I had a condition, one that was getting managed with medication pending the near-million naira invasive procedure that the doctors assured me would fix it. I was saving up for it. Meantime, the drug regimen seemed to be doing a pisspoor job of managing the condition. I was gradually getting to the point of quiet desperation.
Then I woke up one morning and I was fine. I was just…fine. I lay there in bed, inhaling the spring-clean air of the rainy morning and wondering what was happening. I was fine. And my reaction to this was wariness. I was so skeptic that in spite of the rush of pleasure I felt at the healing, I could only tell a close friend of mine that early about it. I did not trust what good tidings it seemed my body was bringing to me. I was certain this was a late April Fools’ Day prank.
But I stayed fine, my condition all but entirely corrected as the day progressed. And by late afternoon, I got around to calling my parents, first my father and then my mother, to break the news to them. Expectedly, their reactions were ecstatic, thankful and glorying in the good thing that the Lord had done. My father broke out into a song of praise and my mother mentioned something about thanksgiving. My parents were happy for me and grateful to God. And at separate times in those phone conversations, they chided me: “You see what God can do in your life? If only you’ll draw close to Him, my son… Draw closer to god and experience more of His goodness.”
I was born and bred an Anglican. As the grandchild of an archdeacon and the son of the church’s choirmaster, my upbringing was religious. However, the older I got and the more discontent I got with the norm, the more distant I felt from my religious beliefs. Unlike most people however, who I knew departed from their faiths in favour of their free thinking, I did not go through any crisis of identification. I simply woke up one day and realized the church wasn’t giving me all the answers to the questions I both sought and didn’t know I had. It all felt stifling. Routine. Dissatisfying. I remember when I was fourteen or so, and we’d be in the middle of prayers during morning devotion, and I’d keep my eyes open, staring around, wondering if there was something, Someone I would see who would give me some perspective.
That perspective never came. And with its determined nonappearance, my zeal for worship waned, until I only went to church out of a sense of obligation.
But even that obligation could not withstand the conflagration of reproach I felt the day I attended church on the first Sunday after the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act was signed into law. Church service that day was a celebration of contempt and a sermon of scorn. God was extolled for positioning the government, the country in this well-deserved stance to battle the ignominy known as the LGBT.
But God didn’t do this! I wanted to tell the parishioner hollering amen to pastor’s impassioned condemnation of his fellow citizen. This prejudice is all man-made. How can vessels of Christ not see this? I was disgusted. I couldn’t stomach the hypocrisy any longer. I picked up my bible halfway through the service and walked out of the building, never to return to it or any one like it.
I walked away from the worship of brethren. But I remained a believer. I believed in Me. I believed in Love. And I believed in He who symbolizes both. But perhaps, because I did not seek His face at every turn in my life, it could be said that I did not believe in Him enough. Perhaps believing in me and the good I could try – would try – to bring to my corner of the world was enough.
Whichever was the case, whenever my father or mother, with the intuition only parents can have of who their children truly are, admonished me from miles away about getting closer to God, in spite of the fact that I’ve not lived with them for years and that I’m positive they have no idea how I spend my Sunday mornings, I smile into the phone and assure them that I am as close to God as I can be. My response is usually rote, automatic, the dutiful son saying what he must to preserve the hearts of his parents.
This was however not so that evening, when they said the same things following my news of a renewed bill of health.
I lay there, on the bed, the phone with which I’d just finished speaking with my father in my hand. And I felt a shift of unfathomable emotions move through me. I could not identify them, could not pick out one single feeling. Everything was riotous inside, freely moving and yet fiercely counteracted. I felt uprooted, floundering in an instant limbo, and yet I felt centred on a gravitational pull. I felt aware of my surroundings, of the soft beating of the June rain on the roof, the caper of the neighbour’s children, the anguished cry of the woman labouring through childbirth in the first floor of the hospital right next to my window – I was aware, and yet I remained oblivious to these sights and sounds.
I felt melancholic. I felt numb. I felt vulnerable. I felt solid.
And I felt a sudden prompting to speak. I didn’t know what to say, but I knew I suddenly wanted to say something to Him. I waited for the words to come, this thing I just had to say.
And when they came, they were accompanied by an unexpected rush of tears.
That was all I could get out. And the tears wouldn’t stop falling. Silently, they fell, my melancholy entirely without sound.
“I’m so sorry…”
I did not know what I was apologizing for. I did not even know why I was so shaken into grief. But there I was, my eyes moving searchingly over the white boards of my ceiling, filling constantly with tears that slipped down my temples, quietly purging myself of whatever had to leave.
And then, with a tremulous sigh, the tears ebbed. I sat up while drying my face. I didn’t feel unburdened; but then, there hadn’t been any burden there to begin with. Another shaky sigh winnowed away the rest of my melancholia, and I got up, ready to go get dinner.
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