Francesca stood at the foot of the dining table, her eyes scanning the table laid out with different meals. She closed her eyes and allowed the delicious aroma waft through her nostrils. The chef had done a great job, more than she expected. She had dropped her son with her younger sister who lived on another side of town and her P.A, Dolapo had been instructed not to reach her. This was a special dinner with her man and nothing was going to spoil it.
Bursting with excitement, she noticed the wine was not yet on the table. She hurried to the fridge and pulled it out before placing it gently on the table. She returned to the room to get dressed in her cream sleeveless gown with the neck cut so low her breast almost popped out.
‘I’m ready to drive Damola crazy.’ Franca chuckled as she combed her hair slowly with a weavon brush. She stopped when she heard her husband’s car drive into the compound. She slide into her silver heels and sat on the bed, her leg crossed over the other.
She laughed as she pictured her husband’s eyes widening in surprise at the stunt she had pulled alone. Damola would enter the room and say,
‘Franca! What have you done? Did you hire a chef? Oh Lord, your dress. You are driving me crazy already. Baby, I’m speechless. ‘
Then she’d reach for the black tuxedo she’d picked out for him and help him dres up before leading him to the dining room.
‘Damola, will you just be here already.’ Franca said, impatiently. Her eyes were fixed on the bedroom door.
The door opened. Damola rushed in and threw his Barrister bag on the bed. He walked to the wardrobe as he spoke to his wife.
‘Sweetheart, I got a call from the Pastor when I was climbing the staircase. His son has been arrested and I have to go to the police station asap to see how to get him out.’
‘Really?’ Franca said, clearly upset.
Damola pulled out a blue clear bag from the wardrobe and went to his wife. He touched her cheeks tenderly.
‘You look stunning.’ He said in a soft voice.
Franca moved away, still upset. ‘Just go. I don’t know why I even planned this evening with you. I just think that family is important. Do you know how Iong I have planned this date?’
He brought out his phone. ‘Do you want me tell the Pastor about the date?’
‘And make me look like a heartless woman? Just go and meet your Pastor.’
He kissed her cheeks. ‘Nothing is going to spoil this dinner. I’ll be right back.’
He was gone.
Franca hissed and lay on the bed with tears burning her eyes. Damola didn’t love her. If he valued her relationship, he would have told the Pastor he was having a date with her.
‘I will never in my life plan something like this. How can he not care about our relationship.’
‘What’s wrong with me?’ Franca sighs and rolled towards the end of the bed where her laptop sat. She knew she was being selfish. Her husband was a lawyer and the Pastor needed his help. This was an emergency situation for goodness sake.’
‘Oh God, I acted really selfish, I repent. Even if this dinner does not hold, as long as the Pastor’s son is fine, It would be a great evening still.
Franca turned on her laptop and noticed there were five stories in the story collection box. The structure was simple. Tons of stories are mailed to her outreach weekly. The editors sorts out the stories and pick only those that resonated with the outreach’s mandate. The selected stories are sent to the story collection box mail and she reads them before sending them back to the editors.
Franca hated bringing work home but she had nothing else planned for the evening. She tapped on the attached file and waited for the story to download.
Guys are not supposed to shed tears right. But can I do it alone in my room?
This morning, I woke up with this crazy headache. I’d been up all night in my fashion studio sewing my agbada for my traditional wedding. I knew I needed to sleep some more before returning to work or else I’d break down but first I had to check up on my girl. I turned on my mobile wifi and went straight to Whatsapp.
Bae had left me a video with the caption; This is coming straight from my heart.
The headache stopped and the sleep in my eyes disappeared. When I tapped the video and her beautiful face appeared on the screen, my heart did a flip. Let me just type here some of the words she said in the video.
Sweetheart, our wedding is in a week. Can you imagine that? Oh God! I can’t wait. Like, I’m going to be spending the rest of my life with you. *laughter* I’m so blessed to have you in my life. *chuckles* Well, I just want to say I love you. For some weeks now, we’ve not spent so much time together because of the wedding prep but this morning when I woke up, I was laughing as I remembered the many interesting times we’ve had together. I love you Joba. God! I have imagined my wedding day a million times. I can’t wait!
