That was how Irene left her lane to face a bus packed full with little children. The driver flashed his headlight several times and just as it slammed hard on the break, she swerved to her lane but then there was a truck behind her. Thankfully, the truck was moving slowly and it stopped right behind her as she straightened the steering wheels and regained her balance.
Trembling, she pulled up in front of a filling station. People were staring at her. The bus driver had turned off his engine and was raining curses on her. Irene placed her head on the wheels and broke into tears. She grabbed a white handkerchief from her bag and blew her nose into it before setting the car on the road again.
But the tears resurfaced as she approached her gate. The pain in her chest was unbearable. She drove into the compound and jumped down from the car before heading for her flat.
In her bedroom, she stared at her wedding dress in the wardrobe before yanking it off the hanger. How many times had she stood before the mirror dressed in the wedding gown, dreaming of the day she would stand on the altar with Segun as they said their vows to each other.
She didn’t want the wedding date to be too close before getting the major things she needed for the the wedding. The lace for the engagement was ready, her wristwatch, gold earrings and pendants had been ordered from the U.S. Irene was one very organized woman who hated last minute rush. It is one reason she has been able to survive her position as the personal assistant to the MD of a large consulting firm.
But right now, her hard work had been thrown right back in her face. With tears blinding her eyes, she ran out of the flat with the wedding dress and accessories and dumped them in front of her flat. She reached for every gift Segun had given her. The bags, dresses, shoes, perfumes, she packed them all, ready to set them ablaze. As she marched out of the flat with a keg of kerosene and a matchbox, two of her neigbours, Bukola and Dorcas, were already standing over the heap.
Bukola wrapped her hands around Irene’s waist and tried to to pull her away from the heap.
‘Leave me alone! Let me burn them all.’ Irene screamed, struggling to get free.
Dorcas snatched the keg away from her hand. Bukola pulled Irene into her arms. She struggled at first but gradually relaxed into her neigbour’s chest and wept. She was led back into the flat.
Irene sat on the floor, her legs crossed, staring blankly at nothing. For several minutes, none of them said anything.
‘After six years, he does this to me?’ Irene shook her head and sniffed as fresh batch of tears covered her eyes.
Bukola squeezed her hand. ‘Let it out girl. Don’t bottle it in, please.’
Irene looked at the two women she barely knew even though she has lived with them in that compound for two years. Apart from the perfunctory good morning on weekends, she’d never seen any reason for a long chat. For her, ‘mind your business.’ was the best principle when dealing with neigbours. But here they were, sitting with her as if they’ve been friends for a long time.
‘We dated for six years.’ Irene swallowed hard. Her voice was shaky. ‘At the time he proposed, he was planning to further his studies while I was running a professional course. He thought it was best we completed those programs before settling down. I agreed. I completed my ICSAN. He finished with his Masters. He pleaded to start off with his PH. D and that after a year, we would get married. I agreed.’
Irene stopped talking. She exhaled, letting out two quick breaths. ‘We were supposed to get married by the end of this year. Since we both have good jobs and he’d kicked off with his PH.D, we were ready to settle down. Some months ago, my friend called to say she saw my fiancé with her cousin in her uncle’s house. When she asked her cousin what it was about, she said, he had come to propose.’
‘What!’ Dorcas shouted.
Irene sighed ‘I told my friend it was not possible. Segun and I were getting married in December. But somewhere in my heart, I perceived it could be true. Segun had been acting really strange and uncomfortable around me for a while but I thought it was the stress of work and plans for the wedding. Today, I went to his house unannounced. On the table were invitation cards. It’s true. They are getting married.’
‘Oh my God!’ Bukola’s hand flew to her mouth.
Irene stood up and reached for the tin of peak milk and spoon on the center table and began to scoop spoonfuls to her mouth.
Bukola touched her shoulder. ‘Irene, I can relate in a different way. See, I’m 40 already and I don’t have a man in my life. This was not how I planned my life to be. I wanted to married at 25, have a loving husband and be the best wife for him and a great mother to my kids. You know the Proverbs 31 kind of woman.’ She laughed dryly. ‘but here I am, single with a 12 year old daughter. If anybody had told me this would happen, I’d have laughed.’
Irene closed the tin of milk and pushed it aside. ‘Exactly! If anyone had told me that Segun and I would break up, I would have laughed too. I had suitors, I mean good men, lining up in their numbers, but Segun was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with . I can’t believe I was madly in love with a man who had a different plan. How did I not see this coming?’
Bukola laughed. ‘At least you got men in your church lining up for you. They ran away from me when I got pregnant. Dayo was having issues with his wife and after work, he would come to my house to relax and eat. He lamented the bad treatment his wife was putting him through and how he wished he had met me before proposing to her. I believed him.
I began to look forward to seeing him every evening and then we started having sex and more sex. Then I got pregnant. Dayo got the issues resolved with his wife. He pleaded with me not to let his wife know especially now that they were back together. The news got out anyway. I left when I became the laughingstock of the church.’
‘Oh no! You look so strong.’ Irene hugged her.
Bukola pulled away slowly and smiled. ‘You are not the only one facing battles Irene.’
