So there I am driving along a busy part of one of Lagos islands’ many streets, humming to myself as I ponder over the good works of Christ and determined to praise Him until He has had enough of it, when there is a subtle but definite tug in the subconscious corner of my mind and a simultaneous reaction in my left hand.
“Turn left”, Tug seems to say. “Let’s go left and create some play…”. Tug is smiling quietly now; I can see it even though it is not a physical being. I turn my head left to see what Tug is smiling at and I cannot believe my eyes; registering slowly but surely, is the view of the start of the street where a memory used to live. X-Man 1. The embodiment of my many nights of weakness complete with Irish Cream, ice cubes, heavy breathing and late night movies.
My car, Tug and body were united in driving me down a sinful memory, and it wasn’t even my old car, which had a mind of its own and could automatically take itself on a journey to any of the haunts of my X-Men. This was a new car…virgin to my weaknesses, unable to stand for itself in a choice of good and evil, dependent on my good sense and judgement to keep it protected from the dust that is flesh and tarnishes, my new car that has been sanctified as an acceptable, consecrated and a chosen tool set for worthy sacrifices. Why then did it move along these un-treaded paths, united with Tug and my silly hands?
I start to struggle with all my weapons of war – in tandem I was fighting car, willing hands, suffocating Tug, and utilizing multi-tasking skills to drive and stay focused – all at the fore of this war. An Okada driver flashed by quickly; well, I guess it was quick. Many previous encounters with them told me that that was the only way they knew to move at any point of day, unless they were having a laugh with one another and one had attached his foot to the others’ pedal thereby towing it and both tagging along laughing, with less than life-threatening speed. Right then, though I could not tell; I was singing my once-hummed chorus loudly now and almost hysterically so I that could drown out Tug. “The Devil is a liar!”, “I reject it in Jesus Name” “Minus Satan plus Jesus” …and such other panic-ridden confessions.
Which is why I couldn’t fathom, with all my flaring weaponry, why my lips begun to smile at the memory of one heavy breathing night with X-Man 1…Oh No! Were Lips joining in the war against me now?! X-Man 1’s memory became larger than life, borne out of Tug, stilled Hands, widened Lips and lit up Car. It was all I could think of. Choruses started struggling for space on my back seat…stubbornly refusing to totally exit my heart, lips and car. They would stay there, with arms crossed and continuously sing in harmony until I came to my senses and took them back to their rightful place. They were warning me with hard stares and cold glares, but their eyes were warm, inviting, pure and uplifting. “Leave Tug’s X-Man 1 alone…stay with us, we are the way to the future” they seemed to say.
I did a quick mental check to be sure that they were safely strapped in at the back. I didn’t want to lose them altogether. All three Choruses sat in a row: “Holy, Holy, Holy”, “Come Bless the Lord” and “Today O!”, but seemed discontent with their positions. One quick glance at them and I found myself rushing back quickly with Tug into X-Man 1 territory. The man was a villain and went along with his typical character of taking inches and turning them to miles; this time not on my body but with Memory. This dud just went and invited all the other ‘Dubious Heroes of My Memories Past’!!!
“OMG! This is not happening”, I thought to Tug… “stop it, just stop it right now! Take me off this Memory Lane, please”.
And yet, there they were, swimming around me in reminiscent colours of profane brightness – all the Forces of the X-Men, together with their positions in street corners, stretched out car seats, hidden doorways, dark balconies, wet bathroom spaces, stolen nights in hotel rooms, ridiculous giggles in cinema halls – “My God!!! Was I really that bad…was that really MY past?! Me…Sisterly?!”. And would Choruses, please just SHUT UP…I really needed to think right now!
I needed to be remorseful; needed to be really repentant; needed not to dwell on the past and move on and press for the cross… so why was I still smiling?
I began to turn panic up in full mode!
Scriptures. I needed scriptures…em, the Lord Is My Shepherd…no. Oluwa gbe ogun ti awon ti o’n gbogun ti mi?…er, no. Abide with me, fast falls the even tide…Sisterly! Sisterly!! Sisterly!!! 16 years a Christian and you don’t remember that this last one is a hymn and not scripture?! No. Come on now, think, think, think!
One of the Choruses, “Today O!”, starts raising its voice loudly. I look in my back mirror in irritation “ Today O! didn’t you hear me say be QUIET?!”.
I know I have upset the Choruses, they are all looking at me angrily, as they refuse to be separated or be blamed individually. They just sit there eye balling me all the while lovingly taking corporate responsibility. I have no time for this. No time! Mscheeeeeewww!. I have landed on a strategy: take each X- Man Memory and quench out the fires one after the other. I would not be able to kill them all off at once.
So I thought. I was so wrong! I return to thought and with Tug attempt the fire quenching of the Dubious Heroes of My Memories Past.
Quickly, I glance out my window. “My friend will you GET OUT OF THE WAY?!”. I have wound down now and scream at the bus driver who is just trying to do a sharp move on me. We exchange words. One of the passengers is looking at me with befuddled; it must have been the blend of Choruses blasting from my car and the profanities I was screaming at the driver that confused him. Poor soul…he should learn how to discern spirits – its a valuable gift. Where was I? Oh yeah, scriptures. I wind up and try to focus.
Man! My X-Men were beautiful…but why did their presence in my car depress me so? Why did every street corner I remember, every turn bring me transient joy and lingering regret and why couldn’t I therefore, just demand them to leave Sisterly Ville. How much longer would the Choruses wait for me? …and I hadn’t even apologised to Today O!. I snatch a glance in my rear view mirror; they are still there…still humming, still waiting for their personal invitation to their rightful place in my heart and mind. This war is serious!
I turn right into the street that I had been innocently headed to before these X-Men showed up. I parked at my destination exhausted; I knew it wasn’t just the traffic. I sighed and stilled my tingling body parts that had stupidly joined in the Memory Wars that My X-Men had connived with Tug to wage against me.
“Quiet”…I whispered, to no one in particular. It was just something I willed myself to do. There was a moments’ silence…the only ones that didn’t pay me any mind were the Choruses. They may have been in the back seats, but they knew their rights.
“Quiet!”, I said again…only a little louder as I calmed my breathing – no – heaving chest. “For there is now no condemnation for him who is in Christ Jesus.” I find myself able to say just a little more boldly in the silence…well, background music from Choruses, but you know what I mean. I try again: “Old things are passed away, behold all thing have become new” I said firmly, my heart following my words like a faithful lover. X-Man 3 had stopped clanging his cymbal by now, but they all remained dancing around in Sisterly Ville; inviting, looking at me, pleading, innocent looking, still in different states of undress, but less active now. It was like watching a carnival with the sound turned off from the sky…the choice to make noise – any noise – had been taken away from them. I almost laughed at the spectacle of it all and the futility of their efforts…the power of the Word to save is nice. I am smiling now, having some hope.
Just then one of the X –Men spoke up, “But you had some of us while you had “become new”! At least I met you as a “born again Christian”, and that didn’t stop you from meeting me everywhere…you and your Irish Cream”. Trust him to be the idiot that would talk…the mouthy one. Sceptic to the core, if I ever knew one. I have no idea, even now, why I went with him. I looked into the crowd at the Sisterly Ville carnival and saw my Pastors past and present, Choir Members past and present, Colleagues at work, some Friends…did they hear what this idiot just went and said out loud? What happened to privileged communication and all the values of keeping secrets? Thank God my Parents and siblings were not here now. How was I to deal with this? He was right though, I had acted out a lot of these memories as a Christian. Wow. How to respond now? Choruses hummed a little louder.
I looked back at them through the rear view mirror. One of them winked, but I couldn’t determine who. Another smiled and the third, I am certain, blew me a kiss. Didn’t they hear what this memory just spluttered out? I mean my admissions are free willed, but that was MY free will, not someone else’s and I am not even sure that I ever really admitted a confession on this particular X-Man. Still, their gestures were re-assuring and unconsciously Lips smiled back, (Lip really crosses carpets now doesn’t it? It so would have made a really good politician!).
I breathed again, looked round the street where I was parked, and nodded to the security guard who had come to my window to inform me that “Madam, na me park you o! No forget ya boys”, I fully understood and smiled. If only he knew that I had a full on war on-going in Sisterly Ville and bigger than this street, right here he only had a tinsy weensy space…almost insignificant in the scheme of things. I ignored my colleagues’ frantic phone calls…I was running late. Again. I was even the one with the clients’ files, but this war needed to end right now.
I looked at my watch quickly, looked into the parade in Sisterly Ville, looked back at Choruses, Lips still smiling and responded, “Because sin is pleasurable, but its benefit is only temporary, I choose to stand aligned with the permanence of Love itself. Being daily renewed by the washing of the Word and His Blood, I stand. A new creature; His very beloved; being owned and possessed by Him, my life, its weakness, sex and sexuality, my strengths, failings and virtues all subsumed by Him and ever being perfected through Him. I stand apart; different; unrepentant at War; ever believing in Love; unique in talent. For I have the mind of Christ. Indeed I am forgiven…and I forgive myself by the grace the blood of Christ affords me”.
And so it was that the Dubious Heroes of My Past departed, complete with street corners and dodgy doorways. Sucked in like a reversible volcanic eruption, slowly engulfing its own fires, snuffing out its own smoke, understanding the reversal of its consequences, regretting its failed attempt, alone with no victorious stories to tell.
I exhaled loudly. Lips by now were grinning foolishly from ear to ear. Security Guard must have thought I was either listening to a really funny radio program or was exiting sanity into the early stages of madness. He watched me cautiously from a distance. Car was at ease, no longer being directed. Hands had relaxed its muscles and tension had been snuffed out of Tug – it had no elements left to exist.
I winked back at Choruses as they each returned to their rightful place. I was grateful that I had won this one; hopeful for strength to win the next one – for I could have just as easily turned left on the street of Bad Memories. I laughed out loud reminiscing on the behaviour of the Choruses through the entire memory war – ever giving room for the Still Small Voice, never leaving, all enduring, insult taking, sometimes sulking, ever warning, ever strengthening, always loving.
I was grateful.
I stepped out of my car – all sins forgiven, Him of me and me of myself, my car and the crazy Okada driver. Oh…yeah, there was the befuddled passenger as well, wasn’t there?! Oh well, he should have stood in line for me to clarify my behaviour; explain the memory war in Sisterly Ville and how traffic courtesies were not just key at that point in time, how I am really a Christian. But the damage was done. I sighed. Maybe I will be more careful next time, knowing that my actions may leave a permanent impression on the next man? A not-so -good reflection of my person and I may even look like a hypocrite to the Christian-Curious? I don’t know meeeen! I mean try. I might fail, but I will keep hope alive.
I adjusted my clothes and picked up the files. So I was three minutes late, but arrived sanctified of mind. I was ready to face my high powered meeting. I wasn’t a solicitor for nothing; I knew how to bring the deals. I had prayed for favour this morning and even fasted for it yesterday.
Turning away from my car, I heard a loud call behind me…”Hey, Sisterly! Longest time!!”.
You would not believe it! There before me stood X-Man 1. Aaaaaarrgh! Why did he just happen to be on this street, on this day, by my car at this particular hour???! “Give me a break now, will you?! “ I am thinking to myself, all the while, my sub-conscious eyes were rolling to the skies, but Lips opened up wide and said “Hey! So nice to see you…sorry I can’t stay I am running late for a meeting”.
He smiles like he knows something but all he said was “Okay.”
Why is he so so handsome – at least to me. He made to turn to leave and then comes back suddenly with, “Hey, what are you doing Friday Night?, we can…” Oh no, not the Friday night routine again…always so tempting.
“No!” I answered abruptly, interrupting him. He looked confused…yeah, that’s right, be confused, I’m fighting a war here, people are always confused during wars. “No, I don’t want to do anything on Friday night or any other night. And, really, I don’t want to talk about it either. It was nice seeing you dear. Cheers.” He was stunned for a split second, but quickly recovered. “I understand”. He said and smiled again. We both knew how it was between us. I was just grateful, that at least he knew that I am a Christian and was not completely at ease with how we were. I was glad I could still be civil about it and was glad that he understood – or lied that he did – I didn’t really care.
I waved X–Man 1 and his memory good bye. Turned back and headed for my meeting. Power walk all the way – power talk to commence shortly!
Choruses now singing loudly. Lips smiling broadly. It was going to be a good day.
Written by The Poet, Donna.