Please note that this series contains some sexually explicit content, violence and offensive language. It is not appropriate for children nor an immature and sensitive audience.
A SMALL WORLD - SEASON THREE
Copyright © Ufuomaee
The couples met again for the last talk at 5 pm that Sunday. By then, the atmosphere was pleasant and joyous all around. Most of the couples had reconciled, and the only ones remaining were well on their way to resolution. It had been a successful venture and Pastor Emmanuel and his fellow counsellors were happy to come to the end of another retreat. Tunde led the session with his wife, while the pastor and his wife sat among the couples.
“I hope you all brought your journals with you… We’ll be going through the notes we’ve all taken to see how our feelings and perspectives have changed since Friday, when we all arrived here. You will still write in your journals at the end of this session, and take them home with you to fill out and update as you feel led,” Tunde said.
The room grew noisy as the couples brought out and opened their journals. It soon quietened down again.
“Okay. Unlike the sessions we had where you exchanged letters and confessions, you are under no obligation to share the contents of your journal with your spouse. However, if you feel inclined, do not be afraid to. The journal accounts are really just for you to assess your growth this weekend, and maybe to learn something about yourself,” Tunde continued. “A lot of people who come for our retreats usually find that they lacked hope of reconciliation and interest in the retreat, but overtime, it became of value to them, and their last entries are usually hopeful and joyful. However, there are others, whose attitudes were positive to begin with, and were even more assured and confident at the end of their stay. Take some time, and maybe you can share with us which you are and any lessons you may have gleaned from the exercise.”
“I think I’m the latter,” Danny said. “We really just wanted a getaway, where could also learn a lot about marriage and spend some time with our friends too. We really learnt a lot from this, and I definitely feel more joyous about our union, and confident that we can weather any storms in marriage together.”
“That’s great, Danny,” Tunde smiled. “Anyone else?”
“Yes…” Funke spoke up. “I am of the former. I really didn’t expect to get much from this. Most people usually don’t understand my perspective on bearing and raising children. There’s also been lots of pressure from our families too. But Pastor Emmanuel’s counsel really helped me, and it helped us to get the right perspective on this issue. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” the pastor said.
“Yes, thank you. I wasn’t hopeless when we came, but I also wasn’t very hopeful. Now, I feel like a burden has been lifted, and as if scales have fallen from my eyes. I still want children, but I now see that I was using my marriage as a means to an end, rather than appreciating it as a blessing in itself,” Niyi said, squeezing Funke’s hand affectionately.
“Wow, such a profound statement,” Bolanle said. “Marriage is a blessing in its own right. What you said reminded me of how Jesus said, “if you are unfaithful with little, you will be unfaithful with much…” He was basically saying that God wouldn’t entrust us with more if we fail to prove ourselves with the talents He has already given us. So, just be faithful with your gift – your marriage – and let God add to your blessing…”
Temi swallowed, gathering the nerve to share. “I was like Funke. I really wasn’t expecting anything to change in my mind, let alone in my husband. I just came to support my friend, Danny, who is celebrating turning forty. But, a whole lot has changed since we got here…and I guess it goes to show that God can do anything. He doesn’t need months or even weeks. He can do it in a day. So, I’m definitely feeling hopeful about my marriage now. Thank you.”
Oyinda lifted Temi’s hand, which he had been holding on to, and brought it to his lips. She smiled at him.
“This is really good news! I’m so thrilled to hear these testimonies,” Pastor Emmanuel said.
A few more people shared about how things had improved in their marriages, and what they had learnt from their time at the retreat. It got a bit teary for some, but they ploughed through and everyone was encouraged. At last, it was time for Tunde to share the final message, and send the couples home with their assignments.
“I’m so glad that we’ve been able to share so much,” Tunde began. “What I really hope is obvious now is that one of the greatest obstacles to resolution of problems and reconciliation is our MIND. Our mindset; thoughts and feelings. These, if we do not watch them and bring them in check, can really lead us astray. We have to do what the Bible says, and bring EVERY THOUGHT into captivity and submission to Jesus Christ.
“With the way many of you were thinking, you were well on your way to divorce. Some even at full speed! Not wanting to analysis your feelings nor take into consideration the word of God. But that’s a sure way to end up in hell…figuratively and literally! Every day, we should pray for God to deliver us from our own foolishness and wickedness.
“The number one way the devil will get us on the wrong track is through our thinking that we do not subject to the light. It could be just a misunderstanding, but we develop small and grand theories in our heads, which we are too afraid to question or too proud to seek clarity on, but end up more and more deluded about, until we can’t tell truth from fiction.
“For example, a common issue with women is how they quickly jump to conclusions when their husband comes home late or forgets to call or something. Many are prone to negative thinking, mostly because of the state of the world and that such things do happen. But we need to show much more trust in each other, especially when we are children of God, and give each other the benefit of the doubt. We need to stop believing the lie that every man will cheat. There are a few good men (and women) out there, and we are called to be among them. Most of all, we need to expose these thoughts to the light, by communicating how we feel, rather than dwelling on negative feelings and letting them deceive us. If you talk about it, half the work of getting to the truth is done.
