Whoop whoop! Nefe shares her God-journey with us and the different levels she has come to know Him deeper and better by sharing her doubts, angers and confusions with Him especially on losing one of her best friends to cancer. Through it all, she makes a great point about the fact that there is no “there” to get to as a Christian but rather we continue to pursue God in everything and in anyway as He lays on our heart to. Read and be blessed!
I’m Nefe Etomi and I live in Lagos, Nigeria. I used to work in Deutsche Bank, just finished travelling and now waiting for NYSC to get their act together so I can serve my country. I made the firm decision to follow Christ on July 3rd 2013
I grew up going to church and learning about God, by secondary school I was keen on trying to ‘be a good christian’. Like I would try my absolute best not to sin for a whole day and while I would think of the whole day and thank God and count my blessings, I would also remember when I told a lie to get out of trouble or was rude to a teacher and I would just end up being filled with so much guilt. I even remember someone (probably a teacher) asking “If Jesus Christ came back today, would you go to heaven?”, and I thought “Oh dear, no!” (I didn’t grab the concept of grace then at all). I was never really a ‘bad girl’ as people would say, nor was I a goody two shoes, I was just me- I swore relatively often and had quite the temper. My relationship with God went back and forth like that for many years, I would try to be good (especially around the time of exams), and then just do my own thing and feel lost. But I always knew something was missing, because even though I didn’t have a proper relationship with God then, I knew that at least in the times I was trying… life was different, I could feel His presence and I felt like I could do anything because God had my back.
In my second year at University, the pastor at the church I was attending tried to convince me and and few of my friends to get baptised and we did take a few classes but graduated before we could finish them. At this point I was sure I wanted a relationship with God and Jesus to develop further but at the same time struggled with feeling unworthy for being baptised again (I was baptised as a child already). It was frustrating because I just thought I could never get ‘there’.
Then, I started reading the Left Behind kids books again – honestly, I did this to scare myself into behaving and living sinless but instead it fully explained the ‘Amazing Grace’ that I didn’t realise I hadn’t understood for 21 years! It helped me realise that it is not about being ‘good christian’ and we can never really get ‘there’. The key message is to realise that Jesus saved us by dying for our sins, so we need to look to Him for everything, we are human and our flesh will never save us but Jesus can and will. Meaning, I don’t need to feel like crap every time I slip up, that is the devil’s trap, because Jesus took guilt and condemnation (amongst other things) on the cross. So like how you feel gratitude towards your parents for paying your school fees and sacrificing so much for you, you try you best to do well in school and when you do fail, you feel a little bad (but not condemned) and you tell them you’re sorry and try harder, not to be seen as a good child but to say thank you to your parents. That’s how I believe it works, Jesus did so much for me the least I can do is try to make Him proud. Yes I will slip up, sometimes deliberately, sometimes because I fall into temptation but I go to Him for strength and try to be better… for “I am the righteousness of God in Christ”.
I guess I started feeling closer to God a little bit at that point but baptism was off my mind by then. Shortly after, I lost one of my best friends to cancer. Till date, it’s one of the most devastating thing I have ever been through. It was especially painful because every single devotion and church sermon and even phone calls from family members were all about how God performs miracles and when we think all hope is lost, He shows up. So here I was with my best friend having 4-6 more weeks to live and while a small part of me was scared, I was SO sure he would make it- and why not? It would make the perfect testimony and I could see so many people turning to Christ, so I was like, man God its even in your best interest to let him pull through. A few of us were praying and fasting for him and one friend then mentioned maybe we should start praying for acceptance, but I wasn’t having it- in my head. This was the mustard seed faith we hear about so much, so I took it upon myself to have faith for all of us. So much so that when he passed, I spent the first 3 days praying non-stop for his resurrection. This incident broke a lot of my friends, many didn’t pray for ages and I guess to some extent felt betrayed by God and I don’t blame them. I wanted to be mad, and blame God and throw a mini tantrum, but my spirit didn’t let me. I couldn’t find the words to pray so I just said ‘God please’ over and over again. You see, this wasn’t my first exposure to loss, after the plane crash that took the lives of 60 of my school mates and changed my life forever, I knew prayer was the only way, because that holiday while in mourning, my mum kept coming to my room and telling me, “pray Nefe pray”. I had no idea what to pray for, I couldn’t think or speak so praying just seemed so impossible – but I tried anyway, and I know that’s the only reason why I was able to pick myself up and move on. So while I was mourning my best friends, I kept thinking back to how I felt after the crash, and I just knew this wasn’t the time to walk away, I wasn’t going to survive this without God. It was long, it was painful and I would be lying if I say I’m 100% okay, but I know for certain I would have gone crazy and lost my way if I didn’t hang on to the faith I had, little as it was.
