I grew up in an all religious environment, when I said religious, I mean a highly spiritual one, depends on how you define ‘spiritual’ anyway. Like most families in Africa, my mother was the most spiritual person in the family. She goes to church a lot, and as a rule, we all go to church too as many times as possible in a week, sometimes, eight times in a week, yes, you heard right, eight times in 7 days, sometimes, I felt like I was living in the church, but who dare complain? Complaining is like invoking the wrath of Amadioha.
I remember a day my elder sister refused to go to church in the evening because she had complained of stomach pain in the afternoon and mama gave her prayer water and oil from two different bottles to drink. Later in the evening, mama left the house before us because she had a meeting in a church. We all left home few minutes before the program will begin except for my sister who was adamant, “let her kill me today o, me I can’t stand sitting all day while I hear stories that don’t concern me in the name of preaching, I even wonder if that Pastor knows the Bible at all, the only time he told a story from the Bible in the morning, he said Jeremiah was the Father of John the Baptist, you people should go ehn, am not feeling fine.” That was her reply to our plea to come with us to church, we all know mama and her troubles.
“Sandra! Where are you, come out here now”. Immediately we heard mama’s voice, we knew there was trouble. “everyone, come and see my daughter with evil spirit o”. That day, Sandra shocked us all, we all expected her to come out trembling in fear, but we were surprised to see her coming out with all confidence, we all know there will be trouble, and Papa, who is the only person that could calm mama down was not around.
Sandra came out to meet mama and we all stood at the door, watching them. “this was how mama Thomas’ daughter Kate started o, she started missing church and the devil got her, she got pregnant and the devil also made the boy run away, I won’t have that in my house, I won’t allow you invite the devil into my house by missing church, never!”
Even I could not stop laughing where I was standing, everyone knew the story of Kate. Kate and Jonah have been dating for a year, and though Kate sang in the Choir and Jonah was among the drummers, we all knew they were doing ‘it’, don’t ask me what LOL.
But like they say, everyday is for the thief and one day is for the owner, Kate got pregnant, and for the first few weeks, she was irregular in church services, especially in the morning because she often fell sick in the morning, but according to mama’s version of the story, the devil got Kate cause she was not regular in church. And Jonah didn’t run away, he followed his uncle to the city, and according to the gist making the round, he still writes letters to Kate, and often send her money too. But looks like the devil did all according to mama.
“Mama, I told you my stomach was paining me o, how can I come to church when I could barely walk?” we all were still surprised my sister could talk back at mama, instead of asking for mercy. “so what? Do you think the stomach pain was ordinary, yesterday, it was Agnes that had a headache, she was OK when I gave her prayer water, the day before, Stephen was vomiting, today, your stomach is paining you, can’t you see it is the work of my enemies? Instead of you to come to church to be delivered, the enemies made you stay at home”. One will pity mama with the way she was vibrating while talking, but we knew better, that was not her talking, it was our Pastor talking through her. “mama, you are the one that knows where the enemies are o, how can enemies give me menstrual pain?” didn’t you tell Agnes to stop playing in the sun yesterday? And prayer water didn’t cure her headache till you gave her paracetamol o”.
Our house was as silent as a graveyard that night, mama was shocked her daughter could confront her like that, the following day, she reported Sandra to pastor, just like we expected, the pastor came hard on Sandra, stopping her from singing in the choir till she has been delivered from the evil spirit tormenting her.
There is another incidence that I can’t forget in a hurry. There was a woman in the church who has been married three times and the three marriages failed because she was unable to have children. She started having an affair with a chief in the village who was married with children, to everyone’s surprise, she got pregnant two months after and later had a baby boy, this endeared her to the man because all the children the man had were girls.
This incidence caused a huge division in the church, some people believed it was an act of God, for after many years of waiting, God finally answered her prayer, the other group, obviously those that were related to the chief’s wife believed it was the devil’s handiwork, they believed the devil must have sent the woman to destroy another woman’s marriage.
That was the way I was brought up and that was the beginning of my confusion, how can God do so much and the devil do so much at the same time while we do nothing? I remained the church boy I was brought up to be till I gained admission into a higher institution and left our small town for the city. I lived on campus, so you can imagine my reaction to my first taste of freedom. I still remember how it felt when I woke up one morning and there was no church to attend, I felt free and elated. No mama breathing down my neck and it looked like all my enemies were finally on recess.
For the first few weeks after I got to school, I was scared the devil will be after me because I hadn’t been going to church, not that I hated church that much, but no one to motivate me, or better put, force me to church. After a lot of persuasions by one of my friends, I finally decided to attend a program in a fellowship on campus. To say I was sceptical is an understatement, to me, all churches are the same, and all pastors too. It was a special program, so there was a guest minister.
First thing I noticed was, I was free, and I was able to enjoy the service, the praises and worship part wowed me and I couldn’t explain how it happened. The high point was when the Guest Minister started preaching, it was like he knew the questions that had been bothering my mind. “Praise the Lord. Now you see, I don’t know how many of you here do blame the devil for everything that happens, well, not that the devil doesn’t work, but he is sure, not responsible for every single thing that happens to you. It was as if a burden was lifted from my shoulder immediately I heard this, but then, I still have some questions on my mind.
“take this as an example”, the Pastor continued, in the garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve instruction, the devil came and gave a suggestion, and Adam and Eve decided to take the suggestion of the devil”. At this point, I wanted to shout, mama must hear this. “look at me, God did not make the man to sin, neither did the devil, the man chose to sin, he had two options, he chose one, God gave him power to chose, and he used it, now who was at fault?” he asked, everybody chorused ‘man’, he smiled and continued, “but the lie the devil wants us to believe is that he is responsible for everything, that way, he robs you of the power of choice, the power to take charge of your life. For example, you miss lectures, you later fail your exams, you blame the devil, the devil can work against a person’s success, but a person that is not diligent doesn’t need the devil to fail. So take charge and stop living in the bondage of fear, the devil doesn’t have as much power as we give him, in fact, Jesus has conquered him for us, beware of his wiles…
“I was no longer listening to the pastor, everything now made sense to me, mama and all other church members have been living in fear, fear of the devil. That’s why they quickly blame the devil for anything that goes wrong, moreover, they go to church regularly to be in the good book of God, not that they know or love God per say.
After the message, the pastor asked those that wanted to give their life to Christ to come forward. Then something hit me, no one preached about salvation in my church at home, all we do mostly was hear about the devil and pray against the enemies. Am sure I have never seen mama reading the Bible before, she, however, had a bible that I grew up to know, she carries it to church and I am sure more than half of the chapters in it were missing.
so much for religion.