A door opened. A voice that sounded like a trumpet said, “Come up here and I will show you all that has taken place.”
Immediately I was in the Spirit and saw a throne and one sitting on the throne, and out from the throne came flashes of lightning, thunder and voices. As I approached, there were four living creatures surrounding the throne. The first creature was like a lion, the second like a calf, the third creature had a face like that of a man, the fourth creature was like a flying eagle, and the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, were full of eyes around and they did not cease saying holy, holy, holy is God, the Almighty, who was, who is and who is to come.
It felt as if I was wrapped in a blanket of fear; my bones began shaking violently. The hair on my flesh bristled. The form before my eyes was something like fire, and there was a radiance around him. I fell on my face and began to worship uncontrollably.
Then the one seated on the throne spoke to me, saying, “Son of man, do not be afraid, come see for yourself.” In his hands he held a large, open book. “Come and I will show you,” he said.
At first glance, as I approached, I couldn’t quite make sense of what I was seeing on the open pages of the book, but looking closer I began to recognise the images – they were all me; the book was all about me.
“My LORD what is this, what does this mean?” I asked.
“I have searched for you and I know you, I know when you sit and when you rise, I understand your thoughts from afar, even before there was a word on your tongue,” said the figure seated on the throne.
“How? Why? I don’t understand.”
“I was there with you the whole time; your frame was never hidden from me. Look,” he said as he pointed to one of the images on the page, “there you are when you got your first tooth.
“And there are you again, your first day at school.
“But look closer, this is the day you were born.
“The day I breathed life into your lungs.
“It was I who skillfully formed your inward parts and wove you in the secret place of your mother’s womb where at such an early stage you showed an eagerness to fulfil your purpose, which I placed in you well before the foundations of the world.”
It was at this point that I fell into a deep sleep; I had arrived at where it all began. There was darkness all around me. I felt isolated, but not alone. I felt an overwhelming warmth as if I was close to someone who was the source of that warmth. I was naked, but not ashamed, the cocoon of my undeveloped body exposed to the elements. Here, there was no day or night, just being, an immersion in a continual transformation. With my fingers I began to explore my face; my thumb slid into my mouth, soothing myself I fell asleep.
Low frequency sounds combined with muffled voices, a variety of different instruments playing harmoniously, heartbeats, nerve endings, organs, life sounds like an orchestra playing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Floating around in a state of total submersion, there was a sense that something felt different, a certain flow, yet also a feeling of anxiety. Suddenly, a powerful force took hold of me and pulled me downwards. “It has begun.”
I tried my best to resist, but I wasn’t strong enough, so I let go and began soaring through a tunnel until, finally, there was a flicker of light that got brighter and brighter, closer and closer, and like a bride and a groom, we became one.
Now I was surrounded by figures in white uniforms; with great care a hand lifted me up and, brandishing a sharp metal object on my abdomen, cuts through the umbilical cord. I was whisked away, placed carefully on a table and wrapped in a soft, white cloth. As I turned to look around, though my vision was blurry and obscured, I could just about make out a woman lying on a bed; she looked exhausted and distressed. I called out to her and at that moment our eyes met. With her hand she wiped the sweat from her brow and smiled at me; for a split second I felt as though I already knew her.
My premature body was placed inside some sort of neurodevelopment dungeon, wired up to beeping machines. There were wires and tubes all around, many of which were fixed to my body, in places I cannot even bring myself to mention. As I peered through the glass, I made out a blurred figure approaching me. I recognised the face; it was the same lady I saw lying on the bed. Looking directly at me, she smiled. Her eyes were brimming with water; she placed a palm on the glass and mouthed the words, “I love you.” Instantly I began to cry. With her other hand she reached inside through a small opening and with a finger she stroked my hand. We stayed like this for some time – gazing, talking, stroking – then she blew me a kiss before returning to her bed.
Every day after that she would come and visit me, following the same ritual, placing one hand on the glass and then stroking my hand with her finger. Then finally, one day she told me it was time for us to go home. I was so excited, even though I had no idea what home was, but just the tone of her voice and her sense of excitement made me pee myself.
I remember how she lifted me out of my glass cell and held me close to her, with such loving care. This was our first full contact. She felt so warm. I was mesmerised by her scent. Firmly secured in her arms, she turned around and presented me to this strange-looking man. When he saw me, his whole face lit up. Awkwardly holding me close, in fear of dropping me, he kissed me on the cheek; his face felt spiky and smelt of alcohol. He made strange cooing sounds, which caught my attention, as the tone of his voice sounded so familiar, I realised that I heard it before when I was developing during my time spent in inner space.
