REVIEWED BY PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI
Title: Not How But Who!
Author: Shamiso Mbiriri
Publisher: Balukwe Content (2016)
GOLD experts have always told us that gold is tested by fire in extreme temperatures that destroy all impurities and refine the mineral to its highest gloss.
The same rings true of life. Some of the finest characters you find are hewn in similar milieu. This appears to be the story of Shamiso Patience Mbiriri, a 22-year-old Computer and Management Information Systems student at Solusi University in Bulawayo.
After battling a health condition that sought to derail her life, she found succour in her faith in God and witnessed ashes traded for beauty. Writing this book was an act of bravery in itself as it demanded that she opens up her life to the reading public. She writes: “In my case, if I had lived differently, my life could have been different. Quite often I had been told of the need to exercise and reduce my weight but if ever you wanted to pick a fight with me, suggesting that was enough trigger.” (pp30).
Quite clearly, this is a very personal matter that many would rather keep under wraps. But as you delve deeper into the book, realisation dawns that such sharing might just be the antidote that someone out there who needs healing requires to begin their journey.
It is in similar fashion that she opens up about how bitterness poisoned her life following a nasty break-up and the loss of a sibling after a raft of health complications. Perhaps the lesson that could be extracted here is that these experiences punctured the “romantic” illusion that “big girls don’t cry”.
Mbiriri makes a critical observation that beyond the tears, concrete steps must be taken out of the mess.
In retrospect, with the wisdom of experience, she makes a very critical observation that speaks to the reality of life, and the need to understand that prevention is better than cure, or a stitch in time saves nine: “It’s quite sad how we become very receptive to information and enthusiastic to learn important things when the damage is already done.” (pp30).
Mbiriri argues in the book that the bigger picture, however, is that God has a master plan for everyone’s life, and this is the blueprint we must search for and pursue if our lives are to be meaningful. She contends that no amount of experience can ever nullify the Word of God in our lives and challenges us to trust God.
The book betrays Mbiriri’s empathy towards the needy as she makes a clarion call to reach out to those not so privileged to access all that they need. Quite amazingly, you would think that with her own bleak circumstances, Mbiriri’s plate was too full for her to be thinking about other people’s misfortunes. But not so with her: “Pray that God opens your eyes to see the needs of others before yours and that He makes you His instrument for touching people’s lives. (pp46).
Storms are a part of life. Every person in this world goes through storms and, as Mbiriri rightly observes, what differs only is the time during which we go through the storm.
What often sharpens a spiritual book is the author’s ability to share who they are in the book. It’s important for your personality to be felt. This helps the reader warm up to the book. There is such a grace on Mbiriri’s life.
She proclaims that the more we pursue Christ, the less of us should be seen by men. They must see Christ manifested in us because this is not about us, but Him. Essentially nothing we can ever do in this life will justify us, but all credit must go to Christ.
Storms of life are inescapable. This seems to be the book’s underlying message. But Mbiriri stresses that the story does not end there. Every storm comes to end, and she underscores that the underlying issue is not how you emerge from the storm, but the one who pulls you out — God. “At the end of the day when your life story reaches the ears of others, the focus is always on how you made it through. It’s your duty to tell them WHO sailed you through.” (pp64).
The book provides fascinating insights into the strength of the human spirit and how faith can always work like a crutch when you are hurt but still need to negotiate your way through life.
We see this in the story of Mbiriri’s late younger sister who, from very early in life, had to battle asthmatic and epileptic conditions that saw her ostracised by those who were supposed to be her friends. She writes of her younger sister: “She had learnt to accept her storm and trust that God has everything under control.” (pp77).
Once the storm is over, with God having seen you through, Mbiriri underlines the significance of thanksgiving and becoming a testimony. But she warns that this phase of celebration will pave way for yet another storm and the cycle of life continues like clockwork.
This is one book that will certainly inspire you to push on in life, with the knowledge and understanding that God has your back.