But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God. Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him dead because of this. So Uzzah died right there beside the Ark of God.
The big day is here, not here but sort of close, at last. Abigail has cried nearly every day since the wedding planning started. Why won’t she? The timing is just too short. She had picked her wedding date long before she even met Dotun. How is that even possible? At least Dotun proposed a couple of months to the wedding. And I have always asked her what would have happened if he had proposed on the day? She would smile and say that she would just run to the registry. And what if there was no proposal at all. She would just shrug and say that she would cross the bridge when she gets there. But this is what friends do right? We have each other’s backs and do what we can to see follow things through.
Today, there is a sort of ‘retreat’ for the bridesmaids. It’s like bonding time – Enkay and Fifunmi brought up the idea. I find that I am the planning falls squarely into my laps. I don’t like that and I am not looking forward to it. After the Bridal shower, there is really nothing much to look forward to. I know the other bridesmaids fairly well. I barely have time to sit down and enjoy the conversation because I am trying to get things done. And it rankles that no single person is interested in helping out. I expected better. And my planning was not exactly great. I could say it was imposed on me as an excuse but it still wouldn’t change the fact that I suck at it.
And because I suck at it, I find myself unsettled during the bonding time. So while others are actually relaxing and gisting, I am at my wit’s end trying to get things done – the major thing being receiving the Chief Bridesmaid – Abigail’s favourite cousin. She is a Professor in Canada. She is the youngest and the first black Professor that her department would be having. Her name is Eloho, but she is known as L (more like Elle). She has the most beautiful set of dimples I have ever seen. She is a very serious person but an amazing conversationalist. By the time I am done running around, the discussion is already dying down and I heave a tired sigh as I flop into the nearest seat. What I wouldn’t do for a glass of Bailey’s on the rocks – in slow and steady sips of course. The conversation comes to an abrupt end and everyone is looking at me.
‘What?’ I raise an eyebrow at Abigail. And Enkay and Fifunmi are mouthing words at me. I squeeze my forehead in confusion because lip reading has never been my forte.
‘You are a virgin?’ Elle asks
‘Oh’, I reach for the small chops, pop one puff puff into my mouth, and let out a ‘yeah.’
Another woman, Nanji, asks, ‘so, you just decided not to have sex?’
‘Well… yes.’ I look at Abigail for help. This is not supposed to be about me. How did this even become a subject to be discussed here?
Ene, I think that’s her name, speaks, ‘back then in the University, I had some friends that took a vow, made a covenant with God, to keep themselves and wait for their future husbands. They promised to also help each other to stay pure. You know, that sort of thing.’
A lady named Sefia cuts in, ‘Crap. Utter nonsense. Look very well at everybody in this room. The youngest person here is twenty six. And nobody here is married. Nobody can stay this long and not have sex. It is just unbelievable.’
I shake my head. ‘Sefia, I am thirty. I just clocked thirty and I am a virgin. I can say that anywhere. Call it lack of opportunity. Call it whatever you like. It is my reality, and the truth. I don’t need to defend it before anybody.’
Elle looks at me. ‘So you just, basically, decided and you just stuck with it.’
I laugh. ‘It is not as simple as that. Some days my will is so strong I begin to think I am asexual. Most times, it feels like I am sitting over a boiling pot. And I can’t just control anything.’ I turn towards Abigail. ‘It’s too late for any chastity tip now. The big night is almost here.’ Everyone laughs.
Elle turns to Ene. ‘You know, that was me. I had a covenant with God. That I would keep myself by His grace of course, and He would help me not get married to the wrong person.’
She smiles at what I would say is the confusion on my face. What sort of covenant? What does God have to do with my decision to not sleep with any man until he asks me to marry him? ‘And you, Ene? Did you take part in the covenant too?’
Ene nods. ‘But I didn’t wait. I couldn’t. Of the four of us, only two of us didn’t wait. The other two are married now. One is a missionary in one of the Middle East countries. The other is married to a pastor. The funny thing is I have been celibate for five years. I wonder why it was so difficult back then.’
I don’t. I wonder why it has suddenly become easy for her now. Time didn’t make it easier for me. Elle’s words disrupt my thought.
