“Healing comes painfully.”
Anjola stared at the inspirational image with minimal text on her Instagram feed, shook her head and scrolled down. After scrolling past a few pictures on her timeline, she scrolled back up and stared at the image again.
“What does that even mean?” she muttered. Maybe someone who was trying to sound profound and poetic. Everyone wanted to sound profound on Instagram these days. Well, she didn’t need poetry or profundity in her life now. What she needed was practicality, because right now she was hurting and needed to find healing. Not poetry. And certainly not more pain.
Anjola sighed and dropped her phone on the bed. She turned and stared at Iyanu sleeping peacefully beside her, her cherubic face so serene that Anjola envied her. Her own life was anything but peaceful and she was struggling to find the peace she once had. Mrs. Adegbite and Victoria had tried reaching out to her, both of them talking about forgiveness and letting go. Like it was that easy.
She had thought about pressing charges before but decided she was too weak to bother about the dust it would raise. Things were messy enough as it was. And there was her daughter to also think about. What would she tell her when she was old enough to start asking questions? There were just too many issues that came with Henry’s confession. At least a faceless enemy had been easier to deal with but now that he had a face, everything just got more complicated.
Anjola had learned to bury her hurt and she did the same with this one; complications and all. Like before, she some days deep in it but then she would bury it. It was only at times like this that it came up or when she had those nightmares, but she would survive. She would rise above it all, with time. Even though Victoria had objected, Anjola still believed that time would heal her.
She had registered for her exams, finally agreeing to allow the Adegbite’s foot her bill but with the promise to pay back, even though she knew that may likely not happen. She was determined to make the admission work out, to make something of her life. There really was no time to wallow in self-pity and pain; it was useless.
I know the plans I have for you.
The words whispered, like a balm and a warning too. She sighed. Okay so, maybe she was trying to control her life again but what could she do? What was it God was asking of her now? Hadn’t she had enough?
Her phone vibrated and she saw it was Henry. He had been calling almost every day for the past two weeks but she ignored it as she always did. She wasn’t going to press for charges, he should just be grateful for that and let her be. She really didn’t know what to say to him, neither did she have the strength to ask any questions that would dig up old bones. All she just wanted to do was forget, to just go blank and leave all this behind. So she muted her mobile, deleted his number and picked up her book.
She had an exam to prepare for.
* * * *
Henry sat in the dark as he prayed. He didn’t feel inclined in any way to turn on the light even though the power came on some hours ago. He sat on the cold floor at the foot of the bed, tears running down his face.
Henry could count the number of times he had ever cried in his life on his right hand and still have fingers left to spare. Yet, as he sat there that night, he cried.
He cried for his foolishness that had caused an innocent soul a lot of pain. He wept for his wild lust that led him to do the unthinkable. He remembered that night so vividly.
After spending a while at the bar, he had overheard her cousin’s – Toke – conversation with his friend, Debo, that night.
“She will just be talking Harvard, vintage…I’m not understanding her,” she told his friend, her words tumbling over each other as she cradled a bottle of beer and gave Debo a drunk smile. Henry sat there, ears perking up at this little bit of information. He had been attracted to Anjola before but knowing there was a brain behind her looks drove the blood lower.
He had always had a ‘thing’ for intelligent women. There was something about the prospect of a conquest that enticed him. And so after Anjola walked out of the bar that night, he had followed her, fully intending to just talk to her. He was drunk and completely clouded in his thinking and before long, his intentions started to change.
Knowing what he did now, he could completely understand why the Bible said sin made a person its slave. And oh, he had been a slave. A foolish, ignorant slave. And his slavery had pushed him to do things he had always seen as terrible. He had even condemned rape and rapists openly on social media. But there he was, consumed by his own lust and doing the unthinkable.
“Oh, God! I deserve to die,” he growled, tormented by the memories and deep guilt that threatened to consume him. And he had impregnated her! Just then, he didn’t even want to think about the kid. What would his mother say when it was time to reveal the truth? Surely, he would want her to know she had a grandchild somewhere. But more importantly, what would Anjola decide to do? He had called her several times in the previous weeks with no response.
Henry was half scared and half hoping she would indict him. He knew he deserved to go to jail for what he did and he wouldn’t even try defending himself, yet the prospect of spending some of his years behind bars was not something he was looking forward to.
In the past, whenever he saw criminals, Henry had always wondered what would make a person to be so cruel to another human and now he had an idea why.
Sin was a taskmaster.
Henry knew God had forgiven him, yet sometimes he wondered. Because as he sat in the dark and battled with his guilt, he was finding it hard even to forgive himself.
* * * *
Eleven months later
The letter had finally come.
“God be praised!” Victoria cried as she read and re-read the letter. Anjola smiled and took it from her, not wanting her to drop it in her enthusiasm.
“When did they send this?”
“Three days ago. I wanted it to be a surprise.” Anjola answered, pouring a glass of wine for her friend. She had been admitted to UCLA so a celebration was in order. After applying twice, they finally accepted her.