I had already started attending Hillsong Church, at this time and in one of my Connect Group meetings, they were talking about water baptism coming up and people saying they’d done theirs etc. One of my co-leaders asked if I had been water baptised yet and I replied no to which they insisted on signing me up. I wanted to protest because I was still thinking I hadn’t got ‘there’ yet, because while I was still praying often, a small part of me was still mad at God; every time I heard a testimony about someone surviving cancer I had to fight the urge not to walk out of the service, because although I was happy for them, I couldn’t understand why God let me down. Given that I had spent the past God-knows-how-many years trying to get ‘there’ and I hadn’t, I decided to go for it, thinking maybe after my baptism, things will become clearer, or I would become more accountable.
After I got baptised, I realised I might not be where I ultimately want to be but my relationship with Jesus has changed. I understand more. And to me it’s almost like getting married, like you’ve been dating someone for ages, you know you love the person etc and then one day it clicks or maybe you’ve known all along but you decide, ‘I want to spend the rest of my life with you’ so you propose, which was the equivalent of my decision, then you get married and make that public declaration so the world knows your commitment to that person and it’s a day you will never forget. So that was it for me. I’ve been in a relationship with God all my life but my relationship with Jesus has changed and developed over the years, I understand more and love Him more (to say the least). He’s been there for me in ways I cannot explain and thus I chose to make this public declaration, and it is a day I will never forget, July 3rd 2013.
I can’t deny that a part of me did it cause since Emeka died I’ve just felt so empty, and it was also a desperate attempt to feel something. I don’t think it necessarily helped that, but it did provide the longest-lasting source of joy I’ve had since then and that in itself is a huge plus!
As I have already expressed, it hasn’t been smooth sailing since then, there are aspects of my spiritual life I still struggle with, but knowing how far I have come is a reason to celebrate my journey every single day!
After Emeka died I struggled a lot with anger and pushed a lot of loved ones away and while I’m still working on a lot of those relationships, I am confident (those meant to be) will be restored as God has delivered me and I can honestly say I have peace in my heart.
My favourite verses are Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” A verse I discovered after Emeka passed and Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Because who doesn’t want to know that their future is secure (especially with all the confusing twists and turns your 20’s brings).
My favourite experience so far has been discovering that God has quite a sense of humour and I love it! Haha! On a serious note, it definitely has to be realising that there isn’t one way to have a relationship with God. There is a reason why God made us all different (personalities, thought process, worldly views etc), so why should we all worship and pray the same way? A few people have made me feel like I’m not the Christian I say I am or I’ve fallen off the wagon because I’m not a ‘Mary-Amaka’ that quotes scriptures constantly or whatever reason and it almost got to me and made me feel like I was doing something wrong, but I know that God created me to be un-apologetically me, and I have the ability to personalise the scripture in my own life, the way He created me. Yes, there is always room for improvement, but there isn’t one walk towards finding your journey with Christ, and it’s between me and Him anyway.
Another huge thing for me is knowing that the Bible and our spiritual lives don’t have to be separate from everything else, in fact it all makes more sense when lived holistically. I always used to hear that there’s nothing we can go through in life that we won’t find guidance for in the Bible, and while I never openly disagreed with that, I had my doubts, but I’ve discovered that it’s very true. Everything about me from being passionate about fighting against racism and misogyny to my love for music and wanting to make a difference in people’s lives, it’s all there with stories and/or verses to support/guide me.
Next level I would love to move up to is having fellowship with God. While most of my friends tend to struggle with reading the Bible, I’m actually okay with that, my issue is prayer. While I tend to shoot up prayers over the course of the day and have quiet time to listen to what God has to say to me. I know there’s more to do, my spirit is yearning for it!
My major tip would be to remember that there is no ‘there’ you need to get to. God can and will meet you wherever you are- just call on Him. Also, like everything else in life, don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s- you are unique and so is your relationship with God, so focus on Him and nothing else.
One other thing (as we approach the end of the year): I was having a discussion with a friend of mine towards the end of 2014, and essentially we discussed making our new years resolutions/prayers to God early. ‘Why wait for the beginning of 2015 to start trying to get your act together, let’s start preparing ourselves and committing our wants and needs to prayer no so we can start 2015 with a bang!’ We did this (in addition to a prayer and fasting meeting throughout January) and I kid you not, 2015 was my best year ever!!! So it’s something I would really encourage people to do.
#NoteFromSteph: We don’t share these stories just for sharing sake but we share them to show what life before and after Christ is like for many people all over. If this story or any other stories you’ve read on The COMING-TO-CHRIST Stories Project has inspired and encouraged you to give this God-life a chance, please feel free to contact us here and we’d be more than happy [and feel exceptionally honoured] to be the ones to hold your hand as you make a decision to give your life and heart to Jesus Christ in exchange for REAL LOVE, REAL PEACE and REAL JOY! If you’re still on the fence, that’s okay too! Comment or private message us with your quessies/concerns because they are all valid.