Franca, my tears welled up my eyes after watching that video. You won’t understand…
This was me some years ago summoned to the Senior Pastor’s office after service one Sunday afternoon because some ladies reported me to the church leadership that I was stalking them, jumping from one sister to another and pleading with them to marry me.
That day, I stood in front of the Senior Pastor, surrounded by the associate Pastors and my head of department, wondering why the sisters in my church hated me so much.
‘Is it true that you have been jumping from one sister to another, persuading them to marry you?’
That’s an accusation, I wanted to say. I only proposed to four ladies at different times. How does that translate to jumping from one sister to another.
‘Brother Joba, answer my question.’
I shook my head and looked at the Pastor. ‘I didn’t persuade any sister to marry me sir. I just made my intentions known to them.’
An associate Pastor clapped his hand. ‘Brother Joba! That is the height of irresponsibility. Don’t you think so?’
How was proposing to sisters irresponsible? Shouldn’t a brother keep trying his best until he finds the one that fits him?
As I stood there, listening to them, I was already boiling with anger. I was thirty-two and most of my friends had settled down. Was I wrong to have made moves?
Franca, now that I think about it, I see how confused a man I was.
When I started developing feelings for Bose, the head of the praise team in the church, I prayed about it and felt I needed to take a step. After a thanksgiving service, I asked to have a word with her. She followed me to the car park and I said what I wanted from her without mincing words.
Bose gaped at me. ‘Some of you brothers are funny. Ah! Who calls a lady to the car park to propose?’
I stared back at her puzzled. ‘I don’t get you. What are you talking about?’
‘You are really asking me that?’ She yelled. ‘Even if you don’t know much about relationships, don’t you read books? Have you ever attended a relationship seminar? I don’t think so. At least you have friends. Was this how Shola proposed to Tope?’
‘I’m sorry I-’
She raised her hand. ‘Let me tell you something. Christian Ladies in this generation are not mumu o. We don’t have time for this entitlement mentality you guys carry around. You cannot come and form ‘spiritual brother’ and use words like ‘God said’ and expect us to kiss your feet. We want romance as much as we desire spirituality. You don’t just call a lady to the car park to propose. For goodness sake, you don’t even know me!’
‘But I’ve prayed and I have a go-ahead in my spirit.’ I said.
‘Spare me that trash. Na wa o. All these spiritual brothers! You guys need training. Wait a minute, were you expecting me to just say Yes?’
‘Of course not.’ I replied. I was already getting agitated. ‘I expect that you would at least pray about it.’
Bose clapped her hand and laughed so hard I began to feel ashamed. Why does proposing to a lady had to be this stressful.
‘You and who is praying? Nonsense.’ She hissed and walked away.
I was furious. How can she walk out on me like that?
I paced the carpark, convincing myself she didn’t deserve to be in my life.
The second lady I proposed to gave me a look of disgust even before I opened my mouth. That same evening, one of her friends posted something very annoying on facebook. It was clear the she was throwing shades at me.
Some of our spiritual brothers need help. The only thing they know how to do is to quote scriptures here and there. There is nothing romantic about their lives. Will they be quoting scriptures in the oda room? Sisters that end up with brothers like this are in trouble. They may never reach org*** in their lifetime. Forgive me for being carnal, this once.
I felt so bad that night. Were there no good sisters around? Why do I keep getting attracted to ladies who had no respect for me? I decided I would not stop searching until I landed the right sister who‘d honour me and see me as a potential spiritual head.
My next target was Kemi. She joined our church from the Benin branch at the beginning of a new year. When I first met her at the church workers’ meeting, I noticed she was cheerful and easy to talk to. I got her number and we started talking.
