Celestine sits, numb. The cup of coffee has now grown cold, yet it has hardly been tasted. Her hands are trembling. So she pulls the shawl around herself. She is still wearing the black chiffon dress she had worn to the airport. She puts the cup of coffee on the glass table and stretches herself on the sofa. It is getting dark but she does not have the energy to switch on the lights. Things were not meant to turn out like this.
She is 28. A bachelor of commerce degree graduate with a promising career at a local bank. She is married to Moses, a charismatic youth pastor who swept her off her feet three years ago. He was not the first man she dated though. No. First there was Benedict.
She had met Benedict at the University, when they were both first years. Having been brought up in a strict Christian family, Celestine was just discovering the new freedoms in a public university, away from the stern eyes of her father and the sharp tongue of her mother. So she had set herself loose. She experimented with alcohol. And she slept with a few of her classmates before Benedict happened.
He came into her life like a tornado. Sweeping out everything that pertained her. He was not particularly good looking. Some might even argue he was ugly, but as they say, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. He also did not have a chiseled body. In fact, he was on the heavier side of the weight scale. But he was a devil. In fact, he may have been the main devil himself. He did not care what anybody thought about him. What he wanted, he got. He did not even attempt to dress well. He had a pair of ancient jeans that he perennially wore, plus a faded blue T-shirt and ageing sandals. Not for lack. He came from a wealthy family, and even had a white saloon car given to him by his mother for his 21st birthday. But he did not feel the need to impress anybody. And Celestine adored him for it.
With him, she started drinking heavily. She started chain smoking. The only thing she did not do was try marijuana, which was Benedict’s staple food. But they lived for the party. But, perhaps a sign of their brilliance, they still passed their exams. And Benedict was moneyed, so that was not a problem.
But it all ended one morning. They had been partying at a club all night. At about 3am, Benedict decided they should go back to the campus. Celestine suggested they take a taxi, because they were both very drunk. But Benedict would hear none of it. Their friends refused to get on board, opting to take a taxi instead. But Celestine was a loyal girlfriend, so she hopped onto the front passenger seat. Benedict started the car and clumsily reversed it. Then he guided it out of the parking lot and sped into the highway. Being drunk, Celestine dozed off. Suddenly there was a loud bang. Then darkness.
When she came to, Celestine was in a hospital bed with a broken leg, a dislocated shoulder and bruised face. And a dead boyfriend. Her friends told her that they had had a head on collision with another car. Benedict had died on the spot. How she survived was a miracle. Her parents were horrified. And when they learnt about their daughter’s lifestyle they were simply overwhelmed. Where had they gone wrong while bringing her up? But someone else was even more shocked than they were. Shaken to the core actually. Celestine.
During her month long stay at the hospital, she thought about her life. She decided to be more responsible. More mature. Nothing radical. Just growing up. But two months after leaving the hospital, she got saved. This was during the first semester of her third year. The rest of her campus life gravitated around the Christian union and her studies. And the one area of her life that changed radically was her dating life. She took a chastity vow. No more casual flings. No more dating non-believers. So she did not date anyone again until one year after her graduation. That is when she met Moses.
Moses is a charismatic youth pastor. He is witty and so his sermons are a joy to listen to. And boy, he can sing. His deep baritone fills the sanctuary with awe whenever he picks up his guitar at the middle of a sermon. And he is a prayerful man. The congregants often hear him on Sunday mornings praying in the Power House before service begins, confounding demons with tongues that neither the demons, nor the sons of men can comprehend. But when he is not in a prayer mode, he has a lovely, dimpled smile. The dream man for every Christian girl.
Celestine had crush on him right after she joined the church. She joined the church after leaving the Christian union, having completed her undergraduate studies. But then every single girl in the church also had a crush on the youthful youth pastor. Okay, not all, but most of them. Perhaps even some of the younger married women regretted rushing to tie the knot. But Celestine knew nothing would come out of her crush. Although she was a committed Christian, she shied away from any front line service in the church. She wasn’t part of the worship team, intercessory team, ushering team or hospitality team. She was just a girl who loved God from the back bench. And though she was committed to the home cell Bible study, there were different home cells and the pastor belonged to a different home cell. So for her, it was a celebrity crush. There was no way Pastor Moses would notice her.
