THAT Saturday afternoon, the match between the Desert Camels of Quitalia and the Red Devils of South Korea was about to kick off.
The National Stadium at Quitalia’s capital city of Mailora was filled to capacity well before the match.
And it was the teams’ match in the knockout stage. Also known as the round of sixteen.
Some of the players from both teams were now on the pitch already; flexing their muscles in a pre-match workout.
But Tai VeShadd wasn’t psychologically prepared for the match. And he wasn’t ready to put up any effort either.
He’d suggested to the chief coach that he benched him for the match.
But the VeShadd-obsessed coach wouldn’t take benching the golden boy for such an important match.
Yet Tai VeShadd wasn’t concerned about the World Cup anymore. He could only think about saving himself from sinking down to the bottom of a gloomy abyss.
All he’d been thinking about since he last saw Beya was righting his wrong. But now, the sportsman was considering himself.
Beya Jan’il was the victim of the horrible sexual assault from VeShadd. But here, VeShadd couldn’t help seeing himself as a victim, too.
VeShadd sat on the floor in the dressing room; his head bowed over his raised knees and his arms folded over them.
‘Why did it happen to me of all people?’ he wondered. ‘I get angry and break things, yes. But why does it have to be me? Why do I have to be the bad man with the bad temper?
‘Ain’t there many people in the world with even worse tempers? Why does it have to be me? Why; why?! Why does it have to be Tai VeShadd in this pit of mess? Why?!’
A tear formed in his eye and dropped to the ground with a blink of an eye. He wiped his face with the back of his hand.
And just then, he felt a déjà vu.
He’d once sat on the floor of a changing room in the posture with which he was sitting then and with his mind occupied with weighty thoughts.
Only that he wasn’t shedding a tear in the past occurrence and he wasn’t sitting alone.
The past moment came back to VeShadd’s clear memory. It was Staka’s farewell visit to him at the academy overseas.
The two young men had sat in the dressing room while Staka talked to VeShadd about the issue of weaknesses and besetting sins.
VeShadd now remembered the two Biblical choices concerned with getting rid of debilitating weaknesses, as Staka had explained.
VeShadd remembered that they were either the fire of affliction or the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Now VeShadd realised that, like Job in the Bible, he’d given God no other choice than to use the uncomfortable fire of affliction to deal with his character flaw.
Simply because he couldn’t earnestly pray for the blissful fire of the Holy Spirit. To purify and liberate him from the dominion of besetting sins and flaws.
For the Holy Spirit will not descend on a soul uninvited.
He wished he’d taken time to desperately pray for the Holy Spirit to burn his flaws and weaknesses by his refining fire. And turn them into strengths instead.
He would have risen up from the place of prayer an absolutely refined soul. Freed from the dominion of a besetting sins.
Like a fear-besetted Simon Peter transformed into a bold apostle by the holy flame.
Like a schemer in Jacob turned into a God-dependent Israel by the fiery touch.
And like a once aggressive Ben Carson got up from the place of prayer a refined soul.
VeShadd wished he’d taken time to fervently pray for fire of the Holy Spirit. He wished he didn’t have to go through the painful afflictions.
When he couldn’t launch his career from the academy years before, and he left the football academy altogether, he remembered Staka’s words and thought to pray.
But VeShadd thought that even if he prayed, his football career was gone already. So he didn’t bother praying.
And then, fortune soon smiled on the young sportsman. And he was scouted to play for Quitalia’s national team.
VeShadd soon forgot the idea of weaknesses altogether. And he told himself he’d faced enough affliction and he was out of everything.
And that, too, without stressing himself to pray.
Little did he know that what he went through was just a warning.
A tender warning of what was to come, if he left his weakness unattended to.
Now that the puzzle had come together in a fitting whole fit, more tears dripped down Tai VeShadd’s eyes and he cried in a whimper.
Before other players in the dressing room could notice him, he soon got up and went into the washroom.
And there, he met Staka.
Staka has sought a prayer room in the washroom. Since he wanted to briefly pray about the drawback load of worry on his mind before the match would kick off.
The midfielder rushed up to VeShadd as soon as he came in. ‘I was planning to discuss something with you, Vee,’ he said.
VeShadd hurriedly caught Staka by the hand. ‘Staka, I’m wrong; you are right,’ he interposed. ‘You were right about the fire of the Holy Spirit and the fire of affliction…
‘I’ve been afflicted, Staka. I need your help. I need your prayers. I need God to get me through this. I really need God now, Staka; please, pray with me.’
Staka was surprised. He was only planning to talk VeShadd into confessing his crime. But his friend had even gone ahead of him to identify the root cause of the problem.
Staka took a quick glance at his wristwatch.
It was about thirty minutes to the commencement of their match already. And in fifteen minutes, they’d match to the field.
There wasn’t much time left.
‘Okay, Vee,’ Staka said; ‘let’s cry to God for help!’
Mrs Jan’il couldn’t believe her eyes.
She rushed up to her daughter’s bedside. And she sat right on the bed, staring at her daughter with an excited gleam in her eyes.
She didn’t need anything else to prove to her that Beya had fully woken from a month long coma. For the nineteen-year-old’s eyes were open already.
Beya called out in a faint, weak voice. ‘Dad… Mum…’
‘We’re here,’ the two parents replied; their eyes moist with tears of happiness.
‘Can you see me, Beya? Can you see us?’ Mr Jan’il asked with eagerness.
‘Ah, thank God!’ Mrs Jan’il heaved with a delighted sigh; laying her hand on her bosom.
‘Thank God you’re back, my dear! Thank God you’re back!’ Mr Jan’il breathed.
Beya tried to sit up. Mr Jan’il motioned for her to stop and he adjusted the bed to raise her upper body to a comfortable sitting position.
‘How are you feeling, my dear?’ he asked. ‘I’ll go get the doctor for you.’
‘I’m fine Dad,’ Beya replied. ‘Let’s talk for a bit. I really want to talk with dad and mum.’
‘We’re right here, dear,’ Mrs Jan’il answered.
‘We’re listening, my baby,’ Mr Jan’il said.
Beya spoke in a weak, small voice. ‘I’m sorry for putting you in so much stress, dad. I’m really sorry, mum.’
‘Why should we be cross with you, Beya?’ Mr Jan’il quipped, holding his daughter’s hand.
‘You’re all we’ve got, you know. You’re everything we’ve got!’ he said; giving her hand a gentle squeeze.
Mrs Jan’il interposed. ‘We’re only grateful to God who brings you back after four weeks of you lying in coma!’
‘Four weeks?!’ Beya quipped in surprise.
‘Yes, four long weeks!’ Mrs Jan’il replied. ‘Thank God I didn’t lose you. Thank God!’
‘Thank God you’re back to us, my baby!’ Mr Jan’il sighed.
Beya kept quiet for a bit. And then, she thought to share with her parents what was in her mind. What she experienced during her long, unconscious sleep.
‘I don’t know how to put everything that happened to me. Everything felt like an unending night of blackness. Yet it felt so brief.
‘I was in something that felt like a deep, empty well. At first, I felt comfortable, hiding there. And I feared coming up to the ground.
‘After some time, I began to see a ray of light above the pit. And I really wanted to leave the dark hole.
‘I tried to climb up the deep well. But something like a large file of magnetic papers was drawing me down and I couldn’t climb up to the ground.
‘I resisted the thing pulling me down. I rumpled the papers and tore them; but they just kept sticking together again like I didn’t even do anything to them.
‘Nothing I did could destroy the papers.
‘It continued for what felt like a century and yet like some seconds. I was exhausted after everything. So, I resigned to reading the papers. And the ray of light shone on me and what I was reading.
‘I soon realised what was in those papers was something I have read before. Only that it came upon me as my reality.
‘It was Genesis chapter 34. The story of Dinah and Shechem.
‘My life seemed like the reflection of Jacob’s girl Dinah. And how Shechem put the cart before the horse in dating her.
‘Like Dinah, too, I was sexually taken advantage of by Tai VeShadd. Someone who misplaced priorities and thought he loved me but wanted to have me to prove a point.
‘But I was able to see that Shechem was never able to escape the penalty for what he did. Even when he chose to unite in marriage with Dinah after he’d raped her.
‘It was clear to me that my assaulter will never escape a penalty that’d cost him more than he bargained for. Even when he decided to be sorry.
‘I understood that God is just; and that His forgiveness doesn’t necessarily clear off the consequences of sin.
‘I understood that there’s a sure penalty for every act of wickedness.
‘But as much as my assaulter would be punished, like Shechem was, God still pointed out my own flaw to me from the scripture.
‘And it didn’t hurt me anymore to hear it.
‘To say I didn’t see my flaw is to be obstinate and proud like Adam. I have learnt to take responsibility for myself and not be quick to push off blame.
Because, like Dinah, I went sightseeing the men about town and was intercepted by a modern day monster!
‘I followed a superstar around like he is a demigod. Yet I was hurt that he treated me like a lowly mortal.
‘And as if that wasn’t enough, I followed him down to his hotel room at 11 pm. After the opening match of the World Cup. Just to show him random pictures of him that I took.
‘I’ve forgotten he’s a human being with blood and veins like me. I’ve even forgotten he’s a man. I only saw him as a star. I only saw him as a superstar. I was wrong.
‘I cried to God for mercy in that dark pit. I prayed that He should please forgive me and save me.
‘And soon, a ladder descended into the pit. And I started climbing up the ladder until I came up awake.
‘I now understood that God always wants to save us out of a pit. But not without first making us see where we failed. Not without making us learn our lesson.
‘I’m sorry, dad and mum. I’m sorry for being that kind of kid you’re just knowing about. I’m sorry for causing you so much trouble with this.
‘I’m so sorry, dad. I’m so sorry, mum.’
‘Oh no, my lovely; come on!’ Mrs Jan’il breathed, dissolving into tears.
‘You haven’t done anything wrong; we aren’t angry with you at all,’ she said as she took her daughter in her arms and hugged her tight.
‘Thank God you’re back to us!’ Mr Jan’il said in a low breath. ‘Ah, thank God you’re back!’
And tears of happiness rolled down the eyes of those three.
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