GRACE FOR THE RACE

A Short Story Written By Joy A. Adewumi

‘Knock, knock!’ I groaned. It was Teni, my housemate and colleague. She really is a sweetheart but I had a very long week at work. That, coupled with the retirement send-forth I had to plan for our former managing director had me drained in the worst way possible. However, it wasn’t like Teni was coming to give me work to do. Besides, talking can be therapeutic in situations like this where you’re too fatigued to sleep.

‘Come in already, madam.’ I mumbled as finally found the energy to reach down and pull of my heels. It was a wonder that wasn’t the first thing to go. That however was all I could do before I fell back, face-down on my bed.

‘You look like your week was more tiresome than mine.’ Tee chuckled as she strode in and sat on my single arm cushion.

‘Sweetie, you know it was. I had to plan that party and see it through while you enjoyed half-day under the guise of meeting a client for a lunch meeting. I mean, that lunch meeting thing na scam! You get to eat good, expensive food at the company’s expense while you work and still take the rest of the day off. I covet your favour, honey. May my next week be filled with lunch meetings with clients.’ She was literally holding on to her stomach as she laughed heartily at my whining. I wanted to join her because really, her laughter was ticklish but I didn’t even have the energy to do more than a chuckle. Please, could sleep come already?

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‘Anyway, seeing how exhausted you are, I should go straight to the point.’

‘My dear, in fact, if my prayer gets answered, I just might sleep off before you’re done talking.’ I replied, shutting my eyes to emphasize my point.

‘Sorry if this sounds selfish but I hope not. This is important.’ Tee said, sitting straighter.

Oya na. This one that you’re sounding like it’s a matter of life and death, let’s hear it.’ I turned on my side to give her my full attention.

‘So, did you hear about Keji?’

‘You mean the news about Keji that was the major bright spot in my week? Of course, I did.’ I replied, sitting up suddenly and earning a banging headache for that stupid move.

Haba, Foluso! Wahala for who no fear you oo. How could someone else’s misfortune be the bright spot in your week?’ Teni asked with furrowed, surprised brows.

‘Misfortune? Abi, you mean karma? Babe, I’m tired this night and my head is banging. Biko, don’t get me started.’ I replied with a hard look.

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Teni sighed and leaned back on the sofa.  ‘See, babe. I know she’s done terrible stuff but-’

Wo, Teni, there is no “but” in this matter, okay? She’s done terrible things. Very terrible things and she deserved what she got, shikena. Let me rest abeg.’ I cut in and threw my face the other way.

Teni sighed again and went silent for a while. I knew what she was doing. She knew I was right but was thinking of another angle to say whatever it was she wanted to say. Better to nip whatever she wanted to say in the bud now than be lost for a proper rebuttal later when she found a more convincing angle.

‘Tee, see, it’s like the sleep wants is coming. Come and be going.’ That was a bald-faced lie and my conscience pricked me for it but I just didn’t want to discuss Keji in the light Teni wanted.

Teni chuckled with a shake of her head and replied, ‘You seem to forget I know you like the back of my hand. There’s no way you’re sleeping anytime soon.’ Then she added with a serious tone, ‘See, babe, I agree with you about Keji, I really do, it’s just-‘

‘Oooohhh!’ I whined as I threw my hands in protest. ‘Tee, I honestly don’t think you agree and that’s maybe because you’ve forgotten. I haven’t forgotten, forgiven, yes, yes, but forgotten, certainly not! So, let me jog your memory a bit. Maybe when I do, you’ll see I’m not the bad person here. That girl sabotaged us, big time! It wasn’t a small deal, remember? We were on the verge of losing our jobs with huge debts on our necks and no severance pay. We were about to hit rock bottom, if not for God’s grace that rescued us. Are your memories back now, Pastor (Miss)? All of that happened because of one wicked girl’s jealousy and vile lust for power. How can a girl so young be so power-hungry that she’s ready to trample on any and everything the stands in her way? Wahala for who no fear that girl o. And it’s not just us. Hauwa, actually, did lose her job because of that girl’s treachery. Yet, the wicked stuff went scot-free. Absolutely unscathed. Imagine you’re doing all this preaching to Hauwa, right now. No, just imagine! Would it make sense? You know I’m right when I say she got what she asked for – a termination of her appointment with no severance pay and being blacklisted in the industry. If you ask me, things like this show that life don dey balance small small.’

