Always One More Time #17 By Temitope Ogunyinka
How many times does someone make a mistake? When does it get too much? And is it ever late to turn back?
Funlola knew she had made a mistake. This was what she had wanted to avoid when she got married to John. Hurting him. She had told him everything she did. It wasn’t just Jide she had been with, but also Ebuka (nothing major, a few kisses), and then with Dele . . . Just few days after their wedding. She had told him of her parents and her life with all the other men she had been with. As if trying to further prove her point of why she was wrong for him.
The look on his face when she told him. . . The pain she undoubtedly caused him . . . it hurt her more than she could have imagined.
Funlola sniffed and threw just a few things into her hand-luggage. She grabbed her hand-bag and strode out the door without looking back; if she did it might break her resolve to do what she needed to do. The drive to Dele’s place was fast; probably ‘cause it was a Sunday morning and there were lesser cars on the road. She had jumped out of the bed in the guest-room as soon as John left for church and set out packing a few things she would need.
The rest would be sorted out later.
She needed to be with Dele. Without a doubt she knew Dele was the right man for her. . .
God why did you make me go ahead? You see all things, You know all things. Why did You let this happen God? Why did You give me someone You knew would walk out on me? Why?
Silence. No words, but a heap of silence that made him feel more alone than ever.
John felt what hurt him the most was God keeping silent on the issue and making him wonder if he had truly made the right decision in marrying Funlola. John rarely shed tears, but when he did? He hated it. The tears fell on his lips and he used the tip of his fingers to wipe them away. Why would Funlola do such a thing to him? Why would she hurt him the way she did? After-all, he had only treated her with the love and care God wanted him to.
So why the betrayal?
He massaged his temple briefly. He had to push aside his personal troubles and focus on the message he had to preach that morning. God had changed the topic he had proposed to preach that morning late last night. And that was what John couldn’t understand. God You still told me what message to preach last night, and yet I hear nothing from You on how Funlola would cheat on me?
John held the mic in his hand and mounted the pulpit as the choir finished their rendition on ‘Your Presence Is Heaven’. Right at that moment he felt little comfort in his heart. The Presence of God was heavy in the church.
“Let’s praise the name of Jesus. His presence is here. He’s here with us.” He cleared his throat and struggled to keep his emotions in check.
God, please help me.
“Last night what I wanted to preach changed, and I know God has a message for one or two people here, if not all of us. Most of us know the story of the Fig tree that Jesus went looking for fruit and He found none. Today’s message is titled the Fig Tree and the Leaves.”
John went ahead to read the passage in Mark chapter eleven and resumed his message, “The verse spoke profoundly to me. I wondered that the leaves had a significance in this scripture and not just the fig tree and it not bearing fruit, like we all tend to notice. If we look at the scripture closely we would notice that the leaves and the fruit appear at the same time. Not before or after but at the same time.
“As Christians we are told to produce fruit in accordance to repentance. Fruits that show that we have truly changed; changed from the way we were before we gave our lives to Christ, and now. There should be a difference. If we are really truthful with ourselves, we would note that we aren’t bearing the fruits we should. Instead many of us still manifest the works of the flesh which are,” John paused a little and said, “Ad-adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, ill temper, selfishness, divisions, party spirit, fractions, sects with peculiar opinions, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the likes. We are instead supposed to produce fruits of soul winning, fruit of the spirit and the likes. People should see these and not just the leaves in us.
“The leaves tell us that, in as much as we say we are Christians, what everyone is seeing is the fact that we go to church every Sunday. That we attend church programmes and contribute to the church building project or what have you. Yes, we would be blessed by it, but that’s not all to being a Christian, arguably that’s just religion. We have to produce fruits that would remain.”
Take care of My sheep, I would take care of yours.
John wasn’t mistaken that he heard what he heard. He felt a sudden calmness that urged him to go on.
“If we take a look at the parable of the sower, it sheds more light on the previous verse. Starting from Mark 4 verse 15, it says the seed sown along the path are those who have the Word sown in their hearts, but when they hear it . . . Satan comes at once and takes the message away from them by force. We can liken this to Christians or people who come to church, hear the Word and as soon as they leave they forget whatever they learnt in church and go about their everyday lives.
