Burning and Shining by Praise Chidinma Abraham

Burning and Shining by Praise Chidinma Abraham

The yelling coming from my parent's room hasn't stopped. It's been about 1 hour 23 minutes 16 seconds since they began their usual battle-ring routine; I'm counting. Trembling, I whisper desperate prayers: blood mustn't flow, not this time.

"You piece of nonsense. You're the greatest mistake I ever made!" I hear my mom's shaky voice squeak.

The loud echo of a hot slap on a cheek—definitely his hand on my mom's cheek—tingle my eardrums. I hear the struggle, the upturning of their entire room, which I am certain I'll be forced to clean up.

I wish someone would intervene and stop them. We live in a block of flats in the downtown city. I guess our neighbours are already sick of trying to help settle our family issues.
That man never listens to anyone. He's as hard as titanium. Till date I wonder how he got Mom to say yes to him—hypnosis, maybe.

Once, I sobbed along with my mom, after another bashing round. Happy memories from before my real dad was killed in a freak accident flitted through my mind.

I asked mom why she hadn't divorced my stepfather yet.
She gazed at me through teary eyes and said she loves my brother and me too much to hurt us that way.

Then, I thought it was a dumb excuse. I mean, couples divorce every day and their kids survive it. I would be better off without seeing that ogre of a stepfather beating my mom every day. I resented him.

My stepfather came in half-drunk and very late, yet again. My mom let out her frustration and exhaustion at him. He snapped and hit her. He's still hitting her.

There's a noise of something crashing and a yelp from my mom. I huddle closer to my baby brother, so glad that he is deeply asleep despite the tumult.

I fear for Justin's mental state. I feel so protective of him. I don't want him to be scarred like I already am. He's only five, and as his older, albeit stepsister, it's my duty to protect him. I tug him closer to me on the couch in the living room and try to sing a lullaby to drown out the noise.

"Pain, pain, go away,
Never come another day,
Little Justin wants to sleep
Pain, pain, go away."

My tears drip into his curly hair as I whisper-sing in a wobbly voice.

I'm not feeling so new-creaturish now. I thought that once I turned to God, my nightmare would turn into a fairytale.
Apparently, it doesn't work that way.

A part of me is starting to second-guess the encounter I had. Maybe it was just something I conjured up in my mind, some fantasy of bliss that I created to escape this hell hole.

But the memory is branded in my heart like hot coals.

I still remember the sheer frustration I felt that morning. My stepfather called me nasty names while we had breakfast. In his words, I was a nasty cook just like my stupid mother.
I made myself numb to his words but it still hurt so bad. I stormed away from the dining table and cooped in the toilet, crying my eyes out.  

My only point of release—slicing my wrist—didn't bring the needed relief. I just wanted it all to end.

