NEW JOURNEY: (Sequel to Journey to Revelation)
The will to live again overpowered every trace of bitterness I felt when I thought about my life with Pastor John. I went back to where it all began………………….Divine Assembly. My parents were still there. A bit frail looking as they approached their sixties. But they still occupied pride of place in a church they had helped to build almost from the scratch. A good many of the faithful worshippers had gone. Like birds, flown way to seek new environment. Some still remained. Those who remembered my golden voice and the delight it brought to their ears and above all their souls which was the part I liked.
The head pastor, Reverend Lucas was still there. Steadfast as the rock of Gibraltar, committed to a vision he did not want to see die. The congregation had grown……new faces. New perspectives. He was elated as he called me up to sing.
‘We are delighted to have our beloved sister with us here today. Sister Mariam blessed our souls with so many joyous songs before she left with her husband to start a ministry. He has gone to be with the Lord but she still identifies with us. We want her to minister to our souls this morning.’
A deafening applause greeted me as I rose to take the microphone. I stood up to sing and a new and strange tune poured from my lips. It was not a song I was familiar with. I had never heard it before but the lyrics flowed as I opened my mouth:
Today I take a new journey
Another journey to destiny
A new path opens before me
I have no clue where it leads
But where the Lord leads I follow
I invite you to forget the past
Come take with me this new journey
As I lean in the everlasting arms
This is the journey that I need
A new song to sing
A new hope to bring
As I lean on him
Lean on me he tells me
Lord, today I lean on you
I could feel the pin drop silence as I took the song. Tears poured freely from the eyes of people. I was overcome by such deep emotions that I began to weep openly. It was a wonder that the microphone still stayed in my hand. As I wept, I could feel my healing being completed. A peace such as I had never known flooded my heart. It was obvious the Holy Spirit had inspired this song. Every trace of bitterness had been wiped clean from my wounded heart. I had forgiven my husband. I could now call him that after almost two years of his passing.
My parents encased me in a warm embrace as we all wept together. It was a moment of healing for them also. They too had been consumed with bitterness for Pastor John who had stolen the song of joy from their beloved daughter’s lips. Many in the congregation stood up to testify of how the song had brought healing to their wounded emotions.
I was happy. I felt alive. The song of joy was back on my lips. Old things had been taken away; a new life for me had been revived. I was ready to face life again.
I returned to Living Hope Assembly with new hope. I refused to be discouraged by the membership which had dwindled to a mere 50. I was a new being inside and glowed from the outside. I took over the reins of the church. With Pastor Johnson who chose to stay with me while others departed, we worked hard to revive the glory of the ministry. I sometimes asked him why he did not leave like the others and his answer was always:
‘God has not told me to leave. I feel that my destiny is tied to this ministry and I will stay with the vision till he asks me to leave.’
I was touched by his devotion and remembered so vividly how he became a part of the church. He had been a leader of the Youth Ministry and did such a tremendous job, having a positive impact on the youths who looked up to him. He loved God like crazy and never failed to tell anyone that cared to listen.
I had spoken to my husband one Sunday evening after a special service.
‘Darling, there is something I need to tell you.’
‘What’s it?’ He asked, listening to me with rapt attention.
‘It’s about Pastor Johnson. I had a revelation about him.’
‘The spirit of God is one. I also had a revelation about him.’
It turned out that we both had the same revelation. To integrate him into the pastorate of the ministry. He was overcome with fear and chose to decline the offer but later accepted and made a success of it. I was not surprised that he alone of all the pastors chose to stay and build the ministry.
I was in the office two months after my return from Divine Assembly when Pastor Johnson walked in, looking a bit timid.
‘I want to discuss something with you, ma.’ He said shyly.
‘Go on Pastor Johnson.’ I looked at him intently. ‘You know you can tell me anything.’
‘Please sit down, Pastor Johnson,’ I said, to make him feel at ease.