‘… easier. It is about understanding you. You probably have just been able to understand your needs and the signs your body gives you. I knew to read my body. When was I getting too clingy? When was I giving lingering smiles? What about my hands? How do I keep them away from my body? How do I subdue my mind? These questions. It wasn’t probably as coherent as this. But I found myself praying to God, asking Him for grace. Speaking in tongues sometimes. You can’t understand. I had seen two parallel examples of what a home should be and what it shouldn’t be. My parents didn’t have a happy marriage. I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to be trapped. So I was ready to do whatever it took. I was desperate, in pursuit of my own happiness. But I got a job opportunity in Canada. It was at our convocation. I was one of the best in my department. It was a miracle, now that I think about it. To cut the long story short, one day in Canada, I lost my way, probably took the wrong bus or something, ended up in the wrong area, and found myself in the middle of three men. I begged God. I cried to Him. That He should remember our covenant. What was going to happen if these men had their way? I sincerely asked for miracle. It was over quickly. I was later found by some teenagers high on drugs, they called the police. I was so hurt. It was like God had abandoned me. What happened to the covenant? What didn’t I do right? I asked my self questions upon questions upon questions. No answer came. I just wanted to die. Why didn’t I just stay in Nigeria? I wanted to just delete my existence.’
Everybody is listening with rapt attention.
‘The company was very attentive. They took care of everything. I went for medicals, therapy, tests. Nothing prepared me for my pregnancy. Nothing. Nothing at all. I had forgotten God too. At least that’s what it felt like, that He abandoned me. It was just unforgiveable. I was hoping to have gotten a steady boyfriend by then, and you know. But a pregnancy changed everything. And nine months came and went, I gave birth to twins. They were so white. They didn’t even look like me. I just wanted to hate them. And I was angry again. Everything just kept on mounting. All this happened when I was about 23. I had to tell my parents but everybody just assumed the worst of me. That I wanted to stay back, that I found a white man to sink my tentacles into. I sincerely wanted to hate the twins. I just couldn’t. One coo from either of them and I was a goner.’
She pauses to catch her breath.
‘So I had two kids to raise, a job to excel at, my career path to tow, furtherance of my education, and most importantly I had a Father that was waiting for me with His arms wide open to come back home. I struggled. So I thought I could use my body to keep my relationships. Before I knew I was making coffee for Neil, and I was sleeping over at Grant’s and Green was singing in my shower. It took me six years to finally accept that God doesn’t make mistakes. I look at my twins and I thank God. And sometimes I look at where I am, who would have thought that in spite of the horror of the night and the grater part of the year that followed, I would be here today. So what if the covenant was a farce? So what if God defrauded me? So what? I found myself asking God for mercy for each time I used my body to spite Him. It shouldn’t have been. And I don’t understand all of it even up till today but I know He is watching me. I could only have come this far because He is watching…’
I find that I like Eloho a lot. But the way she talks about God though. I mean God is up there, yeah. But I the way He just does stuff anyhow. Just look at what she said. I mean what else? She was keep herself pure for God, abi? So how would He repay her – rape, and not only that, pregnancy, and not even one baby, a set of twins. I guess she should be thankful that the Company she was working for was quite benevolent. I am happy for her.
And that’s why I feel like she is exaggerating her importance to God. She talks about loving God and trying to please Him. I don’t. At a very important point in her life, He abandoned her. Don’t be telling me about God and love. Maybe reverence, maybe arbitrariness, maybe imposition. But not something like love. My first experience about God was the first time I was actually old enough to follow in Sunday school class. The story was about the ark of covenant. So, the ark was being moved, and it was supposed to be a symbol that God was present or so. The next thing the oxen carrying it stumbled. And this young man seeing that the Ark was about to fall tried to steady, and guess what? God struck him dead. For what? Trying to help. I was in a state of disbelief. My mummy used to pray one prayer when she was alive. She would say, ‘God please have mercy on me and my family.’ I never said amen. If a God could strike someone dead for trying to help, was He really capable of showing mercy?
Look at Eloho’s case. What was her offence? Trusting God? Covenanting with Him? Why didn’t He just help her or save her? After all He is God. Is He not? So why did He not show up at that point? Nobody can rationalize what happened with the ark of the covenant. Same way Eloho’s situation can’t be rationalized. She covenanted with Him! That had to count for something. Nobody can convince me of some good reason for the two occurrences. Except God Himself. And if He is truly the way Eloho said He is, I am right here waiting for Him. All He has to is to start talking.
Or maybe not. I have very important things to do. Like fixing my life.