When we got outside, the spiky-faced man with the scent of alcohol shouted for a taxi. As we climbed inside, he mumbled a coded message to the driver, and it wasn’t long before we arrived at the place called home. Still in the woman’s arms, she carried me to the front door. Someone came and opened the door.
Once inside, I noticed the place was packed with people and when they saw us, they went nuts. They surrounded us like they were the paparazzi.
“Ahhh, isn’t he adorable?”
“He’s so tiny!”
“Bless, he has his father’s nose.”
“He’s definitely got his mother’s eyes.”
At this point, I thought to myself, I wonder if that’s why they’ve brought me home, because they wanted their eyes and nose back?
The spiky-faced man gestured to the woman holding me to pass me over to him. Holding me firmly, he lifted me up and presented me to everyone as his beloved son. I guess this means that this man is my dad. As I looked at him, I could see a slight resemblance. I thought to myself, so if he’s my father, then I take it this lovely lady that brought me here must be my mother.
As a young lad I grew up in what could best be described as a typical West Indian home, even though we lived in England. Home life consisted of rice and peas, Jim Reeves, church on Sunday and cricket. I could never understand the fascination with the sport, but my dad was a huge fan. He would physically be held hostage in front of the TV for hours, shouting and cursing the whole time; all I remember was Viv Richards this and Viv Richards that – it was like an obsession. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, if for some odd reason you were deemed ‘hard of hearing’, this always resulted with an occasional ass-whooping, which would be considered an act of love. I get it, but sometimes you didn’t even have to do anything wrong to receive this level of kindness. It always started with a look, then without any warning: BLAM!
Living in London back then was different when compared with today’s society. We didn’t have mod cons like Sky TV or mobile phones; we basically lived in what is called a ‘no-frills’ zone. We lived bang in the heart of the East End, where everyone knew each other. On my street alone, I had at least ten other mums and dads, and each one of them would scorn you if you failed to greet them with a ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Good Afternoon’. It was also a place where you could leave your front door wide open, and no one would dare enter without your permission. Yes, there was a dark side to East London, but on the surface it was a tight-knit community, inhabited by chirpy Cockney barrow boys who said things like ‘having a butcher’s’, ‘telling porkies’ and ‘diamond geezer’. It was like learning a second language.
For anyone who grew up in London in the seventies, you will be familiar with the term ‘hand-me-downs’. You could always spot a kid that was a victim of this crime. I was the original CSI version since I always looked like I was shrinking rather than growing, a bit like Benjamin Button. Couple this with the fact that my mum had in her possession a state-of-the-art Singer sewing machine (Nimbus 2000), which she would swear by. She once made an evening dress for my sister out of old curtains, and I thought I had it bad.
Next door to us lived a lovely old lady by the name of Mrs. Drake. I never knew her first name since us youngsters we were never privileged to adults’ first names. We were only allowed to call them by their family name, such as, Mrs. Wilson or Mr. Henry, and if you thought that you were man enough to ask them for their first name, you knew exactly what was coming: BLAM! You learnt quickly that it was not worth the drama. Anyway, Mrs. Drake was married to Mr. Drake, who died at a ripe old age. God rest his soul. He was a quiet man with a gentle nature. I remember how I would climb over the fence into their back garden and have a snoop around in his shed. Inside it was very dusty with a strong smell of diesel. There were rusty tools in old wooden boxes, a manual lawn mower made of a few twisted blades with two rubber wheels either side and a broomstick for a handle. In the garden there was a big apple tree, and in the summer, Mrs. Drake would pick the fruit and bake an apple pie for us. Unfortunately, she too died when I was young. I think because she missed Mr. Drake so much, she went looking for him.
“Rest in peace, Mr. and Mrs. Drake”.
Since my parents believed in God, our house was filled with religious paraphernalia, including rosaries, written scripture and religious phrases on the walls, like ‘God Bless This House’. The focal point of the living room, besides Dad’s well-polished wooden gram, was a painting of the Lord’s supper. My dear old mother was a devoted Catholic. She could recite all the psalms and scriptures, word for word, and insisted that we all attend our local church every Sunday. Let’s put it this way, you had to have a damn good excuse why you couldn’t attend. In the morning, she would wake us up by calling out once, and only once, and if we didn’t respond within five minutes, she would burst into our bedroom, pull the blankets off us and with every ‘Hail Mary’ she would beat us with anything she could get her hands on. She would tell me that the God she serves is an all-seeing God, therefore what she didn’t see, he would.
