Published: Nov 4 2019. Estimated reading time: 20 mins
He belongs to me. That’s the inaudible voice Yafe heard while watching the charismatic young preacher, Ronald. She’d been crushing on him for a while, and any attempt to smother the desire was refused entertainment.
How wonderful would it be to live with such a God-fearing man, one deeply versed with Scriptures, and zealous in its proclamation?
Closet pianist and singer Yafe imagined their dream home – she would play on the instrument and sing before Ronald would deliver a fresh dose from God’s Word. An atmosphere of divine inspiration mingled with Christian romance.
Grandpa wheezed. Yafe’s hand dove into the bag for the asthma medicine canister. Fortunately, it wasn't an asthma attack.
Grandpa’s unpredictable attacks were the reason she detested coming to church with him without Grandma. Step-grandma. The biological grandmother had…
It appeared Ronald had said something, for the hall buzzed. That reaction from the congregation wasn't unusual. Ronald was as humorous as he was sound in doctrine.
Yafe reciprocated the grin on his face, which seemed at the moment to stay on her.
Such a wonderful preacher will make a good husband for me.
Later in the afternoon, Yafe and Grandpa ate lunch by themselves. The other occupant of the house, Grandpa’s wife, had gone off to New Belt the previous week to visit her first newborn grandchild.
Yafe hid nothing from her grandfather. "Ronald is such a fine Christian gentleman. What do you think?"
In a chesty voice, Grandpa said, "What makes you think that way?"
Yafe knew Grandpa understood her thinking, but it was good to play the ignorance game, anyway.
"I’ve observed him for some time. He’s different from the others – clean-shaven, always smiling, and above all, he has a great passion for the things of God."
"Just the kind of man you want, huh?"
"If wishes were horses, I’d be his bride." Yafe laughed.
Without sharing in the laughter, Grandpa said, "God grants the desires of our hearts."
The corners of Yafe’s lips contoured into an adorable smile. If Ronald turned out the only desire God could grant her, she would forever remain grateful to the kind heavenly Father.
"But God isn't obliged to honor your every whim."
Yafe almost choked on the food. How could grandpa call such holy desire a whim? "Grandpa, I think it’s pure to desire a godly man. I should be married if I wanted a kind of man."
"How much of Ronald do you know outside of the church?"
Yafe pursed her lips and squished her eyes. Her voice contained doubts, mixed with some bits of uncertainty. "Not much. But does it matter? I have no reservations…or thoughts that he could be different in private."
After munching for a while, Grandpa spoke. "That’s what I'd thought of my first wife."
"I fell in love with Mary because she was a good singer. She led the choir."
Familiarity with the story ate at Yafe's bowels. She exhaled and supported her chin on her fist.
Her reaction was no deterrent to Grandpa. "Whenever I saw her sing in church, nothing came to my mind than the thought, 'She has a good voice and is so beautiful. What if we lived together?
"As a young man and a new Christian, I believed marriage was rosy if you found chemistry with the opposite sex. I thought Mary's zeal in church would translate into virtue at home.
"That’s what I thought about every person I met in church – they must be good people at home, at the job site, anywhere. Therefore, I didn’t even ask God to guide me in choosing a wife."
Being a dateable species, Mary attracted many guys. "I was proud when I came out the winner of her heart. I counted it a blessing from God, getting married to the most dedicated sister in the church."
A few months after marriage, Mary dropped out of the choir, an act everyone judged as normal for an expectant mother.
"But I knew it was abnormal because at home she wasn’t the Mary I'd expected to sit at the feet of Jesus or the virtuous wife I'd dreamed about.
"However, I went with the thoughts of those in the church – she was pregnant. Maybe, the changes in her body provoked her bitter attitude."
Andrew and the church’s preconceptions changed after Mary lost the pregnancy. She now dropped from church, only attending occasionally.
"The loss of a first pregnancy can be devastating. Because of my immature faith, I struggled to understand why God had allowed that abortion to happen. So, I understood her pain and didn’t bother when she lost interest in spiritual activities."
The second pregnancy also ended in a miscarriage.
