He Has Got Your Back… Always!
A Short Story By Joy A. Adewumi (Spirit Pen)
‘I think I’m losing it gradually. I’m stressed like crazy and my brain is like a hundred degree Celsius. On my way here, I honestly considered just dropping everything and finding somewhere to sit on the floor by the roadside. I’ve actually been feeling that way all day. I feel like shutting down completely and not thinking of anything. Am I the first person to juggle a Master’s program with a demanding office job? People do it all the time! The whole subtle when-are-you-bringing-a-husband-home-drama from my parents is not helping matters at all. Don’t they get it? My life is chaotic and difficult as it is, I can’t even afford the luxury of thinking about marriage, much less adding a relationship to this crazy mix. And to make matters worse, the Holy Spirit has gone incommunicado! Not that I can blame Him. I haven’t been talking to Him much either, but really, I could make do with some comfort right now.’
My Pastor’s wife just folded her arms as she leaned against her office table and stared at me, smiling. I was irritated. She was usually an empathetic one, but if she ended up saying anything along the lines of me overreacting and this being nothing a good sleep could not solve, I vouched to myself that I was going to make up an excuse and leave her office promptly.
She opened and closed her mouth several times, then she shook her head as if she had just decided against something and then went to her seat opposite me, across the room. ‘You know, sometime around my second semester in postgraduate school, I went down to the postgraduate school’s office to tender a request for leave of absence.’ She said after she stared at me for a little longer.
‘What? Why?’ My situation was bad, but I wasn’t considering giving up yet. I couldn’t imagine what circumstances could have led Mama to that decision. If there ever was a go-getter I knew, one who everyone knew to be so, it was Dr Ayelabola. Whatever her reasons for wanting to leave her studies for a while, it couldn’t possibly be something like my current predicament. It would take more than that to break this legend sitting in front of me.
‘I didn’t think graduate school was for me, but I didn’t have the effrontery to just give up and drop out. So, I convinced myself that a leave of absence was the way forward. You know, concentrate on something else, take some time to think while at it, and gather momentum to come back if and when I decided I could.’ Mama replied, shrugging.
I blinked rapidly at her words and readjusted my posture as I asked, ‘But what really made you think it wasn’t for you? You are a go-’ she cut into my question with a chuckle.
‘I wasn’t always a go-getter or whatever the term is you young ones use to describe me. And your situation pretty much sums up mine back then, maybe except the incommunicado status you claim the Holy Spirit has taken, which by the way I can vouch is not true. I was a working student. Commute between my house, office and school was maddening, but that was just the least of it. I wasn’t doing too well in my coursework and I felt my first-semester result had ruined my PhD grade for me. Well, that wasn’t a death knell in my opinion. I could barely go through with my Master’s, there was no way I was going to push my luck and dream of a doctorate. I just needed to finish the Master’s and steer clear of academics forever. By the second semester, as I began combining the remaining coursework with the start of my research, I was sure I was going to lose it or mess everything up irredeemably if I didn’t take a breather. Hence, the request for a leave of absence. Then add the age-long pressure – which was not in any way subtle – to get married, and you get a young lady who just wanted to disappear for a long time till her problems had solved themselves and normalcy, or a resemblance of it, was restored.’
I shook my head in wonder at her story. ‘So, did you go ahead with it?’
Her gentle smile returned at this juncture and I wondered if I will one day relate my story with an interjection of such smile that foretold a good twist.
‘I decided to walk down to the postgraduate school office that day. It’s quite the distance from the general academic environment, you know. I needed the distance and exercise as therapy to clear my head and help me reweigh my decision. About halfway through, a car going in the same general direction pulled up ahead of me. It wasn’t exactly a lonely road so I wasn’t bothered about the driver coming out and doing me harm, I was rather irritated in advance in case it was some man wanting to pester me into accepting a ride with him. Not charitable, I know. After all, whatever the motive, the obvious offer would be to help. To the average passerby, I was after all in need of a ride.’ She paused to smile and I interjected with a chuckle.
