Wednesday, November 16, 2011


A few months ago I was at a uni­versity student function. The president of the student associa­tion came to the podi­um to make a speech on time management. He masterfully told a proverb, “Time is like virginity. Once you lose it, it is gone forever.” With a hormonally charged audience the crowd erupted in laughter. His proverb would never be forgotten. Each speech that followed his tried to intertwine the proverb. His point will resonate for years.

Yet, I was not convinced he had actually persuaded any­one to manage better either their time or sexu­ality. I suspected that the curiosity of youth would find outlets for both sexual experimen­tation and time squandering. Laughter gave them permission. Would the consequences be so startling that changed behavior would be the response?

According to the wisdom of university hos­tels and B movies youth is a season of sexual discovery. Lost virginity is really no big matter. For some, it is a mark of pride and conquest.

With such logic, time also becomes a com­modity of pride and conquest. Lost time is no big matter. Youth have their whole lives in front of them. A little lost time may actually be just the results of youthful experimentation. Youthful pride in strength, intelligence, and in­vincibility allows one to think lost time can be quickly regained.

A friend from my younger days once took this line of logic to an extreme in an office debate. He boasted that he had sexual encounters with 100 differ­ent women. He argued that the experiences were good and because he used a condom the potential disastrous con­sequences were non-existent. I asked him to give me the names and phone numbers of the young women so I could confirm his perception. He was at loss. When I told him after speaking to the young women I’d call their dad and brothers for further perspective the office erupted, and my youthful friend fell silent.

The reality is that both lost time and sexuality touch the deepest wounds of humanity. Recent statistics tell us that during the last academic year 614 young women became pregnant while in secondary school. The consequences were likely more than they could have anticipated. Embar­rassment, loss of favor, academic disappointment, and pro­fessional uncertainty plague single mothers. Some of these young women may have made the impulsive choices of youth. However, it is quite likely that some are the victims of rape, incest, and exploitive teachers and headmasters. To either quickly condemn or seek to simply solve problems by condom distribution misses the complexity of our sexu­ality. Sometimes our sexuality is the place of our deepest wounds. Sometimes the one we judge is the victim.

Lost time is also a painful wound. Kigali seems to be a city full of many who have lost immense time. Many of our stories are ones of not quite getting the opportunity that our raw talent and persistent labor merited. We were the victims of another’s manipulation or exploitation. We were judged unfairly. Gossip stole our reputation. Others made choices that left us as a victim.

If lost time is like lost virginity, where is hope?

A single word comes to mind. Redemption. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as to get or win back, to free from what distresses or harms, to overcome something detrimental, to release from blame or debt, to change for the better, to make good, to offset the bad effect of, and to make worthwhile. The many attempts to define redemption relay how deep our human longing is for second chances.

Bob Marley sang about it. “From the bottom­less pit, but my hand was made strong. By the hand of the Almighty… Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds… Won’t you help to sing these songs of freedom? ‘Cause all I ever have: Re­demption songs.”

Thus I respectfully disagree with the youthful proverb. Our sexuality and our time can be re­deemed. Humanity’s deepest longings can find second chances.

Two old stories of humanity remind us of the truth of redemption. A Hebrew boy named Joseph was once sold into slavery by jealous brothers. For 13 years, his hopes were repeat­edly dashed by others. Then all changed. He transitioned from prisoner to prime minister. Nine years later he saw his father and wept. He discovered his brother’s remorse was more painful than his lost years. Redemption triumphed.

Generations later Israelite intelligence officers chose to visit a prostitute named Rahab. Despite sexual tragedy Rahab was discerning and courageous. Her grandchildren would be kings. Nations and generations would speak with honor of the faith of a prostitute. Redemption triumphed.

In today’s Rwanda we have many stories of redemption. Our streets are filled with those who listen to Bob Marley and live like Joseph and Rahab. The choices of others to us are not our destiny. Our own poor choices are not our destiny. Time and sexuality can be redeemed.

1 comment:

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