"Back then we didn’t do the medical checkup you young ones are advised to take today before marriage. If we had done it, we’d have discovered that she was rhesus negative.
"But that wouldn’t have saved the first child because she didn't tell me she was ever pregnant for another man before me."
When the third pregnancy arrived, the young couple took the necessary precautions. This time around, things got worse. An ectopic pregnancy. At the same time, devastated Andrew learned that one of Mary’s two pregnancies out of wedlock had been an ectopic pregnancy. Now, with no children of their own, she'd lost the remaining tube.
"I was severely depressed for many months."
More staggering revelations about Mary's past surfaced. She was once a prostitute in Citte before moving to Beaumont – where nothing was known about her rotten life – to join a church to increase her chances of finding a decent mate.
Faced with these revelations, the church forbade Andrew from divorcing her.
Grandpa had gone into much detail than previous narrations. Yafe curled her lips, pitying him and resenting the church's decision at Mary's blatant deception.
Suddenly, her eyeballs bulged. "Grandpa, if you never had children with Grandma Mary, then who’s my biological grandmother?"
"Since the church advised against divorce, I carried my cross. Only ten years later did I think of adopting a child. Your mother. Mary hated the child, but your mother was my treasure. She’s still is."
"Mom never told me this." Yafe heaved. "But Grandpa, not everyone in church is a pretender. Eric and Janis who got married last year were and are still on fire for the Lord."
Grandpa put the spoon into the empty plate and held his face thoughtfully.
"I want you to think this way: not everyone in church is genuine. Even if they preach, shout, and jump, their activities in church shouldn’t move you to conclude about their private lives."
Yafe’s eyes followed Grandpa leaving the dining table. His shaky steps stopped a meter away as he turned his face towards her. "Be careful, young woman. Don’t use emotions to make important decisions."
Grandpa, I'm not moved by emotions.
What a coincidence to be in church again three weeks later on a day Ronald preached. Grandpa had been admitted to hospital for that length of time, catered for by Yafe, and Grandma returned from New Belt just last night after his discharge three days ago.
Ronald's eloquence and anointing had received upgrades. What a passion he preached with. Yafe's mind sang, "That’s my kind of man. Dear God, give him to me."
When service closed, Ronald stood at the door to greet the worshippers. Yafe enjoyed his warm hands, one enclosing her palm and the other covering it.
"God bless you, sister," Ronald said. "Nice hairstyle."
Was this an answer to her prayer? The soothing voice triggered an urge to respond beyond a thank you. "Your message richly blessed me. That was a divine download, Pastor Ronald."
They both laughed at the title. Ronald appeared to want to say more but there were many persons to greet. Yafe lingered at the door.
Twenty minutes later, free Ronald noticed her. "Hey, I’m glad the message blessed you."
The conversation flowed with giggles, chuckles, and playful utterances. When they parted, each had saved the other’s contact.
Yafe rushed into Grandpa’s room, sat on the bed, and held his hand. "Grandpa, Ronald has asked to date me. I’m so excited."
A look of contemplation came upon Grandpa’s face.
Grandma came into the room, wiping her hands with a towel, and sat on the seat beside the bedside cupboard.
"Grandma, I was just telling Grandpa that Ronald wants to date me."
"Oh, girl, you must be excited." Grandma opened her arms and approached Yafe for a hug.
"You can't even imagine." Yafe had the biggest grin in a long time. "I'm so grateful to God."
Grandpa wheezed. Every eye turned towards him. "If I were you, Yafe, I wouldn’t be excited yet. Pray and ask God's direction before –"
"Prayer is good," Grandma said. "But going out with the boy is better. That way she prays and watches."
Yafe nodded vigorously.
"But I still maintain that she shouldn’t be excited," Grandpa said. "Those feelings blind the eyes to reality. It makes you justify what is wrong."
Grandma stroked Yafe's cheek. "Our daughter will not date blindly."
After a painful cough, Grandpa said, "Most young people always think they aren’t dating blindly. Yet many don’t see even with their eyes open. Plead with God to lead you. Don’t follow your emotions."
Yafe took her phone from the handbag and went to the front porch. "Guess what, Stephy?"
