When I think about all the beautiful countries, quaint towns, stunning homes, posh restaurants and shops- to mention a few places- that I have been privileged to visit, I know that to a great extent, I have had a good life. To the envy of many of my peers, I had the honour of being in the same room as some creme de la crème celebrities when I attended the Oscars and the Grammy Awards. To top it up, life’s journey has also taken me into the four walls of Buckingham Palace! As glamourous and exciting as my life is, I have also found myself in some very dark places feeling very lonely, undervalued and to be honest, used! In a sense, the impression many people give me is that they love me just because of what I can give them and not because of who I am.
There came a turning point in my life which changed the way I viewed myself, following a meeting I went to with Ronke Joseph. From what I gathered within the short time I had lived with Ronke, she became an amputee in adulthood and my understanding is that she was standing at a pedestrian crossing when a car lost control and ran into her. As we approached the meeting room, I immediately worked out where we were going as I could hear singing and clapping. Yep! I was absolutely right; we were walking into what I call the ‘happy zone’. Well that is what it was for everyone in there but me! The usual fear gripped me, and I had the same questions I always ask when I visit a church. What is going to happen to me today? Would I be passed on to someone else? If so, would this person value me? Would they treat me right?
I sat in my place awaiting my fate when Ronke was called up to the stage to speak. This surprised me as she didn’t look anything like a ‘preacher woman’ to me. As she stood up to go to the stage, she picked up her bible, and to my surprise she also carefully took me out of her purse. “This is not the point at which she passes me on”, I thought. “That happens when they take the offering.” As she started to address the congregation, I forgot about my fears as I was so engrossed in the account she gave the of the accident that took her right leg and the amazing journey that brought her to where she was now.
I was jolted back to reality when she picked me up carefully and held me above eye level for everyone to see. “If you forget everything else I say today, please don’t forget this”, she said. She had the attention of every person in the room and you could hear a pin drop. “What is this I am holding?” she asked to which everyone answered the obvious, “a £20 note”. Still holding me up she asked another question, “What can this note buy you?”. The answers came in thick and fast and they ranged from McDonalds meals, to mobile phone accessories and a whole load of other consumables that I could be exchanged for to make people happy. Agreeing with the congregants, she then did something I totally did not expect! She suddenly squashed me up into a ball, like I was a scrap piece of paper that she was going to throw into the bin. Not only did it hurt physically, it wounded my feelings terribly. I had never been treated so cruelly! How could a person who claimed to love God so much treat me this way? I was probably better off in the offering basket. The surprise that I felt at her treatment was shared with the congregants as the look on their faces showed they could not work out why she did that. Just as I was waiting to be dumped into some nearby dustbin, she started to straighten me out and smoothen the horrible creases she had made. No matter what she did, the creases stayed!
Still holding me up she said, “This £20 note may be crumpled and creased, but the way it looks does not determine its value. No matter how battered and bruised it is, its buying power remains the same. Gazing intently at the congregation, Ronke continued, “the same goes for each of you seated in this place. You fearfully and wonderfully made by your Creator. Learn this lesson today; life will throw many curveballs at you, and the physical and emotional marks you bear from these can make it seem like your worth has diminished. But before you buy into that lie, remember your value is not determined by what people see on the outside, but by the real you, by the person God has made you. I stand here physically disabled, but I remain as precious as I was years, months, weeks, days, minutes and seconds before that out of control driver hit me. Every time you are tempted to value yourself based on the scars from the battles you have faced, remember the parable of the £20 note. Thanks for listening to me.”
As Ronke folded me up, then picked up her bible and made her way back to her seat, the entire congregation stood up and erupted in applause. As for me, I knew I would never see myself in the same light, regardless of how many more hands I passed through before I make the bank of England incinerators my final resting place.