But, something, someone stopped me from caving into the nasty suggestions of the slippery voice in my head.
I dragged myself to school with a cloud of gloom over my head.

~~~

Everyone knows Enoch. The teachers dote on him, the girls crush on him and he is bully-proof.

From a distance, I was irritated by Enoch and his type, because, to me, his life was sugary-perfect. He has the best grades, and a nice ride and would never stop at a chance to talk about his God as if they're best buddies.

I did my best to ignore and distance myself from him as I did to virtually the rest of my class. I was a social recluse; no friends, no foes, just in-between.
But somehow, he noticed me and saw past my facade.

That momentous day, he gingerly approached me during lunch break. I was in the loner's spot in the cafeteria. He settled opposite me and slurped his Coca-Cola while he stared at me for a while. Then, he said, "Myrna, what's wrong?"

I gave him a blank stare and willed him to back off in my mind.

He didn't flinch or scoot off. He just watched me with concern, waiting for a reply.

"What's your deal, mister?" I finally blurted when I was tired of the way he was looking at me.

He raised his hands in surrender mode and said, "Hey, I don't mean bad. I was just concerned."

"Whatever."

"You're hurting, aren't you? More like you're tormented."

I scoffed. "And who made you the judge of that?"

His eyes squinted and he reached out and touched my arm.

"Hey!" I said, startled by his warm touch.

He didn't loosen his grip. He pulled up my sweater to reveal the scars on my wrist.

"Who did this, Myrna?"

'It's none of your business," I said in consternation, pulled my hand back and stood up abruptly. "And don't you ever touch me again or I'll yell."

I stormed out of the cafeteria, leaving two-thirds of my lunch untouched.

My heart was thudding, the back of my eyes brimming with tears.

At last. Someone noticed. How did Enoch know, about my demons, about my scars? I thought I'd perfected the art of building an impenetrable mask and shutting people out. But deep down, I was crying for someone to notice my pain, to help me from drowning in myself.

"Jerk! Why did I do that!" I said to myself. "He was just showing concern. I could have told him about what's going on. Maybe he has the solution I have been waiting for."

A sly voice I had grown to know whispered, 'Oh, you think he cares. Ha. He's only after what all men want—Your body. Look how your mom ended up.'

A fresh wave of despair washed over me and I felt so heavy.

I slugged to the back of the school building, between some flower hedges. I wept my eyes sore, silently. Why was my life such a mess? Will I be stuck in this hopeless state forever?

"Here," a voice softly called. I jumped. Turning, I saw it was Enoch. He stretched a hankie at me.

"What are you doing here? You scared the hell out of me."

He sighed and moved closer. "Sorry about that."

I turned away, not wanting him to see my red eyes and swollen face.

"Are you stalking me?" I said through sniffs.

"No, no. I'm just a concerned friend."

"Stop lying to me. Just go straight to the point. What do you want from me?"

He sighed and said, "Can we talk?"

I stared blankly at him, not responding. He took that as a yes.

"God has laid your burden in my heart for some days now. I've been praying for you, but it gets heavier each time. What's going on with you, Myrna? And why do you have such ugly scars? Is that why you wear long sleeves all the time even when it's hot?"

I wasn't religious so what he said about God was annoying, but oddly comforting. My heart leapt at the prospect of someone watching out for me.

The evil voice came back, snivelling. His counter remarks were logical.
I echoed its words.

"God? I don't believe in God. And if he exists, I won't hesitate to say I wish he didn't. What good is he if he just loves seeing people suffer?"

Enoch frowned as if he has been punched in his gut. He muttered something I couldn't hear. Now that I think of it, perhaps he was praying.

"God cares about you, Myrna. He loves you. That's why he specifically sent me to you. Do you want to talk about what's going on? See maybe I can help?"

"Stop talking!" I growled, anger boiling in me. The tears were pounding to be let out but I shut them back.
"You stuck-up religious nut, you know nothing about what I'm going through. You cannot help me."

He gave me a sympathetic look and whispered, "I'm sorry for what you're going through in secret. It's true I can't help you. But I know someone who does. Jesus said, come unto me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest."

Enoch's words were tapping a door in my soul that I was afraid to open.
What if there was hope for me? For Justin who was diagnosed with autism from birth and my mom who was trapped in a toxic relationship? Could there be a light at the end of our tunnel?

Enoch looked as if he was bearing the pain with me.
"Don't you want rest, Myrna?"

That broke me. The tears pooled down my cheeks and I tasted salt.

"Please, oh please... is this real?" I muttered past my sobs.

There was a war going on in me.
Side one: this is all a big fat lie, set to get me high on false hope and then bring me plummeting down faster than a meteor.
Side two: what if this was my only chance of escape? Why would I be so foolish enough to let it pass by?

Enoch placed his hand on my shoulder and began praying for me. Till this day, I don't know what he prayed for. Because my eyes were open, I saw as his tears also streaked down.

Then, it happened. Slowly at first, then so fast and huge that I was sure I would melt. I felt the love of God so raw, so real.

It was frightening. I didn't want to believe it, but it wasn't leaving.

Then my tears turned to cleansing. I cried and laughed at the realization. There was a loving God out there and He wasn't responsible for my mess. He wanted to help me out of it.

When I was done crying and relishing the experience, I gave Enoch a sloppy smile and thanked him profusely.

We had missed a class period after break, but neither of us minded.
For the rest of the day, I couldn't stop thinking about what I had felt. I had so many questions.

The next day, during lunch break, I poured out the pitiful tale of my misery at home to Enoch. Instead of giving me advice or preaching at me, he invited me to his house fellowship for a Bible study.
I began attending every Tuesday: with the perfect excuse for my worried mom—studying with a friend.

The low population at the fellowship put me at ease. Everyone was so nice, especially the hosts, Enoch's parents. Plus, I did enjoy the homemade cookies and smoothies that were constantly shared.

Each time, it was a like fresh dose of my first experience with God. I became addicted. I wanted more. So, after like three consecutive times of being awed by God's word, I yielded and gave my life to Jesus.

Ever since then, for about a month now, I've enjoyed a measure of peace. My thoughts are clear. It's easier to lovingly care for my invalid brother. No more wrist slicing.

However, at times like this, when my stepfather restarts his dark side, I feel so overwhelmed with fear and doubt.

Why isn't a miracle happening?

I've prayed non-stop for God to change things and make my family a happy one. That God should save the rest of my family, that my brother will be healed, that everything would be back to normal.
But things are getting worse.

Why is it as if God isn't hearing me? Why is it harder and harder to get them to see the light I now see?

I don't know...