"I’m dying to get the good news?"
"Who told you it’s good."
"The sound of your voice."
"Okay." Yafe cleared her throat. "Ronald, the brother in our church I told you was my crush, he asked me out today. We're dating!"
"O girl, I'm so happy for you."
"Say that again."
Ronald stood at the counter, waiting to collect some ice cream. Yafe pushed her long artificial hairs from her face to the back of the ear. Then her hand proceeded to the purse and brought out a piece of white paper. Her eyes ran up and down the paper before she refolded it.
Ronald returned with two cones and handed one to her. An I-love-you feeling captured the air while they licked the milky mixture in silence, glancing into each other's eyes now and then.
"You need more?" Ronald asked, even though Yafe’s cone was still half-filled.
"No. I wish to talk more than eat more ice cream."
"Talk? Talk about what?"
Yafe's eyes bored him disbelievingly. Why would anyone find talk inappropriate for a first date?
Ronald heard her unspoken concern. "Sorry if I misunderstood you. Let's talk then."
"Okay…I hope you don’t mind, but I’ll love to have a clear direction from the start." Yafe brought out her list.
Ronald wiped his hands against his trousers.
"I got this advice online," Yafe said, laughing. "It says discuss everything important on the first date."
Pulling his seat closer to the table, Ronald said, "Good idea. Let's hear what you have there."
"My list of dos and don’ts. How nice it would have been if you had yours."
"I have mine upstairs." Ronald pointed to his head.
"Okay. First on my list. No sex before marriage. Maintain godly boundaries."
"Discuss purpose of relationship."
"Purpose?" Ronald scratched his head. "As Christians, we’re dating for marriage, right?"
"Right. Third item. When to meet our parents."
"Great. But I’ve informed my grandparents. Is that okay with you?"
"Fourth item. How many kids?"
Ronald laughed, throwing his hands at the sides of the white table. "I’ve not thought about that yet. What number are you considering?"
"Three. Four at most."
"Fine by me. At least, I’m not the one carrying the pregnancies."
"What do you mean?"
"You’re funny. Fifth item. Goals in life."
"I want to be a pastor."
Yafe fell on the big chair in the living room, exhausted in body, but not in mind. The faraway memorable imagination closed her open eyes, and she didn’t see Grandma come out of the kitchen to stand beside her.
Grandma cleared her throat. Yafe awakened. "Sorry, Grandma. I was lost in imagination."
"How did the date go?"
"Wonderful. Beautiful. There was a tick to every concern I had. See." She brought out her list. "We’re so compatible."
Grandma sat beside, looking at Yafe’s smiley face. "I’m glad for you, my dear. I pray this works out so you can get married in your early twenties.
"Although I’m happily married, I regret getting married at 43. Thank God, my daughter married at eighteen."
"Grandma, I can’t tell you how grateful I am to God for Ronald."
"So when is he coming to inform us he’s courting you?"
It was a day memorable enough to deserve immortalization in the abandoned journal. A day she’d longed for, yet whose actualization looked almost surreal.
That evening, Ronald, in a humble but confident voice, had told her grandparents, "I love Yafe, and I want to pursue a relationship with her that ends in marriage."
Yafe unconsciously smiled, putting away the diary on the bed. "Thank you, Jesus." If Grandma and Grandpa okayed it, so would her parents. The smooth sailing proved that the match was perfect and the destination surer.
She picked up her phone from the bed. "I must tell Stephy all that happened." Grandma opened the door. "Grandpa wants to see you."
Grandpa lay on his back, his head on an elevated pillow. His rapidly declining health distressed Yafe who silently prayed that God would keep him to see her big day with Ronald. It would be unfair for the man she had grown up with to die months away from walking her down the aisle.
Even with the wheezing getting worse, complicated by the recent additional diagnosis of congestive heart failure, Grandpa’s verbosity did not decline. "You know I couldn’t say anything but give my consent to the courtship, hoping you will use this time to study the man before making a final decision.
