After Yvonne and Olive left that evening, Imade didn’t feel up to going out with Mena anymore. What she had wanted to talk to Mena about had already been taken care of, and she was in a bad mood.
Why couldn’t life come easy? She wondered. Why did one have to fight and fight for the things they wanted?
She crawled into bed and pulled up her Whatsapp chats. There was a message from Lamide:
Hey, beautiful. Taking you out to this Chinese spot I found tomorrow. Get ready to have your mind blown. Plus, I’m hoping you can finally give me an answer to you know what.
Imade felt her stomach fall; prior to now, the prospect of an outing like that with Lamide, would have made her giddy with excitement.
There was a photo attached to the message, and as it downloaded, she gasped. It was a velvet box that housed the most gorgeous diamond ring she had ever seen.
Without thinking, she responded: the ring is gorgeous, Lamide!
Not as gorgeous as the woman who would be wearing it.
Those words stopped her. What was she doing? It was now or never. She typed:
Lamide, do you think you might ever feel differently about God?
I don’t understand what you mean.
I believe in God, Ima. I just don’t believe in the people who follow him.
I told you my father was a Pastor, right?
Yes. But what does that have to do with anything?
I saw my father hit my mum sometimes right before he climbed the altar to preach. He would lay the same hands he used to hit my mum on people in church.
Oh my God! Lamide, you never told me that!
Well, it’s not a story I go round broadcasting. I am actually estranged from my father. My mum had a heart attack when she was just sixty but doctors said she had been struggling with high blood pressure for many years. I know that it was my father who killed her, indirectly. How can I serve a God whose representatives behave the way my father did?
Lamide, I am sorry about your experience. I can’t imagine how hard it was for you to live through that. But…you know that God is perfect but His people aren’t. You also know that your father is just one amongst many. Where there are sheep, there will be goats, and where there is wheat, there will be tares.
Spare me, Imade. I don’t have to ‘serve’ God to do the right thing. Every day of my life, I have strived to be a better man than my father was and by God, I have succeeded. I may not be perfect, I may not go to church, but I believe in doing good. In the end, isn’t it goodness that matters?
Imade paused, biting her lip. The conversation was going down a route she hadn’t planned. Her heart went out to Lamide and how much he was hurting, because no matter how much he tried to pretend he was fine, she could still see the little boy who was angry at his father.
Christianity isn’t about goodness, Lamide. It is about recognizing and accepting the finished works of Christ on the cross. The fact remains that Jesus died for all of us, including your father. And all we have to do is believe that fact and confess it.
Where was Jesus when my mum couldn’t attend ‘church’ because her face was swollen? Where was Jesus when my father threw me into a wall because I tried to defend my mum? Where was Jesus the nights I cried and begged him to save us from my father? Where was Jesus then? Imade, I would appreciate it if we don’t talk about this again. I don’t like to talk about my past.
I’m sorry, Lamide. I’m so sorry your father was a terrible example of a Christian to you. But this Jesus is important to me and will always be. I want a man who loves this Jesus as much as I do.
So, what are you saying?
I’m sorry, Lamide. This won’t work between us.
I’m sorry too, Imade. I hope you find who you’re looking for. Goodbye.
Imade felt her chest clog with tears as she read his last message. There was a finality to it that shook her; a part of her wanted to send another message saying she was sorry and she didn’t mean it, and yes, she will marry him despite his flaws, but her fingers refused to move. Instead, she curled up in bed and began to sob.
“Peace, I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
She was still in bed the next morning when she heard the knock on her door. Imade groaned. Her head felt like it was splitting, reminding her of days in her former life when she would wake up with a hangover. She had cried herself to sleep the night before and hadn’t planned on getting up from bed that morning.
The knock came again and she sat up, looking for her phone. Who could be coming to visit without prior notice?
She found her phone beside the bedside table, where she had dumped it the night before after blocking Lamide on Whatsapp.
There were six missed calls. From Mrs Ajayi!
Quickly, Imade dialed the number.
“I’ve been calling,” Mrs Ajayi’s slight Yoruba accent sounded in her ears.
“I’m so sorry ma, I was…sleeping.”
“No problem dear. I am outside our door.”
“What? Um…er…I mean, okay ma. I am coming now.”