She told me about her dream of starting a coaching company and I shared my business plans on how I wanted to get a footing in the fashion world. I was so excited and sincerely believed I had found my babe. I’d call her daily and send her love chats. I started reading and watching videos on topics like;
How to build a romantic relationship with your partner
Understanding the needs of a woman
How to build a lasting relationship with your wife.
Shola recommended some books to me and I rushed to the bookstore to get them. Several nights when I returned from my fashion studio, I’d sit with the books, read and even make notes. I sent flowers to her workplace. I had lunch delivered too. I just wanted to be this man who was on point in his relationship. It didn’t even occur to me that I had not even said a word to her about my intention. I just wanted to keep watering the ground. Let her see the specs of the man she would get married to.
Kemi suddenly stopped picking my calls and responding to my messages. I was worried and anxious. We didn’t have any fight. One moment we were laughing and talking non-stop, the next she was avoiding me. I blocked her path in church and she gave me the look that said, ‘Get the hell out of my way!’ I went to her office and asked to see her. The receptionist informed me she didn’t want to see me. I didn’t stop calling and finally, when I was at the verge of giving up, she picked my call.
‘What exactly do you want from me!’ she barked.
I was immediately dumbfounded. ‘What’s going on dear? Did I say anything to offend you?
‘First of all, I am not your dear. So can we do away with pet names? Joba, what’s your end goal? Why the gifts, the flowers, the love notes…’
I almost said, ‘I’d love to marry you.’ But I stopped myself. I had to take things slowly or else I’d lose her. Wasn’t that what ladies wanted? Slow and steady wins the race right?
‘I just want us to be friends. I’ll love to know you more.’ I answered.
‘I don’t want your friendship! Please stop calling my line. Don’t deliver anything to my office again please. When we see in church, good morning Kemi, Good morning Bro Joba, is sufficient.’ She ended the call.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I kept thinking, was something wrong with me? Was there something I wasn’t seeing? I was immediately jealous of Shola who had ladies fluttering around him even before he got into a relationship with Tope. Why was I so unfortunate?
The fourth lady I made an attempt to get into a relationship with looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Brother Joba, you had better look for a wife outside this church. No lady here will marry you. The single sisters tabled your case at the last single sisters. Most of the sisters bemoaned your irresponsible behaviour. We’ve been warned to stay clear of you. Please just stop asking sisters out in this church.’
It was the following week I landed in the Pastor’s office. I couldn’t stop asking myself this question; How did proposing to four sisters translate to jumping from one sister to another?
The Senior Pastor glared at me as I stood before him. ‘I don’t want to ever hear that you mention marriage to any sister in this church without my knowledge. Don’t stalk them, don’t send gifts to them, don’t try to woo them. Joba, marriage is a serious business and my daughters are priceless. If you don’t know what you want from marriage, then go to the Lord and let him teach you! You are my son too and I am in the right position to correct you. In fact, don’t ever make your intentions for marriage known to any lady without the prior notice to the church leadership.’
‘Yes sir. I’m sorry sir.’
I left the Pastor’s Office with a slumped shoulder. How did I become the laughing stock of my church? Could it be that marriage wasn’t meant for me? Just maybe I was designed to be celibate forever. As I walked down the corridor of the church auditorium that led to the entrance gate, I heard my name. I turned and moved closer to the back of the auditorium where the voices had come from.
‘That Brother Joba has mind sha. Who will marry a man like him? God forgive me but he is so ugly.’
‘Exactly! I can’t even imagine standing beside him and introducing him as my husband.’ Another lady chipped in.
‘That his square head and big ears. He is so thin. Everything just seem to be wrong with him.’
‘You ladies are too carnal. At least, the guy’s dress sense is top notch.’
‘Abegi, He should go and look for a wife outside this assembly. If he had plenty money, at least he’d have my attention. As long as the money is rolling, there will be no reason to complain.’
‘Mary! You like money! What about humble beginnings.’
‘Humble beginning, my foot! I did not come here to suffer.’
