AND THEN I SAW HER

She was beautiful.

There’s really no other way to describe it. She was so beautiful it hurt to stare. Her smile seemed to light up the entire room and it was so readily available. She smiled at everything.

“Brothers and sisters,” our cell leader announced, interrupting my reverie just in time for me to clamp my jaws shut and disappoint the fly that was stealthily making its way in the direction of my mouth.

 “We have a new member in the house. Please welcome sister T.”

After fellowship everyone rallied around to greet her. I pretended to be engrossed with something in my manual but all the while watching from the corners of my eyes for when the crowd would thin out. When I deemed the coast to be clear I made my way towards her.

She saw me approach and rewarded me with another 100 megawatt smile.

“Hi.” I said and swallowed loudly before I could stop myself. “I’m Brother J.”

“Good evening  J,” she answered.  “It’s great to meet you.” She extended her right hand and as I took it I thought I saw her eyes flicker to my left hand. For the first time, I cursed the piece of jewellery that branded it’s fourth finger.

********************************

For five full years, I waited.

Five years might not seem like a long time now, but at the time it ranked right up there with eternity.

At twenty seven, I had a master’s degree and a really good job with a multinational company. Nice house, nice car, and the next natural thing was to add a nice wife to the mix. Everyone in the world thought so too.

I never missed the sound of anticipation in my mother’s voice whenever I rang her and she answered the phone.

“Jboy, how now. Any good news?”

My mother was never one for beating about the bush.

“Na wa o, mummy. I cannot call to just greet you again?”

The call never lasted beyond a couple of minutes after that and I always heard it even though she never verbalised it:

What are you calling for when you have no good news for somebody. What will I do with your greeting?

It is not as if there were no women. There were loads of them traipsing in and out of my life, my office, my home. More than I cared for, actually. There were the church girls, the career women, the club girls even.But I knew what I wanted and none of them was it.

I wanted a girl who loved the Lord as much as I did. One for whom God was not an option but the very essence of life. I wanted an ambitious woman too. To the rest of the world I had arrived but in my heart I knew I’d only just started. I had such big dreams and I wanted someone who would help me birth them.

Too many girls thought that marrying a man of means meant they could sit down and cross their legs and become oriaku but I wanted none of that.

I wanted a woman who could hold her own, intellectually, financially, the whole works. And this might make me sound vain but I wanted her beautiful as well. Smoking hot! I wanted to be the envy of every man in the room whenever I walked in with her.

I did not think I was asking too much. Everything I wanted, I believed I also was so it did not seem like a tall order. At first.

But one year became two and three and then four. Pressure was mounting both from within and without: family and friends had abandoned subtlety and had begun asking pointed questions and quite frankly, I was tired of holding body. There was just too much temptation prancing around.

In my fifth year of waiting, praying and believing, I met my wife. I had just bought a house and moved out of my old neighbourhood and consequently I switched to a branch of my church that was closer my new home.

My first Sunday I asked to join the department I had served with at my old church and I was told to wait to see the HOD. As it turned out he had not been in church that day so his assistant came to have a chat with me.

She was very pleasant, soft spoken and a bit shy. We talked for a bit and she gave me a form to fill. I did not really think about her again after I left, until we ran into each other at midweek service.

I was not particularly attracted to her initially until I began to notice she was interested in me. She was alright except that she just didn’t fit with my idea of what my wife would be like. For one she hardly ever spoke unless she needed to and chatting with her used to be quite arduous.

But as days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, our friendship grew and I began to see her in a new light. I prayed about her and did not hear anything from God to discourage me so I decided to take her along to visit my mother one day: 

I was dropping her off one evening after our departmental meeting and on our way, I acted like I needed to drop off something at my mother’s and asked if she would mind my doing so before taking her home. She didn’t.

…….to be continued…..

IT IS RATHER AMUSING….

The way Christians (especially from my part of the world) react to challenges. Two of such reactions are quite popular and hit pretty close to home.

I shall call the first, The Guilt Trip.     This one is born of the misguided impression that challenges occur because one has ‘sinned’. Some of us actually have a record of every single challenges we ever faced and the particular sin for which that was a punishment. A typical reaction to any difficult situation would be to plead with God to forgive any sins committed unknowingly.

