“I STILL LOVE TONYE” (7) SHORT STORY
At the end of the last episode, a distraught Tonye woke Obinna up in the wee hours of Sunday. She had been praying and weeping the previous day but had been unable to see Obinna to apologise for her misbehaviour. Let’s see Obinna’s response and how the couple eventually end up. Do they part for good or reconcile to continue their journey towards matrimony? With this bumper episode, we draw the curtain on this captivating story about God’s leading and compatibility in serious relationships. As usual, I welcome your reactions to this final instalment and the entire story. And do share the story widely on social media. You are blessed!
“I STILL LOVE TONYE” (7)
Embarrassed by the applause from their unwanted audience of lodge mates when Obinna answered Tonye’s knock early that Sunday morning, he had quickly pulled her into his room, precipitating louder cheers. When they got inside, Tonye knelt down again and repeated her plea in different words.
“Obi, I messed up big time. But please don’t lock your heart. You can punish me however you like but, for the sake of God, forgive me.”
Obinna was very surprised. This did not sound like the Tonye who told him off some hours ago. But she shouldn’t be kneeling to me.
“Please, don’t do that again,” he begged her. “Sit.”
“I would have loved us to go outside, but the harmattan chill can get us sick,” he continued, as he sat on one of his plastic chairs a few feet away from the one Tonye had chosen.
“I’m sorry I woke you up,” Tonye responded. “I just couldn’t spend a night without telling you how terrible I feel about my behaviour yesterday.”
“Well, I did get some sleep before you knocked. And I think the person you should ask His forgiveness is God. I’m used to people calling me all sorts of names but the Bible teaches that sex outside marriage is sin. …” Obinna was unwilling to continue because he saw some resistance in Tonye’s countenance.
“What I’m concerned about is that I hurt you.” Obinna was disappointed. She still doesn’t get it. You shouldn’t cherry-pick God’s laws. But he didn’t know how to explain it to her.
“I promise never to touch another man again.”
“That is not enough.” Tonye winced. What else does Obinna want?
“I told you I’m doing everything I can to be free from Boma.”
“I’m not worried about Boma. The things that happened since you returned have shown me that we’re too different to make a marriage work.”
“Wow!” Tonye replied. She didn’t see that one coming. She thought their only problem was her misbehaviour with Boma after agreeing to marry Obinna. His assertion meant he was seriously thinking of calling off their engagement. She couldn’t allow that to happen. She would convince him otherwise. It was looking like it would be one of the hardest things she would accomplish. But she was determined to do it. At the moment though, she needed to hear him out.
“I think it would be best if we went our separate ways.”
Tonye began to sob. Obinna waited for a minute or two and continued, “I don’t know how to quarrel, but I’m afraid if we’re together, painful disagreements will be inevitable. I feel that two people who want to be married should have a similar world view, they should reason alike or they would be asking for trouble.”
“I know why you’re saying these things. It’s because I’m not born again.”
“Maybe. But if I may ask, what is wrong with being born again? Why do you despise those who say they are born again?”
Tonye hesitated for a moment. “Promise you won’t misunderstand me. I can never be anything but frank and I don’t want you to take anything I say on this as personal.”
“I won’t; go ahead.”
“Well, I just don’t want to deceive myself. There’s no way anyone can claim to be sinless in this world.” Obinna nodded. “Is that not what born again people claim?”
Obinna exhaled and launched into a detailed explanation. “Born again people have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, as the Bible says we should. Thereafter, they study the word of God to know His commands. They also commune with the Holy Spirit who comes to live in their hearts after they receive Christ. He teaches them God’s ways and enables them, beyond their own abilities, to meet God’s demands. That does not mean that as human beings they don’t make mistakes. But they acknowledge those mistakes and ask for God’s forgiveness. They don’t settle in their mistakes and make them a lifestyle.”
“Then there’s no difference between them and any other person out there. We all make mistakes and ask for God’s forgiveness too.”
“You know that is not quite true. When a person has not surrendered his life to the Lord Jesus, he does not feel obliged to obey God. Most people make up their own standards of morality as they see fit, rather than living according to God’s dictates. Someone may say, ‘I won’t kill to make money’, but they see nothing wrong in duping others. But the most important difference between the saved and unsaved is how God sees us. The blood of Jesus was shed to take away our sins and once you receive Him into your life, you are justified.”
