FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PART 2 - LETTING GO
Copyright © Ufuomaee
The depression stays with her for days. Ochuko continues to study her Bible, but there's a disconnect. I don't know how to love You like I love him...
Do to Me what you did to love him...
The words, spoken in her spirit, are like a light in her heart. When she considers how she loved Dotun, she believes she can love God too...
Because she bought Dotun gifts, she spends her money on things to grow her relationship with God, mostly Christian books and gospel CDs. She also learns to give to God by being generous to others.
Because she loved to spend time talking to Dotun, she spends time with God by reading her Bible and praying often.
As time goes on, their relationship deepens, and she begins to fast and evangelise, walking through the mall seeking people to encourage and disciple.
On one fateful day, as she walks through the mall, she is pleasantly startled by a young, handsome man.
"Survivors?" he says, extending a book to her. "It's Christian. Would you spare a penny or two?"
Ochuko beams. Wow, another evangelist! "Oh, wow. God bless you," she says, collecting the book and pulling out a note from her wallet. The book in her hand looks like it is worth at least that, and she is delighted to meet a fellow believer out preaching the word.
She wants to hug him, and she gives in to that urge. The young man gives her the brightest smile, making her feel even better, like she just made his day. From experience, she knows how challenging it can be standing on the street corner trying to get someone to show interest. Her steps are light as she walks away, thinking she'll tuck right into it as soon as she gets home.
Survivors is a page turner. Ochuko finds that she is transfixed to the book from start to finish, and even at night, the story continues in her imagination. The novel, which tells a fictional story about the end-times, or last days, is filled with so much Biblical knowledge that Ochuko has never encountered, let alone considered, before. Putting herself in the shoes of the characters, she knows without a doubt that if the narrative were to be a reality, she would not be counted among the saved nor the victorious... She's not ready for the return of Jesus, but oh, how she wants to be...
Even before completing the story, she looks at the back in search of a contact, her desire to know more and to support the ministry of these passionate believers strong. There's an address at the back for correspondence, and she writes them a letter when she's finally done with the story, tears streaming from her eyes. With the letter, she attaches another note of greater value, as she's sure she underpaid the distributor yesterday.
Their response comes days later, to her surprise. She is even more baffled by their generosity. They must have sent her every book in their catalogue, she thinks. A couple more novels, collections of articles, and interesting comics are enclosed in the package. There's also a number, so she gets in touch by phone to express her gratitude. But they seem to be just as grateful.
The lady on the other end, Kelly, is pleasant and intelligent. After speaking with her, it becomes more apparent to Ochuko that these people are not kidding. They actually practice the things they teach... They are taking Jesus seriously about everything! And a fire sparks in her heart. These are the True Disciples of Jesus!
Ochuko and Kelly talk almost daily as she reads through the materials and considers whether or not she's ready to be made willing to forsake all and follow Jesus.
They try to remain friends... He is her best friend, after all. Even if they can't be together the way they want to, at least they can keep their friendship... On this, she will not negotiate.
When Dotun's birthday comes around in April, Ochuko plans a lovely birthday weekend. She bakes a coconut and chocolate cake that tastes of the love poured into it, and she makes her way to Manchester. His friends come around too, and everyone loves the cake.
Another girl is present. Ochuko suspects there is more to their 'friendship.' As they walk through the city square later that night, she inquires about it, and he admits that there had been something between them in the past. It stings, but she knows she has to let him move on. Still, it is evident to all that love lingers in their hearts for each other, as their longing gazes are frequent and laden with anguish.
At night, as she lies in his bed, she nurses her broken heart. She was the one who drove him away and the one hanging on to a friendship that is tearing her heart apart. But she is not ready to let go. Not yet.
The following day, the friends make a special trip to Blackpool, still in celebration mode. Today, it is just the two of them, and it feels like the good old days. They enjoy each other's company and the many thrilling rides at the theme park. The only thing is that they don't hold hands and kiss as before.
The deep fall rollercoaster, The Big One, is their last stop on an eventful day. Both being thrill seekers, their anticipation grows as they wait in line, laughing at those who have gone ahead and whose screams can be heard across the park. When they are finally strapped ready for the ride to commence, whether in jest or in fear or in all seriousness, they pledge their enduring love to each other...
"In case, I don't make it off this ride, I want you to know I'll love you forever."
A perfect and unforgettable moment. Then the sounds of screaming dominate the air.
While up north, Ochuko takes a detour to visit her girlfriend, Winifred, in Nottingham. Their friendship had developed during their A'Level days, and with constant efforts to keep in touch, visiting and calling often, Winnie has become Ochuko's closest confidant. Another thing that binds them is their faith in God. Ochuko loves how passionate Winnie is for the things of God and often seeks her out to have discussions with a view of faith.
"Hey, dear... How was your trip?" Winnie says before hugging her friend at the train station.
"It was fine, thanks. How are you?" Ochuko replies after they have embraced. She has a small wheelie bag with her, which noisily clanks behind her as they head out of the station.
"I'm good. Got an exam on Friday, so catching up on studying..."
"Trust you! My exams don't start til next week. I'm still working on my practical, though."
"How's that going?"
