The whisper brushed my heart again, like a faint breeze fanning my resolve. “Mary, do you love Me more than these things?”
“Lord, you know I love you more than anything in the world. I do,” I responded in my heart.
“Phew!” I muttered under my breath. Did these exams really have to be so tough? Ehn? Was it because it was a professional exam? So what if they made the questions a little more answerable, would they die?
I’d worked so hard throughout the semester. So hard I’d thought I might break down. And I’d prayed so hard as well. The only thing left to do now was to give this thing to God. I watched as people collaborated in the hall. They called it helping one another, some brethren inclusive.
I marvelled. Was it no longer exam malpractice? Who baptised the name to helping out? I knew that if I turned to collaborate with others, I would definitely pass. Just 2 or 3 questions would make all the difference and decide if I fell below or above 50% which was the pass mark.
I wondered where exactly the school got these questions from. Some of the topics featured here hadn’t even been taught. We were told they were post graduate topics and we shouldn’t pay much attention to them. Everyone was happy to oblige, as there was too much to read anyway.
So, why were they asking it? Wasn’t this absolute, unrivaled witchcraft? Abstract things from nowhere. It would have been a miracle if half of the class passed the exam, but with the way exam malpractice was flying around, majority of the class would definitely pass.
And people like me, who had refused to do what others were doing.
Sweat broke out on my forehead. I swallowed tightly, looking around. The guy sitting by my right was copying from the person who sat in front of him. The person in turn, wrote from the person who sat in front of her. The person they copied from, had a phone, carefully tucked into the mathematics set under his locker.
The invigilator standing in front of him either didn’t notice or didn’t care. I decided it must be the latter, because it was obvious. The man just ignored them, as if he hadn’t noticed.
I wondered if he was equally the one who smuggled the phone into the exam hall. They must have paid him. So, why not just tap from that, pass this exam and get out of this class? After all, they’d settled the invigilator and everyone was collaborating freely.
A scripture flashed through my mind. Of Shedrack, Meshach and Abednego standing before the Babylonian god. The command was for them to bow, or they’d be thrown into a furnace. Here, I faced the god of academics. It was either I bowed or failed the exam.
If I decided to put my lamp under a bushel, what would that make me? A light that only shined in fellowship where it wasn’t needed? My light was needed right here, at the centre of this darkness. I had to shine by refusing to defile myself with even a portion of the king’s meat.
I remembered overhearing my classmates talk and laugh about brethren who were brethren until exam started dealing with them. Sorrow filled my heart.
My will hardened, clenching my jaw with determination. Never. I shrugged obstinately. I would never bow. If I perish, I perish. I started writing what I could remember. If God wasn’t going to help me, then so be it.
What if I failed?
“I can’t fail,” I responded to the voice. “And even if I do, I’d prefer that to grieving my Father.”
I walked out of the exam hall, ready to cry. I cried to God in my heart. “Papa, people don’t care how results come about around here, as long as you pass. But You, Abba, I know You care about the process too. I know You’re watching and that You’re taking note. Please take control.”
A word came to my spirit. “You’re in a spiritual refining process and this is only a part of it. As you have sworn to honour God even when it gets tough. As you have chosen to stick with Him, against all odds, you will pass this exam. And you will see greater miracles than mere passing exam. It is a very small thing compared to where I am taking you.”
When I got to the hostel, I wrote these words in my prayer journal and rejoiced, against the doubt that stubbornly knocked at the door of my heart. I locked it out. My recent exercise was learning to trust and obey, even in the face of challenges. The Holy Spirit was here to help me.
My phone vibrated as the beginning notes of “Holy Fire” by Theophilus Sunday streamed from it. I looked at the caller ID. Bro. William. I didn’t pick. I didn’t appreciate his coming around so often, especially now that I needed a shoulder. I didn’t want to make a habit of pouring out my heart to him. Constant communication had a way of forming bonds. I was sure he’d understand.
My phone chimed as a text message entered. “William prays for you, Mary. That your faith remains steadfast and you will always choose Abba. I have prayed that God will align you. You win against all odds. You succeed, no matter how daunting it gets. God has got you.”
I nodded as I read the text. It was a confirmation of the word I received and it strengthened my heart. This young man totally unsettled me. The way he gave me word from God without my opening up to him, was a different level of… What? Intimacy? Oh I didn’t know. I just wanted him to go away. He was slowly working his way into my heart.
My phone began to ring again. I picked. “Hello.” I cleared my throat. “Bro Will, good evening sir.”
“Mary. How did it go?” The concern in his voice melted all my reservations and yet again, I found myself sharing my deepest fears.
Thursday came too quickly, filling me with the dread of sitting face to face with an examiner and answering about any question he decided to come up with. I paced pensively in front of the examiner’s office, hoping tension wouldn’t make me forget even the things I knew.
I chewed my fingernails to the quick. Viva voce often had a way of bringing back my old habit of biting my fingernails. People who had gone already, came out looking crestfallen. They’d said the professor was giving everyone a fail.
I panicked for a while, then began to wonder what exactly panic would achieve. Worry never helped anyone. Wasn’t it better to pray instead? I could decide what my result must look like. Even now, I could rearrange some things in the spirit before it was my turn to enter the office. After a tough written exam, the viva that I was using to get hope was equally about to flop?
And why for goodness sake did my name fall into the list of students to be examined by this wicked professor? Something had to be done immediately. I needed help! My spirit quickly responded to my summon of the deep and like a cry of distress to invoke the Spirit I served, sounds began to erupt from my belly through my lips.
“Kaukau kakaka kaaauuu…”
Startled, the girl standing next to me looked at me weirdly. We were the only people left. Others had gone. I must have been quite a sight, hunched over and growling at something or someone she couldn’t see.
“Dakuku kauuuu dakundakaaa…”
She shifted a few feet away from me, looking back at intervals as if waiting to raise the alarm the moment I went completely gaga.
“Kauuuu Dukaaaaku kaaaaa…”
I faced the window and groaned. Whatever was written about this exam, that made it difficult for everyone, had to be rewritten in my favour. I wasn’t going to be a casualty. Not on my watch. I was not helpless.
“Dakata kaaaaa rumboooo…”
To be continued…