“Brethren, open your Bibles to……scratch that, go to the Bible App on your Galaxy tab, click Search, type ‘expectation’, you’ll probably find that portion which says ‘the expectation of the righteous shall never be cut short’. I can’t quite remember the exact verse. Just take a look at it. By His Grace and by your Faith, you are made righteous, and your expectations this season cannot and will not be cut short. Amen?”
The response was satisfactorily loud. Yes, it was the Christmas Eve service at Divine Wi-Fi Ministries, a fellowship with youths making up 98% of the congregation, and with me in charge. I had led them through two hours of communion with God, forty minutes of which had been spent on a sermon where I had confused some of Shakespeare’s quotes with verses from Paul’s epistles. Boredom had set in though, and as I saw the yawns from these young jaws, I decided that they were better off in their beds. After all, the offering box had been attended to.
“For this week’s announcements, please visit the church’s website, and if any of you has got a prayer request, they can send it to my mail box”, I had said, and I was almost about to follow that up with the “let’s share the grace” line when I observed something at the back seat. At one corner, a young man had his lady friend place her legs on his laps for comfort, and at another corner, I could see a young man buckling a lady’s shoes. I could perceive that there were no romantic ties involved. At that moment, the Holy Spirit placed a burden in my heart, and I began:
“There are some of you here, for years you have been friends with someone of the opposite sex, and despite all your effort in showing love, the friendship has not evolved to any new level. There are some of you; you are always the friend, never the boyfriend. Hmmmmmmm! There are some of you in this place, you are always the crying shoulder, always the emotional cushion, but when it’s time to profess how you feel, she says you showed up too late or too fast.
“There are some of you looking at me right now, your life is like that of Moses in the Bible, you can see The Promised Land flowing with milk and honey, but cannot enter it. Some of you here play the role of Yaya Toure, you are like a defensive midfielder, a bodyguard. You follow her everywhere, you carry her handbag, but can’t say how you feel. Let me tell you, an African proverb says that ‘he who fails to express his intentions to a woman he loves, will end up serving drinks to the guests on her wedding day’.
You dedicate stories to her, you use her as your Blackberry DP, you compose all kinds of mushy texts, and all you get is “Awww” without more. O Lord! We are going to break that emotional yoke tonight. Yes, some of your Friend Zone cases are spiritual. Shall we continue to have our love thrown back in our face? Paul says, God forbid!”
All the sleepiness in the eyes of these youths had flown through the window by now, but I still wanted to show them how serious I was. I took off my jacket, loosened my tie, and flung both to the ground.
“Repeat after me: Any spirit of ‘blocking four’, any spirit of shyness, any spirit of emotional unattractiveness, any spirit of emotional servitude, standing in the way of my heart’s desire, die by fire, die by fire, die by fire!”
The prayer was intense. The shrieks, tears and fists in the air were enough evidence that my prayer point had struck a chord. Service had lasted for two hours, but the prayers kept the congregation in church premises for another hour. I laid hands on every male in the congregation, as well as some females the Spirit directed me to touch. The weather was at its chilliest, but there was no one who left for home that evening without being soaked in sweat.
I could not find either my jacket or my tie after the service (maybe someone wanted to take home some ‘anointing’), but I was unperturbed, there was more where those came from. If anything, I felt satisfied with the fact that I had released souls from emotional bondage. I loved to think that no man deserved to suffer unrequited love while yet being led on, watching through an emotional show-glass as others took a bite of the cake he yearned for. Such was my passion for matters like this. I remembered how Winnie kept me languishing in The Zone for nearly two years while she went through three relationships, and how Lucy had also taken advantage of me, absorbing the attention and care but continually slamming her emotional door in my face. I remembered how I had begun to seek solace in brothels, until I got into trouble with a pimp who stabbed me five times in the stomach. I had managed to survive, made a decision to give my life to Christ and ultimately become a clergyman, and I had vowed not to let any young man go through the same experience as I did.
“Praise the Lord!”
“Someone give Jesus a wiper!”
