Saturday, 30 June 2012

Why I have no social life

‘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?


  1. I have sisthren - colloqual; if there are brethren, then there are sisthren :) - who are divorced with kids who say a similar thing, one of them shared how she cried out to God and He brought friends to her who were -
    1. In a similar situation; one is not alone in challenges and
    2. Non-judgemental 'sisthren'; whatever season one is in, married, divorced, single, widow, we all stand by the grace of God.
    It is sad that ministers of God operate in this manner and no, you were and are not being unnecessarily sensitive, it is typical in our churches today, so good you did not step out, that's abuse and so wrong. If (and i use if, just to allow for the benefit of doubt) it was meant or intended for you and you DID step out, there would have been the next 'prophecy' of how God will restore, how you need to return to the relationship, have several meetings for strong prayers (and fasting) etc etc.
    Lord help us and deliver us, they may intend good, but it is truly manipulation and bondage.

    1. LOL @ 'sisthren' - haven't heard that expression in years. I have some non-judgemental, married sisthren, too, so I'm really, REALLY blessed. Can't imagine what my life would be like without them. And non-judgemental 'brethren'! I'm still extremely cautious, though, with those that don't already know me well, or that are new in my life. As for the minister, I really think he meant well and did it out of compassion, but he caught me on the wrong day. I just wasn't in the mood that morning ...

  2. See that is my irritation with the African christian - this idea that everything is solved with prayer and fasting - devoid of any thought process. I do believe in prayer and fasting but I also beiieve that God gave us a brain and a heart; and sometimes the difficult decisions may be the best ones in the long run.
    I totally agree with the first comment on this blog - the 'prophecy' would have been just as she said when you know in your heart that is not what you want. It would have been said in front of the whole congregation and then you'd have to endure tongues wagging as to why you 'disobeyed' a 'prohecy'. I mean why do we even need people to come forward to be prayed for for whatever reason? Don't get me started on that one!
    Finally, love deep, it's the best way...

    1. Your comment and the previous one have made me think about what would have happened had I gone out for public prayer. I actually had not considered the ramifications before now. You are both right about the scenario that would have followed. It is often really tough for people to wrap their minds around the idea that, on the one hand, God is a God of miracles, and on the other hand, some miracles are not necessarily desired. Or around the fact that prayer for a willing wife isn't necessarily enough for a marriage to be miraculously restored. Sometimes, a lot of work needs to be done on the husband, too.

      'Love deep ...' - I LOVE that! Thank you.

  3. I can only imagine the loneliness for a divorced christian extrovert. Losing friends fast as if being divorced is 'catching'. We still have a long way to go as African christians in accepting divorced people in our churches. Of course every effort should be made at reconciliation where BOTH partners want it. If all fails, I think the church should be the place where healing and support can be found. That is why one of my favourtie blogs here is 'There is something wrong with my church'.
    There is a point where a person's experiences in life serves to make them stronger and more wise and going through a divorce is no different. We'll get there in our churches... someday.

    1. Yes, indeed - I can only imagine. Totally agree with what you've said. And now I understand much better the appeal of the 'There's something wrong with my church' post. Just occurred to me that divorce holds its challenges for non-Christians, too, but for different reasons, it seems like - or maybe they're not so different. Jessica Bram describes her own experience in her book 'Happily ever after divorce,' saying: "When word got out that Bill and I had split up, the general reaction was one of disbelief, followed by a kind of arm's length sympathy. The dinner invitations came to a halt. Restaurant get-togethers were out of the question, since we could no longer occupy our half of a restaurant table that seated four. As for parties, I could imagine my friends' dilemma - who to invite, Bill or me? It was a likely explanation for why I so quickly became extraneous in our former paired-up social world." I think many Christians react the way they do to divorcees for spiritual reasons (feeling like divorce is 'catching', etc.), but the more practical reasons that Bram gives could play a small part, too. Fortunately for me, my former spouse was hardly ever in town, so we had little opportunity to develop friendships with other couples, and this has probably made it easier for me now.

    2. As usual, well written and so authentic.

      So many things to touch on...where to start? First off...what do you when the world you gave your life to, is no longer tailored to you? take off the ill fitting garment and design a new couture one for yourself. I know you know you rock, so I won't say it, but I said it already, didn't I?

      Funny thing, I found myself also accused of being a bad influence...I was in shock. It was not because of my marital status, but I guess because I truly believed that women should be empowered and that I alone was responsible for my own happiness and husbands while they could be wonderful, were the icing and not the whole cake. And for this view and perhaps for the fact that I had swagger, whether my husband was with me or not...I was shunned. And I was stunned. And even though I got over it, it still hurts me to this day. That a woman I called friend, would one day tell me that her husband felt I was a bad influence. I, like you, bowed out immediately, but I was blown away.

      Anyway, suffice to say...carry on. And I hope you are turning this into a memoir...

      Let me introduce you to a publisher in Nigeria...A woman who I know can do it justice...I would publish it myself, but I know I can't market it adequately. Send me an email, if you are interested...

    3. Wow, that is a phrase I am going to have to borrow - '...take off the ill-fitting garment and design a new couture one for yourself'. How apt!

      And yes this blog should become a memoir.

    4. Yes, it's definitely a good word. Oh, thank you (about the memoir). It's important to me for my experiences to count for something. I would be a bit bummed out if my experiences were about the pain only, and absolutely nothing beyond that.

  4. Ha ha ha - your comment is totally hilarious and seriously deep all at once. You have *such* a way with words! That has to be my mantra for the rest of the year: 'Take off the ill-fitting garment and design a new COUTURE one for yourself!' Sorry to hear about that experience - it's hard to lose a friend. I haven't actually been accused yet (at least not to my face), but I understand the context I'm operating in, so I realize that if I'm not cautious, it'll only be a matter of time.

    You once made a profound statement that I've never forgotten - you said: "I believe that when you understand that you are at liberty to leave, that is precisely when you can become a better wife." I think it's so hard to grasp that, but once you do, you are really free to be the very best you can be; free to truly love, actually. If your behavior is shaped by fear, or by the fact that you have no choice, then you're most likely just paying lip-service to your relationship, and there's no way we can be at our best that way.

    If we really think about it, the Proverbs 31 woman had tons of swag - check it now. She had it going on, and her husband's fame at the city gate had a lot to do with who she was. He was, in essence, the icing on the cake.

    I hope I'm turning this into a memoir, too. Will contact you ('live and direct!') - thanks.

    1. I am off to read Proverbs 31 again!

    2. LOL - off to read it, too (it's been a while).

  5. Its good that you never stepped out. Somethings curiosity and the quest to help others lead their lives require drastic steps and i guess that's what the pastor wanted to do. He wanted to know more. But you were so sure you weren't the one called out cos whatever problems he mentioned didn't seem to coincide with yours. I believe that God sees in secret and He who sees in secret, knows even more than anyone can imagine.No one has a right to over-emphasize that!