Until one day he visited their home cell Bible Study, which was always hosted by Mrs Mativo, the leader of the women’s group in the church. Mrs Mativo is a widow with grown children who are all studying or working abroad, and so lives alone. As always, Celestine would go early on the day of the Bible study to help Mrs Mativo prepare the snacks. When she went that day, she was surprised to find Pastor Moses there. Apparently the senior pastor had asked him to every now and then visit home cells at random to see how they are conducted. And he had started with theirs. After greetings, she went to the kitchen to help Mrs Mativo as usual. But the older lady shooed her away and told her to keep the pastor company. And so Celestine and the pastor got talking. By the end of the evening, he had her number.
It started with calls. Then dates. The members of the congregation started whispering, so he asked her officially to be his girlfriend. It was like a dream for Celestine. God had answered her prayers. They got married after one year of dating. They had a colorful wedding ceremony. Her parents were so proud. Their faces were glowing. And the congregation was thrilled. Finally the youth pastor was married.
Celestine’s eyes fill with tears as these memories play in her mind. Her eyes are red and sore. The cup of coffee she had prepared to calm her nerves is now forgotten. She has cried until she can cry no more. Why Lord, why?
Today she was scheduled to leave for Zanzibar for an office retreat. But she had missed her 10 am flight. Her manager had managed to get her on another flight, but it was scheduled for 6pm. So she returned to the house to wait for evening. She was not surprised when she saw her husband’s car parked outside. Being a pastor, his hours are flexible, and he sometimes passes by the house while heading to a meeting away from the church.
She entered the house with a smile. He is still as charming as he ever was, and she expected he would say something silly when he saw her in the house, instead of being in the sky enroute to Zanzibar. He was not in the living room or the kitchen, so she assumed he was in the bedroom catching a quick nap. She found him there alright, but he was not resting.
Celestine found her husband naked in their matrimonial bed, with another woman, equally naked. And they were certainly not doing an exposition of 2 Chronicles or singing classical hymns. She recognized the woman as Mercy, the worship leader at their church. Impulsively, she screamed. They were surprised. Deeply engaged in their steamy and not-so-idle worship, they had not heard her enter the room. Mercy quickly covers herself with a bedsheet and scampers behind Moses, who turns to face his wife.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in Zanzibar?” Moses asks calmly, after he recovers from the initial surprise.
But Celestine is too dazed to talk. Moses calmly picks his clothes from the floor and dresses up. Mercy hurriedly throws her dress over her body. Then they leave in Moses’ car. And that is how Celestine finds herself in a dark house. It is way past 6 pm, but she doesn’t care about flights or retreats anymore.
Certain things are now making sense. During the time they were dating, Celestine was uncomfortable with the way Moses behaved towards girls. Moses liked to flirt. Sometimes even in her presence. One day they even had a nasty confrontation about it. He had accused her of being an impediment to his ministry, by being petty and jealous even though she knew he was a youth pastor, and that girls were part of the youth in the church. She felt guilty and asked for his forgiveness. So even when she on subsequent occasions found him in compromising situations with girls in his office, she chided herself for being insecure. She was going to be a pastor’s wife, so these girls would be part of her life as well. She was going to be their mummy.
Once, about a month to their wedding, one of the girls in the worship team called Nancy told her in confidence that she was uncomfortable with the way Moses kept hitting on her . Nancy had already confronted him and threatened to report him to the Senior Pastor and the deacons, but he had told her, correctly, that nobody would believe her. He even threatened to “teach her a lesson”. Moses knew he was the golden, blue-eyed boy of the church, and nobody though he could do any wrong. So Nancy was asking Celestine to tell him to just leave her in peace, and to ask her, Celestine, to be careful before getting married to him. Celestine had confided this to Mrs Mativo, and also told her of her earlier reservations about Moses’ flirting. But Mrs Mativo told her that for her marriage to stand, she would have to stop listening to gossip. Mrs Mativo reminded her that many girls were jealous of the fact that she was the one the pastor had chosen, and would do anything to stop them from getting married. Mrs Mativo had even taken it upon herself to report Nancy to the Senior Pastor. Nancy was humiliated in a church service and kicked out of the worship team. She left the church bitterly that week.
As Celestine remembers all this, fresh tears well in her eyes. She picks her Bible from the table and opens Psalm 13.
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
She doesn’t read beyond there. She breaks down into a new round of crying.