Loving Rosemary/ Edith Ohaja
Peter was finding it hard to believe that the scene before him was actually happening. He had been invited to the bishop's office for a meeting by 2 p.m. He came prepared and praying in tongues,* thinking it was a meeting of the board of ministers of which he was the secretary. Seen as the favourite "son" of the bishop, he liked to be in the spirit* at all times as he might be called upon to share a word of exhortation (short sermon) or contribute to the important discussions at such meetings and to enable him discharge his pastoral responsibilities 24/7.
      However, the meeting turned out to be a private affair between himself, the bishop and his fiancée (Rosemary), apparently summoned on her insistence. Shortly after the bishop welcomed them and gave them room to speak, she announced that she was calling off their engagement! He could not believe her temerity, to speak so boldly in front of the bishop! Young people of nowadays! A girl that was barely twenty, looking the man of God in the eye without blinking, and talking what she doesn't know. He wanted to hush her but the bishop was listening intently, so he had to do the same.
      She repeated her announcement as if for emphasis and went on to give her reasons for what was, in his view, a rash and ill-conceived decision. She declared that Pastor Peter was not mentally prepared for marriage, to which he exclaimed, "Lord, have mercy!" She complained that in their two years of courtship, she has not felt any tenderness or love from him. She reminded the bishop that she was a pastor's daughter and had never had a boyfriend in her life. She had been hoping that marriage would give her the chance to experience a man's love in its fullness but there was no indication that Pastor Peter was inclined to love any woman. He was all about prayer, preaching, casting out demons and the like. She concluded that rather than envy other women or compromise her marital vows in search of happiness outside her home, she was nipping the disaster in the bud by ending the "charade".
      Peter felt he could understand the bishop's desire to hear the misguided girl out. It was the patience of a father in dealing with even the most recalcitrant child. Surely, he had heard enough and would send her to some deaconesses or pastors' wives to straighten her out. But the bishop wasn't just playing according to his "son's" script today. He called for drinks and made chit-chat with them as they sipped their glasses of Maltina. Then he asked Rosemary to elaborate what she meant by not feeling tenderness or love from Peter.
      As if on cue, the bishop's wife came in. The bishop stood up to hug her. He complimented her on her new hairdo and she giggled like a child. Then he excused himself from the meeting and they huddled at the far end of the room. Rosemary was watching them wistfully. Peter followed her gaze for some seconds before "realizing" he was "wasting valuable time". This was his chance to put an end to this nonsense and prevent this silly girl from further wasting the man of God's time. Their marriage was widely confirmed to be the will of God, so no "demonic brain wave attack" on his fiancée would scuttle it.
      He reached out and placed his right hand on her head and began to pray in the spirit.* She pushed his hand away. "Instead of you to be taking notes from real men", she said, pointing in the direction of the bishop who was holding his wife's hands at the time, "you're busy hiding under the cover of prayer".
      "When have we ever had a conversation like that?" she asked. "When have you ever visited me - at work, at our house or my church?" she continued.
      "I'm next to the bishop, you know? We are running a big ministry here. Besides, what stops you from visiting me? You clearly have more time on your hands."
      "I tried that, remember?" she replied with a snort.
      "Help me out here", he said, after thinking for a while, his expression vacant.
      "Since you've shown no interest in knowing my birthday, I thought we might, at least, spend time together on yours. Last year, you were preaching at a crusade in Ghana, but this year, I cooked fried rice with chicken and came to your office. Even though I'd begged you to make time for us ..."
      "If I recall clearly, you abandoned me in the office that day ..."
      "After two hours! I'd scarcely sat down when you said, 'Let us pray'. I thought you would just thank God briefly but you prayed up a storm and when it became clear I wasn't going to have quality time with you, I decided to go. And you were so lost in the spirit, you didn't even notice me leave".
      "Point of correction: there can be no better quality time than time spent with God. You of all people should know that!"
      "The Bible says a married man is concerned with how to make his wife happy but since you want to be like Apostle Paul, I'm releasing you to do as you wish."
      "I don't have Paul's calling. You'll be my wife, so help me, God, Mother-in-Israel!"
      "If you call me that thing again, I will scream so loud ...".
      "Please, don't, my dear" the bishop cut in with a smile. They had been engrossed in their discussion and hadn't heard him approaching. His wife had apparently left.
      After taking his seat, he began, "Before the break, you were about to tell me why you feel your fiancé doesn't love you", looking at Rosemary. "I suggest that you tell it all to Peter."
      "Not here", he added, as she made to speak.
      "And you, Peter, take the rest of the day off. I hear there's a new eatery in town, one of those fancy places. Get a booth, so you can talk without disturbance."  He added, "I will pay". This in response to the alarm on Peter's face.
      "Go with your diary so you can take notes", he told him. "We don't want him saying he forgot your demands, ever!" He directed this to Rosemary with a sparkle in his eyes. Rosemary frowned, wondering, "Is he making fun of me?" But the bishop's next words made her heart leap with joy.
      "I have a project for you, Peter. It is called Loving Rosemary. When was the last time you took a leave?" Peter was trebly alarmed this time. Was the bishop suddenly getting senile, he asked himself. These are the last days! The devil is working overtime and so must the soldiers of the cross! What then is this talk of leave all about?
      "I approve an accumulated leave of three months for you. I will reassign your duties. Get to know your future wife. Find out her likes and dislikes. Learn how you can please her, in line with biblical standards, of course. You can volunteer at the charity where she works so you can spend much time together. And worship at her church on Sundays if you wish. Believe me, this is for your own good. If you walk into a bad marriage, your ministry* will probably sink. Your personal relationship with God will likely suffer also. You'll certainly be carrying more baggage than necessary, not an advantage for someone who wants to go far in life.
      "I'm sure you haven't seen your family in years. Take Rosemary to visit them. Acquaint yourself with your future in-laws too. If the Lord tarries,* when you resume work, we'll hold another meeting like this one and, I believe God, it shall be smiles all round so we can schedule your wedding."
- The end-
Ⓒ  Edith Ugochi Ohaja  2015

*Praying in tongues or praying with (or in) the spirit refers to praying in languages that one has not learnt as led by the Holy Spirit. This is the opposite of praying with one's understanding.
*Being in the spirit means being connected to God. It can also refer to being spiritually sensitive.
A Christian's ministry is the work he or she does for God.
*"If the Lord tarries" is Christians' way of saying "If Jesus does not yet return".

Edith U. Ohaja is a Senior Lecturer in the Mass Communication Department, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.  (Facebook: /edithugochi.ohaja  Twitter: @EdithOhaja)