. . . and holiness, without which, no man shall see the lord.

6 min readJan 8, 2023
“meditallucination” illustration by Geoff McFetridge via It’s Nice That

I opened my Bible today, for the first time in 2 years, thanks to Eloghosa Osunde. It’s an English and French Bible I collected from my dad’s collection to help with my assimilation of the continental coloniser’s language.

First, I flip through, trying to find something, anything that feels warm. I don’t — particularly because nothing comes to mind. Then, I open the verse mentioned in the article that spurred me to pick up the Bible in the first place — Ephesians 4:1 — “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.”

This verse reminds me of a line in Order my Steps — “Lord I just want to walk worthy, my calling to fulfil”. It reminds me of insomnia-ridden nights I spent praying to be like The Christ — all loving, all holy. I’d go on fasts, take quiet moments when everyone else was in class, stay awake — my prayers were never for things I considered mundane — like passing an exam or provision — it was always this one thing — to be like Jesus.

I remember being so fascinated in Christology class during a Short-Term Ministerial Course my then fellowship organised every time we had a long break from school. I enjoyed all the classes — Biblical Hermeneutics, Christian Apologetics, even the course titled, Old Testament. But the one I loved the most was Christology. The person of the Christ was enthralling. The teacher also did a good job selling it.

Jesus, the Christ, was a person of immense paradox and wisdom, per the interpretations of the scripture taught to us. He knew when to be quiet, and he knew when to draw a sharp word. He was meek, yet he would declare himself to be the son of god. He’d bless some and pronounce woe on others. He lived simply yet could command money out of the mouth of a fish. How do you not love a character like this? He seemed perfect. And perfection was the one message I’d learned since I was a child.

In every Monday Bible Study, every Thursday Revival Hour, every Sunday Worship Service, every House Caring Fellowship, the message in my childhood church was constant — “be ye holy, for I am holy”, “be ye therefore perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. “Follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the lord”

This mandate was personal to me. This was my singular purpose for existence. If I would be anything in life, I would be like Jesus or I didn’t want to live.

We sang self sacrificing hymns like, “take my life and let it be, consecrated lord to thee” and prayed self mortifying prayers like, “if it is one moment before I sin and lose my place in heaven, take my life before that moment”

I didn’t know anything else. And that’s why I’ve read Eloghosa’s essay multiple times. The sound resonates deeply with all the tunes that played in my soul for the first 20 years of my life. I’ve known a quest for perfection longer than I’ve known what it is to live. And leaving the church does not automatically take your foot off your own neck. You still hold the hammer of high moral standards and every misstep, every imperfection is a nail.

You change your mind on certain topics but you don’t necessarily act out your new ideas. You are permissive to others but not to self. “Others may, I cannot”. The dissonance between what you believe and what you live out throws you further in the ocean of anxiety and now, you’ve lost the faith that lets you walk on water. So, you drown.

But you are no stranger to dissonance. You are no stranger to drowning. Only this time, you are more honest about it. Remember when you were in the faith? You had a sibling in the Apostle Paul who loved god’s law with all his heart but had “another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.”

On 17 April 2022, I sat with Oluwatoni at Churchill’s, a dingy Irish pub in Lekki I visited often for their Sunday roast or fish and chips. Toni and I have many things in common, especially the faith of our fathers. We talk about how we have imprints on our souls that may never fade with time. We talk about rediscovering the self and the sacred after leaving organised religion. We talked about redefining spirituality and other themes for ourselves. This conversation was koinonia, a fellowship of souls. I have a shaky memory but the details of this conversation stayed with me. As I got in the cab to take me home that night, I wrote in my journal. And I cried.

We talked about holiness and what it is for us to see god. I told her this was one of the first things I had to deconstruct for myself because “be ye holy” had a chokehold on my life.

It was one day in 2017 during my NYSC. I lived in a dilapidated flat and taught principles of accounting in an all boys school in Kano. But if there was anything I had, it was time. With a 2G internet connection and little money, there wasn’t much to do but sit under a tree, think and write. This was my wilderness experience. This was when I had to face the dissonance in my soul. This was the beginning of my backsliding, or in a way, a rebirth — depends on where you stand.

I remember sitting under a tree adjacent to the building with my Bible and journal on my thighs and a quiet prayer in my throat, to know god more. to be like god. to be holy.

And then it came to me this way, If God did not say to fish, “fly”, nor to bird, “swim”, why was “be ye holy” a command to attain rather than a pronouncement of what is natural to us.

You see, my ideas of god had begun to change, and one of the sounds of that change was Pieces by Steffany Gretzinger. I was being introduced to her ideas of Love and it was quite jarring, compared to the righteous god I knew. It wasn’t that my people didn’t believe that God is love, it was that God was first holy, before God was anything else. and God’s love also meant God’s judgement. My friend, Ferdy, would preach to his congregation at The Tribe, years later, that God’s judgement was for us, not against us. God would go to war against the things that warred against our freedom. This was a beautiful rendition of it. I had known a god that threw both the baby and the bath water into the lake of fire. Eternally. For sins committed in time.

My ideas of the divine have not stopped changing. This is not a theological discourse or an invitation to one. It is a coming to terms. Or a response to the many questions I’ve received over the years from people who care about me, “what changed?”, “what happened to you?”, “what do you believe now?” If you still haven’t figured out from reading this, here’s the answer, “I don’t know.” And on most days, I don’t care anymore.

However, I am still drawn to the sacred, a space inside me where I meet my whole, free self. I am still drawn to the beauty of existence and what it means to be human. The many complexities of our being is very much Christlike to me. My calling is still to love. to love. to love. It is of this calling that I will continue to walk worthily.




“Silence is a dangerous thing to give yourself to, especially if you were born to speak.” - Eloghosa Osunde