READ ALSO: Even in Murky Waters (A Short Story)
‘All of this, barring the fact that the car could have stopped to drop someone else or to check something else, with no intention of paying attention to you?’
‘Exactly, my dear! You see, stress, worry and anxiety really do a number on our thinking faculties. Anyway, I stopped on my tracks, thinking the driver was probably waiting for me to come closer before he made his offer to help. I stopped and chose that time to cross.’
Laughter burst through my throat and spilt out of my lips. It felt great to be really amused for the first time in weeks. Mama really did the most.
‘I know, I know.’ She joined in my laughter. ‘Crazy, right?’
‘Epic is more like it.’ I answered, still laughing.
‘As I made to cross, someone shouted my name, “Sister Liz!” and I stopped again. Sister Liz was my church name. Everyone in the fellowship called me that. I glanced in the direction of the car and saw one of my leaders from the fellowship. He was a doctorate student and was also a young lecturer at that time. I smiled at him and walked closer. We exchanged pleasantries. He said he thought I was going further down the path and was going to offer me a ride. I replied that I was in fact going to the postgraduate school’s office. He was going to the same place.’
‘Wow! What a coincidence.’ I smiled.
‘It turned out to be anything but a coincidence.’ Mama replied seriously. ‘If anything it was divine providence. I accepted his offer which would have been weird had I not, I mean, considering the lengths he had gone to, to offer the ride. As he drove, he asked if it wasn’t anything serious that was taking me to the PGS office. I wondered for a bit if it was wise to spill, but if I really was going to tender a request for a leave of absence, it meant I wouldn’t be attending the campus fellowship for that period and it also meant the word, in various versions of the truth, would spread as to the reason for my absence. So, I figured I might as well tell someone, apart from my pastor, of course, the real version of the truth. I gave him a summarized version of my predicament and that I was applying for a leave of absence to that effect. He was quiet for a long time as though, he didn’t have an opinion. I was beginning to think even if it was just a word of encouragement or a promise to pray for me, couldn’t he just say something nice?’
‘I would take his silence over some aspire to refire to acquire motivational any day sha.’ Mama burst out laughing at my interjection and I chuckled, but I was serious.
‘I know, but I think I just needed someone to, at least, tell me things were going to be fine and I would scale through unscathed. Anyway, he was silent for what felt like an eternity, but couldn’t have been more than five minutes. Now that I think of it, he was probably asking for wisdom as to what to say. I later discovered he did that a lot.’
‘You both became friends after the incident?’ I asked, smiling.
‘As a matter of fact, we did.’ Mama replied candidly with a soft smile in tow. ‘He finally spoke and when he did, he said, and permit me to paraphrase, it’s been over twenty years, “Sis Liz, we all have moments when we want to throw in the trowel and get some respite. Our decision to indeed give up, on the other hand, could be born out of two things: fear or a sound assessment of the situation. As a Christian however, there’s always the added advantage of the Holy Spirit. So, rather than plunge into psychology, I’ll just ask what I’ve been led to ask, which by the way is the most important question anyway. The question is, ‘What has the Holy Spirit got to say about the whole situation and your decision?’” Remember I said the difference between our situations was the position of the Holy Spirit? In my case, He was vocal. Very vocal. In fact, in my opinion, back then, He was too vocal. He wanted me to simply trust Him and keep going. I didn’t think it was a wise plan of action. It was apparent I couldn’t do it. So, I was going to go ahead and do what I thought was wise and comfortable. As a result, I couldn’t answer that brother. He didn’t say anything after asking that question either. When he drove into the parking lot of the PG school –which apparently, was also his destination, he said, “Sis Liz, God does not make unrealistic demands. When He says go, if you look closely and wait patiently enough, there’s usually a very accurate and helpful GPS assistant coming alongside that instruction.” I wanted to cry. No, scratch that, I cried. Really, I was tired and exhausted and the Holy Spirit was not playing fair by sending extra resistance. I did not submit the letter that day. I decided to take out the time I didn’t have and go on a weekend retreat in my self-con.’
Mama paused at this junction with a smile. I sighed as if I was the one telling the story. I didn’t know where she was going to end her story, but I already had an idea of what I was going to do by the time I left her office. I had no doubt more helpful ideas were going to drop before she was done.