He sat down on the chair as if it had the power to bite him. I waited patiently while he composed himself.
‘It’s about your song, ma.’
‘The song about a new journey.’
Of course I knew the song he was talking about. The song had become a favourite of so many people after I sang it that day at Divine Assembly. In fact, Reverend Lucas said it had become the church conference song.
‘What about it?’
‘I think you should make it commercial. That song has such tremendous healing power. I think it would bless many more lives if you do.’
I felt his words were wise. As if to confirm his suggestion, I received a call from an anonymous person. He said he had been in the church that day I sang the song and his spirit had been restless since then. He had been inspired to sponsor the production of the song but kept putting it off till he lost his peace.
The anonymous caller made good his promise and ‘A New Journey’ was produced, becoming an instant hit within the first few months of its release. It ruled the air waves for several years and I won several awards for it. It brought great financial rewards to me and the church grew to 1500 members.
I marvelled at how my life had transformed. Once upon a time, I was the disgraced widow of Pastor John embroiled in a full scale scandal; the wife who discovered that her spiritual husband had a second family. Today, I had become an award winning artiste, the song of joy returning full force.
I wished to freeze time so that sorrow would not creep in.
One afternoon, I was seated in my office, buried in a book, The Winning Ways of a Wonder Woman when Pastor Johnson poked his head through the door of my office. I smiled as I looked up. I hoped he had another suggestion that would bring more gladness into my life.
‘What’s it Pastor Johnson?’
‘Madam…………….’ He began and a troubled look crept into his eyes.
‘I hope all is well.’ I said as I grew alarmed at his expression. I was not ready for any bad news at that moment.
Pastor Johnson opened the door wider and I nearly choked at the sight that confronted me.
She stood there, looking haggard and older than her sixty plus years. There was a weariness in her eyes that came not from the deprivation of many nights of sleep but the result of pain mixed with regret.
‘Forgive me my daughter. Please forgive me.’ The words that came from her throat were croaked with despair.
I stood up slowly, willing my legs to make the journey and my heart not to rise with bitterness and show me the pictures of pain she had inflicted on me.
I gathered her into a warm embrace as she held me tight, weeping like an infant. I heard the sound of the door closing.
Pastor Johnson had wisely left us alone.
‘My life has been hell these past few years.’ Madam Fego, Pastor John’s mother said after she was seated comfortably on the chair opposite mine. ‘I decided to come and find you and ask forgiveness before I die.’
‘Don’t talk like that, mama. You will not die. I have forgiven you and God has forgiven you. You can still make something of your life.’
‘You don’t understand, my daughter. I have learnt that life is not the way we see it. That woman, the one who had a child for my son made life hell for me.’
‘The way you made mine,’ the thought dropped into my heart and I squashed it. I was not going to allow resentment creep into my life again.
‘She slapped me once and asked me to get out of my son’s house.’
‘She slapped you?’ I asked not believing my ears. That lady was awful to slap a defenceless old woman. Didn’t she have a mother?
‘I have since left the house. I hear she has started a relationship with another man. This was a woman I stood by and in the process treated you so badly.’ Her voice broke and I rushed to comfort her.
I was finally free now that I had forgiven her totally.
I continued in the new life I had built for myself. The church grew sporadically; my faith in God never wavered. I was able to start the crèche and I found joy in taking care of other people’s children. The people close to me were happy at the new life I had built. But still the age old question hung in the air. From the lips of Rose I heard it often. From my parents it was echoed.
‘When will you get married?’
‘I hope you are not scared of getting involved with a man again,’ Rose stated rather than asked.
‘There are still so many nice men out there,’ my mum said.
‘You will find one man who will make you sing all the days of your life,’ my father added.
‘Don’t give up on love,’ Rose advised.
I had not. I just had not found the right fit.
Then it happened the third time. He walked into my office again.
And I knew this time was different.
‘Can I sit down?’