Imade threw on a pair of jean shorts and a t-shirt, rushed to the bathroom and squeezed a glob of toothpaste into her mouth, there really was no time to brush properly and she definitely couldn’t meet her mentor with full-on morning breath.
By the time she opened the door some three minutes later, she didn’t look like she had spent the night mourning a man. That is, until Mrs Ajayi hugged her and she broke down in a batch of fresh tears.
Imade met Mrs Ajayi six years ago when she was going through a hard time in her faith walk. She was a Christian without balance; the one mentioned in James 1: 8 – living by the Word one day, and the world the next. It bothered her, this instability and lack of discipline, and then one day after listening to a sermon that spoke about the power of mentorship in all aspects of life, she knew what she needed.
Mrs Ajayi had been an answer to prayers; she was an older woman, co-ordinator of Women of Fire, a sub-sect of Imade’s church, that focused on empowering Christian women to maintain their fire for God in the marketplace. Before then, Imade had always admired her from afar but when she started desiring a mentor, Mrs Ajayi had kept coming to her heart.
“If I talk to her and she says no, then that’s the end of this mentorship thing,” she told God, when she finally revved up the courage to approach Mrs Ajayi.
To her surprise, Mrs Ajayi had hugged her and told her: “I’ve been waiting for you.”
In the past six years since she had known Mrs Ajayi, Imade had come to discover that she gave out the most healing hugs; there was something warm and tender about her hugs that made one feel wanted.
As Imade sobbed in her arms, the entire story about the past few weeks up until the night before came pouring out, by the time she was done, Imade felt lighter.
“You know that Abba loves you, right?” Mrs Ajayi asked, as she led Imade to the sofa.
That was another thing Imade loved about her, the way she called God Abba (Father) like He belonged to her alone, like their intimacy was exclusive. There was a tangibleness to Mrs Ajayi’s relationship with God, that you could almost see God through her eyes.
Imade sniffed, nodding.
“You’ve been on my heart for a while now. I have been expecting a call from you. But last night, last night it was different. The urge to pray for you was so strong last night and I knew I had to come see you today,” Mrs Ajayi said.
“Thank you, ma.”
Mrs Ajayi smiled. She smiled a lot. Smiling, she said, was the secret to retaining one’s youth. It was probably why at sixty-five, she looked like she was twenty-years younger. The woman still dyed her hair black to keep the grey at bay, it was perhaps the only shred of vanity she exhibited. Well, alongside her obsession with fit-fam which she had turned into a business venture a couple of years ago.
On her sixtieth birthday, she had opened a women’s only gym and healthy eating outlet called Temple, the motto being “my body, His temple”.
“I had my last son when I turned forty – two,” Mrs Ajayi said, “and this was after the doctors had said my womb was a mess, and having another child was practically impossible. But I knew that the only ingredient Abba needed to work a miracle in life was ‘the impossible’. So, I didn’t let what they said bother me, and when the devil wanted to remind me of my weaknesses, I reminded him that with God all things are possible. Was it easy? Absolutely not. But it was all I knew to do.”
Imade was quiet, listening.
“And then, the night of my fiftieth birthday, I was involved in an accident that left me paralyzed. The doctors said I may never regain feeling in my limbs and for a short while, I believed them. Then one night, while sleeping, Abba reminded me of that last time the doctors said something was impossible. I woke up in tears. Look at me today, Imade. I am walking, standing, exercising even! People don’t know the story behind Temple. Temple is Abba’s reminder to me every day that he still does the impossible. Whenever I get on the treadmill, I am grateful, I am reminded. Now, what is my point, my dear? Your cares are too small for Abba to not handle. What is it that He cannot do? Give you the man of your dreams? Bah! He literally plucked Eve out of Adam’s ribs when Adam said there was no one suitable for him.”
Imade found herself laughing while a fresh bubble of tears poured out of her.
“Here is what you should know, Ima. In every waiting season, there is a lesson. Figure out what lesson Abba wants you to learn rather than mourn or complain about where you are. But know this, Abba is concerned about what concerns you; much more than you sef. You will meet that amazing man in due time, my dear. Now, come here and give me a hug, I have something else quite important to discuss with you.”