~~~

"What's wrong?" Enoch asks me. We're walking together from the bus stop early to school, a scheme we'd come up with to talk about God and other random stuff. I didn't mind going to school earlier than usual 'cause I enjoy his company, hands down.

"Nothing," I say.

"Your face and single-syllable answer tell me otherwise."

I sigh and turn to face him.

"I don't know I just feel confused. This born-again business is hard. The darkness around me is choking. The only time I feel a bit of relief and calm is when I pray or study the Word. And even doing that is getting harder by the day."

"I feel you, sis. I've felt that way many times. Remember He who saved you can keep you from falling. Just hold on to Him."

I nod. I want to believe but these things are far easier said than done.

Jesus, please help me. I don't know how much longer I can hold on, I muse inside me.

"I have a question, Enoch."

"Okay, what's that?"

"How do you do it?"

"Do what?"

"You know, the whole calm and perfect life thing?"

Enoch pauses and raises his eyebrows at me. "My life is the farthest thing from perfect.

"Yeah, right."

"My real parents died years ago. I'm an adopted child."

My lips part. "You're an orphan? I'm so sorry. I never knew. I shouldn't have probed. I know how loss feels. My real Dad was killed in an accident. I'm so sorry, Enoch."

"It's okay... When my foster parents sent me to a public high school, I was rebellious and always angry. It didn't turn out well. I was in juvenile detention for a year after I fought and wounded a classmate. He had to get five stitches on his face."

"Oh, my God!"

"It was in remand home that I met God."

"Wow!"

"So you see, no one's life is perfect. We all have a past. I still struggle with obedience. I'm just doing my best to be a light to my world. The Holy Spirit has been helping me so far."

I stare at Enoch and see a model of what I want to be.

~~~

I'm on my knees and praying, for how long, I can't say anymore.

I hear a still small voice.

"Myrna, beloved, I'm sending you not only to your family, but also to your school, and your world, as a burning and a shining light."

"I'm so weak. Many times the urge to go back to my old ways comes so strong. I just want to have a good life."

"I see and feel your pain, Myrna. But it's a process to refine you."

I frowned. "How so?"

"I'll use fire as a practical example. Can you put your hand in fire?"

"No."

"Why?"

"It'll burn my skin."

"Good. But do you know that fire is very useful for other purposes?"

"Yeah, I guess. Cooking, light, heat, refining metals..."

"You get the point. Burning, for the fire, hurts but shining is cool. Many people want to shine without burning and that's why they fizzle out in no time.

"In helping others out of their pain, you begin to see how less yours is.

"Just like I saw Enoch, then you, I want you to see others and shine your light to them, even as you burn. Like a chain reaction."

"Lord, help me. I'm so scared."

"Trust me, follow my lead, Myrna. I've got you."

~~~

After my devotion, I think hard about what to do to showcase God's light to my world today.