‘I had that retreat and the Holy Spirit came ready. He led me to some books on faith and trust in my library. He kept drawing my attention to Bible verses that spoke about trusting God to take the wheels of our life and drawing strength from Him. For those three days, Philippians chapter four verse thirteen just wouldn’t leave my mind. By the time I returned from church on Sunday to finish what I had begun, inspiration began to flow as to how I could handle my work schedule and juggle it with school work. Finally, before I slept that night, He said, when next someone asks me about marriage that I should tell them that it wouldn’t take long again. I just had to settle some things. He said that was because He had settled that aspect. My dear, I slept more peacefully that night than I had in a long while before then. The next morning came with the normal struggle but as fear tried to creep in, I kept chanting to myself: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” My dear sister, between that and my strict obedience to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, one week turned to a month and one month into a semester and a semester rolled into another academic year and by the end of the first semester of my third year, I was through with my Master’s program with a PhD grade.’
‘Oh, my word!’ I gasped as my hand flew to my mouth.
READ ALSO: REDEEMED (A Series) – Episode 1
‘Yes, dear. After my result was approved by the school’s senate, my supervisor encouraged me to apply to work with the university and to continue with doctoral studies. I thought that was pushing my luck, but the Holy Spirit, whom I had learnt to trust regardless of the situation, said it had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with His perfect will. That, my dear, was how I came to be a lecturer in the Department of Statistics and Demography with a PhD and two other Masters. Last I checked how far I had gone, I had made Readership as an associate professor. Sister Moyin, I am not giving you acquire to refire motivational talk when I say you are God’s daughter and no matter what you think, He has got your back, now and always.’
Tears sprung to my eyes and I made no effort to hold them back. ‘But the Holy Spirit would not talk to me. What do I do?’
‘Heeyyy!’ Mama cooed as she came to sit beside me and held my hands in hers. ‘The Holy Spirit is never incommunicado. It’s we who are just too busy, bothered or too anxious to hear Him and that’s why sometimes He employs human intervention. What are the odds that the burden you came to share with me was one I had experienced and scaled through? It’s all divine providence, my dear. I know you barely have time to do anything apart from work and your studies, but do yourself a favour and take some time out to seek God’s face. Then, you’ll see that He was never incommunicado, rather, He had been trying to get your attention and has a lot to tell you. He has a solution to your problem and He will never hoard it. Make time for Him and wait patiently on Him. Remember, those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.’ I nodded feebly, praying with all my heart that she was right.
She prayed with me afterwards and promised to keep me in her prayers. Just before I left, I remembered something. ‘Mama, so how did the marriage part turn out?’
‘Oh, that?’ Mama replied as she smiled and leaned back on her seat. ‘Well, did I mention the name of the brother who gave the ride that day?’
‘No, no, no, no, no! Don’t tell me it’s who I think it is!’ I exclaimed excitedly as my feet tapped the floor in utmost exhilaration.
She chuckled at my reaction and said, ‘Yes, he was, well still is, Brother Moyo Ayelabola, now your beloved Pastor and Professor Moyo Ayelabola. As I apparently didn’t apply for the leave of absence, I remained in the fellowship and we became friends of sorts. In my penultimate semester though, that friendship took a new and more beautiful turn when he proposed. Well, the rest is what you see today.’ She finished with an elegant pose of one knee over the other and one fist under her chin.
I jumped up and shook my frame in excitement. It wasn’t my story, but the similarities of our predicaments alongside the beautiful way hers turned out infused me with so much strength that I knew then and there, that las las, I was going to be better than alright.
At that point, Second Corinthians chapter one verse four made more sense to me. God had comforted Mama so that she also would be able to comfort others like me who were in trouble with the same comfort with which she was comforted. This gave me so much assurance that not only would I scale through this phase victoriously, by God’s grace, I was also going to be able to provide comfort to someone else in the future just like Mama just did.
Those that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength. Lean as heavily as you weigh on God, I assure you, He can handle it.
Yours in improvement,