Today, I’m in church. It has been a while since I was last here. In my many travels, I’d often land in a place where there was no church or where the churches were subject to attacks at any given time, but mostly got attacked on Sundays and other days of worship. So I’d simply stay in my house/hotel and meditate.
Also, where I’d normally give my offerings to the church, I’d give them to beggars and pay my tithes into charitable organizations.
When I got back from my travels, I found that I felt extremely uncomfortable in churches. I checked my heart and prayed but still the discomfort remained. So, I did what I was used to. On Sundays, I’d conduct my own church service in the house.
However, my little brother was staying over and my dad had traveled for business yesterday so it fell to me to take him to church. I choose one close to our house.
There’s a class for teenagers but he asks to sit with me in the adult church. So he’s here. The pastor is preaching but I can’t seem to focus.
Then he says something, “God does not give you problems. Life does. God does not make you unhappy, life does. And the only way to become happy again, is to go back to God” And right there and then, I burst into tears.
My father is not feeling well. He thinks I haven’t noticed but I plan to take him to the hospital after the church service ends. It’s probably just malaria but I’ve heard him sobbing in the night. I’m no psychoanalyst but I know enough to understand that depression does not quicken healing. Suddenly, a girl starts crying in the row behind ours. She’s sitting next to someone I recognize – Bunmi’s brother. The look on his face is priceless. He appears torn between fear, extreme discomfort and the need to comfort. The girl has her face covered completely with a handkerchief so I can’t see her face. I’m hoping an usher comes to lead her away, I’m sure she’ll be embarrassed if she finishes this crying jag and has to remove the handkerchief covering her face. Then, all of a sudden, my father stands up and goes over to her. Everyone shifts to give him space to sit down. Then, to my uttermost shock, he pulls her crying face to his shoulder and begins to rub her back. She explodes in another round of tears and this time Bunmi’s brother starts stroking her head.
As one, everyone staring turns to listen to the pastor.
When the time comes for the final hymn, we are all distracted by a very loud blowing of the girl’s nose. I resist the urge to look behind me.
Then it’s offering time, then announcements then the closing prayer. After that, I give myself permission to look, only to see an embarrassed, yet contented looking Ebube resting her head on my father’s shoulder.
The church service was very emotional for me. But I’m grateful that no one is making a big deal of my crying. My brother looks mortified but I find myself wanting to laugh. My mom traveled with my stepfather yesterday so the monthly brunch is postponed till next week. I rise up suddenly, the pastor is coming towards me.
We have a brief conversation, he welcomes me to the church and tells me he’d love to see me next week. I’m impressed. His face is completely impassive and he gives no sign that he saw or heard me wailing earlier. I turn to the man who so graciously offered me his shoulder and i’m surprised that he seems to be holding in a chuckle just as I am. He looks at my face, I look at his and we both burst out laughing. He looks a bit like a Father Christmas with his white hair and white mustache and pleasantly rounding belly. And he comforted me while I was crying so i make a snap decision.
“Would you like to come to my house for lunch?”
“I’ll have to ask my son”, he replies.
“Where is he? I’ll ask him myself”
Then I turn around. It’s Bunmi’s friend.
Her energy, her strength, her smile are all very inspiring.
Adaezenwa, as promised, here it is: