I’ve been worried about my teen daughter for some weeks now. I can’t exactly place what went wrong but she began to misbehave when she got into the senior secondary school. This was a girl that was as sweet as a pair of comfortable flat shoes. You know that feeling of relief when you pull off a five-inch high heeled sandals after attending a wedding party and slid into a pair of flat shoes. It’s heaven on earth right? My daughter never stressed me out. She was obedient and unlike her brother, I didn’t have to shout and make her do her homework. She got good grades. She was serious with her role in the choir in our local assembly.
All of that changed few days after she entered SS1.
“Deborah, come here.” I said one morning as she prepared for school. My eyes went from her butt to her slender thighs.
“Did you cut this skirt? Why is it so short like this?”
She rolled her eyes at me. “Mummy! How can you say this skirt is short? Please I cannot be looking like a grandma.”
“Deborah, what did you do to this skirt? Look at your curves.”
She tried to pull the skirt down. “Mum I’m running late for school. There is nothing wrong with what I’m wearing.
“I’m getting you a new uniform today. Don’t ever wear that to school again. You are a lady of virtue and you should dress appropriately.”
Deborah walked out on me and slammed the door. Different thoughts flew pass my head. I was angry, worried and frustrated so much I couldn’t eat. Do I have to suffer as a single mother? I blamed myself for her bad attitude.
It was my fault that I married a stupid man. I had seen the signs but I had been afraid of ending the relationship with Bayo. He had slept with my friend few weeks before the wedding. He didn’t apologize.
“I’ve told you that it was a mistake. I was carried away. Why can’t you just forget about it and move on?”
I wanted him to say sorry. “Our wedding is just two weeks away. How do you think I’ll feel?”
“Can we please focus on what’s important? We have a wedding to prepare for. It’s not going to happen again, I promise. Forget about it.”
No apologies. How many times had he mocked men who apologized to their wives? They are weak, he said. His father never trained him that way.
Our marriage was hell. Bayo was a proud man. He defended himself for every mistake he made and there was nothing I did right that satisfied him.
I’d prepare meals for him and he would complain about the way I served him. ‘The salt is much.’ ‘this food is tasteless.’ ‘the meat is too hard.’ But whenever his friends and brothers visited, they always asked for more food. They’d eat until they could barely walk.
“Your wife can cook abeg! The food is delicious.”
“Where you see this woman? Your wife’s head is correct.”
Bayo’s countenance would change and right there, he’d say terrible things about me. The guest bathroom was my crying corner. I visited that place almost every day.
My kids became my succor. I wondered if I’d be able to survive if God had not given them to me.
When my husband announced he wanted a divorce, I panicked at first but somewhere in my heart, I was happy and relieved. Thankfully, I was a civil servant and was grateful I had a job.
Our nine years of marriage ended and for the first few months after that happened, I was heartbroken. That was when I heard about Jesus and his redemptive work and I accepted him into my life. Life started to make sense but with my daughter behaving this way, the memories I had buried returned, leaving a sharp pain in my chest.
That evening, I sat on the floor of my room, thinking about my life. I imagined having a man I could pray with every night. A husband who understood spiritual authority and listened to God for his family. I wished I had known Christ before I met Bayo. There were so many wishes and regrets, but they could not help my situation.
“God, you are my husband right now.” I said quietly, tears trickling down my face. “You are the father of my children. Help me. I don’t know what’s going on with my daughter and I ask that you teach me how to raise her. Show me what to do Lord. Show me your mercy.”
Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God…
That scripture settled on my heart. It was as if someone was whispering the words to my ears.
How many times have I quoted that scripture?
I knew immediately what God wanted me to do. Worry solved nothing. I’d have to stand in the place of prayer for my daughter and declare God’s will over her life.
Some days later, I was praying for Deborah when in a flash, I saw an image of a black knapsack hidden under her bed. I stopped praying and went into her room. It was 5am and Deborah was still asleep. With my torch, I found my way around the dark room and looked under the bed.
The black bag was there!
I took it to my room and turned out the content. There was an iphone, a gold wristwatch, a perfume and a bracelet. The screen of the phone had the picture of a tall slender man in dreads. My mouth flew opened.
Where did Deborah get these things from? They seemed expensive.
Was she following boys now? The thought of my daughter having sex scared me. I was boiling with rage but there was a restraint not to talk to her yet. I sat back and the tears returned. I felt very weak.
I had a conversation with God that morning. “Lord, I feel like beating the hell out of this girl. What have I done wrong? Bayo barely sends any money for child support. I work for these children. I ensure they attend good schools. I give them good food. I pray for them like my life depends on it. Is there something I’m not doing well? Am I too soft with Deborah? Am I too stern? Am I afraid she’d get angry and run to her father? Holy Spirit, you are my helper. Show me what to do.”
Do a dance. The victory has been won.
Dance? Could God really be asking her to do this?