Ochuko sighs. She sees their bus at a distance. "It's okay. Honestly, I've been distracted..."
"Hmmm," Winnie mutters. She has been clued in with the situation with Dotun, but as principled as she is, she doesn't judge. "How's Dotun?"
Ochuko smiles, knowing what Winnie must be thinking. "He's fine. It was a good weekend... But he's not the reason I'm losing focus. Well, not the only reason," she chuckles. "You know that book I told you about... Well, they sent me more, and I've just been so engrossed in them."
"Yeah..." After they pay their fare, the ladies walk to the back of the bus to take their seats. Fortunately, it's not too crowded. Ochuko hesitates but decides to ask, "What do you think Jesus meant by, 'unless you forsake all that you have, you cannot be My disciple'?"
Winnie thinks for a minute. "I'm not really sure... You know, Jesus said some rather cryptic things that I don't think He actually meant for us to do literally... For instance, 'if your eye offends you, pluck it out,'" she chuckles. "I mean, really? Obviously, it's not the eye that offends you, but what you're looking at. I think He said that to make sure that we know that nothing should stand between us and God..."
Hmmm... "Yeah, I guess..."
Still Ochuko ruminates on all she has been reading. She has so many more questions, but she's sure they will be able to talk more freely and open the scriptures too when they get to Winnie's apartment.
A couple of weeks later, her second year exams are through, and Ochuko's wondering about her future plans. She's been thinking more about the Jesus Christians. Beyond the Top Forty articles they compiled in one of the books they sent, she has been feasting on the write ups on their website, especially the testimonies of their members. More and more, she's thinking they are living the life she should be living...
But tonight, she's hanging out with Dotun. They just saw 'Bring it On' at the cinema, and it was such a good movie. Even he enjoyed it, and they chat about it as they walk to the bus stop.
While Dotun checks for the time of arrival for the next bus, Ochuko glances up. There is a crescent moon in the black, starless sky. A nearby street lamp illuminates the bus stop, which is surprisingly desolate. But it could be because they just missed the last one. The next bus is not due for another twenty minutes. Ochuko sighs.
Settling beside him, she fidgets. Being with him like this is bittersweet. There are things she wants to say, but she knows she should not... Like, "I still love you..." "I miss you." "I change my mind... I choose you." How can someone be so double-minded? Sometimes, when she looks at him, she doesn't even know whether to smile or to cry...
But he is dating again. She knows because she asked. It couldn't be helped. It's too early to know if it's serious, but the realisation finally dawns on Ochuko; they can't be friends.
Sitting beside him, she feels forsaken. Try as they may, things just aren't the same. Their banter is not like it used to be. Every time she talks to him now, her heart burns... How she wishes that she can give him what he wants...what he needs...but her love is insufficient.
Besides, it seems she's the only one in pain. He's happy, moving on...while the mere sight of him stirs an ache that feels insurmountable. As he speaks, she watches his mouth move, but she does not hear him anymore. Does he even care that she's hurting?
She knows it's over when she gets off the bus and leaves him to ride the rest of the way home. They tried at least, she thinks as she turns the key to her family home. The silence greets her, and she welcomes it.
Tonight, there are no tears. It's done. Finished.
Ochuko puts down the last comic by the Jesus Christians and is in awe. She has never been much of a reader, but she gobbled up all the material they sent within a few weeks. With each book, she feels her resolve growing. She's going to do what they are teaching... She's going to forsake all and follow Jesus! And she can hardly wait.
"Slow down," Kelly laughs after Ochuko has declared her intentions. "Before you actually make the decision to sell everything and give up this life to follow Jesus, you need to do a trial week with us. Jesus said that we must count the cost of following Him, because He will not be pleased with anyone who puts their hand to the plough and then turns back."
"Oh, okay. It makes sense," Ochuko says, humbled. "How do I do the trial week? Do I come to you?"
"Yes, meet us at Catford...tomorrow morning."
"Do I need to bring anything?"
"Just the clothes on your back. And your phone."
"Alright then... See you tomorrow."
Putting the phone down, Ochuko dwells on her excitement. Looking about her at her modest home, where she resides alone while studying, she wonders how it will be living in a commune with other believers. Will she have a bed? Will she sleep on a sofa or on a rug on the floor? Will they be anything like the characters she has read about in their books?
In one of the novels, the Christians are described as living as scavengers, raiding bins and living on handouts. It will definitely be a culture shock, but it sounds the closest to how she imagined Jesus lived while He walked the earth. She recalls His words, "...foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head." What a radical life!
As she lays her head down to sleep, Ochuko prays for God to go with her and bring her out if it is not His will for her.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD is a fictional retelling of my experience with the Jesus Christians, a group I joined soon after I gave my life to Christ twenty years ago. A film series I watched recently, "The Puppet Master," took me back to that time and inspired me to finally write my story, not as an exposition, but to help anyone else who might be going through similar troubles in their faith walk.
I would love for this book to be published traditionally. If you know anyone in the industry who would be interested, or if you're that someone, do send me an email - firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. I'm responsive on both!
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If you liked this post, you might like PERFECT LOVE - THE PROLOGUE