“The second category are those who have the Word sown upon stony ground. These people hear the Word and receive it joyfully. But when tribulations come because of the Word, where they have to stand-out and show they are Christians whether in the office, or in any public setting, they choose to deny it and fall away from the Word.”
John held on to God’s word as he spoke. He went on with delivering the word to God’s flock without wavering.
She didn’t know what had made her go to church that morning when all she wanted was to be alone ‘cause she was ashamed of her actions. But the nudge in her heart didn’t let her rest. And now here she was. Listening to John preach.
The Word of God in your lives become fruitless, choked out! You let yourself get distracted with the pleasures and lusts in the world and neglect the presence of God in your life. We should ask ourselves if we truly desire the presence of God in our lives and know nothing else can satisfy us like His Presence. If we can’t do away with what would take us away from His presence; just like the choir sang few minutes ago, the Word then becomes fruitless. We become just like the fig-tree which has leaves on it, devoid of fruit.
Adesewa held back tears as she heard John talk about the fig trees and leaves.
She could have chosen another church to go to; somewhere unfamiliar where she wouldn’t have to bump into Daniel and Efe, but she also felt the need to apologize to Efe. She was bearing no fruit in her life; at least no positive fruit. The last seven months of her life had been a complete waste; trying to make-up with Daniel to get the happy-ever-after she had wanted and then plotting revenge against him and Efe.
She recalled John’s last words, And Jesus saw the fig-tree, with expectation of seeing fruit, but He saw nothing but leaves. Jesus did away with the fig-tree. It’s like those disciples who at the end of time were separated away as goats but cried out Lord Lord and Jesus said depart from Me you workers of iniquity. . .
She let the tears fall freely and wept unashamedly. She didn’t care if the people beside her were staring, her chest felt tight and heavy. She needed release, freedom. And when John called out for those who wanted to be saved she stood up. Ready to return to God again, ready to serve Him fully. She strode to the front along with a few other people.
Together with the rest of the people in-front she asked God into her heart and received Him as her Lord and Saviour. She dropped down to her knees whispering, Thank You Jesus, Thank You Jesus. This was a new period in her life. She had been given another chance.
“I’ve always liked you and I think you have known for quite a while, or else why would I choose to house that babe in my apartment since you asked me to.”
Dele shrugged. “Out of the kindness of your heart?”
Audrey chuckled and shook her head. “Then you really don’t know me.”
She was at Dele’s place for her own selfish reasons and to put an end to Funlola’s disgraceful traits. What she had discovered earlier on was repulsive to her. She had wondered if the paparazzi were playing tricks but she had to confirm if it was true.
“We both know my heart doesn’t accommodate that much people.” She shifted on her seat as she formed her words in her head. “Dele, I like you but it’s obvious you don’t feel the same way. I’m not one to beg a man to love me -”
“So, why are you here?”
Audrey had seen something on a gossip blog and she had dashed to Dele’s place.
“Dele you need to forget Funlola. You need to throw her out of your life and heart or wherever she has a claim on; for goodness sake she’s married to my brother!”
“What if she doesn’t want to be with your brother any-more? What if she’s fed up? Look Audrey, we both know John made a terrible mistake when he asked her to marry him. Didn’t he know the kind of woman he was getting married to? She can never fit into his life.”
Audrey knew that to be true. But she can’t fit into yours too Dele . . .
“But not now that she is a married woman you should let her be. My parents won’t like what’s going on-”
“Audrey just stay out of this.”
“Don’t tell me to stay out of it! This is my brother I’m talking about. . .”
He chuckled. “Are you sure it’s your brother you’re really here for? Or something else?”
She stopped when she heard a door slam shut. She raised her brow. “Do you have someone over?” She had seen a car outside and had a feeling Funlola was here with him. But then she didn’t know her plate number.
“Dele stop all this your nonsense and answer me! Is Funlola here?!”
Dele rose. The anger on his face unmasked. “It’s time you took your leave Audrey. You can’t come to my house and be dictating what I should and should not do.”