Those chilling words were a constant reminder, like a medallion wrapped around my neck. Such as the time when I was in a local sweetshop, just me and the shopkeeper, who was about ninety years old, partially blind and with the kind of memory where she forgot what she was talking about. Anyway, there it was, staring right at me, elegant and smooth, the biggest bar of chocolate I had ever seen, covered in a velvet wrapper. I knew it was wrong, but I just had to have it, so when the old lady wasn’t looking – to be honest, I don’t even think she had heard me enter – I carefully slipped it into my jacket pocket. At that moment I heard those chilling words ringing in my head: “What I don’t see, the LORD will.” I tried to ignore the voice, but a deep penetrating fear set in. I convinced myself that if God could see me now, he wouldn’t hesitate to tell Mum at the drop of a hat, which meant a belt, a shoe, worst of all, it meant an uppercut to the jaw… hell no! I put that chocolate right back where I found it.
It is written in scripture that:
“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful. Yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11)
I definitely agree with the sorrowful part, but I couldn’t see how a bag of apples would bring me peace after receiving proper licks. My mum, short in stature, cuddly by nature, sweet and oozing with maternal love, one would call a yummy mummy, but don’t be fooled, she didn’t play; allow me to elaborate. It was just an ordinary Saturday morning at home; we had all been given cleaning chores and mine was to polish. I was in the living room dusting furniture with my can of Mr. Sheen, flipping doilies and polishing my mum’s favourite glass cabinet. I wasn’t quite sure where my mum was, but I knew that she was close by. Absentmindedly, while cleaning, I mumbled the words, “bwoy me bloodclart tired.”
It was a strange phrase that I had picked up in the playground from one of my Jamaican mates. I wasn’t quite sure what it meant, but to me it sounded pretty cool. Little did I know that my mum had just walked into the room and overheard what I had mumbled. Calmly she asked me to repeat the phrase, which I did without a second thought.
“I said, bwoy me bloodclart tired.”
That’s when things got fuzzy. Suddenly, everything went dark, as though there had been a power cut. All I can remember when I opened my eyes, was feeling slightly groggy and finding myself lying on the floor of the living room. Mum was nowhere to be seen. I got up and rubbed my jaw, which was sore, and carried on dusting.
With every breath Mum ensured that her children were all raised as devout Catholics. Among other things, this meant attending Sunday school every Saturday morning (I know, don’t ask), mass every Sunday, saying prayers before bed, confessing sins to the priest, holy communion, as well as confirmation. Our local community church was a typical Catholic church, consisting of stone-cut steps, high ceilings and gothic doors. There were also fonts that contained holy water, which allowed the congregation to bless themselves with when entering and leaving the church. The windows were made of stained glass and there were statues honouring religious figures such as Virgin Mary and the saints. There were also enormous stone pillars etched with golden Roman numerals. Also, a huge cross hanging above the altar, representing Christ’s crucifixion, as well as the typical rows of pews, where the congregation sat and could kneel on cushions at specific times during the mass. The atmosphere inside could be best described as a kind of library, where solitude and the low hum of voices, like mosquitos, were prevalent.
As a child I found the whole going-to-church experience quite confusing, as no one explained the reasoning behind it all. For example, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them.” (Exodus 20:4) Yet as I walked into church, I would be presented with a statue of the Virgin Mary or an image of Jesus on a cross. Even celebrating Christmas, I would flick through the pages of the New Testament searching for anything that confirmed that Jesus was born on the 25th or a connection between him and Santa Claus. As for Easter and the whole bunny thing – well, let us just say that went right over my head. During Sunday school – which was on a Saturday, of course, if that wasn’t confusing enough – we were one by one ushered into a dark box with a small seat and blacked-out windows with a wire mesh, where I confessed sins that I had no recollection of committing. For some reason I felt that I had to say something; I couldn’t just sit there while the priest listened on the other side. Basically I had inherited a doctrine which made no sense to me.
“We have replaced rich, robust theology in the church with emotional music and constant reminders that “God is love and loves you and He’s your personal Saviour and loves your soul....”
“These words are great at brining outsiders through the doors (because they’re true by and large) but poor at growing believers into mature witnesses with rich understanding of the deep things of God.” (Ethan Renoe)