“Chinazo, you have to choose one. It is either your relationship with God or your friendship with the ‘world’. You cannot do both.”

“That’s it. I guess I’ll choose the latter then. There is no sense in trying to fit into both worlds and honestly, I don’t know how to pretend.”

This was me having a conversation with myself.

I was a new teenager. A year before this conversation with myself happened, I had made a decision to serve God and live for him.

Then I turned 13 and suddenly realized how much I had ‘grown’; you know, the compliments about my looks, the attention from boys, the invitation to parties and all other ‘teenage stuff’. It looked like an interesting life and I wanted to try it out but I felt my decision to live for God will jeopardize my desire to explore.  

I was in a boarding school at that time and actively involved in the Protestant chapel. I didn’t want anyone to think I was pretending to be what I was not. I wasn’t ready to entertain counselling sessions either so I decided to quietly walk away from God.

“You don’t have to walk away from God completely though. All you need to do is take a break from your chapel activities. Pull yourself out of the service units in chapel and show up only on Sunday mornings.”

That was me again, trying to convince myself. If I knew then what I know now, I would have realized I was just overthinking it but what did I know? I was just a naïve, upcoming teenager!

I went ahead with my decision and cut down on my commitments to chapel activities. I wasn’t eager to sit with other young Christian girls like me anymore to talk about our faith. I carefully avoided conversations about God. On the flip side, I found a ‘boyfriend’, attended a few parties (that didn’t make any sense to me! Blue and green lights, drinks, grilled meat, loud music, crazy dance and then we go home? What kind of fun is that? Years later, I discovered that, by default, partying isn’t one of my favorite things to do. I am learning to ‘party’ now.)

I continued my new lifestyle for another year until my friends, Ngozi and Cynthia, decided to reach out.

It was a Wednesday night and we were supposed to be in our classes for the usual ‘night prep’, but that night, power was out and the generators refused to work. We were asked to go back to our dormitories. Ngozi and Cynthia chose to spend the few hours before ‘lights out’ with me . As we talked, they insisted on finding out the reason behind my sudden withdrawal. I assured them that all was well but they refused to accept that as the truth.

Then the conversation started. They reminded me of who I was and how important my life was to God. They warned that, though it seemed innocent and harmless to pull away from chapel activities, it was a subtle strategy from the devil to pull me far away until I am in a vulnerable state where he can destroy me completely. They encouraged me to go back to the things I loved to do in the chapel. I tried to defend my decision and to let them know that I was fine but these girls won’t let me be!

They talked until I was completely broken. I realized how foolish I was to think that a lukewarm relationship with God was just enough for me. I gave in and asked God to help me get back on track. That was the last time I ever tried that kind of nonsense!

Why am I sharing this?

You see, we live in a world where minding your business has become the new definition of ‘cool’. No one wants to be in another person’s space. We notice odd behaviours, weird mannerisms and sudden changes in people we know, yet we are careful not to reach out to them because we do not want to be misunderstood, rejected or insulted and when we decide to reach out, we are quick to end the conversation by saying,

“do whatever works for you”,

even when it is obvious that they are on the path to destruction. This is not how it should be.

Hear what the Bible says:

“My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.” (James 5:19-20).

I do not know how far I would have gone and how long I would have continued in my foolishness if Ngozi and Cynthia had refused to take the risk, reach out, and speak some hard truth into my ears.

I reconnected with Ngozi about seven years ago and from my heart, I thanked her for what she did that night. I have not had the opportunity to reconnect with Cynthia yet but I am hopeful that someday, I will.

There is a daily battle for our souls and the attacks are subtle. You may not realize you are already a victim until you lose the battle and sometimes, it will require the intervention of another soldier for you to see that the enemy’s sword is pointed in your face.

Dear friends, do not hesitate to reach out to –

that old school mate who was the life of the party but has suddenly become ‘quiet’;

that church member who was regular but has suddenly disappeared;

that colleague who was active on social media but has suddenly shut down all his accounts.  

Who knows? Life could be happening to them or it could be a subtle attack from the enemy’s camp.

Dear friends, make yourselves reachable too.

This battle is real and we are all in this together.

We will win!