“So, that is number one – our mind. Subject it to the light. Number two is our flesh. There’s a difference here, though they connect. The key difference is that, while we are told to RENEW our minds, we are told to KILL our flesh! So, the mind can be renewed; it can be trained with right thinking, by the things we feed it and what we choose to meditate on. Our flesh, however, is ALWAYS contrary to the Spirit. It is untrainable. It must be subdued and ultimately destroyed.
“Your flesh is your carnal nature, with all its desires; lust, greed, vanity, pride, selfishness, wickedness…the list goes on. It is like a beast that cannot be tamed. It doesn’t know the meaning of enough, contentment, temperance nor moderation. It is always seeking more and always towards evil! If you allow it to live in your marriage, the end is the destruction of both YOU and your union.
“You must kill it and die to yourself. This you do by submitting yourselves one to another, exalting your spouse above yourself, laying down your life and forsaking your own way for the sake of your union, forgiving as many times as you are offended, though it may hurt you or your pride, and practicing pure unselfish love towards each other. This means that you do not give love expecting it in return, but you give love because that is WHO you are.
“For many of us, if not all, we are still on the journey to becoming LOVE, becoming like Christ. It is hard for us to give love unconditionally, disregarding our own pain. But that’s the way Christ taught us to love through the Cross. Just as Jesus came to minister and not to be ministered to, we, who are His followers, must live to minister; to serve, rather than to be served.
“These two things I’ve mentioned are your two biggest enemies. Your mind and your flesh. Your spouse is not the enemy. They are your REWARD. They are what you seek to redeem, as you lay down your life in ministry and service in marriage. They are your JOY. For the JOY that was set before Him, Jesus endured the Cross! They will never be the enemy, even if they are the filthiest sinner. And when you renew your mind about that, then you can serve them with the humility, love and endurance Jesus does.
“As Christians, we are to win souls, and it begins in our homes, through our loving witness. That’s why you must see your spouse are your reward. However, the devil will use many other agents to distract you and come between you and your reward. These you must address and oppose. You must actively, and not passively, protect your union from divisive and destructive attacks and entities.
“Some of these you know well… The other woman. The other man. The in-laws. The bosses. The career. The possessions. Even the innocent children, who come in demanding so much time and attention, if you do not watch yourselves, can come between you and your spouse. So, we come to the third obstacle – the heart!
“The Bible says for good reason that we ought to “guard our hearts with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life…” Proverbs chapter four, verse twenty-three. Again, the enemies aren’t the entities themselves, but what they represent in your life. The primary sin that God abhors is that of idolatry, when we give other things precedence in our hearts. He wants to reign there, and all other things must be beneath Him. Likewise, when you allow all these other things to take precedence over your spouse, you commit ADULTERY. You sever your marital bond little by little, until you find yourself in court over ‘irreconcilable differences’, which is really your affirmation that you value yourself and other things more than your spouse.
“You need to know that adultery isn’t simply sexual. That’s why Jesus taught on ‘adultery of the heart’. It happens first in the heart, where all sins are birthed, before it is manifested in fornication and ultimately divorce. My friends, guard your hearts, subdue your flesh and renew your minds with the word of God. The battle for your marriage is within you. YOU are the only one standing in your way…”
All the couples left the meeting room refreshed and feeling retrospective. They had learnt that the power to save their marriage was within them. Could they be as gracious as God? As long-suffering? As humble? What about their thinking needed to change? Were they ready to surrender their flesh to crucifixion, for the sake of their marriages? What or who would they have to dethrone from their hearts to ensure that God’s position was supreme, and their spouses came second only to Him?
There was sober reflection, even among the Honeymooners, as they pondered on the calling that was marriage. The Cross it represented and the reward they had in their spouses. To think that they often saw the other as the problem…when they were the treasure, hidden and wrapped up in problems but, with love, could be delivered and delighted in once again!
They all returned to their cabins and packed up to leave for their homes. Some exchanged words, but many pondered still. At the reception, they all collected their phones back, and the noise of the world entered in.
The notifications poured in and, before long, people were making calls, sending text messages, updating their status or posting updates on Instagram and WhatsApp family groups. Oyinda checked his messages, expecting to see a reply from Kemi. There was none. He responded to the other messages he’d received, and pondered on what he would do about Kemi.
Temi scrolled through her WhatsApp messages looking for her chat with Michael. She couldn’t find it. That was strange. She checked her text messages. None from him. Something suspicious had happened. She knew he would have contacted her, and thought he might even be upset, because she hadn’t told him she wouldn’t be with her phone. Even still, where did their conversation history go? Is it possible that it was deleted?!
Finally, Temi gave in to the urge to call him. She excused herself to use the bathroom, while Oyinda went ahead with the others to load Danny’s car. In the bathroom, she searched for his name in her contact list. She didn’t have his phone number memorised. Nothing. Her search for Michael proved unfruitful. That was when she knew someone had intentionally wiped him from her phone. But who could and how?!
At the reception, she asked, “Did anyone come to use my phone?”
“Yes, madam. Mr Ayeni took it on Friday night and returned it in the morning. Is there a problem, ma?”
“No. No. Thanks.” But Temi was livid. How could Oyinda stoop so low?!
To be continued...
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