• Sanyade Okoli

Question: What’s the difference between a simple story, a brag and a testimony?


A testimony brings glory to God, above all else.

A brag brings glory to one’s self.

A simple story may or may not bring glory to someone.

I was confusing these three (especially the first two) for the longest time. I am of the belief that self-promotion, though an accepted norm in today’s world, displeases God. I therefore made the mistake of swinging to the other extreme - “say nothing!”

Last weekend the Lord started opening my eyes to see that by operating in another form of self-consciousness (i.e. avoiding drawing any form of attention to myself), I was robbing Him of His glory. I may not have been claiming His glory for myself but I was certainly hiding the glory due to Him.

With this new understanding, permit me to share a testimony.

In June of 2018, my eldest daughter sat three of her IGCSEs a year early. She’s a diligent student and sets herself high standards so she worked hard for her exams.

Come August when the results were to be released, we were cautiously optimistic for good grades. On the morning the results of two of the exams were to be released I accompanied her to school to pick them up. We were handed the results.

Maths - A

English - A

As I said, she sets herself high standards so I knew she would be disappointed but I was completely unprepared for quite how disappointed she was. She kept a brave face until we got into the car and then she broke down. Haaaaa! I was at a loss as to what to say or do. Let’s keep this thing real, any place and any time those were good results but she was hearing none of it. She sobbed the whole journey back home with our driver (who after 10 years was more like a member of the family) and I trying to comfort her. As you can imagine, he too was completely perplexed as to why she was crying so hard when she had gotten two A’s.

We got home and she went straight to bed for Part 2 of the heavy crying.

Of course, her younger brothers thought she was being completely ridiculous given that they would be eternally grateful for such results. When I shared “my wahala” with a friend with whom I had a meeting later that afternoon he too thought that my daughter and I had gone completely mad! Lol! As the mother, I was not laughing at the time o! I just stood by the side of her bed as she cried, completely helpless.

As her friends’ results trickled in the crying intensified; many of her class mates had achieved the coveted A*s. I kept trying to say something that would bring her some comfort but nothing worked. She was so upset with God; not least because He had also “deprived them of a summer holiday” after they had prayed so hard for months (please don’t judge her for being entitled 😊).

Eventually, help came in the form of Papa. He shared with her how, though his grades were good, he too had been disappointed with his GCE results; but that had spurred him on to work harder and do much better in his A’ levels. This seemed to touch some part of her disappointed heart. He also got her to laugh a bit (let’s be honest with ourselves, sometimes us mothers can be a bit too full on) 😊.

During that summer holiday, with all the disappointment going on for my children, I just kept begging God to protect their hearts. I felt so badly for them that things that they had prayed to Him for, trusted Him for, had not come through. What sort of lesson was He teaching my children?! That He was a God that didn’t answer prayers?! Haaaaa!

Anyway, as she laid on her bed that sad afternoon my daughter made the decision that she was going to retake the English exams that November. She hated Maths so she was prepared to “manage” the A but for English? Lai! Lai! An A was “not her portion” 😊. English was “her subject”!!

We spoke to her English teacher who was not supportive of her retaking the exams. To her mind, this generation of children can sometimes be too intense and needed to take a chill-pill from time to time; get some sense of perspective. There was some truth in that but that’s a story for another time.

We asked the school if she could retake the English exams in November but they referred us to the British Council saying they did not support November examinations. In short, “You’re on your own!”

For whatever the reason, we did not submit the forms for the re-sit until the day of the deadline that September. I cannot for the life of me remember why we had left it so late. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I had arrived at the British Council at about 11:30am thinking that they closed at 3:30pm. How wrong I was; it was a Friday and they closed at midday on Fridays. Then, wait for it, it turned out that I did not have all the necessary paperwork! Chineke! (“God!” in Igbo) I come dae sweat! How I go come answer my daughter?!

I started scrambling. The British Council staff assured me that were I to leave their office to go and get the necessary documents from my office nearby, I would not be let back in. No story! God bless our Office Manager and Office Assistant; I managed to email the outstanding documents to the office to get them printed and brought back to me. Oh! Did I mention that it was also raining heavily?! Anyone living in Lagos knows what that means for speedily getting important documents from one place to another intact.

Let’s just say that in all of that headache, the Lord was with me (albeit not without one-off premature hot flushes). I found favour with a surly British Council administrative staff and a burly security guard and managed to successfully complete the registration process. Of course, it was past midday by then. Ha! God! Thank you!

Fast forward to November and we thankfully sat the exams with no wahala (why do us mothers talk about “we” taking exams?!😀).

The results came out early the following year. Praise the Lord with us o! She got her A*! I don’t even want to contemplate the level of crying that would have occurred in our house had she not achieved this 😊.

The story gets better though. Fast forward to August when her main IGCSE results came out, she had aced them! She had decided to drop Advanced Maths and retake Maths and still got an A but leave dat matta. Her results were fantastic!

Here’s the truth. I now believe in my heart that had she obtained the A*s she had so desired the previous year, she may not have done so well in the main exams. Her perceived “failure” had developed a level of resilience in her that she did not have before. If we are honest with ourselves so many of our “privileged children” have life so easy that they have not been able to develop their “resilience muscles”. This had been something that has been quietly troubling me before this episode. I would not have wished for the pain of her disappointment but her ultimate Father knew what was best for her in the long run. In the grand scheme of things, if the challenge God used to develop her was getting A’s then I take that any day 😁.

Often times, we go through painful experiences and we have no idea why we are going through them. We get upset with God; angry even. Sometimes we go on to allow the disappointments to bring a rift between us and Him. “What is He looking at when all these things are happening?!” Now more so than ever with so much loss, sadness and fear around us we feel it. Why Lord, why?!

Well, I am learning to trust Him. I do not see the big picture; He does. Despite all the challenges I have gone through in life, overall, He has shown Himself as a good and faithful God. Think about it, what other viable choice do we have but to trust Him?

Now for the icing on the cake. If you look at the photo at the bottom you would know what it is. This past June we learnt that her examination board had named her for the Top in the Country award for two subjects. One was Economics. Can you guess what the other one was? Yep! You guessed it! English! That same “English” that she had faced disappointment over. That same “English” that her Mama nearly messed up the re-sit registration process for! Only God!!!!


To all my loved ones (I can think of a few family members and friends in particular 😱) who are only learning now about my daughter’s awards (plural, some of you knew about one), make you no vex. I beg, I am work in progress. God is dealing with me small small 😊😘. I am having to unlearn some cultural values I grew up with. Una go tire for hear testimonies going forward! Lol!


Thanks to my Hosting the Presence July 2020 class for igniting the fire by showing the Power of the Testimony video, and to Group 6 for stoking the fire by providing me with the space to reflect on why I had hitherto not been good with sharing testimonies. These have led to this and many more testimonies to come! 😊


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