A very long time ago, I vowed to myself to never put my foot in a church again.
Being the last born of my family of five, receiving hugs and gifts from people has become accustomed to me. Often, many people would say to me, “I love your hair. It’s long and curly.”
Growing up, I never had to struggle to get the attention of my parents and people around me. Who wouldn’t want to love a fair and smart girl? Lols. No wonder I grew up with the feeling of being loved and knowing there was nothing that could take "loving me" from my community.
I was wrong all along.
It was so difficult to fit into the cycle of my peers as everybody knew me to be a church girl. Well, my dad was a pastor in a well-known church in our community. You’d say, ‘it was my dad that was called not the whole family, right?”. Yes, that was the mentality I had.
In the bid to belong, I decided to try out the things that would get me approval of my friends. I’d sneak out and lie to my parents to go visit a friend. There, all of us would try out different cigarettes that you’d thought were a competition for survival of the fittest.
Something went wrong.
Just like any other day, I sneaked out to spend the night in the arms of my handsome crush, Johnny. Little did I know that he was a devil.
Can you believe he actually made a bet on me with some other guys in our church? Even to this day as I write, I find it hard to believe my virginity was worth the N30, 000 that went to Johnny after he showed the video of our little moments to his friends as evidence of him winning the bet.
I made a mistake and I still regret to this day. For every action there is always a consequence, so I still had to come to terms with the consequence of my thoughtless action.
I met the unexpected the following Sunday at church.
Strolling behind parents and two brothers in the middle of the church as we moved towards the pulpit where the Pastors usually sat, I prayed silently. God, I’m so sorry.
It was my mom who noticed the abnormal stares on us as we walked on. I heard her whisper to my dad, “Don’t you think something’s wrong? The whole church is looking at us with different eyes.” But my dad just shrugged it off as if it's normal.
It was my dad who preached and talked about “Sexual Purity”. I can still remember part of what I jotted down in my jotter. He told us that our bodies are the temple of God. He also said that purity starts from the heart.
The whole church went still as the Senior Pastor stepped on the podium to address the church. It was as if this was the moment we’ve all been waiting for.
“I have an important announcement to make.” He said into the microphone.
“Charity begins at home. Parents, let your children be examples of what you teach. Before you teach other children, make a point note to have taught your own children at home.
With the authority vested on me as the Senior Pastor of this church, I hereby announce the family of Alayole expunged from this church. This is due to the wild video of their daughter, Mary, that has gone viral with her shameless act. They will serve as deterrent to other young adults in this church as I won’t condone any act of indiscipline here.”
My heart skipped a beat.
Something is wrong somewhere or is it what I’m thinking that actually happened.
My mum looked at me for answers which I couldn’t give her. I busted into tears. The murmuring increased. Other women moved away from my mum. Mothers told her daughters to stay away from me.
As I shook my head in tears, I tried to explain it was a mistake and I’ve asked for forgiveness from God but no words could come out. I tried to mention that I wasn’t the only one involved but the cold stares from the people I once thought loved me shut me up.
Everybody, I say it again, everybody moved away from us that day henceforth.
I later learnt that the people who punish you are usually the ones you thought would help you get back on your feet.
As much as I cried for my mistake and the shame I’d brought upon my family, I also cried thinking, “ What if I was raped or abused or even enduring some abuse at home or somewhere? Is this the home I once thought I had?”
Before you call me a wayward child, listen to what I have to say to you.
As Christians we must strive to be like Christ always having in mind that the word strive also means to struggle. No one is perfect and no one is without flaws.
Halleluyah, Christianity isn’t about leading people to church but about leading people back to the one who saved us. What we have now is a church full of whispers and murmurings that we forget the overall message – Jesus Christ.
This message has been lost on so many people who have it in them to serve God but also carry the shame of mistakes that makes them hide. I can tell you this because I used to be one of them.
There are many people who have made mistakes even while longing to do the right thing.
Many people in church expect you to conduct yourself in some imaginary perfect standard forgetting that you are also human. You are also prone to mistakes. And if you break the rules, you are seen as some forbidden fruit. Some are even sent away and told not to be seen or heard of. Sadly, I also was in this later category.
I just want you to know there are many people who need your help and if it comes with pity, they’d gladly take it. But please don’t send them away.
Don’t look at them like they are outcast or something.
They already made mistakes, please don’t let them make another.
Come to think of it,
How can we preach grace, but when the people need it we send them away from church.
How can we preach love, but when the hurting sister or brother needs it, we send him/her away with our whispers and murmurs.
When people love you, they pour hope into you. Love embraces who you are and inspires you to become better.
Yet we say we are Christian.
How can we honour Christ’s life if we refuse to explore the depth of His forgiveness or the beauty of Grace?
Are we really Christlike???
God is not asking us to be crucified for our sins. He already sent His son for that. He’s asking us to make the sacrifice on the cross of calvary count.
Think about it.