“What does that mean? I’m guessing it’s not the same meaning as when you asked if I was justifying myself yesterday afternoon.”
“Not at all! It means that God takes away your sins and gives you Christ’s righteousness. From that point, when He looks at you, it’s as though you’ve never sinned before.”
“How is that possible?”
“That’s the mystery of salvation. God trades our sins for the spotlessness of Christ when we are saved. That is all He sees when He looks at us subsequently. It’s like the blood of the Passover Lamb which the Hebrews smeared on their doors in Egypt. When the angel of death saw the blood, he passed over their homes because they were identified as God’s own. In the same way, the blood of Jesus identifies us as children of God and saves us from God’s anger now and in the final judgment of the world.”
Tonye was impressed with his exposition. No wonder he was so steadfast. He really knew the basis of his faith, and he believed it wholly. She wanted to be born again too, even though she had many more questions stemming from his last statement. For instance, if the blood of Jesus covered born again people, why did they suffer hardship, illness and natural disasters like everyone else? But that question would have to wait.
“I want to be born again. Would you pray for me?”
“I would gladly lead you in prayer for your salvation, but you must realise it doesn’t change what I said earlier.”
Tonye was shocked. “How can that be? You said we are different, and the way you’ve explained it, that difference is clearly because you’re born again and I’m not.”
“My dear, I want you to become born again because you have repented of your sins and want to live for God, not because of me. Besides, praying the sinner’s prayer does not change a person’s way of thinking overnight. It takes a process of renewing one’s mind by feeding on the word of God.”
Tonye was perplexed. “Let me understand this: You want to leave me hanging until my mind is renewed, that is, until I become a mature Christian? How long do you think tnat will take?”
“No, I want you to forget I ever proposed to you and let us each live our lives in peace.”
Tonye was visibly agitated. “Is that what God told you? Tell me, you who claim to hear from God, did He tell you to leave me and live your life in peace?” Obinna had no answer.
“So you think it was an accident that you proposed to me and I accepted? I am convinced we are meant to be together. Before last Saturday, I’ve been praying that God should deliver me from Boma. You know I’ve not told you much about myself. My dad died when I entered secondary school. My mum had died two years earlier. It was just my elder brother, Godwin, my sister in JS 3 and my two younger brothers. Godwin went to learn a trade to help us. My siblings and I stopped school for two years and stayed with my aunt until he completed his apprenticeship. But his settlement amounted to nothing since his apprenticeship was short and he had no money to start selling electronics. Then I met Boma. I was just 14, hawking pastries. He was nice to me and asked me if I wanted to be a sales girl. I told him I wanted to go to school but that my brother could be his sales boy.
“My brother worked for him for three years. Meanwhile, Boma was paying my school fees. My sister had got married by then and Godwin had started catering for my younger brothers but he could never make ends meet. So Boma helped him open his own shop. He imports electronics and he would give Godwin goods on credit to pay when he sold them. He seemed like a God-sent. He funded the rest of my education and it was like there was an unwritten agreement that he would marry me. But as my graduation from the university approached, I began to have this inexplicable dread about the matter. I knew he had a violent temper. I knew he had other girlfriends but I was confident I could live with all that.”
Obinna gave her a questioning glance. You ignored the fact that Boma has girlfriends, but you were ready to fight Enobong just because we were going somewhere together.
It seems curious that we pick frequently on those we love till we realise it’s because we hold them to higher standards.
Tonye was quick to answer the question in his look: “I didn’t love Boma, but with him I had what most girls were struggling for. He had money and he was generous with it. I felt every other thing was secondary and tolerable. But the fear in my heart remained. So I started telling God to rescue me and give me a better man. The night before you proposed, I was in a dream and you knocked on my door. You told me that God said you should marry me and I burst into laughter. You said it was not a laughing matter, that my life was in danger. In that dream, I remembered my prayers and the fear that had been plaguing me and I accepted. Shortly after, I woke up to fetch water and you showed up.
