Loved (A mini-series): Episode 4 – Because I Love You
Written by Joy A. Adewumi
Episode 3 Recap
As I said, that was where and when it all started.
It was supposed to be just another conversation challenging my beliefs. I’ve had tons of them over the years and quite frankly, I’d grown immune to them. Accepted, this was very different, but it proved to be more than just different. It was the start of something new, howbeit disturbing – at that time.
His most famous words that stuck stubbornly with me through the rest of the bus ride and the days following were the quiet challenge: “Maybe because you don’t know what to look out for.”
It bothered me to frustration that he had a point. The majesty and greatness of creation had been there all along and it took years for me to see and acknowledge that there had to be a God behind it. What was to say the evidence of God’s love I claimed to be looking for was not equally staring me in the eye waiting for me to recognize it?
I tried – really, I did – to get Ayo’s silent argument out of my mind but the harder I tried, the louder his words rung in my ears. It quite honestly drove me to madness because seven sleepless nights later, I did the unthinkable!
It was one of those nights when Ayo’s words would come back to me, starting from his very amazing redemption story to his silent but valid challenge about me not knowing what to look out for. After trying for two straight hours to get the matter out of my mind to no avail, I suddenly sat up on my bed in the dead of the night and whispered fiercely, ‘Okay, then! Let’s say, hypothetically speaking that you’re right and I don’t what to look out for! Then show me! Instead of buzzing around in my head and taking away my precious sleep. Just show me already. Show me what to look out for. Open my eyes to see what all along has supposedly been there but I never saw. You’re supposed to be all-powerful, yes? So, this should be a piece of cake! Show me! Then we’ll take it from there.’
Crazy, right! I prayed! Accepted, it was anything but conventional, but still, it was my first attempt to have a conversation with God in over a decade. It was monumental even if I disagreed at that time.
Maybe, if I had known what series of events would follow, I might not have made that heartfelt prayer, but it matters little now. Plus, I was fighting a lost battle anyway. It seemed the genuine prayers of many, known and unknown – as proved by Ayo’s admission to praying for me – had finally reached their height in God’s ears and whether I wished or not, it was time for me to see the light. Accepting it might have been another issue entirely, but I was going to see that light I claimed was non-existent.
That night, I had the most bizarre dream that felt too much like déjà vu. It was a memory-like dream from my early childhood. There was a fire in my primary school, after school hours. My sister had gone home after their extra lessons hoping my teacher had put me on the school bus when school originally closed. No such luck, though, seeing as the woman forgot in a flurry of activities and I a sleeping beauty was none the wiser.
No one knew I was still in school, having the nap of my life till my sister got home and all hell let loose. Almost immediately after my parents called the school owner to report the incident, the neighbours around the school also called her to inform her that there was a fire in her establishment.
I woke up shortly after from the noise of things falling – it was the wooden structure that housed the school’s kitchen where the fire started. This wouldn’t have been a problem except that this structure was almost adjacent to the kindergarten classes and by the time I woke up, the locked class was filled with fumes. Locked, yea, you heard me. As I began coughing from the effects of the smoke perfusing my young lungs, even as the fire licked the window and began drawing near, the wooden chairs and tables providing adequate fodder, I woke up from the dream with a start!
I was sweating profusely! It felt more real than a mere nightmare, almost like I was reliving a memory. I couldn’t go back to sleep, not without seeing the red-hot unforgiving fire each time I closed my eyes. During the day, despite my crazy work schedule, the memory stuck with me like a pesky bug till I picked up my phone to call Dorcas, my older sister. If this was a real memory, she’d know.
As I dropped the call after a heart-rending recollection of that worst day of her life as she balled outside the school building later when she and my mum got there to find out that I wasn’t just locked up in school, but locked up in a burning school, another set of words began dancing in my head.
‘Liz, if the way you came out was not a miracle, I honestly don’t know what is. The proprietress was so sure God had big plans for you. I mean, how does a kid walk out of a locked and burning class with no harm done to her except a sore throat and soot on her face? Though after a while, we all stopped wondering how it happened but thinking back on it now, it simply makes no sense. And when something good makes has no logical explanation, that’s what we call a miracle.’
I swallowed hard as I pondered her words all evening till I retired for the night. Then just as I drifted off to sleep, a voice spoke in my ears:
More than a miracle, I’ll tell you what happened that day. Love happened.
The next day, I ran into Tomide, my roommate of two years during my undergraduate degree in UI. She was super excited to see me. As we caught up on life these past years, she suddenly chipped in, ‘Please, tell me you finally accepted Christ’s love?’