‘But still, I think you need to deal with your craze for money. It’ll land you into serious issues.’
‘But Bro Joba has high taste o. See the kind of babes he’s been proposing to.’
‘Titi, eat your food soon, we should leave for the children’s church. Drama rehearsals will start soon.’
I hurried away, defeated beyond words. Growing up, I had been reminded how ugly I looked but to hear the ladies repeat those words shattered my heart.
I poured my energy into building a fashion business. I watched tons of videos, attended conferences, joined business communities. I figured that if I’ll never marry, at least I’d be able to show the world that I did something meaningful with my life.
For two years, I ran on an energy I never knew existed. It paid off anyway. I signed great partnership deals, started an online fashion school that was growing well, moved into my workspace, got a nice car, a lovely apartment…
Franca, beyond all those great accomplishments, I still had my battles. I wanted to be loved, I craved acceptance and there was this deep rooted feeling of unworthiness that made me defensive whenever any single lady came around me. I spoke harshly to the ladies in church, some of whom had started giving me attention. I was particularly irritated when some of them began to reach out to me. Interestingly, Bose approached me after service and apologized for the way she spoke to me when I proposed to her at the car park.
So my ugliness wasn’t an issue any more because I had some money now? My name was no longer the subject matter at singles sisters meeting?
I was pompous without even realizing it. I was quick to talk about my accomplishments at single meetings in church. It was as if I was desperately trying to redeem a lost image. Few months after Shola got married, He looked at me and said,
‘This small upgrade in your life has turned you into something else. You can’t even roll with boys like us.’
I’d laughed. I may not have found a wife but I was satisfied that I had what Shola was searching for. He’d lost his job and it had been difficult for him getting another one. How selfish of me.
Franca, it was Debola who opened my eyes to see the dangerous path I was treading on. Did I tell you I’ve known her since my campus days? Yeah, we were bosom friends until she started dating the president of my campus fellowship.
When I moved to Ibadan a year after my youth service, she immediately dragged me to her church. Let me burst your bubble Franca, Debola is the daughter of the Senior Pastor.
Shortly after I joined the church, she left for the U.S for her Masters degree.
When she returned, I wanted so badly to rekindle our friendship but she also gave me the cold shoulder. It really hurt but at that time, I had already devised a way to block out ladies like that in my mind.
One Sunday afternoon, I was about driving out of the church when she opened the door and climbed in beside me. I turned off the car engine and waited to hear what she had to say. Debola faced me.
‘Joba, what is wrong with you? This is not the man I knew back at school. When did you become so defensive and full of yourself? Where is that man with a compassionate and teachable heart? What happened to him?’
I locked my hands around the steering. ‘I don’t know what you are talking about? I’m doing well okay? My business is booming and recently-‘
‘Stop! I don’t want to hear it! Life revolves around you, isn’t it?You think I don’t know what you are trying to bury underneath the accomplishments?’
‘You are the psychologist. You tell me.’
Debola sighed and relaxed on the headrest. ‘Joba, Back in the U.S, I heard what transpired between you and some of the ladies. You may have wooed them the wrong way, but you have to let it go and trust God for the best!’
I laughed. The buried resentment rose to the surface. Debola just knew how to strike the right cord.
‘Did they also tell you that I have a square head and big ears and that I was ugly?’
Debola reached for my hand. ‘Ugly? Who even set the standard for that anyway? Joba, you can’t just allow some lady give definition to who you are. How can you surrender the reins to ladies who care nothing about you. I think you’ve been listening too much to your flesh. Guy, the Holy Spirit wants to have some serious conversations with you. Enough of living below God’s plans for your life. I’m out of here jare.’
She climbed down and walked back into the church. I couldn’t stop thinking of Debola’s words even when I stepped into my apartment. That night, I lay on the floor in my room and poured my heart to God. I told him if he still had plans for marriage for me, I knew he would lead me to a lady who saw beyond the material things I possessed.
I started spending more time with God in His word. I dwelled daily on the love of the Father to me. My fears collapsed. I became more empathetic and restful.
