Victoria could not remember ever being so happy. Ever since their outreach to Aje, she could feel a burning desire rising within her. She couldn’t explain it. Maybe it was the way she knew she still struggled to explain a truth she claimed to know. Yes, it had to be that.
The sudden understanding that she still did not know God enough filled her heart. And since then, she had gone straight for God. It had also been nothing short of the divine when the pastor had spoken on ‘Abiding in Him’ that Sunday. It was like he was talking straight to her and trying to avoid her eyes.
After reading the text from John 15 verses 1 to 4, he had gone ahead to explain what it meant and goodness, that scripture had never looked that real before. What particularly struck her was when he explained ‘abiding’ as staying and continuing in a place and just like that it hit her. That was her problem right there!
She was not staying in Christ. Yes, she had days when it was so good she just wanted to die and see Jesus right then but there were also days when she just left off on her own and would not talk with him for days. This had left her frustrated and confused. The up and down state of their relationship made her dizzy. But now she knew. She was going in and out and needed to just sit her butt down in Jesus forever.
And somehow, while her heart taunted her about the fact that it was not the first time she would have such ‘earth shattering’ discoveries only to turn back again, this time she knew it was different. She did not leave the church with the alright-let’s-do-this attitude she always had but with a deep seated understanding of her need for grace.
She didn’t want to be that branch stomping off from the vine in independence. She didn’t want to wither. Not anymore.
Her semester break was left with fifteen more days and she was planning to use every available second to bury herself in prayers, study and just fellowshipping with her lover.
God, she missed him. And so far, it was Wednesday and she was so in love with Him that all she looked forward to was their time together. The joy that filled her was unspeakable.
“What are you smiling at?” Tekena, her six year-old brother asked as he peered into her face. They were seated for dinner and she must have let a smile break through.
“I’m just so happy.”
“Jesus makes me happy.” As she said that, she caught her parents exchanging looks and her fourteen year-old sister, Sophie, raising her brows with her lips pursed in the process of chewing rice.
“Why?” Tekena continued his interrogation.
“Because He is awesome and I love Him so much.”
She sighed. “Teke, leave me alone and eat your food.” She knew if she let him go on, he would soon have her explaining why Venus was not Earth. He was the most curious human she knew. He turned to his food and sulked.
They ate in silence for a while before her dad spoke up.
“Victoria, when did you say your school was resuming?”
“On the 25th, Daddy.”
“Okay. Let me know the bill before I leave for Abuja tomorrow. And that your laptop will have to wait till I get back, I don’t want them cheating you. Manage the one you have for now.”
“Alright sir. You are the best!”
“You are the best too,” he said and they both laughed when they saw Sophie’s pout.
“Young woman, what did I say about phones on the dining table?” Mrs. Tarebi turned to her younger daughter.
“Mummy now! I need to return this IM ASAP,” her sister whined. The way Sophie spoke in abbreviations sometimes made Victoria scared for her English grades.
“Princess, you heard your mum. I’m sure that text can wait,” her dad said gently. Unlike their mother, he was the epitome of patience and believed too much in dialogue to sort out issues that sometimes needed a firm hand. Sometimes, he talked to them like he was negotiating a business transaction with one of his clients. She didn’t know how they would have turned out if he had raised them alone. He only punished them on rare occasions.
Sophie dropped her phone.
“Thank you mum, thank you dad,” Teke said as he got up to leave the dining table.
“And who is going to pack your plate for you, ehn? Your house help ba?” their mother said and her brother promptly took his plate to the kitchen.
After dinner, Victoria did not remain in the living room with the whole family to watch T.V as she usually did. She went back upstairs to continue her Bible study. She had made some notes she planned to share with Anjola that coming Saturday.
Since the outreach, she had not stopped praying for Anjola. She kept praying that the girl’s eyes would be opened first to her sinfulness and then to the love of God and her need of Jesus. With this joy and love that was threatening to overflow the banks of her heart, Victoria could not imagine a life without Jesus and wanted her new friend to experience this too. And she would, if she had any say in it.
Which she did.
* * * *
By 12p.m, the bar was quiet and Anjola couldn’t have had it any other way. Her mother had taken Bolu – their baby – and Remi for a party. Toke had gone to visit her mother, who was Titilope’s elder sister, in the village. Segun and Timothy had as usual gone to play football with their friends.
