I pray to God you are doing well. I pray you are walking in his light, shielded by his love. Oh my beautiful Sina, how I want to tell you everything and shelter you from the world. But as God gave us freedom, I too must give you the freedom to walk on your own path. I just hope what am I about to tell you saves you some heartache later on.
I know you feel invincible, so did I when I was your age. No one could tell me anything, although many tried. I was convinced I knew everything. But a man reaps what he sows (Galatians 6:7), so my arrogance was to hunt me for the rest of my remaining life. I made regrettable mistakes because I didn’t listen when the old lady told me to be humble. You are wondering who I am talking about. I am talking about the old lady who tried to save me.
When I was your age, my parents moved from Dekmehare to Asmara. Our new house had lots of neighbors and right next door was an old lady. Usually, I love old ladies because they are sweet and generous. But this one was bitter and angry. She always wore this flowery chiffon dress that had many holes and a white nexela (shawl) that was no longer white. I swear, she smelled like earth. I asked her name many times but she never told me. Everyone called her Adeyabaye (old mother).
She doesn’t talk much with anyone, but every time she sees me, she would gaze at my face, and holding her chin up she would say, “nesente eda eya, tetenkeki” (adolescence is debt, be careful). I had no idea what she meant or why she was telling me that, so I ignored her. I told myself she must be moody and cranky because she doesn’t have teeth, her skin is wrinkly, her back is arched, her hair is gray, and she lives alone. Soon, she would make sure I found out why.
One day, I told my mom I was going to the library and was heading out to meet my friends when the old lady stopped me. She literally sat by the door blocking the gate, I couldn’t push an old lady out of the way, so I sat down next to her. As she pushed her nexela (shawl) up, she said, “I was young and beautiful once, much like yourself.” Yeah right, I murmured, as I try to imagine her young. Honestly, she looks like one of those people who were always just old. She continued, “all the boys wanted to date me and the girls were jealous of me. I broke many guys hearts, ah men followed me like puppies back then.” For a moment, I get a quick glimpse of her youth. When you really look at her, you can see her perfect bone structure beneath the saggy meat. Her straight nose carved smoothly. Her eyes big even as they crawl to her skull. Wow, she wasn’t always old, and she was pretty! Suddenly, I couldn’t wait for her to continue talking.
Right on cue, she proceeded, “I couldn’t stay in that small village my parents lived at. I had to see the world, or better the world had to see me. I packed my bags and left home. My parents weren’t happy, but I was never one to listen to her parents. I had made their lives miserable by staying out late, lying, and disobeying them. Life without them was carefree. I partied, got drunk, used my beauty as a means of money. I was living the dream.” Stunned by what my ears were hearing, I forgot to breathe. Inhaling deeply, I try to connect the dots in my head. I concluded, this old lady was cool! But why is regret in her eyes?
As beautiful as she was, as envied as she was, time didn’t stop for her. So it was when she woke up one day, her body ached, her face aged, and the men who admired her beauty were on to the next pretty face. She said, “I rose one morning and I was all alone with a dusty mirror and a bed. Looking in the mirror, I couldn’t recognize the person staring back. My skin didn’t glow, my hair layed flat, my body had more bones than I remembered. I was no longer pretty, (she breathes heavily) no wonder the men left.” Tears start wailing in my eyes, my heart broke for her. Oh, poor old lady.
In the midst of her crises, she realized she had no money saved up, no skills to start a job, or a family to call for help (her parents passed away soon after she left home). She became homeless. She continued, “Even though I was the last person He should help, God never abandoned me. A nice lady saw me on the streets begging and gave me a home in return for my services. I worked for her for thirty plus years, until my body weakened. Now, I am here, nothing to show for my life. No husband, no kids, no house. Nothing.” I wanted to say, I am sorry, instead, I lied, we love having you as our neighbor.
After what seems like an hour, she moves her gaze away from my eyes and into the sun. Struggling to see, she says, “I despise the sun. She is so arrogant, look at her shining so brightly, as if the night won’t take her shine.” Oh does she hate everything? I spread my arms and exclaim, I love the sun! The brightness falls on my face, making my skin glow and my hair glistens in the ray. When I turn back, her gaze is on me now. Her eyes so deep in her skull, she has sad eyes. She says, “You are arrogant like the sun, you have the arrogance of youth. Humility might save your life though. Be humble like Mosses and Jesus or you will end up like me, old and bitter.” Then, she moves her body away from the gate, giving me permission to leave, so I ran out not looking back.
When I returned, it was late and she was still sitting on that brown old stool. She gestured her hands, come here and pointed to the sky. “You see, the sun is leaving. Not so bright anymore huh? Even the sun doesn’t shine forever. Remember, nesenet eda eya (adolescence is debt).” Oh she is like a broken record, I nodded my head okay and quickly escaped to my room. That was the last time I spoke with her, the next day she was no longer breathing.
By the time the old lady reached me, I was already drenched in the life of sin. I couldn’t hear her wisdom. I had my share fare of parental disobedience, partying, drinking, and sexual immorality. I had fallen into the hands of bad friends and peer pressure. I convinced myself I would never become that old lady when I am twenty-five I will stop everything. The problem was that I had already tasted sin and life with the devil, so turning back was going to be a struggle. Sin is like a drug, the more you do it the harder it is to stop and eventually it kills you.
My beautiful Sina, the reason I am telling you the old lady’s story and my story is because I want to save you the struggle of having to stop sinning when you know what sin is. It’s hard to miss what you don’t know. Take it from me and from the old lady who tried to save me that sin is addictive and regrettable.
Glory to God.