There are just so many verses in the Bible that show how little anyone who thinks in that way actually knows God, but that discussion could easily become an entire post by itself.

I will however, point to the very obvious fact that this mindset suggests that if one is in ‘right standing’ (these terms are in quotes for a reason) with God then their lives would be challenge-free.

I cannot think of anything that is furthest from the truth. And since uncle satan is still the unopposed champion of the title “father of lies”, I will go out on a limb here and say that is a lie from hell.

The second group are a personal favourite and I call them The Devil’s Advocates.

These ones are convinced that trials are spiritual attacks and the remedy is usually deliverance/spiritual cleansing and midnight warfare aka negotiating terms and conditions of hostage release with the devil.

(These ones are clearly unfamiliar with the concept of not negotiating with terrorists).

For the longest time, I struggled with believing this because it just made the devil appear too powerful. More powerful than God. I never understood how “if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed,” and yet you were still somehow Satan’s to harass whenever the mood hit him.

It was one of the many things I grew up hearing but struggling to understand – until, of course, I realised it was yet another lie of the devil.

The thing is, a good number Christians ‘mis-react’ to challenges because they never did learn to think like God.

Where people say challenge, God says opportunity. Now if one was presented with an opportunity they would not think it was because they had done something wrong or that it was the devil’s handwork.

The problem if one does not recognise an opportunity is that they cannot take advantage of it, and then something which was meant to lead to a breakthrough ends as yet another setback.

There’s a story in the Bible which I believe illustrates this beautifully.

Joseph’s story.

So, basically daddy’s pet, future looking good but had these rather grandiose ideas which pissed his brothers off big time (it was bad enough that their father did not bother to hide the fact that he loved Joseph best, but for the boy to wake up one morning and start saying silly things like when he grew up his elder brothers would be bowing to him. See trouble o)!

One day brothers decided they’d had enough of his nonsense and sold him off. Setback abi? Well, God did not think so.

Imagine our people giving Joseph advice when he became a slave.

How could you say things like that to your seniors biko? It is simply not done. See now God is punishing you for your insolence.

Well, he did not do badly in Potiphar’s house and he began to rise and things started looking up. Ah maybe God had forgiven him finally. There was yet hope.

Then the boy found himself in prison! Our spiritual warriors would have gone into battle mode.

Pray Joseph, pray! This is household wickedness. It must be from your mother’s family. Remember your grandfather them were kuku idol worshippers. See how your mother died naa. After years of barrenness, God finally pitied her and just after two sons, when she would have started enjoying her marriage, they killed her.

Now they have come for you. See your life now, when it looks like you want to start rising they just do something to bring you down.

Am I the only one who keeps wondering who ‘they’ are? The average Nigerian Christian has more enemies than the entire nation of America.

And has anyone else noticed how there’s always something to justify that belief. If the person is doing well then of course there must be enemies because, haters. If they are not doing well nko? Well then what other evidence do you need? Is that not the handwork of enemies?

If you come from my part of the world you of course know that nothing has any natural causes.

Your headache is not because you have not been sleeping well due to the heat, mosquitoes and generator noise. It must be an attack! Shebi last night you even had one funny dream like that….

Your knee issues have nothing to do with your (ample) weight. That job you didn’t get? Definitely spiritual forces from your village, not that there were more qualified candidates than you at the interview.

But I digress.

So poor Joseph would probably have been subjected to 40 days’ dry fasting, night vigil and deliverance prayers. He would have spent night after night demanding that the devil release his destiny.

And the devil would have been thinking to himself  that if the kind destiny dey him hand you for still dey here? Abeg if somebody has seven billion destinies in his hands to destroy, will he be wasting time doing hide and seek with one person. Is it not point and kill and on to the next one?

I also find something interesting: when Joseph tried to hustle his way out, see how it didn’t work? Remember, when he asked the king’s cupbearer to put in a good word for him with the king? The guy left prison and totally forgot there was anybody called Joseph – until God decided it was time.

God is not in the business of sharing His glory.

Before tomorrow now somebody will say it was their sharpness and quick thinking that saved them from rotting in prison.

But at the end we see how every ‘setback’ only propelled him closer to his destiny.

The Bible tells us how to react whenever we encounter challenges (when, not if) and I think we would do well to pay heed- it’s author happens to know what He’s talking about.

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Romans 5:2-5 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.