“When the oceans rise and thunders roar/I will soar with you above the storm/Father, You are King over the Flood/I will be still, know You are God…”
Jesse sings the lyrics with conviction. He is down on his knees, tears flowing down his cheeks. The good thing about being a member of a Pentecostal church is that you can express your emotions without anybody judging you. Everybody else is also crying out to their God.
Ironically, the flood that is threatening to drown Jesse is the same one that is leading the song that he is using to make his supplication to God. Carol is the Praise and Worship leader at King of Kings Revelations Church. Jesse is the Associate Pastor in charge of home fellowships.
To the outside world, Jesse and Carol are the perfect couple. They are both young and very good looking. Carol is bubbly, which complements Jesse’s reserved style perfectly. At least in public. They have a three-year-old daughter, Natasha, who warms the hearts of many in the church with her confidence and graceful style. She often goes to present songs and poems at the pulpit, earning praise from the congregation, and filling Jesse’s heart with pride.
If there is anything that makes him happy about his decision to marry Carol, it is Natasha. She is the only light in his otherwise very gloomy life.
Jesse usually can’t decide what his worse between his wife’s sharp tongue when she is lashing out at him over one misdemeanor or the other, or the stony silence he gets when she is giving him silent treatment. Carol’s public persona is very different from the person she is in private. That creates a problem for Jesse, because he knows that even if he were to share his problems with someone, he would not be believed. Carol is an actress per excellence.
Not that he has any desire to share his problems with anyone. Jesse is a reserved man, and prefers to keep his affairs private. In Carol he had thought he would find the one person he could trust enough to confide in, but he was wrong. Carol is a self-absorbed woman who cares for nothing other than herself. She wants everything to be about her.
So Jesse learned to continue keeping his issues to himself. And he deeply misses his ex-girlfriend Matilda.
Before getting married to Carol, Jesse’s life was simple and uncomplicated. His life revolved around his work-he is a finance officer at medium sized company-the church and his girlfriend Matilda. On weekdays, Jesse would of course spend the day at work, then in the evening he would meet Matilda at one of the city’s restaurants for coffee. Usually he would walk her to Archives at around 7.30pm and then wait with her until the Kikuyu bound Super Metro filled up. Then he would walk to Khoja to take a matatu to Mwimto, where he lived. On Wednesday evening they would go to his church for a midweek service.
On Saturday they would spend the day together, either taking walks in Karura, attending friends’ weddings or just relaxing in either of their houses. On Sunday Jesse would head to Kikuyu early in the morning to attend the early morning mass with her, and then they would head to Westlands to attend the main church service at King of Kings Revelations Church.
Matilda was a Roman Catholic, while Jesse is a Pentecostal. And that was the source of the problems in their relationship. The first rumblings came from Pastor Arthur, the Senior Pastor at King of Kings Revelations church. He is the one who mentioned casually to Jesse that he should consider breaking up with Matilda because by being with her, he was “unequally yoked.”
That time Jesse was not a pastor, even though he was a relatively active member of the church, and so he ignored the Pastor’s words. He loved Matilda, and she was a Christian, so he did not understand what the big fuss was about. It was not as if she was an atheist or a Muslim; she was a Christian, even though a member of the Roman Catholic Church.
This issue took the centre stage when he and Matilda decided that they wanted to get married. Pastor Arthur declared that he would not officiate a wedding where one person was not “of the faith.” Jesse and Matilda decided that they would get married in the Catholic Church, since the Father in charge of Matilda’s parish was not placing any stumbling blocks on their path. But Pastor Arthur reached out to Jesse’s parents, who are also committed Pentecostals, and their pastor, and convinced them that Jesse was “being led astray by a Delilah.”
Reverend Amos, Jesse’s parents’ pastor, took over the crusade, and within no time, Jesse’s parents were vehemently opposed to the wedding. Things even took a tribal tone. Esther, Jesse’s mother, pointed out that she was not comfortable with her son marrying from another tribe. This sentiment was echoed by Reverend Amos, and Hezekiah, Jesse’s father. They said they would not even accompany Jesse to pay dowry. This shocked Jesse, because in all the years he had dated Matilda, his parents had never had a problem with her. In fact, they always indirectly and jokingly asked when the two would make things official.
Matilda’s parents did not have a problem with the fact that Jesse was a Pentecostal, and they were not bothered by the fact that he was from another tribe. To them, as long as the two loved each other, and that their goals in life were aligned, everything else would fall in place. Matilda’s father used to point out that he was a Roman Catholic from Makueni, but he had married an SDA from Nyamira and they had had a happy union for close to thirty years.
