By Pat Amobi Chukwuma
Somewhere and some time ago, a Man of God was leading his congregation in prayer. During the reading of the Word of God by a lector, the Man of God dosed off in his exalted seat. He was snoring while his head was unconsciously falling left and right. In addition saliva was dropping from his opened mouth. One of his ministers noticed the ugly site. He rushed to the sleeping leader and tapped on his shoulder and asked, “My Spiritual Leader, are you sleeping?” The Man of God suddenly woke up. He stared at the minister, sighed and said, “You are awakening your Master. You who are awake, what have you achieved?” The minister replied, “My Master I am sorry. Nevertheless, if the leader sleeps what will his children do?” The Master smiled and sarcastically asserted, “My minister, do not mind me. I was meditating and not sleeping. If the Master sleeps, the children will fall prey to wild beasts.” They smiled at each other, after which the Man of God proceeded to the lectern to preach the Word of God and to pray over his people.
A poor couple and their three children went to bed after drinking garri with groundnut at night. Early in the morning, the wife woke up to embark on the day's chores and to prepare the children for school. The poor husband continued sleeping and snoring like a wounded pig. As the Gateman (GM) of a private school, he must wake up on time to go for the daily job. But on that day he over slept. When the wife perceived that her husband was still sleeping while the sun was rising, she hurried to their bedroom and tapped him with force on the leg and shouted, “Papa Obumneke, awake! It is daybreak and you are already late for your job!” The breadwinner of the family woke up suddenly and sighed thrice. Before the wife could ask her why he was sighing he gave her two dirty slaps. The wife cried and asked, “My husband, what wrong have I done?” The husband roared like a lion, “Stupid wife! Poverty would have vanished from our house today. I was about collecting the sum of one million Naira from my benefactor when you woke me up. For peace to reign in this house, you must send me back to the dream to collect the huge sum of money.” The poor woman cried and shouted, “Oh poverty, have you seen what you have caused this morning?”
If human beings can sleep and awake happily or sadly, does God do likewise? In other words, does God sleep? What does the psalmist mean when he says, “Awake, O Lord! Why are you asleep? Arise! Reject us not forever” (Psalm 44:24). What are the attributes of God? The New Dictionary of Theology on the identity of God says, “The Christian view of God comes from the biblical revelation, in which mankind's maker appears as mankind's redeemer, unchangeable and unchallengeable sovereign in creation, providence and grace. Since he is not open to direct observation, a meaningful account of him can only be given by indicating at each point his relation to ourselves and the world we know.” God is the perfect Spirit. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is the Creator of heaven and earth. He has neither beginning nor an end. This means that God was, He is and He lives forever. If God does not possess flesh like human beings, is it possible for Him to sleep?
This leads us into the definition of sleep. The Wikipedia defines sleep as “a naturally recurring state of mind and body, characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, reduced muscle activity and inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and reduced interactions with surroundings.” In other words, sleep is not only closing of the eyes but according to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English it is “to rest your mind and body.” Man is made up of form (soul) and matter (body). It is the body which sleeps. The soul, which is a spirit, does not sleep. During sleep we become unconscious of what happens around us. In fact sleep is the junior sister of death. Is it possible to be asleep and awake (sleeping-muruanya) at the same time?
From the aforementioned characteristics, it becomes obvious that God as the All and All, being a perfect Spirit, does not and cannot sleep. The biblical account of creation tells us that God rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2). That is a human language. God is all powerful and does not get exhausted like we human beings. He is ever energetic. If a pilot sleeps while on the air or a driver sleeps behind the steering, then the lives of the passengers are in serious jeopardy. If God sleeps even a second, the whole universe will collapse. No, He cannot sleep. He is always awake to watch over his creatures. That's why the Scripture says without mincing words, “Unless the Lord guards the city, in vain does the guard stay awake” (Psalm 127:1). In essence 'Awake, O Lord!' is a call on God to act.
A few years ago there was a fatal accident in which a passenger bus with the inscription “GOD NEVER SLEEPS” crashed into a gully. The driver and 18 persons on board died at the spot. Was God asleep when it happened? No, God was awake. It was the late driver who was asleep. He was weak and was travelling at night. You cannot cheat nature. So, sleep caught him unawares while on the steering. As a result, he lost control of the vehicle. The journey ended fatally inside the gully. It was a human failure and not divine failure. Night travel is dangerous. The devil and his agents operate more in darkness on the highways.
God is watching our country Nigeria drifting to chaos and anarchy. Blood is flowing like water nationwide. Terrorists ranging from Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers and bandits are causing heavy havoc here and there. Hence, Nigerians can no longer sleep with two eyes closed. Our Federal Government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has been accused of not doing enough to protect the lives and property of the citizens, which is the primary duty of government. Our security apparatus is no more functioning well. Thus, there is a clarion call for the president to overhaul the entire security system. The current service chiefs are operating on the law of diminishing return. The morale of our soldiers at the warfront seems to be down. Their welfare should not be taken for granted. They also need more sophisticated weapons to fight the terrorists. Indeed, it is not easy to pay the supreme prize. The president's promise to defeat Boko Haram and other terrorists and rescue the innocent victims in their camp should translate into action.
Nigerians are weeping over the tense insecurity in the country. They are now taking their plight to God for his intervention. Recently, the members of the Christian Association prayerfully marched across the streets to decry the bloody insecurity in the land. Likewise since Ash Wednesday 2020, the Hierarchy and Laity of the Catholic Church wore black attires and prayerfully marched to the streets in various states to show their displeasure over the unwarranted killing of innocent Nigerians. They mourned the slain victims and called on the intervention of the Almighty God and Father. Since God does not sleep, He knows what to do. He has intervened before and He will intervene again. His silence does not mean the approval of his people being massacred like chicken on daily basis. By his Almighty power God subdued Pharaoh through the hand of Moses and led the Israelites out of Egypt. God said to Moses, “I have seen the humiliation of my people in Egypt and I hear their cry when they are cruelly treated by their taskmasters. I know their suffering. I have come down to free them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them up from that land to a beautiful spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:7- 8). O God, do the same now in Nigeria! We are helpless. Only you can rescue us from the present menace in the country you blessed with abundant human and natural resources. We are being marginalized by the powers that be. Nepotism has rendered us useless. Hunger and anger have mesmerized us. The life of cows is now more valuable than human life here. The herders are no more herding but killing your people all over the places. Kidnappers are collecting millions of ransom and killing as well.
Bandits are sucking blood daily. We are finished. Therefore, we cry to you God for your intervention in your way and at your own time. Our eyes and hands are raised to you as we fall on our knees crying: “Why, O Lord, do you stand afar? Why hide your face from us in times of distress? The wicked are in power; the weak suffer harassment; the poor become victims of evil schemes. Exploiters boast in their power and greed; the covetous blasphemes and defies God”(Psalm 10:1 - 3). In God we trust!
In addendum, as I was about to end this write-up, God awoke. The long-awaited Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia in Anambra State was finally created by Pope Francis. God bless him. The emeritus Bishop of Ahiara, Most Reverend Peter Ebere Okpaleke, was named the first Bishop of the new diocese. Glory to God in the highest! We thank the Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Reverend Paulinus Chukwuemeka Ezeokafor, through whose sweat it was made possible. We also thank the current Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, His Grace Antonio Guido Filipazzi, for his tireless effort. May God endow Bishop Okpaleke the grace and wisdom to shepherd the flock of God in the new diocese. Long Live Ekwulobia Diocese! Long Live Awka Diocese! Long Live Nigeria!