“SISTER, CHECK YOURSELF!” (SHORT STORY)
Wrote this piece flash fiction two days ago. Hope you enjoy and learn something from it. You are highly blessed in Jesus’ name.
“Sister, Check Yourself!”
Ngozi had tried to ignore the first call she received that day, but the caller obviously wasn’t going to relent, having called twice again. She felt for her phone on the bedside cabinet and reluctantly opened her eyes to pick the call.
“Don’t tell me I woke you up,” Chinaza scolded.
“You did and I’m not happy about it,” Ngozi replied.
“Serves you right! What are you doing in bed by this time? It’s past 7 a.m.”
“It’s a public holiday, Naza. Independence Day, remember?”
“That is no excuse for you to be sleeping after the sun has come up. Have you forgotten that we have a programme in church today?”
Ngozi thanked God that Chinaza did not launch into her usual lecture on the dangers of allowing Muslims to do their early morning call to prayer before one wakes up. She had not forgotten the programme but had decided she would skip it when the pastor said it would be a whole day’s affair (Healing and Breakthrough Service), rather than the one-hour Prayer-for-Nigeria they usually held from 7 to 8 a.m. every Independence Day.
She told herself that Christians in Nigeria act like they are machines. They fill up their weekends and every holiday with programmes. Sometimes, you need another holiday to recover from the numerous activities you participated in during the holidays, she thought.
She’d also heard there was a mercantile philosophy behind some of the programmes. According to one of her pastor friends, if you don’t keep your members busy with programmes, they will attend those hosted by other churches and from there change church. “Poor membership equals dwindling revenues,” he’d joked.
(Related: A Mind of Her Own)
Still she had seen from experience that there were lots of benefits gained from attending these programmes. She had got her present job after one such prayer programme in her former church. Her eldest sister conceived and later gave birth to twins after twelve years of marriage following a week-long programme at a church she was invited to in Port Harcourt. But Ngozi just wished people knew when to pause.
“I won’t be going to the programme today. I need to rest,” she responded.
Her company had just completed an exhausting marketing campaign and as head of a unit (Babywear), she had put in everything to ensure her unit’s sales margin in the near future will reflect the efforts and resources she and her staff had invested. She hoped to use the Independence holiday on Oct. Ist to refresh herself before resuming work on Oct. 2nd.
“My dear, there is no rest this side of heaven. The devil and his demons are working overtime and you’re trying to rest. There will be enough time to rest when the Lord Jesus returns.”
“Or when we suddenly die,” Ngozi muttered.
“What did you say? Sister, check yourself.”
“I have checked myself and I need to rest.”
“Whenever a child of God starts getting cold feet about the things of God, the enemy is by their door.”
(Related: Prayer Partner)
Ngozi was beginning to lose her patience. Chinaza was a very dear sister, she felt, but not a good listener or empathetic.
“I am not getting cold feet. I just need to rest.”
“Okay, you can come after the morning session.”
“I’m not sure ….”
“Ngozi, check yourself. I will be praying for you.”
“Pray for yourself,” Ngozi retorted. “If you stayed at home to take care of your family, your children would not be so wayward. …”
There was silence on the line. Dead silence. Ngozi knew she had gone too far.
“I am so, so sorry!” Chinaza did not say a word.
“Naza, you know I didn’t mean what I said. Please, say something.”
“I didn’t know that is what you think of me.”
Chinaza was over 10 years older than Ngozi. They met two years back when Ngozi went to buy new clothes for a series of events at her company’s head office in Lagos. Chinaza, who had a big shop on the Ladies’ Fashion Line at Ogbete Market, Enugu, helped her select some beautiful outfits. And as they conversed, she invited Ngozi to her church. The younger lady obliged and joined the church thereafter. Chinaza then undertook to keep Ngozi, the single and busy girl, fervent in the Lord.
“I am sorry,” Ngozi repeated. “Okay, I will go to the service. Can you come and pick me on your way?”
“I’m just paralysed by what you said. Is that what other brethren say about me?”
Chinaza was a single mother with two teenage daughters. She had hoped that she had found acceptance in the house of God, but what Ngozi said brought up old hurts. She knew her daughters were stubborn, but wayward? She had no idea of that. Her earnest prayer had been that her daughters would not end up like her, because she made many mistakes as a teenager.
“No, no, no! I was just angry,” Ngozi lied. She had actually picked her words from what she overheard from another woman in the church. But why make Chinaza sadder, she thought.
“Please, think nothing of what I said. Just come and pick me.”
“I’m not even sure I can make it to church myself again.” Ngozi could hear her struggling to hold back tears. “Bless you,” Chinaza added and cut the call.
Ngozi could have flogged herself. She ran into the bathroom to shower and go to Chinaza.
“Father, forgive me, and make this right. I should never have said something so cruel to her,” she prayed, as her tears mingled with the spray from the shower.
© Edith Ugochi Ohaja 2019
“30. And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. 31. And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. 32. And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.” – Mark 6:30-32 (KJV)
“Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” – Colossians 4:6 (KJV)
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