All of a sudden she felt disgusted at having harboured a crush on him in her life. Looking at him now she wondered what it was about him she liked in the first place. Was it his bad boy looks? Or the way his bald-head shined? Or was it because she wanted to feel him close to her and indulge her need for intimacy? Regardless of the reason, now she knew she wanted nothing to do with him.
If Funlola wants him, she can have him!
Audrey strode out of his apartment. She got into her car and pulled out her phone from her bag. She stared at the picture of Funlola and Dele in a lip-lock at an eatery. She shook her head and tossed the phone aside; hoping John didn’t get to see it.
Where does she think she’s going?
Daniel watched her as she got on her ear-rings. He had almost dropped Ulunma when he had seen her at Adesewa’s the other day. His secret had been discovered and she had said nothing to him but taken Ulunma from his arms and taken a taxi home. He got home and she served him dinner, but he could read the burning rage in her actions. He had been scared to eat the meal and had declared he was going to bed on an empty stomach.
Daniel called Efe to stop in her tracks. “Where do you think you’re going to?”
“My friend you aren’t going anywhere. Go and make my breakfast.”
Efe balanced Ulunma on her hip and came to stand in-front of him. “Daniel you’re joking right? I asked you earlier on if you wanted breakfast and you refused. So why are you saying this now?”
“Don’t question me. I can do whatever I want.”
“Just like you were free to mess around with Adesewa?”
He didn’t say anything. Just stared at her.
She bit her lip, as if holding herself back from saying something she might regret. “Daniel why are you doing this to me? Please, let me go to church.”
He couldn’t stand the forlorn look she gave him and shifted his eyes. He had hit rock bottom with his life and seeing Efe go to church ticked him off. How did she manage to remain on track with God while Daniel was struggling?
You clearly don’t have it within you to be faithful or maybe you don’t know what faithfulness means. . . You don’t know what it means ‘cause even when you’re married . . . You’re still sleeping with me.
Daniel still had Adesewa’s hurtful words ringing in his head. He wasn’t faithful even in matters where faithfulness was least required when he wasn’t married. How was he expected to be faithful in marriage and at most with God? He couldn’t find his way back.
“Daniel . . . I don’t know what happened during the last few days but that doesn’t give you the right to stop me from enjoying my relationship with God. I know you’re my husband and the head of this home, but when it comes to God He is above you. You know that. Please, let me go to church. Please.”
Why are all these women tongue-lashing me?
“Why did you marry me Efe? Despite everything? ‘cause if I was you . . . I wouldn’t marry me.”
Efe bit her lip. “Can we go to church first? I would explain everything once we get back.
He was going to ask what the big deal was. That a few sentences explaining why would be enough; but he let her be. He had delayed her enough. After-all, it wasn’t like he wanted the guilt of not letting her go to church also hang over his head.
“Let me drop you.”
They were already late by the time they got there, and there was no point in Daniel leaving and coming back to pick them again. With heavy legs, he entered the church and took his seat at the back while Efe sat next to him with Ulunma on her laps.
Daniel heard his cousin’s voice and looked up. Dele had sent him a message earlier on that Funlola had left John. And he’s up there preaching instead of fighting for his wife? It doesn’t make any sense. He leaned on the cushioned seat and folded his arms as he listened to what was being said.
The third category, and this is where I feel a lot of us Christians fall into, is where we have the Word sown in our hearts, but we let various distractions and pleasures of the world lessen the power of the Word within us. We don’t let it take deep roots within us.
The last category are those who have the Word sown in their hearts. They receive it joyfully and they bear fruit. They bear fruit in various degrees as they continue to grow and mature in the Word of God. They bear fruit even as they practice what they hear.
Daniel shifted on his seat. But I practice what is written, why is my life like this? All messed up without any remedy. He had fallen too many times and failed.
As if John could hear him he told the congregation never to rely on themselves but on the Grace and Mercy of God and the Holy Spirit; that was where the power over sin came from.
It was like a light bulb went off on Daniel’s head and the truth hit him in his heart.
Is that what I’ve been doing all this while?
He had been trying to help himself. No matter how many times he prayed to God for help, he still did it his own way. The things he decided never to do, he did them. Despite him telling John he wasn’t going to sleep around any longer, Daniel did so sneakily. He finally realised what his problem was.
