On the 16th of July 2017, I had the privilege of being able to share a part of my story on BBC Radio 4 to 1.6 million listeners. As nerve wracking as it was, being able to do that has given me the courage to share my life and my relationship with God in the form of blog posts. Besides, there was only so much I could share on radio and radio being radio my vocabulary had to be ‘adapted’. So here goes, the life of El-Ruth Harmony, in the words of El-Ruth Harmony…
I think you’ve got my name already but just in case you missed it, my name is El-Ruth Harmony and I was born miraculously healthy into a Christian family. All babies are a miracle, but my journey to this world and the meaning behind my name is quite unique (I’ll save that story for another blog post). Anyway back to my life, my parents were both missionary pastors and head of a big church in Nigeria. When I was five we travelled to the UK for what I thought was just another mission trip. However, it turns out that we were moving here and my parents left us in the care of family friends with the plan to return to Nigeria and prepare for the move. Even though I was used to my parents travelling, the day my dad was meant to be flying back to Nigeria I remember crying so much as if I was never going to see him again. Little did I know that I really would never see him again because he was tragically killed in a car accident soon after returning to Nigeria.
Soon after my dad’s car accident, my baby brother died in his sleep – he was nine months old. Some time after the death of my little brother, my grandmother got sick and she also passed away. I cannot begin to describe to you the pain of losing three family members so soon after each other because the pain I felt when my dad died was so severe, that it was as if I had reached the maximum threshold of pain that a six-year-old girl could bare.
At this point, you would probably assume that matters could not get worse, but it did because we then found out that my mum would be unable to come back to the UK to be with us. So, I had to grow up without both of my parents. My upbringing (well childhood) in the care of the people who ended up being my ‘carers’/’guardians’ is something that I am not able to talk about in person, let alone write about in this post.
What I can say is that as a result of growing up without my biological parents and because of the many things that happened during my childhood I become very independent and self-sufficient from a young age. This is because I felt like I had to be – I couldn’t rely on God – where was God when my dad was in the car accident? I felt like I couldn’t rely on my mum because as amazing as she was and still is, she was in another country.
Instead of facing reality and the mess which was my life, I became a perfectionist. Knowing I couldn’t control the past and the things that were going on in the place I called ‘home’, I decided to attempt to control everything else. I had to be a ‘teacher’s pet’ and super popular at school. I had to be at every cool party and get straight A’s. I had to be the sweetest girl at church and the hot chick at the club.
By achieving all of this I temporarily convinced myself and the people around me that I was happy and had my whole life together, but really when I got into bed at night I still felt like the broken six-year girl crying for her parents to come back – never quite being able to navigate past the pain.
Over a year ago now, I went back to Nigeria to visit my mum and whilst I was there she in a car accident and almost died. Amongst the many thoughts that went through my head as I watched my mum zone in and out of consciousness on what I thought was her deathbed, the question that I kept asking was, ‘God how could you let this happen’? Even though my mum miraculously survived the accident, I could no longer pretend that I was okay when in fact I felt broken, alone and absolutely fuming at God. Some would probably ask why did I still even believe God existed, well the thing is I had already ‘seen too much of him’ to go into a state of denial and pretend he didn’t exist. Nonetheless, just because I knew he existed didn’t change the fact that I thought he was cruel and distant.
* a lot happened in between then ^ and this next bit but it’s too much to explain right now and not that important really *
So after about a year of being on an emotional rollercoaster, not the type that goes up and down, the one like Oblivion at Alton Towers that just goes down for what feels like eternity to what seems like the depths of hell… one day I was thinking about the story of Lazarus in the bible – Lazarus was a guy who had died and Jesus brought back to life. This is how I remember the story… Lazarus died, Jesus turned up, everyone was crying, Jesus brought Lazarus back to life – happy days. I listened at Sunday school, so I thought I knew the story so well but then something stood out to me, that had never caught my attention before. John 11 verse 35 and it says “Jesus wept”. When I read it, I was so confused, it was as if someone had just told me that my skin wasn’t actually chocolate-brown and I’d been seeing it wrong. I didn’t get it, why on earth would Jesus weep when he knew he was going to bring Lazarus back to life?! Then it hit me… well the Holy Spirit revealed to me that actually Jesus wept because, he knew it was never God’s intention for us to experience the pain of death, Jesus wept because just because God is all-knowing and all-powerful, does not mean that he is not present in our pain and weep when we weep. It was like the first time I went to the opticians, I didn’t realise just how blurred my vision was until I put on my glasses for the first time. I didn’t realise just how wrong I was about God until I read this verse and put on my spiritual glasses. And just like that I began to see that God hadn’t just been present in my pain he was also in pain with me, like a parent broken-hearted because it was never their intention for their child to have a broken heart.
I won’t share with you all the times that I know when God has been there for me today, but I will share with you my favourite verse. Jeremiah 29:13 where God says, “If you seek me wholeheartedly, you will always find me”. I know now that when I feel lonely and broken, when I feel overwhelmed and I miss my dad – I know that if I seek God, I will always find him. Because the bible also says, that Jesus did not leave us on this earth as orphans and I have found that to be true.
I want to tell you that knowing and realising all of this has meant that life has gotten easier. It has not gotten easier. I have always said and still think that losing a loved one is like loosing an arm or a leg, in fact loosing a parent is like loosing two legs! Just like a person who has lost their limbs learn to live and function that way, I learned to live and function without my dad. But just like a person who has lost their limbs is reminded everyday that they are different from the average person in some way and they are missing something, I too am reminded everyday that a vital part of my life is missing and that my life circumstances are far from ‘typical’. God just gives me enough strength for today and enough hope for tomorrow.
He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things will have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4
The end… just kidding I’m only 20!