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‘I remember every detail and she, really, did ask for what she got. However, you see, since the incident happened on Wednesday, I’ve been feeling uneasy.’ Tee groaned.

I hiked my brows in dismay as I asked, ‘Say wetin?’

‘I know. I know it sounds ridiculous but let me land. You see, people like that who would do absolutely anything to succeed are actually sore losers. They don’t handle failure well and that’s why they would do whatever it takes to succeed even if it’s at the expense and to the detriment of others. And that’s why I’m bothered.’

I chuckled mirthlessly as I shook my head in disbelief. All traces of fatigue were gone. I was just left with dismay at Tee’s words. Then, I asked, ‘Okay, okay. I hear you. I do but I don’t get it. There is the way you feel and there is the way I feel about this issue. Two different ways but that’s fine. It won’t be the first time. What I don’t understand is, why you are trying to make me understand and feel the same way you do. What do you want from me?’

Tee heaved a sigh and came to sit on the bed beside me. This wasn’t looking good. I honestly didn’t like her very much whenever she got like this.

‘I want us to pray for her.’ She whispered after a few seconds of sitting still.

Ehn?!’ I shouted as I jumped up. My head ached with a vengeance but I couldn’t care less. ‘Play or joke?’ I asked. Teni twisted her lips and scratched her hair. ‘No, tell me you’re joking.’ I pleaded.

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‘C’mon, nau. See, I just feel she might be at the brink of losing it and doing something truly terrible. I think the shame of being caught in the act and losing everything in a matter of seconds must have been truly terrible and traumatizing-‘

‘Tee, stop joor!’ I was nothing short of pissed at the gibberish my friend was sprouting. ‘What are you saying like this? You want to know what is terrible and traumatizing? It was Hauwa’s termination. That was injustice at its peak. I felt like I was watching a bad soap opera. Everybody knew she was innocent but all evidence said otherwise. Planted evidence, mind you. Planted by you-know-who, her royal wickedness who walked away unscathed. Now, that’s terrible and traumatizing. What happened on Wednesday however is the law of sowing and reaping at its best, no more, no less. See, I don’t hate the girl. I really don’t but-‘

‘You resent her.’ It was Tee’s turn to cut in.

‘Oh, I’m not allowed? She almost ruined my life and livelihood with that stupid stunt she pulled and I’m not allowed to resent her even a little bit? See, Tee, I admire and honestly covet your grace, but right now, I don’t have it, so, do not let me ruin your prayers. Because if I join you out of a sense of Christian duty, I’ll be wasting our time as there won’t be an iota of agreement. So, sweetie, I beg you, go to your room and do your prayers. Good night.’ With that, I stood up and started undressing, getting ready for a bath.

‘You’re being human and that’s normal. It’s not like it came easily to me either, you know?’ Tee asked in a low, persuasive tone.

‘Tee, what are you getting at now?’ I asked, truly exasperated.

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‘It’s just that the Christian journey is a call to be a step higher than the average human being. If Christ wanted us to do Christianity with our normal human capabilities, tendencies and nature, why would there be grace? Think about it. You mentioned grace earlier as the reason our lives and livelihoods were saved. Tapping into that grace that time was sweet, wasn’t it? Because it was for our good. Now, that same grace is readily available to pray for someone that despitefully used us, do you think it’s right to turn the other eye and settle for being bread and butter Christians?

I inhaled sharply and turned to give Tee a stink eye. She totally hit below the belt.

‘Do you know I do not like you very much whenever you’re like this?’ I asked as I went back to sit on the bed in my towel.

My friend’s lips turned down in a small smile as triumph danced in her eyes.

I sighed and continued, ‘See, you know a surefire way to stop resenting someone is to pray for them. I’ve found out that prayer has a miraculous way of melting away resentment. That exercise is highly underrated. It does more than just bring answers to our request. It’s actually the most therapeutic exercise in the universe.’

Tee was staring at me like I had sprouted horns. ‘So, why have you been so adamant?’

I twisted my lips and rolled my eyes. ‘Well, you know, I just- I just wanted to hold on to my resentment for a little while more. I felt I deserved to.’