‘You guys know my husband’s been cheating on me right?’ Dorcas said, her face down.
The two ladies turn to stare at her.
Bukola shifted in her seat. ‘That’s so hard to believe. That man looks so charming and friendly.’
‘I was the lady who vowed to stay sexually pure till her wedding night. And I did. The truth is, my husband wanted that to happen. He kept telling me how he loved abstinence and obeying God’s word was important. After our wedding night, he told me he was happy he married a virgin.
I wished I waited a little longer before marrying him. I met him in January and by April, we were already taking our marriage vows. I’ve been a full housewife for five years and now that he wants a divorce, I don’t even know where to start from.’
For several minutes, the three ladies stayed silent, each battling with different emotions. Dorcas wiped her tears and stood up.
‘Girls, I have lived every day through the strength of God and whatever’s going to happen in the future is in his hands. This morning, I stumbled on a verse in Jeremiah 29. God assured me he has a beautiful life laid out for me. God is never going to leave or forsake us. He has plans to take care of us
Dorcas stretched out her hands to the two ladies. ‘Come on, let’s get out of this self-pitying mood. There is a christian lounge opened somewhere in Ikeja.’
Bukola stood up. ‘I heard about the place. Could that be true?’
Dorcas nodded her head. ‘Yes’
Irene looked from one lady to the other. ‘What exactly goes on there?’
Dorcas shrugged. ‘Relaxation. Reflection. Just some beautiful gospel rock playing at the background while you sip your drink and eat barbeque fish and great suya. I was there on Friday. I left the house suicidal but when I got there, all the heaviness just slipped away. If you want someone to talk or pray with you, there is a room upstairs where you meet these lovely set of people. It’s just the right environment to think and reflect on God’s promises. When we are done eating, we could hold hands and pray together.’
Irene nodded her head. ‘I like that.’
‘Mummy Niyi, so you’ve been enjoying a place like that and you didn’t tell me.’ Bukola eyed her playfully. Dorcas laughed.
‘Trust me, this evening is going to be splendid. I’m happy my sister is around to take care of my kids. Let me go change to something smashing.’ Dorcas said.
‘Me too..’ Bukola followed Dorcas who was already heading out of Irene’s flat.
When the three ladies got into Irene’s car, there were sparkles in their eyes. You could see hope flooding their faces as Irene drove out of the compound.
I get it. Your life isn’t going as you planned it to go.
You have these big dreams and plans laid out. But right now you are journeying through life in confusion and frustration.
So many regrets. So many things you wished you had done right. So many mistakes to correct. So many unexpected events that crushed your hopes and created certain limitations.
Why are you still single at 36?
Why would God sit there and watch as that accident claimed your feet?
You wish you could turn back the hands of time and say NO to that abusive spouse.
In the midst of so much happiness, a loved one dies and it has shattered your hopes.
Having a kid as a teenager wasn’t part of life’s bargain.
Where are the kids you planned to have with your spouse right after your wedding night.
Your results are good enough to get you a really good job but here you are, moving from office to office begging to be employed.
That’s life. It come with its pains and battles. The best way to go through life despite all that has happened to us and what is left of the present and the future is to realize that because Jesus lives in us, we can walk confidently above all storms. What exactly am I talking about?
1. Keep believing. Your life’s progress depends on this. You will have to believe very firmly that God loves you so much in this phase you are in and He has great plans for you. Abraham understands exactly what I’m talking about. Trust me, this is a very difficult time to exercise faith. You may want to say to me right now, ‘Ife abeg, stop all this God talk. Let’s say something else.’ The truth is, it is you who need to stop worrying about what you don’t have yet. It’s best to die believing than live a life of despair and hopelessness. Can you see the heroes of faith cheering us on?
2. You have to choose between staying with thoughts that depresses you or confessing what God says about your life. Don’t just think these promises in your heart. Say them out loud
3. If you think that your life has turned out badly because of some mistakes in your past, remember sitting in guilt will not change anything. In fact, it may prevent you from seeing the great things God is putting before you. It will close your mind to new possibilities. Don’t stay stuck in your past. A bright future is here
4. When it comes to our big dreams and great goals, it’s fine if God shatters all of them because we cannot see beyond our nostrils. Sometimes it is good when life doesn’t go as we have planned. God knows the best for us and we can trust him to lead us using the blueprint he has made for our lives. Lauren Diagle best explains this in her song, I will trust in you.
5. Comparison will always steal your joy. As long as you keep comparing yourself with what someone else is doing, they’ll become the measurement for your life’s worth. This will further depress you and make it extremely difficult to tap into the opportunities before you. Focus on the purpose for which you have been called.
6. You need to stay around people who’ll move you forward. Nothing dampens a man’s heart than friends who are negative and pessimistic. Sticking out with believers who are full of hope will give you the momentum you need to press on into what God has for you. The right environment and the right people are indispensable.
Here’s a scripture to ponder on this week;
‘What God has planned for people who love him is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard. It has never even entered our minds!’ 1 corinthians 2:9 (CEV)
I end with this hymn.
Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow,
And I know he holds my hands.
Press on even when life doesn’t go as planned.
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