“Lord, I’m sorry . . .” He whispered.
Efe turned to look at him. “Did you say something?”
Daniel stared at her. Her face bright and filled with Joy. He had never really noticed that until now, or maybe he had noticed but disliked her for it.
“ I – I was talking to myself.”
“Oh okay.” She turned her attention back to the pastor and bouncing Ulunma gently on her legs. He studied her then, taking in all of her and not just focusing on her outward beauty. Regardless of her external features, Efe had a beautiful heart. She had stood by him despite all that happened.
Daniel knew if he was the one it had happened to, he wouldn’t want such a woman in his life.
The call was made for those who wanted to give their lives to Christ. Daniel half-expected Efe to look at him but she didn’t. She bowed her head and her lips moved silently in prayer as Ulunma suddenly took interest in her mother’s colourful scarf.
He couldn’t stop the prodding in his heart to step out . . .
Funlola took off her wedding rings and dropped them in her jewellery box. The faint ring marks on her finger were the only evidence that she was a married woman. She laid on her bed and remembered when John had asked her to marry him. She had thought it all a fluke. She had gone ahead to marry him believing she would get some perks from their union, but all she had gotten was an inward look at herself and who she really was.
The truth both hurt and alarmed her.
She had taken a self-reflection and came to the conclusion she was going around in circles; doing the same thing over and over again. Sleeping around with men, regardless of their marital state. But then it was the life she was used to. She had overheard the conversation between Audrey and Dele. She had been right when she accused Audrey of liking Dele. But Funlola wasn’t bothered about that.
She was more concerned of how John would feel when he came home to an empty house. When he finally figured out she was gone for good. There was no use staying in the house with him. Their last conversation with each-other came to her mind . . .
“Father Lord . . .” He had uttered. He rubbed the back of his neck and Funlola couldn’t look at him. The silence between went on for minutes.
She couldn’t take it any longer.
“PJ I’m sorry. I’m who I am.”
“No, this isn’t who you are.”
She quirked her brow. “Don’t give me the whole story of how I can be better than this and God loves me and all that Christian stuff. Sometimes reality cannot be changed. This is how I am PJ. This is who you married; a promiscuous woman, a loose woman who jumps from one person’s bed to another.”
He brushed her cheek with the back of his hand and Funlola felt a tingle down her back. His eyes filled with sadness. “You can change Funlola. It all depends on you yielding yourself -”
Funlola stepped away from his touch.
“I’m sorry but I don’t want to. You don’t know me. You don’t know everything about me.”
Funlola had walked away from him and stayed in the guest room. He had knocked on the door severally, asking her to let him in so they could talk but she didn’t answer and her stomach has punished her for it all through the night. She waited for him to leave the house to church and left the room in search of food.
She had made herself bread and butter with hot Milo when she discovered the letter he left for her on the dining table. She had opened it and the contents caused tears to well up in her eyes. He was telling her he loved her and always would, and he was there to help her out. No matter who she was in her past he wanted to know her now, and their future mattered more to him.
The letter had pushed her to make the decision to leave his house ‘cause she didn’t trust herself not to hurt him again. She left him without any goodbye or a note.
Goodbyes were hard.
She placed her hand on her tummy and rubbed it in a circular motion. She wasn’t sure who the baby belonged to, but only time would tell.
Funlola woke up to find Dele by her side. She pushed herself off the bed and asked groggily, “How long have you been here?”
“Oh.” She rubbed her eyes. “What’s up?
“This.” He pushed his phone in her hands and she blinked a few times to get the sleep off her so she could look at the picture on the screen.
Her eyes widened.
“How did this get here?”
“I don’t know.”
She eyed him; hating how lackadaisical he sounded.
Funlola threw the cover-cloth off her body and grabbed her phone from the bedside table. She had fourteen missed calls and tons of pings and messages. Most of the calls were from people she didn’t care about. Messages were from her friends and Audrey (probably a rude remark and heaps of insults). . . And John?
She hesitated a bit before clicking on the message from John; she was scared of what he had to say.
I love you. Please come back home.