"My life has been long, but the last fifty years have not been so good. I made a mistake as a young man, in the choice of the woman I first married, and just when I could correct it, sickness –"
"Grandpa," Yafe said, holding his hand and bending over him, "you don’t need to repeat yourself. I’ll do the right thing. I promise."
"You worry too much, my dear," Grandma said. "Your mistake caused you to be cynical. That’s a fine gentleman for our daughter."
"Grandpa, I’ve asked him all the right questions. There’s nothing to fear."
"Child, when they’re in love, they give the right answers, but when it comes to doing the right thing, they –"
"Stop this." Grandma frowned. "Do you know you can put reservations in this child’s heart where there shouldn't be any? Just how many people have made your kind of mistake? Allow this girl to enjoy the love God has brought her way." She walked out of the room.
Grandpa stared at Yafe. She stared back, with sad but compassionate eyes.
"Grandpa, I understand your worry. You have my promise."
"While you court, pray. Pray. Plead with God to let you glimpse into this young man's private life."
Yafe kissed Grandpa on the cheek and went out. In the living room, Grandma still had that frown.
"Don’t listen to him. That’s the same negative mind he had when our daughter brought her husband-to-be. If I didn’t stand firm, Marianne would have let Peter go. But see them today – happily married."
Sitting down, buried her face in her palms. When she lifted her head moments later, her faraway eyes moved around the room, before staying on Grandma.
"I’m concerned about Grandpa's health. I don’t want him to worry. Can one go astray with prayers?"
"Why not? Depends on your mindset during prayers." Grandma went into the kitchen, leaving Yafe to her sad confusion.
Yafe's mind had been fixed when she went to bed last night. Now, this morning, the threat of hunger pangs dared her while she sat at the edge of the bed, eyeing her bible on the bed. Questions about the futility of the planned activity amplified the pain.
She pressed her palms against her temples and fell backward on the bed. What if Grandpa was right? Dismissing old men's counsel could be dangerous.
"Lord, although I chose to do this for Grandpa, my heart is sincere before you. If I'm carried away by lust for Ronald, set me free. If he's not who he claims he is, show me."
With that prayer, the 3-day-fast began. She read several Psalms of supplication and prayed, although her heart doubted that the outcome of the prayers would be contrary to her expectations. Ronald could not be a hypocrite.
In the late morning, Yafe migrated to sit under the orange tree behind the house – Grandma must not be allowed to convince her to drop the fast.
Not long afterward, Grandma called out to her, "Come and see who's here." Yafe went to the living room where she met Ronald seated on a couch.
"Since morning, I've been trying your number. Your phone is switched off."
Yafe scratched the back of her neck. There was no logical explanation to give to him about her actions.
After waiting in vain for a verbal response, Ronald said, "A friend of mine is throwing a birthday party this afternoon. Can you come with me? It'll be fun."
"Eh…I don't –"
"She's going with you," Grandma said, coming out of the kitchen. She stood before Yafe. "Don't be stupid, girl. Go out and have fun."
"Grandma," Yafe whispered, "I'm fasting."
"Can't you see God doesn’t want you to fast?" Then Grandma increased the volume of her voice in what looked like an attempt to inform Ronald of Yafe's actions. "You single women will never stop amazing me. You never seem to recognize the answer to your prayers."
Yafe and Ronald's eyes met, and she looked away. He said, "Anything the matter?"
Yafe responded quickly, before Grandma. "Nothing. Grandpa thinks that it's always good to seek God's guidance on major decisions, including who to date. I'm observing a three-day fast."
Grandma jumped in. "We have nothing against you courting our granddaughter. We look forward to your parents visiting us. Everyone knows you're a fine gentleman, zealous for the things of God, and you will make a good husband and father."
You can get clues of someone's thoughts on their face. Yafe searched for them but found none – Ronald was calm and indifferent. She inwardly heaved; perhaps, the fast was unnecessary.
Regrettably, she had informed him, and if he was a passionate God-lover, he wouldn’t take it lightly that she should drop a fast for no reason.
"Keep my cake at the birthday party. I'll collect it in the morning."
"I'll bring it to you here." Ronald stood. "I have to go. Good day, Grandma."
"Do you know how many girls want him?" Grandma asked Yafe when Ronald was gone. The young girl looked away.
