Who Shall I Say is Calling?
In 2017, I met you in Ilorin, on Sobi Hill, with your mother and sister and brother, waiting on God. You saw us, a group of curious travelers and took us higher up the hill. You said with conviction in your voice that your life’s purpose was to become a prophet. In that moment, you reminded me of myself when I was about your age, eleven or so. I watched you walk to the altar, made of stacked pieces of rocks and a wooden cross. You held a bell and said it had been prophesied: together with your sister and brother and mother, you would do the work of God. You spoke with an urgency, a sense of duty, that I found admirable and uncanny.
Over the years I’ve often thought about you, Prophet. I’m glad I had the presence of mind to photograph you: bell in hand, standing upright like a Pentecostal pastor. I rang those bells too, and made melodies with them, while growing up in my mother’s church, Christ Apostolic Church. Once, I participated in the annual three-day fasting marathon, binding and casting principalities and powers in the way of our progress. My Anglican father who had been away for weeks came back home and did not see me. When I returned, he was sitting at the dining table with my mother, who had informed him I was in church (she was there too, and had only come home to attend to him). His face dissolved in wonderment and genuine concern: “What is your problem that you’re fasting? Is it food you don’t have to eat, clothes you don’t have to wear?” He turned to my mother. “Why would you allow her to do this?” She replied, beaming with pride: “She wanted to.”
I’ve sometimes wondered how you arrived at your conviction. Did growing up in church steer you towards the path of prophecy? Or were you predestined for it and fate put you in a religious family?
In university, I discovered I had a gift. People came to me in prayer to learn about their lives, past and future. And during prayer sessions, when the pastor asked if someone had a Word for the congregation, sometimes I found myself standing, talking about things I should not know. And days or weeks later, there were testimonies to that effect. I no longer exhibit this—this knowing. The absence of fellowship has made the Holy Spirit latent inside of me. I haven’t been going to church. When people ask me what changed, I tell them I got bored. That’s the simple, incomplete answer. But there are times, you see, that I feel I’m not living fully, that there are aspects of my life, of this world, that elude me because I have forsaken the place of prayer and the gathering of the brethren.
Now that you’re older, are you still steadfast in your pursuit of God?
She wanted to, my mother had said. And I did want to. In fact, I wanted to go a full three days without food but she said no; though I could break my fast 6 p.m. every day. What was natural about a ten-year old choosing to fast for three days? Was that something I’d have been inclined to do if, for instance, I’d been born to agnostic parents? Over the years, my mother has often wondered, concerned: You were so on fire, so zealous; What changed? “But that was all I knew,” I replied to her once. “That was the life you showed me.”
I’m aware now that stories show us what’s possible, take us beyond our environment, expand our desires. Perhaps stories, too, are prophecies, birthing realities, shaping destinies. We make our prophecies, don’t we? Our lives are a sum total of our daily choices. We are gods. All of us. But some are more aware of it than others. And that makes all the difference.
Young as you were, on that hill, you were measured, said only what you wanted us to hear: about your destiny and family and conviction. Now that I record this, I’m drawn to believe that what truly matters is finding our way with words, whatever the route we choose to take. The older I get, the more I accept that I know so little of the world to speak with certainty. I’m learning to be at peace with not knowing. I still hear from God, sometimes, while at my desk communing with words. I know he holds me. Sometimes I think: people really invite me into their spaces to witness and record what it’s like for them to be in the world. Also, I get to write about how I'm experiencing and rethinking the world. And people read and feel seen, feel a little more alive. What a privilege. What a life.
I write this letter to you because I don’t know what I want to say. I admire you, Prophet. It takes a certain courage to walk with God.