His name was Bode and for as long as he knew, he had been locked up in this hole. He couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t here. He had lost memory of what freedom felt like; the smell of fresh air, the feel of clean clothes on his now battered skin or the taste of good food just for the sheer joy of being that – good food. Days rolled over themselves like a group of drunken men falling over each other with no sense of direction.
Life was a blur.
If you had seen Bode, you would have quickly concluded he was a hopeless man. Not only that his situation was hopeless, but that he was himself without hope. He had no hope and none to give. You see, it was one thing for a man to be thrown headlong in a pile of cow dung and it was yet another for him to want with all his heart to rise above it. And this was perhaps Bode’s greatest bondage: his utter lack of desire to see the light of day and taste freedom.
Maybe this was so because he had tried several times and had been jarred rudely back to reality or maybe he had just learned to agree with his condition. But more often than not, it was the former that made him so hopeless.
There had been a time when he planned a series of “prison breaks” with Yomi, his buddy. He and Yomi had been partners in crime, literally, until their cups got full and they faced the Judge who pronounced a life sentence on them. They spent the first few days of their stay in prison feverishly planning escape but every one of their careful plans failed. That was when the taste of sweet foods, the confidence of their strength and the smell of freedom was still fresh in them. But now, that gusto was gone and all that mattered was surviving another bleak day.
Yet, the bleakness of the day may have been more apparent to you than to Bode himself who did not know any more if there was any day that wasn’t bleak. So to him, it would have simply been; a day.
The gates of the cell rattled as an officer stood before them, his stance and face menacing in every way.
“Eess! You! Come out, somebody is here to see you,” he called, jabbing his chin in Bode’s direction. He stood up, shocked. No one had ever come to see him. In fact, he had forgotten his mother’s face and couldn’t picture her in his mind anymore no matter how he tried. He moved.
“No be you!” he yelled and gestured behind Bode. “Na you. Answer me, fast, fast!”
Bode watched as Chima, a big man with a bigger attitude, scampered to the cell gate. Only few things could break Chima but whenever he got visits, he became a little boy.
“At least person still remember Chima. I go die for here and nobody go shake body,” Esosa mumbled, his hands folded across his chest as he lay on one of the benches.
Aliyu snorted. “That one no better? Dead body still better pass us na.”
“You dey craze. Na you dead body go senior. Waka! Idiot!” Yomi snarled, gesturing violently at Aliyu.
Bode walked to the other end of the room. It reeked of urine of varied time and source but it was better than being close to the heat, because once the guys started like that, all hell would quickly break loose. There was little entertainment available to them, so fighting seemed like a great way to get the amusement they sought. And several times, Bode had been punished with them for starting a scuttle even though his only crime had been to just sit and watch them.
Yet, there was no greater punishment than where he was now, right?
* * * *
As you probably already know, in prison, life was predictable. Nothing new ever happened and the greatest events came from inmates who got bored and started a fight to amuse themselves. But on this particular day, something very peculiar happened that would have shocked you too.
Yomi, Chima, Aliyu and Esosa were snoring in unintended harmony and Bode was huddled in a corner when one of the officers walked up to their cell gate. This man was different from the regular officers they saw around.
“You, come here.”
He looked around, not about to embarrass himself again. “Me?”
“No, me,” the man answered impatiently, sarcasm dripping in his voice.
Bode got the hint and stood up.
“You are free to go.” The man declared. He looked bored and couldn’t seem to find harmony between his expression and the words he just uttered.
Bode stood still, his heart thumping, his mind whirling, “W…w…. what did you say?”
“You heard me. You can go home. You are free.”
That made no sense. There was no way that could happen. Not even if the earth churned and quaked. Not even if the King himself declared pardon for him. You should have seen Bode’s face at that moment.
The officer sighed, clearly disgusted by Bode’s inability to comprehend this strange turn of events.
“A man stood in for you,” he nodded at his fellow inmates who were rousing from their sleep, “All of you. You can go.”
A man? That was ridiculous. As you already know, no one knew him, no one cared enough to visit him much less to stand…. “Who?”
“The King’s Son. Do you want to go or not?”
“Why?” He didn’t even know who this King was much less His Son. And what was a King doing minding Bode’s business? It made no lick of sense.
“I don’t know!” The man yelled, his nose flaring, every trace of boredom gone now. “When you see Him, you ask Him that, okay?” He gestured to Bode and unlocked the chains that bound his hands and feet when he moved closer. With that, the man walked away, the cell gates wide open.
Bode stood still; knowing he faced a choice to either stay or walk out those gates. But was this true? Did he dare believe this? He looked back at his friends. They had gone back to sleep, apparently not believing the man. He moved tentatively. One step. Two steps. Nothing. He moved out of the cell gate and stood in the corridor yet no sirens blared, no alarms sounded off. No one held him back. Did he really have anything to lose? No.
Gaining more confidence, he continued walking, gates opening of their own volition as he advanced and did not stop until finally he stood outside the prison gates. The first wave of fresh air that rushed into his lungs shocked him as did the burst of brilliant light that greeted his eyes. And for the first time, he realized his shorts had been navy blue and not black all along, that his clothes smelled and his skin was dirty. It hadn’t mattered before but now with the light, he could see everything clearly.
As he walked farther away from the prison, he realized how much he actually loved and needed freedom and yet hadn’t known. With every step he took that wasn’t restrained, every fresh air that blessed his lungs and the joy that coursed in his heart, he wanted to find that man and thank Him. He wanted to bow at his feet and wait for his every command.
He kept walking, his feet moving of their own volition until he found himself at the gates of the King. Bode wasn’t sure how he found his way there, there was just this new knowing of where the King dwelled. It took only a knock and one quick look at him for the gatekeeper to swing the gates wide open.
And there, waiting with open hands, was the King.
* * * *
Night drew near and somehow the darkness reminded him of the prison he had left behind. It didn’t take long for him to realize he was missing that dingy cell. He loved the fresh air and good food, loved the company of the King and the sheer joy of being free but a part of him wanted that dank, dark cell.
You probably think Bode was crazy to feel this way, but haven’t you ever wanted to feed on cow dung at any point in your life? Okay, maybe not. But Bode had that strange, foolish craving for the chains he left behind. It was like they were calling to him.
So what did he do? You guessed right. He picked the little bag the King had given him and took that long walk back to the prison. The King tried to reason with Bode but He didn’t stop him, just looked on with an expression that might have been described as sorrowful.
Bode walked up to the counter and gestured to the officer.
“What is it?” the jailer asked.
“I…I don’t know. I’m not sure.”
“What are you doing here? Aren’t you the guy who was released last month?”
“Yes sir. I…I think I’ll like to stay in my cell for tonight.”
The man stared at him like he had just declared he was a dancing cow with wings.
“What the heck are you talking about? Are you mad?”
“No sir. I just want to go back to my cell.”
The man sighed. “There are many of you like that. Free people who don’t like freedom,” he handed him prison clothes to replace the ones the King had given him, cuffed Bode and led him to his former cell. His friends were still there.
“Bode! We’ve been wondering what came over you,” Yomi patted his back.
“Don’t mind that stupid lie about the King’s Son. Look, they even updated the menu when you left,” Aliyu added.
As he settled into the cell, back in familiar territory, Bode ignored the voice of reason; telling himself he’d only stay for the night. Just for the night.
What harm could that do?
* * * *
“…. If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there?” (Romans 6:2 – MSG)
Hey there! Good to have you here again.
I’ll be away from the blog for a while. But while I’m away, you can catch up on the previous blog posts if you haven’t read them already. Try not to miss me too much 😉