The way she phrased it hit me as weird. There was something strangely deliberate about her wording. So, rather than wave the question away, I asked, ‘What do you mean “accepted Christ’s love”?’
She stared at me for a while and shook her head as she chuckled, ‘No, don’t me you never knew.’
I was nearing frustration at this point. ‘Tomide, abeg speak English jare. Never knew what?’
‘So you never knew God always went the extra mile to show how vested He was in your life?’
‘How?’ I didn’t know how else to phrase my confusion.
‘Are you serious?! Merely talking about it, I have tons of memories rising to the surface right now. You know, there was this stuff that always happened during exam time. You enjoyed doing your last-minute revision a night before, remember?’ I nodded frantically. She continued, ‘Well, usually, whenever you slept off, while I might be trying to give you some time to rest with a plan to wake you later, oftentimes, you’d just wake up with a startled “sir!”’
‘No, I did not!’
‘Oh yes, you did! Most times.’
I shook my head in denial. She chuckled and continued, ‘It was like there was an inner voice in your head primarily charged with helping you in those vulnerable moments. I was a tad-bit envious back then, you know.’
‘Please tell me you’re making these up.’
She laughed. ‘You wish.’ Paused. ‘Okay, say maybe you won’t believe that because it was in your subconscious, and I only can attest to it. Do you remember Dr Odefohun’s course?’
I nodded, recollecting that situation. I had gotten a miserable F in a four-unit course in my final year. What was worse? I was the only one affected. What was the worst? The lecturer in question had to be the strictest, meanest, and unkindest personality I’d ever come across. His reputation preceded him and after one pleading session where he turned me away quite nastily, I resigned to fate. I was so sure I was going to retake the course. That was until his master’s student informed me that my paper had been regarded. I had a B.
‘What do you have to say to that unnatural occurrence? This was a situation many Christians would employ prayer and fasting to get through, but you scaled through without stress. I was so confused by the way God showed His love so openly and evidently to you that I questioned Him over and over. Why? You never acknowledged, loved, or served Him, yet He loved you so evidently. I didn’t get a reply till years after we graduated. “A good parent never abandons an unrepentant child, rather, he doubles his efforts to show he loves such a child despite his numerous flaws,” was what God said.’
I stood shell-shocked and almost dumbstruck for the rest of the conversation.
The last workday of that week came with an unusual and very disturbing series of favourable events. Disturbing because that was what I always called stuff I could not explain – whether good or bad.
It felt too much like everyone I met was literally scrambling to please or help me. From the random guy who offered me his seat on the bus. At first, I thought he wanted an opening to hit on me, but I couldn’t have been more wrong because as soon as I took the seat, he walked away to another end of the bus. To the unexpected and unsolicited raise and bonus, I got out of the blue, with a hint from my usually not-so-nice boss that I might be up for a promotion soon. The last straw dropped when I got home exhausted and hungry, silently wishing for some mysterious room service in my one-room apartment. My landlady came bearing edible and sumptuous gifts with a free voucher to her upscale spa at the other side of town. I was floored. Now, she wasn’t not nice, but she was just too much of a busy businesswoman who had a whole empire to run that I hardly ever saw her talk less of getting personal treats delivered by her. I had gotten my fill. I crumbled to a sitting position on the floor in my living room and mumbled, ‘Okay, just what has been happening all day?’
Still the same matter we’ve been on for the past few days. Love. You asked for me to show you. There you have it.
I leaned back with a heavy sigh and let my headrest on the settee. ‘I’m so far gone already. Can’t you just let things be the way they are?’ I asked, tired.
I’ve never been fine with things the way they are. I’ve worked tirelessly since the fall of man to restore things to my taste, I don’t see why I should stop now.
‘Why would you want me? Tomide was right. I never acknowledged, loved, or served you. Why won’t you discard me?’
I am not in the business of discarding; I am in the business of restoration. And it is quite funny that you should ask why I would want you. Because I love you, of course!
That declaration of love echoed and re-echoed in my head as something began to unravel in my heart. My heart ached with an unspeakable emotion I could not explain, and unbidden tears welled up in my heart. I suddenly felt like a little infant cocooned softly but firmly in the safe and untearable walls of her mother’s arms. I felt the confidence and joy of a toddler tossed into the air by her proud daddy and had not the slightest doubt that he would catch her without fail.
