I have a little confession: I love being around beautiful women but don’t take it for a moral liability. Truth is, I am descended from a solid line of extremely beautiful women.
My paternal granny, Nneje Oti was so exceptionally endowed that many visitors to Elu Ohafia would swear she was Caucasian.
And there was Ada Nwoke, my maternal granny whose attractiveness mingled with a sweet sense of humour that worked like a charm. So if all my six sisters turned out beautiful, it’s neither happenstance nor magic: just plain, predictable genetics.
So growing up in the midst of such uncluttered beauty, it became for me a natural part of the normal life. About the time I was parcelled off to secondary school, I became aware of a peculiar group of people who made loud and unabashed profession of their Christian faith.
Most of what I knew about them was hearsay. A man I had enormous respect for told me those Christians were an assemblage of nitwits, social misfits and ugly women; and I believed him.
The bit about ‘ugly women’ was particularly distasteful. I could never imagine being part of such a drab gang.
It is remarkable how when information is accepted as fact, perception can become almost permanently prejudiced. Each time I encountered Christians, the men came away as mumu, and the women as wowo.
Midway into my eventful secondary education, I met a man whose ministry compelled me to make what was essentially a private profession of faith. Peter Ifeanyichukwu Ekwo was a man like no other, but that’s a story for a better day.
If my decision had remained private, it would have been a case of “happy ever after.” But there was a huge corporate component I couldn’t dodge: I had to be in fellowship with dumb boys and ugly girls, and that was almost asking too much of me.
For two years, I dragged this crushing burden around; too ashamed to share it with any other – well, until the Easter of 1980.
There must be a miniscule few who became Christians in the 70s and 80s that didn’t come under the saintly influence of Williams Folorunsho Kumuyi of the famed Deeper Christian Life Ministry.
Thrice a year – at Easter, in the period of the long vacation circa July/August and in December – and across the country, he convened retreats that became the veritable rendezvous for those seeking genuine spiritual rejuvenation.
Kaduna’s venue was the Kaduna Teachers’ College Kawo, and I was there.
Deeper Life has always maintained a reputation for severity in doctrine, conduct and appearance, and being well aware, I comported myself. All that went up in smoke when I encountered a spectacle as I snaked my way from the hostel to the meeting hall.
Among the women that laboured dutifully in the kitchen was this damsel that looked like something out of this world.
Despite her gaudy attire, and with no jewelry, no make-up, no frills and add-ons, she was exquisitely beautiful. The lass had gone to great lengths to appear unattractive, but she had failed woefully.
In a typical Deeper Life setting, it is anathema for a man to admire even the scarf of a woman so I knew I was treading on dangerous turf. The scenario was clearly overwhelming and I couldn’t help but tactfully slow my Onward-Christian-soldiers pace to take in the pleasant sight.
At that moment, I realized I had bought into a lie, and for two long years, I had let it torment me. But not anymore. Even with that one bright example, I was convinced the global assembly of Christians was littered with beautiful women.
And that was a very comforting realization. I did make a few more dangerous detours to the kitchen just to convince myself I wasn’t hallucinating.
By the time I left the retreat grounds on Easter Sunday, I had effectively experienced a transfiguration.
I became a student and connoisseur of everything bright, beautiful and beatific, and I committed irrevocably to taking my journey of faith to a fitting conclusion. I suppose that’s part of what nudged me towards architecture and literature.
The intervening years have not only afforded me the opportunity of experiencing beauty in its kaleidoscopic manifestations, I have since expanded on its definition beyond the physical, the plastic and the aesthetic.
In the process, I even managed to keep for myself one of my especial study specimens from whose determined amorous clutches I seek no rescue.
It is much easier for me now to appreciate how souls have become embittered, how destinies have been derailed, how relationships have soured because a lie was permitted to fester.
As I celebrate 36 years of my defining epiphany, may you also experience yours, so that finally rid of those scales, you’ll see clearly enough your destined path to purpose and peace.
Have an unforgettable Easter!
Olugu Olugu Orji mnia, firstname.lastname@example.org, oluguorji.wordpress.com