Determined for the last time to call it quits, I dialed Frank’s number but he didn’t answer. I tried it two more times and he kept busying the call. Few seconds later he called back.
“Sorry babe I didn’t want to burn your airtime so I decided to call you back. Hope that’s ok by you?”
“It’s ok. I got your text”
“Good evening, how are you doing?”
Did he have to remind me that I forgot my manners? Frank always liked to claim to be a gentleman and rub it on everyone’s face.
“I am fine and you?”
“I am well, just that I have really missed you. I meant every word in that text.”
“Well, I called to tell you that it won’t be possible to see me. I am very busy with a lot of things, work, church and my personal walk with God. I don’t want to engage in anything that will distract me from…”
“So I am now a distraction? But you said you had forgiven me, Nnenna?” He was flaring up
“Yes, I have. God knows I have, and I am not calling you a distraction, all I’m saying is I can’t see you.”
“Really? I thought you said God had changed your heart and you were a new person now, yet you ignored me all this while despite all my pleas and my efforts to make it up to you. I thought…”
“Stop Frank! Playing mind games with me won’t get us anywhere. I have made my point clear; I decided to say no to ungodly relationships so that I can focus on my walk with God.”
“There she goes… sister Holy Mary! Ride on, go ahead and call me names. First it was ‘distraction’, now it’s ‘an ungodly fellow’, a sinner. I have seen you dear righteous one; the holy Mary who took the life of an innocent child. Who could ever believe you would do a thing like that only to come now and claim holy nweje*. You have also forgotten that you owe me an apology for killing my child, yes, you do. I haven’t even come to that, I was hoping we could make it up to each other thinking you were reasonable, but how foolish could I be? Now you turn your back on me and call me a sinner when you were the one who threw yourself at me like a spoilt teenager. You have forgotten those days when you were needy and I was there for you. Those nights when you would lie to your parents just to be with me, you would cry and fall asleep in my arms. You never thought about sin and distraction any of those times. Or, you think I have forgotten? No, never. You bitch! Wayward and shameless, you have the guts to call me a…”
“Goodbye Frank” I ended the call and quickly removed the battery from my phone, my heart pounding and my hands still shaking.
That was all I knew to do to restrain myself from the anger boiling within my soul. Frank dug up dirts I had forgotten and even called me a bitch, a shameless one at that. “O Lord, I should have known that it would come to this.” I cried and wondered how many more times I would have to be dragged back into this mud to eat the fruits of my past. I was completely discouraged and felt dirty again, I deserved everything he said to me.
I should have kept my faith to myself in the first place and dismissed the illusion that by boldly declaring my stand, I would be firm and shut Frank out of my life, but no, I fell like a pack of cards and felt so defeated. Frank knew how much words got to me, he knew he could use them both to get me and to pull me down and he has been a champion at both.
Not wanting to bother Aunty Peace anymore, I kept all that happened to myself. The day she asked about Frank, I replied that he was doing fine.
“I saw him in church the other Sunday, why did he stop coming?” She insisted
“I really don’t know Ma” I quickly answered, trying to avoid the topic. But being a mother, she noticed my uneasiness and asked if Frank still disturbed me. I nodded coldly, refusing to give her the details. She just said I should ignore him, I wished it was that simple.
I drowned myself in my work and didn’t bother much about prayers for the church any longer since I was a big recurrent failure in spiritual matters and couldn’t maintain my pace. Even though Pastor Emeka and his wife still continued with the prayers and sent me text messages and scriptures to pray with, I only mumbled few words and hurried off to the office every day.
One of those days, I was less busy at work so I picked up the book I have been reading “The happiest people on earth” by Demos Shakarian. I had slipped it into my bag while racing off that morning, hoping to steal few minutes and read a chapter or two. Just then Fatima, the youth corper who was posted to serve in our office walked in.
“Wow, Inenna (as she usually called me in her Hausa assent) who are the happiest people on earth?”
“You will find out if you read the book.” I answered coldly not wanting any distraction. “Don’t worry, when I am done I will give you to read, though it belongs to our Pastor’s wife but I am sure she wouldn’t mind.” I added realizing how harsh I sounded earlier.
“Just tell me naa, since you are reading it already” She replied still trying hard to get my attention.
“It’s actually a story about the life of the man Demos, he was a farmer in…”
“Just tell me who the happiest people on earth are, not the whole story” she pressed on.
“Ok, they are those who do the will of God and please him” I said, dropping the book and facing her.
“What is the will of God and how can I do it?” she asked with so much interest I was stunned. Fatima was a devout Muslim and the last thing I wanted to do at work was to start a religious argument.
I remembered how on my resumption day my boss had warned me that since we were all people with different religious beliefs working together, I must stay away from religious arguments and stick to work-related discourse to avoid conflicts.
She was already seated beside me and it was just the two of us in the office at that moment. Looking into my eyes, she repeated the question with a tone that suggested she was desperate for answers. I didn’t know if I was ‘equipped’ enough to tell her about Jesus, all I could see in her eyes was sincerity and desire that sprang from her deepest heart and drew the words out of my mouth.
“The will of God is that we will all be conformed to the image of His only begotten son Jesus Christ. I don’t mean to contradict your faith but the truth is that we cannot be happy in life if we don’t believe in the Lord Jesus and receive his life into us.”
I went ahead to tell her how sin separated man from God and about the death of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection to reconcile us to him. I told her that Jesus is the only way back to the father and the hope of eternal life. Her face lightened and she continued asking other questions that led us deeper into talking about God’s love and his desire for a personal relationship with her. I was amazed at how easily she yielded.
She told me how she longed to experience God’s love and please him by praying regularly and observing all she was taught from birth. She was burnt out and tired of the performances and wanted genuine peace and freedom. We prayed a simple prayer of salvation and I led her to Christ. To my greatest surprise, she received Jesus into her life. I assured her that I would be available to help her grow in her new found faith and she couldn’t stop thanking me.
Later in the week, I took her to Pastor Emeka’s place, though secretly because she didn’t want her friends to know about her conversion. She feared they would quickly tell her parents and the consequences would be dire. Pastor Emeka told her that she would face a lot of persecutions when she goes home but assured her that God would see her through. He gave her a new bible and encouraged her to study it and pray to God in the name of Jesus. Aunty Peace took special interest in her and began taking her on regular classes where she was taught the fundamentals of the Christian faith which will help her grow. I took her for the lessons and benefitted from them too.
We also planned to meet at my place to study the bible and pray together once a week. I was thrilled and challenged by her love for God and passion to know him. One day she told me, “Inenna, I wish I were you, I wish I knew Jesus before now, I wish I was raised in a Christian home. You people are enjoying so much joy, freedom and peace. I really wish my family will come to know Jesus and experience this joy, I don’t know what will happen when I get home. If you know little about my religion, you will understand that this can lead to being disowned by my parents or even a death sentence and though I feel so much newness, peace and joy, I am really afraid. My father warned me about this before I left home for NYSC, I don’t know what to do.”
I reminded her that God would shield her from harm and even give her the grace and boldness to share her faith with her family. We also began to pray for their salvation.
She told me that she had never been to a church all her life and hoped to join us one day, even if it meant disguising herself.
I still struggled to believe that God could use me to show his love to Fatima despite all my shortcomings. The simplicity of it amazed me even more. Though I had read few stories of conversion but it only happened through mature and very spiritual believers and usually after much prayer and fasting, yet God chose to use me when I hadn’t done any. I began to understand why the bible said that we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the Excellency of the power may be of God and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:7.
I knew that only God could have done it.
*holy nweje means holier than thou