Jasmine sat on the bed and took off her blouse and tossed it on the bed. Seeing pictures of Dele with Funlola had come as a shock to her. She had taken pictures of Funlola getting married and seen how the groom had been so in love with her . . .
How could she do that to him? What was happening with marriages these days? Spouses killing each-other . . . Is hatred that thick in the air? Has everyone lost the meaning of love?
She was baffled at it all. She couldn’t believe the same Dele she knew could do all that. But then probably she had known but had turned a blind eye to all of it; to how much he loved women, ‘cause she herself was lost in her infatuation for him. Because that was what it was; puppy love. She knew now that no matter if she had been with him, at the end of the day she would never have been enough for him.
Then there was Chukwuemeka. The guy she had met at Daniel’s wedding.
She smiled and laid on her bed as the fan blew over her. Chukwuemeka was a gentleman in every-way and he cared about her feelings. He wanted to know more about her and wasn’t so keen on sleeping with her.
Not like Dele.
She was happy, that was for sure.
Efe cleared the plates and took it to the kitchen. The time was drawing near for her to answer his question. She washed the dishes while praying to God to give her wisdom on what to say. She felt strong hands on her shoulder and she jumped and the plate in her hands dropped in the sink and broke.
“I’m sorry Efe, didn’t mean to frighten you.”
She placed her soapy hand on her chest; breathing heavily.
“It- it’s okay. What did you want?”
“I wanted to help out with the dishes.”
“No, it’s fine. I would sort it out.”
He grabbed her hand as she reached for the broken plate. She stared at his hand and looked up at him.
“I don’t want you hurting yourself. Let me take care of it. Wash your hands and go to the living room.”
Efe did as he said with surprise etched on her face. She walked to the door of the kitchen and stopped. She looked back at him as he packed the broken dish from the sink. She walked out to the living room and sat on a love seat. Eduwa was staring at the TV and laughing at what was going on.
Efe smiled at her daughter’s oblivion to how nervous her mother was.
He came in minutes later and sat on a stool opposite her.
She was half-afraid of what was to come.
Efe looked at him as she said what she said. She took a deep breath.
“Daniel, you asked why I married you. Truth is I have always had a crush on you since I was a teenager but you didn’t see me in that light. I did some silly things to hurt you; like sending a text message to your girlfriend back then and telling her you didn’t love her.”
They both chuckled.
“I took your scolding and determined in my heart not to like you any-more, but I still had a crush on you. As years went by I knew I loved you. I tried taking that love out of my heart but I couldn’t. The day I finally decided to move on and go out with a guy that had been asking me out for a year, I heard God tell me something.”
“What did God tell you?”
Efe bit her lip. It was getting to the hard part.
“Well, He laid it on my heart that you – that you are my husband.”
Efe heard the sharp intake of breath but didn’t look up to see his facial expression. She would wait till she was done. She kept her eyes on Eduwa.
“At first I thought I was just assuming it was God and it was probably because I had liked you for so long and all. But He affirmed it to me over and over again. I waited for you to come running to me and asking me to marry you, but after months of knowing . . . You didn’t say anything to me but kept treating me as a sister. Uche even told me you were seeing someone and you had mentioned asking her to marry you.”
Efe closed her eyes. She didn’t want to go on but she knew she had to.
“I thought of ways to tell you. I hinted you at times. I asked myself why I was so repulsive to you all those years back, but every time it looked like you were yet to get the same revelation that I had gotten. That we were meant to be together. I prayed to God to take away the love I had for you. But then a silly thought came to mind the night I came to your house, I decided to sleep with you an – and I got p – pre -pregnant.”
She looked at him then. His facial expression unreadable. She went down on her knees. “It wasn’t premeditated Daniel. I’m sorry for causing you so much pain. It was my fault. I never should have done what I did. Pl-ease f-forgive me. . . Please find it in your heart to f-forgiv-ve me.”
Daniel’s face was a mixture of anger, shock, pain. He opened his mouth to speak but closed it again. Instead he got up and walked out of the room, leaving Efe on her knees and wondering what was going to happen next.
So the last episode would be coming up next-week. After which I would show you a sneak-peek of what’s to come : )