A strange confidence and sense of purpose replace the self-pity that normally plagues me. It's a beautiful feeling.

I get inspired by the word of God. I'm not as bold as John the Baptist, the one originally given the title of a burning and shining light. But just like Apostle Paul said, I'm bold in letters and weak in person. I decide to start from that.

I leave my room, finish up all my chores and get my brother set for the day. Then, I dash to school, after telling my shocked mom that I love her. I'm earlier than on other days so I don't wait for Enoch.

On getting to class, I arrange and clean the chairs and tables.

On small strips of paper, I write John 3:16, a scripture that is so dear to my heart.
Underneath I write, "God sees and wants to ease your pain."
Then I put the new Google Hangouts username I created last night so that anyone could chat me up to pour out their hearts.
That'll give me a chance to talk to them about God without compromising my identity, at least not yet.

I roll the papers and placed them at the centre of every table, including mine so I wouldn't be suspected, and went behind the school building to pray.
Baby steps. I didn't have any relationship with any of them so this was my best chance.

When I came back into the class after the assembly for the first lesson, I noticed my classmates taunting each other as to who was the secret message sender.

"The whole anonymous thing you did was cool," Enoch says as we walk towards the bus stop after school. "I was wondering why you didn't wait for me this morning."

"How did you know it was me?"

"Well, I guess I'm the only one in that entire class that knows your real handwriting," he says with a roguish grin.

"Don't feel so puffy, mister," I say and slap his arm.

"Ouch!" he whines and rubs the spot where I hit him.

"No sorry to you."
I pause and with a groan, say, "It's lame. Didn't you see how those guys ridiculed the unknown person for being such a sissy? Some people didn't even read it. I feel terrible."


"It's okay to feel terrible sometimes. Do you know how much courage I had to build to approach you that day?"—I laughed alongside him—"But what's important is that you did what God asked you to. And who knows, someone could have been touched."

"I hope so."

My phone pinged. I pulled it out of my pocket. A notification from my anonymous Google Hangouts account. Someone from class had sent me a message.

A rush of delight passed through me and I smiled.

"Maybe you're right, Enoch. No matter what, I'll keep burning and shining for Jesus."


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  1. Oh my Gosh! Thank you Jesus! My mind is still reeling. 🤯🤯🤯 I can't believe both my stories which I submitted close to the deadline could make the shortlist for the New Man Writing Contest. 🥺✨
    Please guys, vote for my story and let's bring the trophy home for the glory of God. 🥳🥳🥳 Your comment is your vote.

    By the way, I hope you enjoyed and were blessed by this short story. 😇 Thanks for reading and voting. 💖💖💖

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awesome!!!..how can you not enjoy Stories written by @PRAISE!... More Grace dear sis!

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  2. Wow this is really Enlightening and awesome. I’m glad I read this...

    ReplyDelete
  3. An interesting piece, I was blessed.
    More Grace

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  4. This is awesome

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  5. I'm happy I read this story. It teaches the importance of burning and shining for Christ no matter what.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "In helping others out of their pain, you begin to see how less yours is."

    Those words touched me.

    This piece is life-filled. Kudos to the pen that wrote this.❤💯

    ReplyDelete
  7. IWALESIN OLUWANIFEMI ENIOLAOLUWA7 April 2023 at 02:22

    HE Who Saved Me Can Keep Me From Falling.... Thank You Very Much Ma
    May GOD Grant Me The Grace To Shine And Keep Shining HIS Light

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great story. May God help us.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sunday Peculiar10 April 2023 at 14:19

    This is an interesting piece. Kudos to you, ma'am.

    ReplyDelete
  10. What an amazing piece, life lifting and full of light. More wisdom to the writer

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  11. An amazing story! Myrna's story is truly uplifting and her relations with Enoch are so organic! Once again, Prazo has shown us how we are to burn and shine for Christ, from the beginning of our walk, like Myrna, till the very end.

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  12. This was a beautiful inspired story.

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  13. Amazing, thank you for this beautiful and inspiring story

    ReplyDelete
  14. I really love this story

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  15. Wonderful story

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