Grandma grabbed her shoulder and turned her so they looked into each other's eyes.
"Let me tell you something you don't know about men. A man loses interest when he sees a woman has reservations about him. He gives his energy to the woman who reciprocates his desire with the same eagerness. He may meet someone at the party, and you'd live to regret it.
"I should have married at your age. But I was foolish to think it was good etiquette to let a man chase me as if I'm a hidden treasure.
"There was this guy who loved me like a fool. Although I really liked him, I did all in my power to make him see I wasn't cheap. He bought me gifts, which I rejected. He asked me out to parties. I refused. He requested to introduce me to his parents. I said no.
"By the time I wanted to show him I liked him, another girl had captured his heart. I tried all I could to get him crazy again about me, but it didn’t work.
Grandma tapped Yafe on the shoulder. "Don't make this mistake. Ronald loves you." She went into the kitchen.
Counting her fingers, Yafe also felt her heart beat faster. What should she do? Run after Ronald to say she had changed her mind about the fast? Or pray that he would understand her sincerity? Was a three-day period long enough to break a man's interest?
She sighed and went back to her seat behind the house.
In the afternoon, her frantic mind sent out panicky imaginations in every direction. More frightened, she dragged herself to the bedroom. Maybe, in the quietness of sleep, God would speak to her in a vision and clarify every doubt.
When she awakened three hours later, she couldn't recall any dream. "Lord, why are you not speaking to me?"
Grandma's vanilla flavor answered her. Yafe accepted the invitation to the kitchen.
"So, what has God said?" Grandma asked, mockingly. "Ronald or not Ronald?"
"I've not heard a thing."
Grandma bent her face to Yafe. "Cos there's nothing to hear, honey. You're afflicting yourself over nothing."
"I once heard someone say people may fast for several days before they hear from God's side."
"Stop that nonsense." Grandma shoved a plate of freshly baked cake on the table before Yafe.
"Grandma," Yafe said in a pleading voice, "I promised Grandpa three days. Today is over. Two more to go."
"The only thing you'll gain from this exercise will be weight loss. Not good news for your skinny structure."
Laughing, Yafe pulled the plate of food closer.
On the second night of her fast, Yafe sat on her bed staring down at a postcard and rose. Ronald had sent them that afternoon.
"While you're afflicting yourself with fasting," Grandma had said, "the young man is showing you he means business."
Once again, Yafe's eyes followed the words on the card. … You mean the world to me. She kept the card aside, tilted her head backward and sent her mind into a faraway land. Why the daily show of affection since she started fasting? Was this God's answer? Or the devil's distraction?
Presupposing the lack of sleep as the body's response to the evening meal, she yawned and sighed and tossed several times on the bed, hoping that sleep would come. At almost 11 p.m. she went to the living room to distract her mind with the television.
Channel after channel, her restless body and mind found nothing interesting. The novels on grandpa's library, even though she'd read them several times, provided the only proper alternative. She visited the shelf.
When she returned to her seat, the preacher on the TV screen caught her attention. Not by what he said. There was something usually familiar about him.
She kept the book on the table and paid full attention to the television. The dressing, the diction, and the stage gait of the charismatic preacher looked familiar. But she couldn’t remember ever seeing the man before. What was going on?
Oh, there it was. Ronald! Yes, Ronald had preached that message before, word for word, accent for accent, jump for jump, and even hallelujah for hallelujah. Except for the colors, he had dressed in a three-piece suit, too.
Yafe jumped to her feet. "God this is not true. You mean, Ronald just copied everything? The passion hadn’t been from the heart?"
Too weak to pace the room, she sat down and buried her face in her palms. Was Ronald a fake? Or was he a young zealous, aspiring preacher yet to be weaned from copying messages? After all, copy-paste wasn't a sin.
"Lord, I love his passion. I understand one can still do what he's doing without being a fake. If I were asked to teach a Bible lesson somewhere, I'd surely look up what others have done.
"If by any chance you're speaking to me through this, speak clearer. Leave no room for confusion or substitute interpretations."
