Four years ago this month, I joined campus and met Hellen. I had also recently started dating my current boyfriend at about this time. Four years ago I started thinking seriously about how I relate to men; those that I meet along the way, those that I was related to, those that I had grown up around, those that I read about and those that I heard about from other people.
A few months into my new found freedom, I began to make a psychoanalysis of my thoughts and actions. My roommate, Hellen, played a chief role in the development of this habit. Although we could hardly stand to be in the same room for the first 3 months following our initial meeting, she would end up being one of my closest girlfriends – one of the best things that could ever happen to a young woman in campus.
I stayed on course as far as my walk went along the straight and narrow path of righteousness. One could easily label me as a good Christian. I often struggled to keep appearances, keep Mom proud, be a good influence, remain on the right track. All the while, something else was brewing inside. It would eventually come out, but after another two years of toying with psychoanalysis and experiencing an exponential growth in intimacy with a man with whom I was gradually falling in love.
I had always translated ‘the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom’ as meaning that it was necessary for me to approach God ‘with much fear and trembling’ because I would then have comprehended wisdom in every sense. This angle of reasoning made a rather unhappy lady of me. I looked at God the same way I looked at my father; like he was out to punish me for things that were not always my fault.
Mom raised me as a single mother, with the able support of her own father. I was the apple of Grandpa’s eye, a fact that often caused friction in my relationship with my Grandma because I often felt as if she could not lay a hand on me. He talked to me like an equal and helped fill, the best way he knew how, the so-called papa-shaped hole in my heart. He was my friend, confidant, idol and my favourite male figure in the family. My uncles, Mom’s 3 brothers, completely sealed the perfect family frame. They represented fun, mostly, but were also keen on imparting little gems of life lessons. My uncles taught me how to laugh, dance ballet in old stockings, pose for the camera, lie to Mom, tackle algebra and spell.
A crisis, however, still existed in my young mind because Grandpa didn’t go to church and we learned in church that God was our heavenly father; not a very heavenly thought for me. All I knew was that I had father who could not be with Mom and wanted nothing to do with me. I blamed myself for my parents’ inability to be together and tried to be the best little girl that I could be so I wouldn’t burden Mom too much. I knew she worked hard, that she loved me and did all that she could to give me the best that she could. I also knew that I cost her time, money and a life partner. I felt all this most keenly from the age of about 10. It would take me another 7 years to discover that no child in any circumstance should ever struggle with such thoughts.
At 18, I was on some sort of spiritual high. I read my Bible and prayed and started actively participating in church activities. I became a volunteer at the Kajiado Adventist Educational and Rehabilitation Center, became a school chaplain who talked to kids about Christian living and its challenges in real life contexts, took part in Bible study and hosted my friends for lunch and meetings at home. Deep down, I still felt a distance between myself and God. He was God: omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent; but He was still a male father figure. It had been a year since Grandpa had succumbed to diabetic-related complications, I had failed to make the grade for medical school and I still disliked the male species a great deal.
When I was 19, I met a guy that I really like. That was when the storm broke. I did everything I could to prevent it from happening, but we wound up in a relationship. Eating away at me were the anger and resentment I felt towards men, my disappointment in myself for yielding to the affection of a man of a different faith even though I knew that he was a good person and a true friend, and my fear of failure in my career.
The story doesn’t have a particular end. It is all really a one-sided narration and we’re all entitled to our varying and sometimes unorthodox opinions of facts as we perceive them. What I do know is that I still possess feminist traits and can be overly defensive when I feel exposed. I relate better with men and have settled quite nicely into Grandpa’s absence. Mom and I aren’t as close as we were when I was a kid, but we love each other and we’re still good friends; more times of the week than we were last year and even more than the year before that. I have made peace with myself over my choices in association, academics-cum-career and my parents. That is not to say that I have peace everyday; I simply understand myself better, can put my foot down firmly, am more empathetic and have learned that life is really more about people than stuff. I am a less judgmental Christian, I am slowly getting back on track and am still learning daily how present and real God is in my life – both as a father and the numerous other constancies that He is to me today. I am also more relaxed, a little messier even, and I thoroughly enjoy and take seriously the creation of memories with people – irrespective of whether or not I know them.
In summary, unraveling the mystery of the father figure has brought me a long way and made me grow in ways I never deemed possible.