The first time, her TOEFL score had fallen a few marks below the requirement. The second time however, she scored high enough to be considered for a scholarship, even though it was partial. She intended to work while she studied to at least relieve her guardian of the burden.
“Oh my God! I’m still trying to process this.” Her friend held her head in both hands and whooped.
“It’s a miracle,” Anjola said, meaning every word. Even with an acceptance rate that was low and an admission that was highly competitive, especially for international students, God had somehow made a way for her. It reminded her of what Mrs. Adegbite usually told her.
“When it is your time, it is your time.”
All the pain that came from years of delay faded as the reality of her miracle dawned on her. After all, when a woman holds her baby in her arms, she forgets her labour pains. And that was her testimony…well, almost.
She and Victoria spent a while talking and excitedly making plans. Eventually, her friend had to sleep over. She was done with her National youth service and was only just starting to settle down at home.
“Did those people finally call you back?” Anjola asked, referring to the job she recently applied for.
“Not yet o. I’m not really hopeful about it though. I may not even go if they call. I just allowed daddy talk me into it,” she shook her head. “God is not leading me there.”
Anjola nodded. “Just take your time and wait for God. No need to rush.”
Iyanu woke up just then, blinking the sleep from her eyes as she sat up. “Mummy, I want water.” Anjola went down to the kitchen to get her a bottle of water and a plate of the chin-chin she made that afternoon. When Iyanu went back to sleep, Victoria stared at the toddler for a while, absently taking a handful of chin-chin.
“Have you heard from Henry?” she asked suddenly.
Anjola’s heart thumped uneasily at the sound of his name. “No. Why?” she asked cautiously. Knowing her friend, there was most likely something heavy on her mind. And she suspected she wouldn’t like what that ‘something’ was.
“I just wondered,” she said.
Anjola sighed, “Just say what’s on your mind.”
“Has he errm…met Iyanu? As his daughter?”
“Why should he?” she was getting pissed off now. What was she driving at? She, of all people ought to know how sensitive the topic was. And why now?
“Shouldn’t he? After all, he’s her father.”
Victoria was silent for a while before looking at her. “You’re still angry.” It wasn’t a question.
“I’m not. I’m over it.” She was unbelievable, even to her own ears.
“No you’re not. And I think you ought to do something about it.” She sounded dead serious and Anjola knew she had been thinking about this for long.
And all of a sudden, she was scared. She had tried really hard to forget the whole thing and she had done a good job so far.
What was the use exposing old wounds? What was the point of trying to push and prod what was now sleeping peacefully? Besides, wasn’t that what God wanted? For her to forget? Or was it better she hold on to the bitterness and let it ruin her? She now had her dreams within her grasp (well, not really the way she had imagined it from the start but it was even better), so why did she have to dig up old bones?
Healing comes painfully.
She remembered the inspirational text from a year ago and for the first time, she thought about it. What did it mean? Somehow, she just knew she had to understand its meaning.
The next day, she met Mrs. Adegbite in the living room where she sat reading a book.
“Mummy,” she took a seat beside the older woman.
“Anjola. Is something wrong?” Mrs. Adegbite asked, looking a bit concerned.
“Can I ask something?”
“Sure,” she immediately dropped her book.
“What does ‘healing comes painfully’ mean?” she asked her. She was quiet for so long that Anjola wondered if she had heard her. She was about to repeat the question when Mrs. Adegbite spoke up.
“Have you ever had a wound?”
“Yes. There was this time I was cooking and Segun sneaked up on me and made me pour hot oil on my wrist,” she recalled and smiled, thinking of her siblings. She missed them.
“How did you treat it?”
What did this have to do with her question? “The nurse cut open the skin and cleaned it up then bandaged it.”
“Good. Was it painful?”
“Yes. Very painful.”
“Exactly. Healing, if it is to be complete and total, will always be painful. You will have to open up the wound, treat and bandage it. Doing all these things brings pain. But if you refuse to do this, you’ll not have healing or may even end up with an infection.”
“Hmm…I think I understand now.”
“And I’m sure you didn’t ask the question because you are interested in medical knowledge.”
Anjola shook her head. “I… I and Victoria were talking…”
The older woman looked at her thoughtfully. “Remember what I told you a while back about what happened to me?”
“I really did not find healing from it until I opened the wounds and forgave Jaja. I used to think trying to forget was the solution but I realized that was not it. Anjola, you’ll have to open up your wounds to get healing. You may think you’re fine now, you may think you can cover it up so that time would heal it but you’ll just look back after a while and realize it only got worse. Open those wounds and allow God heal you.”
Anjola was speechless. She was talking like she knew.
“Do you have a Bible there?” Mrs. Adegbite asked.
She shook her head, no.
“Okay, check out Psalm 147 verse 3 when you’re free.”
“Alright, thank you ma,” she finally said.
As she prepared for bed that night, she remembered to check up the text. After she got Iyanu to stop fussing and go to sleep, she picked up her Bible to read the verse. What she saw opened up something in her heart, like the unfurling of a flower to the sun.
“He heals the broken hearted and bandages their wounds.”
* * * *
So this is the semi-final episode of Forgiving God.
You can find previous episodes here.