‘And no one says you don’t but there are a lot of reasons why you shouldn’t hold on to it.’ Tee replied promptly. ‘First on the list is that Christ says not to. The second is that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, from our Saviour to the martyrs of the faith. They prayed for their haters, honey, can we really afford not to? Three, you have a beautiful heart, but this resentment is ruining it and if you let it go on any longer, it would not only bring your heart of gold to total ruins, it would ruin your chance at a peaceful eternity.  So, come on, join me, let’s pray for Keji and kill two birds with one stone. Pray for her salvation – spiritually and psychologically, and lay your resentment to rest forever.’ Tee encouraged as she took my hands in hers gently.

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Kai! Morenikeji Gbadebo!’ I called, shaking my head, ‘Peculiar are you amongst women.’

‘That’s a good place to start.’ Tee smiled.

‘Oh, trust me, babe, in my heart of hearts, I meant that in the most sarcastic way.’ I replied with a twist of my lips.

‘I don’t care.’ Tee shrugged. ‘I chose to think otherwise.’

I heaved a sigh and gazed at my friend for a while, then said, ‘Thanks Tee. You really are a godsend. You were right. I lost my eternity-consciousness for a while and wanted to resent someone at the expense of my soul. It certainly isn’t worth it. What’s done can’t be undone. The only step forward is to put the past behind me and let it go in the place of prayer. And what better way than to pray for her? Give me a moment and let me freshen up first.’ Tee gave me a weird look and I asked, ‘What? I’m not going to change my mind under the shower spray.’

She chuckled and replied, ‘Let’s pray first. If I let you go have a shower now, you won’t last beyond the first prayer point because you would be too relaxed. I know you veeery well, remember?’

‘Ugh! Fine! Shall we pray?’ Tee jumped up, pulling me up with her as she raised a song in her sultry alto voice and I joined in.

‘Oh, the love that sought us,

Oh, the blood that bought us,

Oh, the grace that brought us to the fold,

Wondrous grace that brought us to the fold.’

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Tears stung my eyes as I sang the lyrics. Like an avalanche, memories of my sinful past washed over me. True, I didn’t try to move up at other people’s expense but I was not a saint either. I’d done nasty stuff. So, who was I to hold on to my resentment when Christ did not think twice about giving Himself up for my redemption? With a deep resolve in my heart, as we sang the song a second time, I asked for forgiveness and laid all my bitterness and resentment towards Keji at the Cross.

The Christian race is not always a smooth-sail or a bed of roses. Often times than not, we are required to make decisions that contradict what our flesh desires. However difficult those decisions may be though, they could never measure up to the one Christ made when He walked the full distance to Calvary on our behalf and gave Himself up for our salvation. He didn’t have to but He did. He then went further to woo us into accepting such sacrificial love.

Oh, my word! Glory!

Like Teni said, if Christ expected me to do Christianity by my power, there wouldn’t be a need for grace. So, I latched on to grace as I spoke out loud, interrupting Teni as she raised another song.

‘Morenikeji, as I latch on to the grace of God, this night, not only do I forgive you wholeheartedly and sincerely but I also pray for you that God’s love would find you right now.’

‘Amen’ Teni answered.

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‘I pray, in the name of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, that there would the heavens would open above you and the light of life from Calvary would spill on your path.’

‘Amen’ Teni answered again.

‘Because it is not the will of God that any should perish but that all should come to Him in repentance, I pray that the grace of God that brings salvation would appear to you and usher you into God’s fold.’

‘Lose every thought of hurting yourself, in Jesus name.’

‘Amen,’ Teni enunciated vehemently. My heart ached unusually and I found myself gripping Teni’s hand hard and repeated the last prayer with more force than the last time.

‘I say, in an agreement of faith with Teni here, because if two of us shall agree as touching a thing, it shall be established. Lose every thought of harming yourself in Jesus name.’

‘Amen,’ Teni also shouted harder without flinching at my hard grip.

‘Christ has suffered all the pain in your place, lose the thought of causing any pain to yourself, in Jesus name.’

‘Amen.’ Teni answered and burst into tongues. I felt the fire too and joined in. After about thirty minutes of travailing in the Spirit as I was relieved of the burden on my heart, Teni also stopped and raised a song before she closed off the prayer.

About an hour later, as I laid down to sleep, I was still singing the song because more than prophesying it into Keji’s life, but it was also how I felt whenever I thought of my redemption. We’d sung it as:

She is delivered, praise the Lord.

She is delivered, by His power,

Once she was bound by the chains of Satan,

She is delivered, praise the Lord.

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