Jessica doesn't understand why Grandpa insists that she prays about her boyfriend, Ronald. But she's concerned about the old man's health, and decides to honor his request, anyway. Then something happen
He belongs to me. That’s what Jessica heard as she watched the charismatic and eye-catching, young preacher, Ronald. She’d been crushing on him for a while, and any attempt to smother the desire was given the treatment reserved for a worm in an anthill.
How wonderful would it be to live with such a God-fearing man, one deeply versed with Scriptures, and zealous in its proclamation?
A closet pianist and a good singer herself, Jessica imagined their dream home—she would play on the instrument and they’d sing together before Ronald would deliver a fresh dose from God’s Word. What an atmosphere of divine inspiration mingled with Christian romance.
Grandpa wheezed. Jessica’s hand dove into the bag by her left and readied with the asthma medicine canister. A few seconds passed and her chest relaxed when no sound came again from the old lungs. Grandpa’s unpredictable asthma attacks were the reason she detested coming to church with him without Grandma. Step-grandma, to be precise. The biological grandmother had…
Ronald had said something, and the hall buzzed. Jessica smiled back at the grin on his face, which seemed at the moment to stay on her. That reaction from the congregation was not unusual; Ronald was as humorous as he was sound in doctrine.
Surely, such a good preacher should make a good husband. And why is he looking at me like that?
Later in the afternoon, Jessica 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.
As the first grandchild in the family, Jessica hid nothing from her grandfather.
“Ronald is such a fine Christian gentleman. What do you think?”
In a whistling voice, Grandpa said, “What makes you think that way?”
Jessica swallowed the bolus in her mouth. She 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, has a deep knowledge of the Bible.”
“Just the kind of man you want, huh?”
Jessica nodded and then laughed. “If wishes were horses, I’d be his bride.”
Grandpa coughed, holding his chest. Jessica reached out for a cup of water, which the old man seized and gulped down.
When calm returned, grandpa said, “God grants the desires of our hearts.”
The corners of Jessica’s lips contoured into an adorable smile. If Ronald turned out the only desire God could grant, she’d remain forever grateful to the kind heavenly Father.
Grandpa shook his head. “But that verse doesn’t guarantee that every desire you have is from God. You know, He’s not obliged to honor your every whim.”
Jessica almost choked on the food. “Grandpa, this is no whim… I think it’s godly to desire a godly man.”
With a look as though he wished to school her more, Grandpa, trying hard to breathe well, said, “How much of Ronald do you know outside of the church?”
Jessica pursed her lips and squished her eyes. After waiting a while, she said, “Not much. But does it matter? I have no reservations… or thoughts that he could be different in private.” Jessica’s voice contained doubts, mixed with some bits of certainty.
Grandpa munched for a while. “That’s what I had thought of my first wife.”
“I fell in love with Mary because she was a good singer. She led the choir during her youthful years. I still wish you can do the same with your beautiful voice.”
Jessica tapped her fingers on the table. The story was an oldie. She never met Grandma Mary, but the woman’s traces were still visible in the house.
Even though Grandpa had told the story before, and could now see that Jessica was uninterested, he went ahead to re-narrate it. That’s not a trait for the old only. Most of us don’t mind repeating a piece of information that impacted our lives immensely.
“Whenever I saw her sing in church, nothing came to mind than the thought, ‘this is a good wife. And she’s so beautiful.’”
Forty-four years ago, early-twenties-old Andrew, now Grandpa, was a new Christian, and the picture of a good wife in his mind was a woman who busied in church. And because he loved singing, his own voice being terribly coarse, Mary appeared the most credible suitable partner.
“I thought her zeal in the church will translate into a virtuous woman at home. That’s what I thought basically about every person I met in church – I just believed they were good people at home, at the job site, anywhere. Therefore, I didn’t even ask God to guide me in choosing a wife.”
Andrew was not the only one interested in Mary – she was a dateable species. “I was so proud when I came out the winner of her heart. I knew I was envied. In some ways, I counted it a blessing from God. Here was I, new in the faith, and getting married to the most dedicated sister in the church.”
A few months after their marriage, Mary dropped out of the choir, an act everyone judged as normal for an expectant mother.
“But I thought it was abnormal. Even at home, she wasn’t the Mary I’d expected to sit at the feet of Jesus. She made no time for God in the closet. And she wasn’t the virtuous wife I had dreamed about. But I went with the thoughts of those in the church – she was expecting a baby right from the first day we got married. Perhaps, the changes in her body were the cause of her bitter attitude.”
Andrew’s 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. My faith was immature, and I struggled to understand why God had allowed that abortion to happen. Therefore, I understood her pain and didn’t bother when she lost interest in spiritual activities.”
Six months later, 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 never admitted to me of ever being pregnant before.”
The young couple took the necessary precautions before Mary became pregnant for the third time. Unfortunately, it resulted in an ectopic pregnancy. That was when Andrew learned that one of Mary’s two pregnancies out of wedlock had once been an ectopic pregnancy. Now, with no children of their own, she lost the remaining fallopian tube.
“You talk of devastation and disappointment. I cried like a baby.”
The church would not let Andrew divorce Mary, even when additional staggering revelations about her past resurfaced. She’d once been a prostitute in Citte before relocating to Beaumont to join the church to increase her chances of finding a decent man for marriage.”
Jessica was surprised; she’d never heard that much of Grandma Mary’s story. Her lips trembled. “Grandpa, if you never had children with Grandma Mary, then who’s my biological grandmother?”
Grandpa’s chest wheezed as he exhaled. “I almost lost my faith from the experience. I was mad at God for letting me into such a mess. But years later, God opened my eyes and made me understand that I’d never let Him guide me. I’d been overcome with love for Mary’s voice and never paid attention to any other thing.
“Since the church advised against divorce, I carried my cross. Only ten years later did I think of adopting a child. And we got your mother.”
“Does she know this?”
“Yes, she does. And she was glad to know that after Mary’s death. Mary had always hated the child. Your mother was my treasure. She’s still is.”
Jessica heaved. “But Grandpa, not everyone in church is a pretender. Look at Eric and Janis who got married last year. They were and are still on fire for the Lord.”
Grandpa put the spoon into the empty plate and held his face thoughtfully. “I’d love for 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.”
Jessica’s eyes followed Grandpa leaving the dining table. The old man took shaky steps and then turned to his granddaughter. “Be careful, young woman. Don’t use your emotions to take important decisions.”
Bowing down her head, Jessica wondered if emotions were the reason she was attracted to Ronald. Anyway, he hasn’t asked me out yet. Why worry?
To be continued
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