A week had passed since that ‘fateful’ Christmas Eve. It was New Year’s Day service, and frenzy was the dominant feeling among the congregation. It was testimony time, and many had a thing or more to say, but for the sake of time I could only allow three people. I had however instructed others to send theirs by email, promising that theirs would be published on the church’s website. The first man, who looked thirty-eight, had succeeded in firing up the congregation, and he went on.
“Brothers and Sisters, there’s this lady with whom I have been friends for twelve years. I have seen her come in and out of relationships, and I would always be there to console whenever she got hurt, but whenever I approached her, she would always say she wasn’t ready, before meeting a new guy weeks later. Well she had been single for about a month before last week, and after Rev. Gray’s Christmas Eve prayers, I approached her, and she said yes! Somebody shout Alleluia!”
The congregation went into ruptures, and it took over five minutes before the shouts died down, the organist doing little to help matters. Next was a lady not particularly blessed with height, and grabbing the microphone, she began, in tears:
“People of God, I am twenty-nine years of age. There is this guy in my neighbourhood I have known for about two years. I would usually go to his house, cook for him, wash his clothes, wear my best clothes whenever I visit, even call him twice a day, but he never noticed me……until last week. Less than twelve hours after Rev. Gray’s prayers, he called me up and asked to take me to dinner. I have been seeing the look in his eyes, it’s obvious he wants to start something. Praise the Lord!”
The third person was a man who looked on the wrong side of fifty. He had come to share a testimony on behalf of his twenty-three-year old son, who had managed to get into a relationship for the first time in his life after last week’s deliverance session. He had been turned down repeatedly, but on the day after Christmas, a lady had called him, telling him to “repeat that question he asked months ago”, hence the testimony.
Thanksgiving was wild. The singing did not seem like it would stop, and the ushers found the offering box too heavy to carry. Dancing was unusual, with Shoki on display, and I even got in on the “Shmurda Dance”.
“Good day and Happy New Year, Reverend Peter Gray.”
“I wish you same, Miss. Welcome to my office”.
“My name is Alice. May I have a seat, Reverend?”
“Cut the whole title thing. Just call me Pete.”
The tone with which she called out my name was laced with a whole lot of seduction, and her outfit did little to douse the forbidden flames. It was a purple, low-cut strapless gown, failing to cover her knees, and much cleavage was laid bare. Her curves were on display, her complexion reminded me of popular On-Air presenter Toolz, and her legs got me gazing. I wasn’t exactly old, I was unmarried, and I began to feel a bulge in my trousers. I almost began to imagine how that voice would sound in a more intimate atmosphere, but I had to focus. I was a pastor, service had ended only one hour ago, and before me was someone in need of (mostly spiritual) guidance.
“I don’t expect you to know me…..Pete,” she cut in, interrupting my thoughts. “I work in the Logistics Department. I know it’s hard to get familiar with every single member of this large flock of yours, but I like to think there’s always a place and time to start.”
That tone again. She had parted her lips slowly as she mentioned the words “place” and “time”. Temptation was not my idea of getting the New Year to a flying start.
“I admire you, Pete. You’ve got that anointing”, she continued. “See how the Lord is working wonders through your ministry, you know, helping people to find love. I just have a few questions though.”
“Go on, sweetheart. I am all ears”, I responded, trying to get my charm on.
“Must a girl respond positively to a guy, just because he says he’s in love?” She asked, almost throwing me off balance. “Must we say yes to everyone that asks us? Can’t we just keep some as friends?”
“Well, I believe that everyone knows what he wants, and I don’t think it’s fair to keep a man’s heart at bay, you know, just keep him hanging, while he keeps hoping against hope”, I replied.
“But some men are just good for friendship, you know. Some guys just don’t have the qualities for a romantic relationship, never mind how nice they may be. Sometimes, a man’s purpose in a woman’s life is to help her become a better woman…..for another man.”
“Then let the man know from the outset that you don’t desire anything bordering on the romantic. In my opinion, it’s selfish to take advantage of the fact that a man loves you madly, and then enjoy all that unusual attention, when you know deep within you that the feeling is not mutual?”
“Don’t you dare speak to me about selfishness, Reverend Peter!”