She looked at the Bible she had been reading and sighed. The stories were really wonderful and she wondered how a man, who was also somehow God, could do all those things. She had read through the book of Matthew and some parts in Romans since the Bible was only a New Testament version. On some occasions, she would just flip through and stop at random places to read. Sometimes it made sense and most times it did not. She understood a lot of ‘whats’ since she was not entirely ignorant of the Bible, but she had a lot of ‘why’s and ‘how’s that still needed to be answered.
Why would Jesus die for her? How could she believe all this was true? How did he manage to perform all those miracles? How come He was so wonderful and still needed to be killed? Why was He so particular about the ‘kingdom of God’ in His teachings? And those parables made absolutely no sense. She had too many questions but kept reading anyway, partly because she was intrigued if somehow all this was true and partly because she it was interesting and she was bored. Even though most of the week had been spent in her school books because exams were fast approaching, she still tried to read the Bible anytime she could.
“Hello!” a high pitched voice rang out from outside the bar. Anjola looked up and saw Victoria entering the shop and giving a dimpled smile that threatened to make her blind. What was the girl always so happy about anyways? Well, of course she would be happy since she was rich and pretty. Although she was quite short, she had a nice stature that could be described as petite. And was that flowing mane of blackness her hair?
“Hi.” She stood up and led them to a seat as they did the week before. Victoria’s scent wafted to her nostrils; something flowery and delicate, like the girl.
“How was your week?”
“It was fine, I guess,” she paused to think and then added, “It was quite interesting.”
“Really? Want to tell me about it?”
“I came across a Bible at our house on Monday.”
Victoria’s brow shot up and she beamed. “Wow. That’s awesome! And funny because I also got you a Bible,” she pulled out a pink leather-bound book and handed it to her.
“Oh, thank you! It’s so pretty.”
They sat in silence for a while and Anjola examined the new Bible.
“What school do you attend?” Anjola asked, curious.
“I attend UNILAG.”
Her eyes widened, “Really? Like, you are in the university? But you look so…” she caught herself before she let the word out.
Victoria laughed, the sound not holding any kind of hurt. “I look what? Small?”
“I get that a lot. I’m a 200 level student of Psychology.”
“Wow! How old are you?”
“I’ll be eighteen two months from now.” She raised her brow, “Any more questions?”
“Why would Jesus die for me?” she blurted. Victoria did not say anything for a while and so she thought she has not heard her but then she spoke up:
“Open the Bible to Psalms 51 and read from verse one to five.”
Anjola flipped through several pages after a while she got frustrated and just went to the table of contents to locate the book.
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me,” her voice grew thinner and thinner as she read each word. It was like a cut, it spoke directly to her heart in a way she could not explain. And all of a sudden, her life seemed to flash before her eyes; the lies, the dishonour of her mother, the secret erotic thoughts from the books she read, the anger. Her head remained bowed as her eyes lingered on the words.
My sin… Against you… Sinful at birth.
It was like whoever wrote this was writing her song.
“Anjola, who is God?” Victoria’s voice was a gentle whisper as she leaned close to her.
“I dunno, our creator?”
“Exactly, Anjola. He was the one who made us, made you. The very God of the universe. The God who is able to do anything, the one who sits in the heavens and uses the earth as His foot-stool. He is awesome in a way we can never explain. This God made us for His pleasure, for His purpose and so we are answerable to Him alone. So, when the Psalmist said ‘against you’, it means he understood that he had not merely broken a legal or moral law, he had come up against God himself. The same with us, the same with you, and so we deserve to be punished and this punishment is death,” she paused and after a while continued.
“Your sin is so bad, so engraved on your heart that nothing you can ever do can change the sinfulness of it. No matter how much ‘good’ you do. Remember the scale example I gave last week?”
“See, no one can ever meet up to that hundred percent on their own. That was why Jesus came. God’s love for you is so strong and so absolute that even in your sin, he made a provision for your salvation. He wants to be your Father, your lover, your Lord. How long will you keep Him waiting?”
By now, a tear had slid from her eye to the open Bible before her. She still had questions but she couldn’t shake this off. She believed what Victoria was telling her. She felt sad and happy. Dirty and loved. Hopeless and hopeful. And before she knew it, she was frantically nodding her head.
“Yes! Yes, I want Jesus.” And then in a broken whisper, “I need Jesus.”
* * * *
– What is your understanding/definition of sin?
Do let me know your thoughts about this. All comments are appreciated.
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