable to let faith lead judging by what my eyes could see.
Fear seemed logical, it seemed rational to join the hundreds of people and just run, but I chose to stand by the gate where I watched and prayed. Everyone had different theories about what was happening. Some people said it was the beginning of the apocalypse, others said a war had broken out.
We found out later the blasts came from the accidental detonation of high military explosives at an armoury in Maryland, Lagos. The direct effect of the explosion resulted in the deaths and displacement of families within the vicinity of the blast. However, fear killed more people that day.
Blindfolded by fear, scores of people jumped into a canal that separated the plantation from the city. Fear rationalised the option to run towards death thinking they were running away from it. Best selling Author Max Lucado puts it this way:
“Fear of Insignificance creates the results it dreads, arrives at the destination it tries to avoid, facilitates the scenario it disdains.
We must have the courage to investigate the source of our fears, and then dab on a little bit of faith. A mustard seed sized faith will displace giant-sized fear but only if we call forth faith. Unlike fear, faith is respectful of our privacy and never invades, it waits patiently in the background for us to whisper come forth and lead me and she willfully obliges.
Thank you for reading.