Her tone had changed. Seduction had been replaced with Anger, but she was not done.
“You think you can tell people what do think? You think you can decide for people what they do with their emotions? You just meddle into people’s affairs, and you think it’s cool! Do you know how many friendships you have ruined with your warped views and your silly prayers? I had a friend who wanted to date me. I knew how he felt, it was written all over him, but you see, I didn’t feel the same way, because he’s too sensitive and eager to please. He never bothered though, until that night! He calls me up all of a sudden, and when I made it clear that I wanted us to be just friends, he hung up! Someone who would text me thrice and calls me at least once each day, now doesn’t bother to communicate anymore! All because of you, meddler!”
I knew where Alice was coming from. Someone had escaped the Friend Zone where she had confined him to, and she was not finding it funny. She began to weep, and I walked towards her, ready to hug and console, but she responded with a violent push. She reached for her handbag, pulled out a revolver and pointed it at me.
“You just go back to your chair, Pastor! Your madness ends today! I’ll teach you how not to poke your nose into people’s affairs….and by the way, I’m not a member of this church!”
I co-operated, sinking into my rotating chair while raising my hands. Alice was not bluffing, and I knew that one wrong move could lead to my name being referred to in past tense. My story could not end today; heck, I was yet to tie the knot. Her mission was helped by the fact that my office was a bit detached from the rest of the church premises, and was equally soundproof. If she chose to shoot, no one would hear a thing. I had to think of something. I raised my heels a little bit, while waiting for an opportunity.
The wall clock in my office began to ring. It was top of the hour. Alice looked to the direction of the clock, slightly tilting the aim of her revolver. My moment had come. I sprang from my chair and dived at her, causing her to lose balance, with both of us landing on the floor.
We began to struggle for the gun, and for a while it seemed that we were actually groping each other, our lips almost colliding at some point. Neither of us had been able to gain full control, and we soon got into a kneeling position, but I got reminded of the seriousness of the situation when Alice sent her left elbow into my left cheek, causing a tooth to shake. She meant business. That hit had been delivered to vicious effect. I maintained my grip on her right hand where the revolver was, tilted my head backwards, and charged with a head-butt. I repeated the move, and I could hear a crack in the cartilage of her nose. She let go of the revolver and fell to the floor, while I struggled to my feet, pointing the weapon at her.
“Surely, a Pastor would not want a lady’s blood on his hands, would he?” Alice sneered.
“Don’t push your luck”, I retorted.
My phone rang, and I moved towards the table, my back turned to Alice. By doing that, I had broken the rule of combat which warns against turning your back to your opponent. I had apparently overestimated the effect of that head-butt. She got back up, and with the force of a footballer trying to convert a penalty kick, sent her right foot unto my genitals from behind. For a few seconds I felt my testicles in my mouth. I screamed as I got into a crouching position, but she didn’t give me time to absorb the pain. She kicked me again, this time sending her Stilettos into my side. I could feel something in my body crack. I had broken a rib, but not with anything close to laughter.
Alice put her feet to use for a third time, this time directing the attack to my left forearm. Another kick, another broken body part. There is this excruciating pain which sounds cannot express, and as I dropped the gun, I held the affected arm, opening my mouth wide but saying nothing. She picked the weapon, and struck me twice on the head with its butt. I crashed to the floor, my back to the ground, and as blood gushed from my head, I began to feel dizzy.
She gave me one long, hateful look. I could feel the darkness in her eyes. She walked up closer, stood over me, and after spitting on me, pulled back the index finger of her right hand along the trigger. One shot was enough. She did not really have to squeeze the trigger two more times. Maybe she was incensed by the fact that I had smiled while she went about putting my end to my earthly existence. As I drew my last breath, I almost wished for a moment that I was Catholic. At least I would have been canonized and called St. Peter, Patron Saint of the Friend-zoned. I had devoted my ministry to helping young men find love, and if my life was the price for the happiness of others, it was a small one to pay. It was not like Jesus had not done much more (for those who believed).
HAVE A BLISSFUL 2015, EVERYONE!