As though to buttress his point, the faceless voice continued. I’ve always loved you. Loved you even before you were born or conceived. My love for you is not a function of who you are or what you do, so I couldn’t stop even when you refused to acknowledge my existence in nature or in your life. My love for you is just what it is. Real, genuine, firm, protective, freeing and redeeming! Elizabeth Irapadaoluwa Adekanke, I love you, would you accept this love and come enjoy the most rewarding relationship you could ever imagine and more?
With more helpless sobs, I nodded vigorously, ‘Yes! Yeeesss! Yaaasss! Yes, I accept your love!’
Now, I could define emotion. It was love after all. Love filtered and slithered through me till it filled my heart to turgidity. More coherent and some incoherent words followed but the next memory I had was one of waking up the next morning with a crick in my neck after sleeping in a sitting on the floor with my head against the chair. I had a crick in my neck, but joy filled my heart to overflowing.
Though it felt strange on my lips, I had never been so sure of anything in my life as I jumped up and screamed, ‘I love you, Lord!’
The feeling of joy was so invigorating that I felt tears well up in my eyes and stream down my face without permission. Not that I minded. It was a new day. It was a beautiful day. The indisputable start of something new.
From joy, the most pleasant and most welcome feeling pervaded my heart and graduated as the weekend progressed. At some point, it graduated to a keen sense of belonging. Knowing I belonged to God and that He was most interested in my life made me heady, as a matter of fact. Then it went further to a sense of perfect calm in my being.
It felt better than anything I’d ever experienced in my life. Way better than the feeling of satisfaction that settled deep within me whenever I sat down with a satisfying plate of Ewa Agonyin and soft hot bread straight from the bakery after a hard week’s work. Most certainly better than the tear-jerking and near-envious joy I felt when I ascertained that my big sister finally found a good man for herself after kissing an unfortunate string of frogs. Even better than the relief and joy I felt when the lump that was found in mum’s bread turned out non-cancerous.
The joy I felt at the time I got admitted for my MBA in the UK and had just picked up my UK Visa didn’t even have anything on what I felt after the encounter. I wanted to climb to the highest rooftop I could find and shout it out loud to everyone who cared to hear that I had found my way back to the Saviour. I, however, like that time, didn’t know who to share the big news with and who not to. I was suddenly nervous.
For the longest time, everyone that knew me knew I had no religion. Half my interactions with them centred on trying to avoid certain conversations and bracing myself up for others. Now that things were different, it made me nervous to go out there and make this announcement. I didn’t know whether to make a list of people whom I thought needed to know and call them one after the other to tell them. Or whether to just go on with my life and inform them if or whenever the occasion arose. I felt rather good about the second option and was about to settle with it when I remembered Ayo.
For some reason, I didn’t want him to find out that I found my way to Calvary by happenstance. I wanted to walk up to him deliberately and tell him that I was not a wasted investment. That his prayers paid off after all. Funny how, just a week ago, I was distressed and annoyed that anyone at all was burdening himself so for me. Now, as I looked up, I felt a song of thanksgiving dancing around my mind. It’s been ages since I sang any and it felt sweet and glorious to sing one again.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.
I’d been finding it rather surprising how much can flood into your heart when you simply open it. Was that a bible verse that flowed into my subconscious like the memory of what I took for lunch yesterday easily would? I knew that verse and what it was talking about, but I had no idea what it had to do with my current predicament.
Go to your church on Sunday.
My church? I didn’t have a church.
Of course, you do. The one you left. They’d be all happy to see you.
I paused with a start! No, no, no! It was too big a leap! I couldn’t just waltz into my dad’s congregation as easily as I waltzed out. It would be cataclysmic.
It would be glorious.
I wasn’t so sure about that. I did think it was a good place to check for Ayo though. So, I’d go as late as I dared. I’d wear a rather obscuring hat and search surreptitiously for Ayo in a congregation that I hoped was still as sparse as the 150 people it boasted when I left.
I was wrong! I was very wrong. And I was done for!
(Series finale coming up next week!)
I will make this short. The devil is a liar, I won’t even waste time on that. That statement is definitive and conclusive and simply inarguable. So, I plead that you would discard every lie he’s ever told you.’
You are not a loser. You were created to be a success and the devil’s lie cannot change that except you allow it. And when I say success, I mean holistic success, that is, in every aspect of your life.
So, discard that lie today and allow the truth to permeate your heart. Because it is written, “you shall know the truth and truth will set you free.”
What is the truth? That Jesus loves you!