“What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think it would be wise for you to reject me now. I may not be the most logical choice for you. I may annoy and hurt you from time to time, but I think you have a job to do for God in my life. And I’m certain I won’t be entirely useless to you either.” Tonye, who had gained confidence from Obinna’s rapt attention, had a mischievous twinkle in her eye as she said the last part and Obinna couldn’t help but smile.
“God help me,” he muttered though, upon catching Tonye’s allusion.
“Take me as you would a rose plant.” She leaned forward in her earnestness. “You don’t uproot it because of its thorns. You learn how to handle the thorns for the sake of the fragrance.”
That’s deep, Obinna thought. He was developing a new respect for Tonye.
“I don’t know what it is about Boma that is scaring me so much,” Tonye carried on with her representation, “but I don’t even want to find out. I just want to be safe and I think I have a better chance of that with you.”
“This is all so touching, but I think we need some time apart,” Obinna said, even though he was moved by her account.
“No, we don’t!”
“I’m not sure I’m even ready for a relationship. What I suffered when you left is not something I want to go through again.”
“I’m really sorry. I thought Godwin was owing Boma so much and would be in trouble because of me. Besides, they are good friends. So I decided to spend some time to make him my ally. He has finally begun a degree programme in UST, I figured that helping him to do some of his assignments would make him come round.
“I also tried to investigate my suspicion that Boma has some children with another woman. It didn’t matter to me before but I wanted to use that as the reason why I decided I could not marry him. I confronted Godwin with it. He verified it and decided to back me up. It seems he found out some other things which he refused to tell me. But he warned me not to pick Boma’s call or have anything to do with him ever again. He also assured me that he would handle him when he returns from Asia.”
“Good for you!” Obinna declared, but inwardly his determination to separate from Tonye was waning.
“No, good for us! I can’t be free from Boma unless I’m with someone else, and that person is you.”
“I have no Messiah complex, Tonye. The only person you need is Jesus.” Even as he said this, he knew he wasn’t being perfectly honest. He wanted to protect Tonye. He would go to great lengths to keep her safe.
“Well, Jesus works through people and ….”
“Listen, maybe in future,” Obinna interrupted. “I mean after we’ve passed out from service and are individually established …,” he said, in a final feeble attempt to dissuade Tonye.
She made no response but just stared at him. Lost in her gaze, he exhaled once again and admitted the futility of his efforts to break up with Tonye. She was right in disbelieving that God was behind his present reluctance to forge ahead with her. He had told God his frustrations but hadn’t waited for his response. He was afraid of further exasperation from Tonye, but didn’t factor in what God had to say. If what the Bible says that God is unchanging is anything to go by, He would still be asking him to be patient with her as He did earlier.
Another incontestable fact was that he still loved Tonye. It was something he could not understand but decided to embrace.
“Okay, you win!” Tonye threw herself at him, but he gently held her away. “But it will be my way, the born again way!” She was nodding. “That means no sex, no petting, no fighting, ….” She was nodding so vigorously that Obinna began to laugh.
“But I’m still not born again, remember?” she reminded him.
“That we can remedy in a minute.”
“Would you believe I’m actually looking forward to this?” Tonye asked. “It can only be God!”
“It definitely is God!” Obinna affirmed. “Remember He works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. Shall we pray?”
Ⓒ Edith Ugochi Ohaja 2018
I’m so excited we’ve come to the end of this story and I’m so glad that Obinna and Tonye’s love survived all the turbulence. Love to chat with you.
Do you think Obinna let Tonye off so easily?
Do you agree with his gospel presentation?
Do you have friends that this story has brought to your mind – friends that are different from you? Is it possible to find some common ground that can present you with an opportunity to share the gospel with them?
Obinna drew our attention to the practice of cherry picking God’s laws. Seems a pretty common practice today. Can you give us some examples of this that you have observed?
Tonye alleged that Christians claim they are sinless. What other common accusations do Christians face today and how can we respond to them?
After agreeing to pray the sinner’s prayer, Tonye has a long road ahead of her. Can you give her some advice on how to last and grow in the faith?
Any final relationship advice for our lovebirds?
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