In the morning, Yafe woke up wearier than when she had finally fallen asleep. The unanswered questions in her mind prompted the urge to complete the last day of fasting.
"Father, speak to me clearly. Let me know precisely what decision to take."
Resentment drove Grandma to send Yafe on an errand, knowing well that her body was weak, not only from food deprivation but also from the anxiety and confusion the awaited answer put the girl through.
A confrontation was inevitable if Yafe refused to obey. She took the money and sulkily left for the vendor's house to purchase baking accessories.
Good things sometimes come out of bad situations. At her destination, Yafe ran into an old schoolmate. The reminiscing instantly banished her bitterness.
"I'll be getting married next month," Stella said. "It's in Citte, but you’re invited. I should have done so if I had your contact."
"I'll be there."
"What about you? Who's the guy in your life?"
Yafe narrated her ordeal.
"But if you say the guy loves you," Stella replied, "go ahead and accept him. Why should you allow your grandpa's counsel to cause you to lose a guy you love? Or maybe, you don't really love him."
"What are you talking about? Ronald has captured my heart. He's passionate about God, preaches sound doctrine, and makes me feel things I'd only dreamed about."
"I know that feeling, dear." After a protracted laugh, Stella went on, "I hate that name, though. Reminds me of what one Ronald did to my elder sister in Citte."
Because she was desperate for an answer from God, Yafe felt compelled to discover more of this Ronald, especially so because her Ronald had come to Beaumont from Citte. From Citte to Beaumont again? Was Grandpa's life repeating itself in her life? "What happened?"
"This guy came in the semblance of the perfect man. He preaches in church, looks good on the outside, and says and does the right things.
"As such, my sister let her guard down, allowed him to capture her heart completely, and when he began to behave unbecomingly, she was too blind to notice. Was she even blind? Her emotions caused her to justify his wrongdoing.
"He finally dumped her, after satisfying his sexual lusts multiple times."
With a chest heaving up and down, Yafe said, "Describe this Ronald to me."
Stella took her phone and logged in to Facebook. After scrolling for a while, she brought the screen closer to Yafe's eyes. "That's him."
"Jesus. That's the same guy I'm talking about."
"Really? Oh girl, I'm sorry. You just have to let go. Immediately.
"Ronald is a con. Every church he goes to, he wins the heart of the pastor with his pretense, and then makes his way to the pulpit, so he can use the platform as camouflage to lure naïve young girls. He knows well what they think of him.
"You know how we Christian single women usually behave towards single guys who are serious in church. We watch them performing on the pulpit, and all we see is Mr. Right. We imagine living together with them and doing fun and funny things.
"Only, we don't know that some of them are snakes. Ronald is a real viper, ready to bite his unsuspecting victim."
Yafe rushed home. Throwing the sack in her hand in the kitchen, she didn’t wait to hear Grandma inform her about a gift just-arrived from Ronald.
She ran into grandpa in the bedroom. "Grandpa," she gasped, "you were right. Ronald is not who he claims to be."
Grandpa motioned for her to sit down beside him and narrate what had happened.
"I knew it," Grandpa said after Yafe finished. "Something within me felt uncomfortable.
"You see, my dear, the church is like a market. There, you have vendors, buyers, and also scammers and pick-pockets and window shoppers. Never have one opinion of everyone you meet there. God alone knows who's there for the right purpose.
Yafe opened her mouth to speak but Grandpa raised an open palm to her and continued with his lecture.
"The same goes for what you young ones are crazy about. Facebook, Instagram, and…and…whatever you call it. Not everyone who writes Christian stuff there is a Christian in real life or in the closet. Don't let someone's virtual life alone cause you to make a life decision like marriage."
Yafe looked past Grandpa's face. She relived a romance scam she'd once come across on Facebook. The young woman implicated in the story had posed as a Christian.
"Who can one trust, then, Grandpa?"
"You are very young and inexperienced, too. But if you are sincere before God, and stay close to him, he'll always guide you. He promises you that in Proverbs 3:5-7"
Yafe took Grandpa's hands and looked into his face. "Thank you, Grandpa. Your counsel saved me from heartbreak."
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