For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.
That verse of the Bible in times past held a deep fascination for Jesse. It was an illuminator that served to illumine his path of righteousness from his childhood through his adolescent years. He sat quietly in his lonely room on the bed the size that screamed of not only the external loneliness he was feeling but his internal loneliness that succeeded in filling him with emptiness. His mind rewound to the life of spirituality he once lived and practiced. Those were times that the scripture from the Holy Bible served as a lamp unto his feet, a light for his path.
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As he searched for reasons that made him such a devoted Christian in recent times he came to the conclusion that his deep and fervent involvement in Christianity was bore out of fear, yes, fear! He was a Christian not because of who God is but for what God could offer him –eternal life. That fear began over the sick bed of a brother. He remembered his helplessness now. He was there in the hospital room with his parents when his father had said to his eldest brother, “Accept Jesus Christ into your life so that you can be saved.”
Andrew, his sick brother had spit at his father. He was all frail that he couldn’t summon the strength to roll his eyes. Though he was drained of his energy, his voice was firmed when he responded saying, “I am not a kid anymore. I found my path years ago and I refuse to believe in a myth –that is what God is.”
His mother had shrunk at his admonition, too stunned to utter any word.
The way the veins on his father’s face contracted showed he was fighting hard not to reach out his hand and strangle him to death. His mother was beside his father whispering into his ears.
Andrew left home when he turned twenty and was never seen until few months ago when he stumbled on the door steps, a changed man in need of medical attention.
“We brought you up to be a Christian, Andrew,” his father had reminded him.
“The life of Christianity was one thing we embedded in you,” his mother added after his father.
Andrew chuckled and said, “Don’t tell me about Christianity. Christianity is what was passed on from your parents to you and now you want to force it on me –why is it that I see it as an infection that you wished to pass on to me?”
“Andrew!” his mother had exclaimed, “No parent would pass on what is not good to her child.”
Jesses was twelve then and he couldn’t pretend that the cause of his distress was the pain of his brother. He couldn’t understand why his parents couldn’t have chosen a finer day than that to tell a suffering man about giving his life to Christ.
Andrew was always there for him while he was still living with them before the world took him away from them and he left the house. It seemed like a very long time ago, maybe in a different world even. When his brother had returned, he had thought they would go back to the good old days they had together but no, he had returned home a sick man with no strength to play with him. But now it wasn’t the world that wanted to take him away from him for a second time. It was death and death promised he would never see him again if it succeeds. He was helpless about this. He couldn’t imagine that someone who was part of his life, whom he shared his life with would be gone away from him forever. He trembled afraid that if Andrew moved on to the great beyond, he would be left alone as the only child of his parents. Even before Andrew’s death, he had begun to taste the terrible vacuum, the space in his life that he occupied, the gap that would be in his heart when he is no more. It created a different kind of pain of been cheated –it was pain of loss; pain of losing a dear one to death.
But that was to change when Andrew finally repeated words of repentance after his father and ended by reciting the Holy Gospel of John chapter three verse sixteen. That was his first day of hearing that verse –no! It was more of the first time he found the words comforting and came to grasp the full meaning behind it –eternity.
He was there when Andrew willingly put his fate into Jesus Christ and took the chance to accept his love into his life as his saviour.
His parents didn’t cry when he finally breathed his last; nobody he actually remembers did, for instead, they rejoiced.
“Currently, he knows about God in a way more than we living souls would ever do,” his father had said with the brightest smile ever.
The angelic countenance that lighted Andrew’s face when Jesse looked at him that day filled him with friendly envy. He looked as innocent like a child taking a nap and with the slightest sound would wake up.
That was the moment Jesse knew that he too, would love to cross to the great beyond with the same look on his face. His father had been helpful by pointing the way out for him which was by living a virtuous life that was deduce from the verse that became his favourite passage in the Bible of all times.
He attended church regularly, joined the altar servants, choir and participated actively in missionary work and evangelism and of course shone away from bad company. He was a mirror of holiness into which children his age gaze into to correct their life style. He was a zealous teenager that was strength to others. Sexual thoughts and falling in love were subjects he found too amoral to get involved with but secretly, he nurtured the thoughts of experimenting what it felt like to hold hands with the opposite sex and daydream of kissing the girl across the street.
Everything changed when he turned twenty that it would be hard to say if something was not wrong with that stage in life. It was the same age his late brother had gone astray and it seemed as though history was about to repeat itself in his life. It all began when he crossed the school gate that ushered him into the university. He was in a new environment, away from home and family that he had made in the church. He was young and wasn’t to die anytime soon like his brother. He could live like his brother had and then on his sick bed utter the words of repentance the same way his brother had done and receive a free ticket into heaven.
Nobody knew him here and he was fully prepared to embark on a journey to explore those things he secretly admired. He became fashionable; his wardrobe was more of clothes that could be passed for underwear. Boxers, shorts, singlets and three quarter trousers were in the majority. The thought of living two lives; playing the wild school boy in the university and the Christian boy at home intensified his desire and aroused in him an excitement that made him tossed his Bible under the bed.
That decision carried him for a period of ten years.
Looking back now, he couldn’t remember how he had survived being far away from God with his conscience at peace.
Exactly after ten years, Jesse stood before his mirror and looked at himself. In these parts, matured men weren’t said to look cute or beautiful but he surely would have been labelled beautiful had he not gone astray and gotten himself involved in activities he once frowned at. What hadn’t he smoked? What drug had he not abused? His devastating look that was once appealing to behold and brought people close to him was replaced with a horrific appearance. His once smooth face was now a trace of cuts here and there. His pink lips were now black and his family had turned their back against him and has been labelled ‘the lost son’.
Taking an inventory of his life, it dawned on him that everything he once held dear to his heart had been taken away from him; his family and his vibrant youth he would have used to serve God. He was totally drained and was nothing but an empty vessel with nothing to hold unto.
Jesse returned back to his bed and picked up his Bible. He read his favourite passage without finding that serenity it once enveloped him in; he didn’t experience that feeling of liberation. God was so distant, aloof, elusive from his reach; trying to reach out to him felt like trying to walk through a wall. He had wandered away in the fog of his misery for ten long years which he admitted were wasted years. He was determined to recover all that he had lost and the first thing he planned to begin with was God, the centre of his life. Now was the right time to make a decision, the right decision. He opened his Bible this time to Paul’s letter to Philippians chapter four verse thirteen.
I can do all things in him who strengthens me.
With that confession came a might he hadn’t known he owned. And with it came a strong conviction. He fell on his knees and began to offer benedictory prayers. Uncontrollable tears drizzled down his cheeks as he was realizing what he had lost; friendship with God. He needed that friendship and he was ready to embrace his Lord that has been elusive when he looked away; when he hadn’t searched for him with his whole heart. He was ready to speak and chat with him the same way he used to.
Two hours later, he fell spent, exhausted on his bed as serenity descended on him. He slept and dreamt he was chatting with Jesus –God on a wooden bench facing the sea.
Doohemba Gwa is a writer whose writings brings one to a familiarity that is found within family love and human desire. He writes mostly novels and once in a while dives into poetry. His work has been published in ‘Telling Our Story,’ an anthology of new Nigerian short stories published by ANA Kano. He was poet of the week in Daily Stream Newapaper of Friday, November 20 – 26, 2015. And currently a weekly guest writer at Memorila.com, an online newsletter.