The month of November is very special. One of the many reasons for this is because it comes before December, a month completely defined by belief. To mark the beginning of this special month, Keren-happuch Odinenu takes to The Lectern with her lesson, “I believe in my unbelief”. It is a story that slams down on and also appeals to your conscience; it warns you to not only beware of the deceitful, but also beware of your own awareness lest it strip you of life’s joys. I’m really interested in reading your thoughts on Keren’s piece because I expect a myriad of varied interpretations. Indulge us by typing those thoughts down in the Comments, y’hear?
Meantime, enjoy this one and have a November worthy of belief.
I believe in my unbelief
We had been standing for two hours straight – my parents, siblings and even my brother-in-law who was in town for a few days. The man of God had just begun to ‘prophesy’, it took all of my willpower to not throw up in disgust. I had tried everything to not be there – lied, faked illness, whined but all to no avail. My parents insisted on the entire family attending the monthly vigils and prayer crusades. Since I couldn’t share with them my disdain for ‘casters and binders’ who turned church grounds into markets where desperate commoners sold their problems for as low as zero price, I went along.
As usual, the man of God called out a name and asked if there was anyone going by the name from so and so place. Not surprisingly, someone stepped out. Immediately, we were charged to sing more praises to God for the reception of His message without any interference. As I watched with unconcealed disdain, man of God bounced back and forth while shouting into the mic, “I prophesy!” Everyone around me threw their hands in the air and yelled back, “I receive!”
The young man who stepped out was as man of God had prophesied, a business man who was cursed by his uncle and was now facing serious loss and business failure. It was the usual story – an uncle, grandmother or even mother had broken your egg of destiny and blah … so come, sow a seed and all will be well. We would be forced to dance while filing out to fill up the offering boxes, and then yelled at to dance and sow some more, as if his protruding tummy wasn’t round enough from our gifts. I was sick of it.
However today was different. Man of God froze mid-prayer, pointed at another young man seated directly in front of me and started prophesying. He asked the young man if he was married. He was answered in the affirmative. Then he said that he could see a young woman whose back was turned away from him. Man of God faced the young man squarely. “Why are you tormenting your wife?” he asked, “the Lord just revealed to me that you beat your wife, is this true?”
The young man hesitated, then nodded gently, almost imperceptibly.
The whole congregation erupted in vehement disapproval – ‘tufiakwa’, ‘how can?’, ‘aru’ Frozen in my seat, I was just as shocked. I began to cry. Because this man who just admitted tormenting and beating his wife was the brother-in-law I loved, and the abused wife was my sister whom I loved even more.
I saw my parents bow their head in shame and restrained rage. I looked at the man of God, and for the first time I saw truth in his alias – okara mmuo okara mmadu (half spirit-half man). How else could he have known when even we, their family, were ignorant? As he advised my brother-in-law on what God wanted him to do, respect for the man of God welled up in me. At the same time, I felt ashamed for my own doubt. What a big fool I had been, playing the hate game when I didn’t even know the real players.
We were all silent afterwards but my mind was a marketplace of noisy why’s and how’s. I couldn’t even listen attentively to the sermon from then on. As my father drove us home in the early hours of the morning, one prayer resonated in my heart – Lord forgive my unbelief.
Later that morning, I picked my mother’s phone trying to reach my sister since I had no credit on my phone and hadn’t subscribed for data either. I was barely holding myself together so I decided to chat her up on Whatsapp rather than call. As I tapped away at the keypad, my eyes wandered upwards to a chat conversation between her and my mother immediately after we returned from the vigil. In the chat, my sister was complaining to my mother; she had shared her marriage travails with the man of God, and had even showed him her husband’s picture so that when he finally showed up at the church, the man of God could have a private talk with him. She was embarrassed that he had shared with the whole congregation, troubles that she had shared with him in confidence.
Realization struck me with the force of a blunt sledge-hammer. Foolish! We were all fools but I was the king of the fools. As quickly as the tears dried up, resolve solidified in me. A wall of disdain, sturdier than ever before, was immediately erected; and on the outside of it was the one – everyone – who lies in the name of God.
I left the room muttering to myself – I believe in my unbelief.
By Odinenu Keren-happuch
Keren-happuch is 18 years old and a 300 level student of Religion and Human relations. She is passionate about music, writing and art. Her goal in life is to inspire others through her works.
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