What he and his wife were concerned about was the vehement opposition that the youthful couple were facing from Jesse’s side. They made it clear that they would respect whatever decision Jesse and Matilda made, but pointed out that if they decided to go ahead and get married, the marriage would be off to a bumpy start.
“You have to be sure,” they cautioned their daughter. “That every time his mother unreasonably attacks you, he will defend you. And that will not be easy because most men adore their mothers.”
Matilda was ready to take the risk. It is Jesse’s faith in the union that faltered. He was facing opposition from his own family, and if he chose Matilda, it became obvious that he would be cut off. His two sisters sided with his parents, never mind the fact that they were both living with men who didn’t go to church. He was also facing backlash from his church. He started feeling a certain coldness from the members of his church youth group.
Finally, he yielded to pressure and called it off with Matilda. He will never forget the torrent of tears she shed that day. He has never spoken to her since they broke up, but he remembers her every time Carol shouts at him, or when she gives him silent treatment. Which is three quarters of the time, or more.
Jesse did not intend to marry Carol. At least not so quickly. After breaking up with Matilda, he was broken and he knew he needed to heal and get her out of his system. He was emotionally unstable. But Carol quite literally planted herself in his life. She always found a reason to be around him. In church she always sat next to him, whether it was during the main church service on Sunday or in the midweek services.
She invited him to be more active in the church youth group, where she was the secretary. Before that, Jesse had been a lukewarm member of the group. Now he was thrust to the fore, and before he knew what was happening he was made the chair of the group. Jesse threw himself into the affairs of the youth group. He saw it as a way of filling the void that Matilda had left. But being consumed in the affairs of the church meant spending more and more time with Carol.
It wasn’t long before people started saying what a wonderful couple they made. He started getting pressured from all corners not just to date her, but also to marry her. He resisted for a couple of months, but he finally yielded and gave her an engagement ring one evening after a lavish dinner. They got engaged even before they officially started dating. After the engagement, Carol’s mother took over and moved things with speed. A wedding was quickly arranged and dowry was waived ostensibly because it was a ‘backward and cultic’ tradition.
Carol is Pastor Arthur’s daughter.
Jesse married her in a lavish wedding that was almost entirely funded by Pastor Arthur and his wife. A week after the wedding, Pastor Arthur ordained Jesse as an Associate Pastor, even though Jesse had not shown any interest in the role. Jesse has never been to Bible School. At the time it looked like an excellent idea. Carol was charming and intelligent, and she was deeply in love. Or so he thought. But it took him only five months after the wedding to discover that Carol doesn’t love him at all. In fact, it is quite obvious that she resents him.
Ever since she discovered that she was pregnant, she has never allowed him to touch her again. And it is not just about sex; they don’t hug, much less kiss. The only physical contact between them is handholding in public, and the pecking he is expected to do on her cheeks as part of their routine public displays of affection. Their private conversations have dropped to the occasional outbursts of her anger. Otherwise she chooses to ignore him.
Carol doesn’t care much about their daughter, except in public when she thinks small acts of motherhood will make her look good in the eyes of the people. In private, it is Jesse’s duty to establish whether Natasha is well fed, whether she is unwell, whether she has done her playgroup assignments and so forth. The house help does most of the work around the house, but Jesse is usually the only concerned parent.
Carol spends most of her time at home on phone either chatting or browsing through the internet.
The other thing Jesse doesn’t appreciate is the meddling of his family affairs by his in-laws. Everything from the choice of school their daughter attends, the neighborhood they live in and so forth is made by Carol after she has consulted her parents. If he ever voices a dissent, she shouts at him calling him ‘irresponsible’, ‘argumentative’ and so forth. And if he puts his foot down, Pastor Arthur and his wife intervene as ‘voices of reason’. Jesse always backs down. Yet he is usually the one expected to foot the cost of all those decisions. He pays all the bills from the salary he gets from his finance job. He may be a pastor, but he is a volunteer pastor. His father-in-law doesn’t pay him a dime for his time or services in the church.
Jesse feels trapped. He cannot share his marital problems with anyone because he knows no one will believe him. They all think he and Carol are the ultimate couple. His own mother never fails to remind him how she saved him from the charms of that ‘Delilah’ called Matilda.
Jesse is just hanging on because of his daughter. God has always been his refuge, but every day he feels as though God is becoming more and more distant. Every day he feels as if he is getting closer and closer to going insane.
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