Indeed, Time Is Important In Life: A Reflection On The Funeral Discourse Over Former Chief Justice Johnnie N. Lewis Yesterday in Monrovia

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

Two of many adages I learnt while growing up as a child in New Kru Town was, “Time Waits For No man.” The other one was “Opportunity Comes, But Once.” All of these were repeatedly said whenever our parents tried to encourage us to make use of time and opportunity available because such a time or opportunity may not come our way to succeed in in certain way or to achieve certain goals and aspirations in life. Basically, it was stressed that “TIME” was so crucial that whenever a person fails to make use of the time or opportunity such an opportunity or time may not avail itself for the second time to such individuals. Therefore, whenever the time or opportunity comes one’s way, it should be utilized.

These adages were accentuated by the Biblical saying that one should “work while it is day, as no one knows when night cometh.” This was interpreted during Sunday School to mean that whenever one was given a task or has something to do, such person should do that to his or her best way possible, as one does not know when death, misfortune or incapacitation would come, thus making it impossible for one to achieve what had been planned.

I reflect on these adages today based on the funeral discourse delivered yesterday by Episcopal Bishop Rev. Dr. Jonathans B.B. Hart at the funeral of former Chief Justice Johnnie N. Lewis at the historic Centennial Pavilion in Monrovia. In his discourse yesterday, on the theme: “TIME IS UP,” the Bishop said,” My times are in your hands; whatever they may be, pleasing or painful, dark or bright, as best may seem to thee.” He went on:” Our nation Liberia has once more experienced a dark cloud of mourning, the unmerciful and cold hands of death that has taken away one of Liberia’s finest species, His Honor former Chief Justice Johnnie N, Lewis.

“He has answered to his name on the roll called up yonder. As Bob Marley wrote in one of his music “Johnnie was a good man” He served his church, The Episcopal Church of Liberia and his nation with dedication and commitment in the diligence of duty. He was a man with an impeccable character. He brought pride and dignity to the Supreme Court yea the Judiciary as Chief Justice. He was a no nonsense man and it is no secret that he remained tall on issues that concerned the welfare of the state; It was time and the Giver of life has called our brother and former Chief Justice from labor to reward,” he said.

Still on the theme, the Bishop said, “Time is everything. You probably heard this saying before. Time is everything. Time is essential when dealing with people. For the business people, we hear them say “Time na money! Time is money”. Timing is important in finance and investment; when you sell and how you invest determines whether you will lose or gain. Time is important when cooking; you have to know the minutes it takes to boil rice or cook a soup or else it will burn your timing as important in taking medication. If you take your medicine as directed it will be helpful. If you skip doses it loses its effectiveness. Over the past weeks we heard several jingles on the radio about the Ebola virus that the sooner one reports himself or herself to an ETU the more the chance of survival. Timing is important in your spiritual life as well. It is critical to live your life with an acute awareness of God’s timing for your life.

Making reference to a text in the Bible (EccI 3:1-15), the Episcopal Bishop pointed out:” Solomon tells us that life is really a matter of timing, for timing is everything. This should be evident to us. You and I probably have a dozen locks and four or five calendars in our homes; many of us carry a timepiece attached to our wrists and time indicators are built into our cell phones, computer screens, and IPADs. Time and timing is everything. If timing is everything, how should we live?

He said Solomon began this section by stating a thesis (3:1 everything that happens in this world happens at a time God chooses). He then proceeded to illustrate and demonstrate his thesis (3:2-8). Solomon’s thesis is this: “There is an appointed time for everything and there is time for every event under heaven” (3:1). The key word in this section is “time,” and it is used thirty times in 3:1-8. Solomon recorded the events that occur under heaven and everything that happens under this sun is appointed by God.

Quoting from the late William Shakespeare, the Bishop said that acclaimed author, once wrote, that “life is a stage and we all are actors. We come on stage, play our parts and then exit. He said this also applies to all of us public servants/ government officials whether they are appointed by the President or elected by the people, they are only there for an appointed time.He reminded the sympathizers, well-wishers and bereaved families, including public officials that these positions are “farms or private properties,” and therefore, they have to use our positions to serve God’s people and not to mistreat and overlook them. Instead of being the servants, we become small gods. Those positions are not meant for eternity.

He added, “It was time for Ebola to enter our country and so will Ebola be packed out of Liberia in Jesus’ name. Remember before we assume any position, we had predecessors therefore we are also holding on for somebody and one day our time will be over. Be careful not to be out of Gods will and miss his timing and purpose for our lives .He sets the boundaries and times of the seasons and they come and go so quickly. Timing is everything so if you were like a vampire of corruption stop being one now, time is running out; you vampire of corruption, we are tired suffering and talking; if the LACC and courts cannot stop you, the Church is prepared to use our wooden cross to pierce our hearts and expose you to sunlight and fire for that’s the only thing that can kill a vampire.”

As I reiterate the funeral course, I take particular note of the issue of public service to the people when he reminded public officials that they have to “use our positions to serve God’s people and not to mistreat and overlook them. Instead of being the servants, we become small gods. Those positions are not meant for eternity.” Yes, indeed leadership is also associated with time, as public officials have tenure and that those appointed by the President can be removed at the will and pleasure of the President. Therefore, it is necessary to utilize the “time” they had the opportunity to serve their country and people.

As for the late former Chief Justice, while on the stage as one of the actors, he played his role, especially in improving the structures of the Judiciary and also bringing respect, pride and dignity to that body. It was only yesterday that I learnt that this idea was conceived by a former Chief Justice Gloria Musu-Scott. Even with that, the fact that he followed up or started from where his predecessor ended, is something worth mentioning because many times successors always reneged on the plans of their predecessors only for the predecessors not to get the credit. When Dr. Amos Sawyer left as Interim President, one of his legacies was the Children Hospital in Bassa Community. When the next leader came, that good plan was abandoned.

Many times when some individuals are appointed or elected by their people, they see that as something perpetual and failed to make use of the time available to serve their people. As the Bishop noted, sometimes they see this as their private farms or personal properties, thereby failing to do those things expected of them.

As we mourn this great son of the soil, let us in leadership be reminded that time is essential, as such, whatever our hands find to do, let us do it to the best of our ability.

As actors in contemporary Liberia, it now behooves us to always serve the interest of the people and the society, and not that of those of us who have been to serve.

Again, time is essential, as no one knows tomorrow, or the time one would leave the stage, as Shakespeare said, or cease to exit. As it is always said, not how long one lived, but what one was able to achieve while on earth. I REST MY CASE!