That was when another battle began. I began to have feelings for Debola. I’d be praying like this and her picture would just stay on my heart.
Franca, what did I not do to suppress the feelings. For heaven’s sake, she is the daughter of the Senior Pastor. After the embarrassments I had faced because of sisters in the fellowship, how dare I make such a move?
I had to stop talking to her to kill those thoughts. Just when I was excited that I had succeeded in getting her out of my heart, she resurfaced during a three day prayer retreat.
The past came rushing in, bringing fear along with it. If I make a move, the whole church would know and unanimously conclude that I had a mental problem. How do I walk up to the church leadership to say I was led to the daughter of the Senior Pastor.
In my heart, I knew I had what it took to be Debola’s spiritual head. She was a go-getter. A fervent prayer warrior, a woman with great dreams and vision. I knew I had the capacity to help her achieve purpose. She had brought ideas to me and I had shared my thoughts on them. She had applied the wisdom I offered and they had worked. Why was I afraid?
For a year, I battled with the convictions that kept building strength in my heart. I imagined her father chasing me out of his office and putting me under six month discipline.
I was afraid for something else again. If I kept walking in disbelief and refuse to take any steps, someone else could take her away because of my inertia. God had lots of his wonderful sons he could lead her to. Would I lose her because I’d refused to trust God?
Oh Franca, what negative and traumatic experiences does to our mind is unquantifiable. I remember walking to the Pastor’s office three times and turning back.
About a year and a half of this internal tussle, The Senior Pastor called me to his office. He wanted to know if there was someone on my mind. I was suddenly tongue-tied. I kept having the nudge in my heart to speak and my palms broke out with sweat.
‘Joba, did you hear what I said?’
And that was when the words came rolling out. ‘Your daughter. I-‘ My mind went blank. ‘I’ve been praying. I’d love to marry her.’
The moment those words came out of my heart, I became light. I felt peaceful.
The Pastor smiled. ‘Go talk to her.’
I was so shocked I couldn’t stand up from the chair. Was I dreaming?
When Debola finally said yes to my proposal, it was as if I heard God laugh and say,
I love to blow your mind with surprises.
It has been nine beautiful months of courting my beloved. We’ve had our ups and downs but I must say, it’s been a beautiful journey. I learnt to be vulnerable with her, and I know we‘ll be together for a long time.
You know, Debola shows me off in church and sometimes it embarrasses me. I mean, the girl practically announces my arrival. The way her eyes lit up when I step into the church premises warms my heart every time. I have caught her staring at me in church and I’m like ‘Bae, listen to the word of God.’
When I look back to where transformation started off for me, I can easily trace it to the time when I began to understand the love of the Father. I got to a point when I was just content knowing I was loved and accepted by God. It released such confidence in the way I saw myself.
We’ll be getting married next weekend. I can’t wait to start that part of my life. I’m glad I stepped out of fear and obeyed the promptings in my heart. Imagine the beautiful woman I’d have missed.
Franca sighed, her face beaming with smiles.
‘What a beautiful story.’ A bass voice said. Franca turned, surprised to see her husband kneeling beside the bed.
‘When did you get in? How come I didn’t know?’
Damola laughed and joined her on the bed. ‘How will you know? Whenever you are reading a story, all your faculties are engaged. My wife and stories? CheI! This story is inspiring although I missed reading the first part.’
Franca sat up. ‘But wait o, how did you get back so fast?’
‘I was just about leaving the estate when the Pastor called to inform me that his son had been released.’ He stood up and stretched out his hand. ‘It’s still our date night remember?’
Franca chuckled and slapped his hand playfully. ‘Sure.’
When she got down from the bed, he pulled her to him and kissed her. ‘Thank you for the commitments you put into this marriage. I’ll match your speed very soon.’
‘You are doing so much already honey.’ Franca said and slid her hand around his waist as they tottered towards the dining room.
Read also: The day I met Shola