A month ago, I decided I would raise my children by the Spirit. I got two journals where I wrote down everything I heard in prayers about them. I may be a single mother but I was not alone. The Holy Spirit was my helper and I’d learn to trust him absolutely.
I stood in front of the mirror and danced to a song that had popped up in my spirit. At first, it felt awkward but soon I was laughing and sweating. The plan of the devil over my daughter had failed. My children would know the Lord. My son would flourish like a well-nurtured plant. My daughter would be like a graceful pillar carved to beautify a palace.
“Mum, what are you doing?”
My kids were standing at the entrance of the room, staring at me in disbelief. My body was covered with sweat. I reached for my towel and dabbed at my face and neck.
“David, give me a minute with your sister.”
David withdrew and when my daughter came in, she stopped when she saw the phone and the other stuff on the bed. I saw fear in her eyes.
“Where did you get them from?”
“They are not mine. I swear, they are not for me.” She said in a shaky voice.
“Who gave them to you?”
“Bisi. She is a new student in my class. She asked me to keep them for her.”
“Why are you lying to me?”
“Mum, I’m not lying! I didn’t want to keep them but she kept pleading with me. She didn’t expect her mum to pick her up from school yesterday. I promise I’ll return everything to her once I get to school.”
I couldn’t believe I was speaking calmly to my daughter. By now, five strokes of my stick should have landed on her body with my voice reverberating the room. “Sit here.” I said and patted the space on the bed. Deborah sat and stared at the floor.
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“No! I don’t have a boyfriend.” She was feeling uncomfortable. “Mum, I promise, I’ll return everything to her today.”
I sensed she was lying. I was praying quietly, asking the Holy Spirit for the right words. “You are my daughter and I love you very much. I believe these things are yours and that young man on the phone screen gave them to you. He is a dangerous man but he’s not going to ruin my daughter.”
Deborah looked at her mother. “Mum, I don’t know the man and-”
“Go and have your bath and let’s have the family devotion.”
When worry tried to creep in again, I stood up and paced my room. They said children from broken homes turn out badly but not my kids. I have received the mercy of God. I would hold on to His word. My children would become great instruments in God’s hands.
“David, you flourish like a well-nurtured plant.” I declared. “You will fulfil God’s plan for your life. Deborah, the evil of your age will not take you out. Your heart is opened to know Jesus. You serve your generation according to the will of God.”
I stopped praying. Deborah was standing at the door with a tear-smeared face.
“I’m sorry I lied to you. I have a boyfriend and those things are mine. Please can you change my school? I don’t want to be in the same class with Bisi.”
The question I have been dying to ask was on my lips. “Have you had sex with him?”
Deborah hesitated, tears gathering her eyes again. “Yes, just once. I was supposed to meet him today after school at a hotel. I’m sorry mum.”
My hands trembled. I had failed as a mother. When did Deborah get the time to hang out with that boy? She was home everyday by 5pm. Lesson ended at 4.30pm. I was always at home waiting for them. If I had bought a car instead of paying for that land, maybe I would have been able to monitor my children closely.
Deborah knelt in front of me. “I skipped a couple of afternoon classes. I lied to my teachers that we had special programs in church.”
I gave her a hot slap. “Deborah! Deborah!”
“I’m sorry.” Deborah covered her face with her hands and sobbed.
“Call him now. Put the phone on speaker. We are going to return the bag to him.”
Deborah dialed the number. It rang but he didn’t pick up. When she dialed again, a lady answered the call. The place was noisy and the woman sounded hysterical. There were loud cries at the background. Deborah called Bisi. She picked on the first ring.
“Deborah, Ridwan is dead.”
Colour drained from my daughter’s face. “What!”
“I wanted to call you but you’ve warned me never to call you at home. He had an accident on the way home from the club early this morning. He ran into a pole and died instantly.”
‘My boyfriend said Ridwan is stupid. He collected charms from a cheap herbalist when there were better options. He is too greedy. I’ll give you the full gist when I get to school.”
Charm. Herbalist. I turned to my daughter after she ended the call.
“This Ridwan guy, what does he do?”
My eyes widened in shock. I stood up. “Let’s have our devotion.”
My prayer started before we got to the living room. “Oh Jesus! I can’t do without you! Lord, show me the right school for my children. Connect them to the right friends. Show me how to train them in this dark world. I seek your help oh Lord.”
In the living room, David was sleeping in his uniform. Deborah turned to me.
“Mum, I want to know Jesus. Please can you help me get into a relationship with Him?”
…May our sons flourish in their youth like well-nurtured plants. May our daughters be like graceful pillars, carved to beautify a palace. Psalms 144:12 NLT
Even in this dark world, our children, spiritual and biological can stand as light. The teenagers we are overseeing can become evidence of God’s power in a world that is messy and corrupt. Our proteges will turn out well. This however cannot be achieved by our intellect or merely by our determination to be firm and stern and principled. It will happen only by the Spirit.