Once upon a time,
I was the priestess of Onuma, the god of Vengeance
Onuma was a deity greatly feared by men.
Not him alone, but his worshippers also
For he was known to uphold justice
And mete out harsh punishment to deserving culprits.
His anger was like roaring thunders
He ruled his subjects with an iron fist.
Mercy was never known with him,
Compassion was an outlaw.
People feared him more than they respected.
His name and shrine was avoided like a plague.
The sacrifices they brought to me, his priestess
Were more like bribes than love offerings.
Two kinds of people frequented the shrine of Onuma
The deeply hurt and the cruelly pervert
The former were people who had been wronged.
Men and women suffering from a broken heart
And desiring that their offenders’ be broken too.
Onuma did as they asked
But I, the priestess often wondered
If a potter ever mended a broken pot by shattering more pottery
“Blood for blood, sword for sword”, they snarled
Onuma, typically stirred, obliged them.
The cruelly pervert also sought justice at our shrine
Or would you rather, in-just-ice.
For they came, looking innocent and naïve
And told tales that sounded rather juicy and inciting
They too spelt judgment on their fellow men
And not a few fell victim of their lies and Onuma’s wrath
For Onuma, with all his good intentions
Yet lacked discernment
Of the true nature of man’s heart.
Perhaps I was the only loyal follower of the god Onuma
For many a mornings,
My voice was heard crying out his adulations
And late night watchers could easily spot my footprints
As they trailed into the deep bushes.
Until I observed that the wicked was blessed by Onuma
And he never did heal any heart or home.
Until I observed a striking contrast
Between the countenance of Onuma’s worshipers
And those who served only Chi-ukwu, the Almighty.
The former were pissed, anxious and grim
The latter; free, generous and in bliss.
I wondered and sought and learned
And what I learned tore me bare.
Chi-ukwu seemed to me like a paradox, a mystery:
How could One uphold rightness and love
Recompense and forgiveness
Justice and mercy
And never leave anyone unsatisfied?
How could a deity be equally revered and loved?
How could a king be a shepherd, a judge and a father?
He punished the wicked
But none of his followers demanded vengeance of themselves.
In fact, they forgave in advance
And repaid evil with good.
They gave a cup of water to strangers
And never required repay for the good they did.
My discoveries astonished me greatly
But they also drew me in…
I crept into his temple in the shadows
In fear that anyone else will see me, a disloyal priestess.
But no one seemed to notice or judge me
For they all seemed captivated in adoration.
I waited, I listened till the tears dropped
And I knew that there was no going back for me.
However, I was told with a pat
That I could not serve two masters at a time;
“If you are in, you will have to be all in”
That same night,
I took the toughest decision ever with great ease.
Talk about paradoxes.
I ran back with sprinting feet and light weight
I pulled down the altar of Onuma
Broke the pots of herbs and roots
Gathered cowries and priestly costumes
And with a match-stick, set all ablaze.
As they burned and villagers stared,
Something deep stirred in my belly
I fell to my knees and wept:
Tears of relief that a stronghold had been broken.
Tears of sorrow that I had represented an error for so long.
Tears of resolve that henceforth, I will follow only Chi-ukwu.
Bent over in ashes, people’s drowning voices and my own grief
I didn’t see but felt
Two pairs of hands draw me up into warm embrace
And cover me with some blanket.
I sniffed, I looked and recognized
They were followers of Chi-ukwu
Apparently, they had seen me in the temple earlier
And had come to stand by me now.
I managed to signal towards the temple,
They nodded in understanding.
Together we made our way away from Onuma to Chi-ukwu
Followed by a handful of spectators,
Some merely curious, some deeply affected.
This time around,
I enter into his courts through the door
With deliberate, decisive steps.
I make my way to the altar and kneel
I begin to feel forgiven and relieved
I am caught up in the wonder of His love
Something in my guts tells me
That this is a good thing.
I will follow Chi-ukwu all my days
I will be His priestess
I will sing His praises
I will be just
I will be loving
I will be forgiving
I will be happy
I will be free.
(In the past you were spiritually dead because of your disobedience and sins. At that time you followed the world’s evil way; you obeyed the ruler of the spiritual powers in space, the spirit who now controls the people who disobey God. Actually all of us were like them and lived according to our natural desires, doing whatever suited the wishes of our own bodies and minds. In our natural condition we, like everyone else, were destined to suffer God’s anger. But God’s mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God’s grace that you have been saved. In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world. He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of his grace in the love he showed us in Christ Jesus. For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it. God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do. Ephesians 2:1-10 GNB)