‘Do your children attend church with you?’ he asked curiously.
‘Of course, they do,’ I replied, bristling a little at the insinuation that they might not. I wondered for a second if my indignation made me come across as rude. He was a pastor, after all, and was really only trying to be sociable.
He stared me right in the eyes as if trying to see deep into my soul. He was clearly seeking for a word from the Lord where I was concerned.
After a minute, he finally said sagely and with conviction: ‘God will do it.’
‘Amen,’ I replied politely, after a moment’s hesitation. I had no idea what exactly he was referring to, and I suspect he didn’t, either, but I’m always open to being blessed in any area of my life, and so I went along with it.
Our weekly home fellowship had just ended and we were all spending a few minutes greeting one another before going home. He was new and hadn’t met me before, hence the curiosity. There were a number of children present, along with both of their parents. The absence of my own children from this meeting naturally made him wonder if they went to church with me at all. Given that I barely knew him, I didn’t think it was worth it to explain that, just like all the men present, I had arrived straight from work. Unlike the men in attendance, I didn’t have a partner at home to transport my children to the venue separately, and I lived too far away to pick them up myself and come all the way back before the session was over.
That Sunday at church, he turned out to be our visiting speaker. He delivered a good sermon and issued an altar call at the end for different categories of people. One of the last calls he made had to do with a troubled marriage:
‘There is someone here: You’re a married woman and you have had problems in your marriage. I want you to come out here, let me pray for you.’
Hmmm … I wonder who that could be, I said to myself, my eyes closed in prayer.
He repeated the call more forcefully. ‘There is a woman here who needs God to intervene in her marriage. God is a God of restoration; there is nothing impossible with Him. Come out, let me pray for you.’
There was a hushed silence.
Well, that can’t be me. (I had already filed for divorce by this time and was satisfied with this decision).
‘They have snatched your husband away from you and you don’t want to pray. Come out here, let us pray for you,’ the pastor repeated with a hint of irritation.
Did he really go there? I asked myself in disbelief. If everyone is waiting for me to walk out to the front of the church, they’re wasting their time. Am I the only one with marital issues? Besides, nobody ‘snatched’ my husband from me. Where is this gist coming from now?
I put two and two together and figured that his curiosity must have led him to find out more about me from others in the home fellowship with whom he was well-acquainted. My former marital challenges led many to the conclusion that my husband was taken away while I stood there, wringing my hands and watching helplessly. The idea that a Nigerian, Christian woman could proactively choose my current path is almost inconceivable – much too unusual for most people to imagine that I even had a choice.
Apart from the fact that it's inaccurate, I simply didn’t like this portrait of myself which I presumed was being painted by others. I didn’t like this idea, either, that I (or whoever else) only ‘deserved’ prayer if I walked out to the front of the church. For whose benefit, I wondered? Was this an absolute requirement from God, or was this more about personal ego? If God had indeed given some revelation about someone, why couldn't we just pray without any fanfare? I wondered if those around me (who expected me to obediently identify myself) were secretly offended by my stubbornness. I clearly must have lost a few popularity points that day.
Maybe I was just being unnecessarily sensitive.
I know my views aren’t exactly popular, and I’m sorry (sincerely) if I come across as irreverent or unspiritual. I’m very sensitive to the reality that I may come across this way and so I try to make things easier for everybody. As much as I love to relate with people, I now subconsciously steer away from too much social interaction. I steer away from married women, for example, to spare them the discomfort of having to decide whether to befriend me or not. I do this with a full understanding of what it’s like to be married and have your husband tell you he’s uncomfortable with your friendship with a particular girlfriend. Rather than have this situation arise, I maintain a noticeable distance, while being polite and friendly. That way, anyone that actually wants to be a friend of mine has to deliberately seek me out, understanding what they’re getting into. That way, there are no hard feelings if I’m not sought after – and, hopefully, no feelings of guilt on the part of others for (understandably) deciding not to seek me out. That way, I avoid potential accusations (from husbands) of attempting to negatively influence their wives (something that’s typical of my people), just because we happen to be having a conversation – and accusations from wives of my being interested in their husbands.
My divorce aside, I’m also cognizant of the fact that I live a very different life from most of the married women I am acquainted with – and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. While they are in this country as a consequence of their husbands’ jobs, I happen to be here because of mine. I therefore have to work as hard as any of their spouses (if not harder), leaving me with much less time than I would have had, had I accompanied a husband to this post instead. The limited amount of time that I have (and my absence from social circles as a result) could give others the impression that I’m aloof or even arrogant. Nothing could be further from the truth, though. I, in fact, think about their lives with a tinge of envy sometimes, wishing I had the luxury of being a ‘kept’ woman, too – and I sometimes see a flash of envy in their eyes as well, when they look at me, imagining (erroneously) that I lead a glamorous life as an ‘independent career woman.’ The grass always looks greener on the other side, I suppose.
I guess I’m fortunate that I’ve never exactly been what you could call a social butterfly. I’ve always had ‘hermit-like’ tendencies, so these new adjustments to my life aren’t really that much of an adjustment. This doesn’t mean that I’m not absolutely crazy about people, though. My relationships have always been few because my relationships have always been deep. I pour my soul into them. I give my all and don’t hold back. And that’s why when I’m ‘done,’ I’m really done. I only get ‘done’ because after giving all that I have, all that I am, I honestly have nothing left to give. I have few relationships because I don’t know how to do relationships superficially. Maybe that’s not such a good thing. Deep relationships require energy, and there’s only so much energy to go round.
But what happens to women that are wired totally differently from the way I am? Divorced, African, Christian women that also happen to be extroverted? Women that really crave social interaction but can’t get it because of all the barriers I’ve mentioned and more? Where do we talk about this? When something like this happens, where do you go?
Where do you turn when the world you gave your life to is suddenly no longer tailored for people like you?