‘Yes, you can.’ I trembled inwardly as I tried hard to look at him.
‘I think this conversation is well overdue,’ he said, sitting down on the chair facing me, his eyes not leaving my face.
‘What conversation?’ The trembling increased and I prayed not to betray my nervousness.
He stood up and sat on the desk facing me. Then he lifted my chin slowly and our faces were only inches apart.
‘Are you saying you do not know what I am talking about?’ he asked, picking his word slowly.
How could I pretend? Our relationship had changed drastically in the last few months. We had grown closer, more intimate. Sometimes when we spoke, the atmosphere became so charged that I had to give a lame excuse and run out of his presence. I knew it was a matter of time before it happened.
‘Will you marry me, Mariam?’ he asked, his eyes boring holes into mine. I was no longer ‘madam’ to him.
‘We both saw this coming, didn’t we?’
I could not say anything as tears rolled down my eyes. Of course I knew it, expected it, craved it, wished it, prayed about it. And now he had done it. He had stood by me when I was almost strangled by silence after the departure of church members. He had been there for me when the demands of running church ministry almost weighed me down. He gave me a shoulder to cry on when I broke down and wept sometimes from the force of life pressures. Who else could I chose to dwell forever with?
‘Yes, Pastor Johnson. Yes I will marry you. You have been there for me,’ I panted out the words as tears overwhelmed me.
He lifted me up and his warm hands ran down my back, consoling me gently as I sobbed silently in his arms. The pent up emotions of the past months overwhelmed me and I had to release them.
‘I don’t have all the luxuries in the world to give you but I promise you with God on my side to erase the pain of your last marriage. I will make sure the song does not die on your lips,’ Pastor Johnson spoke gently into my ears.
I turned sharply to look at him when he mentioned the song. How could he have known what was so dear to my father’s heart? And mine as well?
‘I know you love singing and can only do so when you are of a joyful heart,’ he explained as he guessed my surprise.
I put my head back on his shoulder and clung to him with all my might.
Another life for me was about to begin.
‘Pastor Johnson………………Pastor John…………………. It sounds like a rhyme scheme.’ My father said the day I brought Pastor Johnson to him.
‘But we are two different personalities,’ Pastor Johnson quickly added, guessing the direction his future father-in-law was going. He was not in any way like the other pastor.
‘It seems like you are destined to be a pastor’s wife,’ My mother said.
‘She has it in her, ma. I have always admired that trait.’ Pastor John beamed pleasantly.
‘Do take care of my daughter. You know how much she has gone through,’ My dad addressed Pastor Johnson, a silent plea in his voice.
‘I will do so by the grace of God.’ He looked at me with so much love and devotion.
I had been plagued with fears at first; of trusting another pastor after my first experience. The words of Rose came to me over and over again.
‘He is first a man before he is of God.’
There was no need to hold anyone to impossible standards. We are all clay in the master’s hands, vessels willingly submitted to his will, with no might of our own.
My parents were convinced, Rose was optimistic, I very much in love. I took the plunge and we were married in a simple ceremony. I experienced motherhood exactly nine months into our union. It was a most thrilling experience. Tears rolled down my eyes as the twin bundles of joy were placed in my hands. We named the boy Daniel and the girl Daniella.
My joy was complete.
‘You have made me a father, sweetheart.’
‘Honey, you have given me motherhood; the priceless gift I have looked for almost all my life.’
‘We thank God for making this possible.’ Pastor Johnson gazed upward, looked into the innocent eyes of the children as they wriggled in the cot and fixed me with the full force of his adoring gaze.
‘I love you, sweetheart and I will do so as long as we both shall live.’
‘I love you too.’ My voice was choked with commitment to this man who had redefined love for me.
And we fell into each other’s arms.
I have embarked on a new journey. My destination is here, in Pastor Johnson’s loving arms. But this time, I believe I have ‘done it right.’
Indeed I have come home.