A Friend in Need (26)
Repeated knocks on the door awoke me. I recognized Tayo’s voice. He wasn’t alone; I could hear Maria’s voice too. It sounded like they were praying. I checked the time on my phone and saw that it was 5 pm already. I had missed about 8 calls from both Tayo and Maria. I’d been sleeping for over 4 hours. As I got up from my knees, I remembered that I’d been dreaming too. There was another knock on the door. I sat there, silent, trying to recollect what my dream had been. Was it a good dream or a bad dream? Why did it leave me panting breathlessly?
“Femi, it is Tayo. We are waiting for you.”
“I’ll be with you shortly.” I answered from within.
My mind quickly did a replay of the dream. I’d seen myself dressed as an athlete preparing for a marathon. After several weeks of training, I was finally set for the race. Lining the streets were various friends and relatives, church members too. The race had begun in earnest and I’d taken off well. I couldn’t recognize the other contestants but I knew I wasn’t alone. I’d seen Maria in a golf cart, cheering me all the way. She was dressed like my coach. I’d begun to lose concentration on the race while I focused on her and kept appreciating her for being there for me.
My thoughts were interrupted by another knock on the door. I stood up reluctantly, steadying my breathing to avoid unnecessary questions. I opened the door to a company of Tayo, Maria, and Mercy. They were seated in a circle and were praying. Sister Mercy was Sister Maria’s prayer partner and best friend. She was the choir director for the fellowship too. I joined them to become the fourth around the table. Tayo rounded off the prayers after I joined them. I looked inquiringly into Maria’s face to know if she’d told anyone anything. She shook her head to deny it. That meant Tayo felt I had agreed to accompany them to their outing.
“Before we go on, I have a few things to say.” I turned towards Tayo. He must have felt guilty that he didn’t tell me about his engagement to Maria. If I was indeed his best friend as I thought, I didn’t expect him to have kept me in the dark on such a matter. If you were in his shoes, would you have done otherwise? The question was sharp in my spirit, but the truth was I would have done the same. But, that was not what I wanted to say, I wanted to make a confession. Tayo didn’t know this, so he spoke up before I could continue.
“I have something to say too, Femi, and I think I should go first.” His interruption was helpful. I kept quiet and listened with rapt attention.
“I am sincerely sorry that you didn’t get to hear it directly from me. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t know what to expect. The first time Elder Joshua asked to see me after church service, during our discussions about Tolani, he asked me if I’d been praying about knowing God’s will in marriage. I told him that I’d perceived God’s leading towards Sister Maria even before I went for my industrial attachment but deliberately kept it from everyone because I wasn’t ready for a relationship. I had tried to just maintain a casual friendship with her which has grown over time.”
I was not really listening to him, but I gave no such expression on my face. My eyes were fixed on him but my mind roamed back to the dream. In it, I’d wanted to quit the race, not because I was tired, but because I wanted to be with Maria. I wanted to be with the person who believed in me that I could win the race even when no one else did. I’d stopped running while beckoning to her to come. She’d alighted from the golf cart and ran towards me thinking I needed some help.
Tayo continued his story: “I shared my testimony with him and he took it up from there. Sister Maria later told me that he came to see her the following week and asked the same question he’d asked me. When he confirmed from her own independent testimony that she also perceived the same thing, he told me to prayerfully start the process.” He paused to study the expression on my face.
I was still looking at him but I was remembering how I’d tried to tell Maria in my dream that I wasn’t interested in the race anymore, but she wouldn’t listen. She just kept encouraging me to keep running. ‘You’re almost there,’ she had said, pointing towards the finish line. ‘Keep running. Fix your eyes on the prize. You can win this prize. Look at the prize. Focus on the prize.’ Since she didn’t give me any chance to tell her why I wanted to discontinue the race, I had decided to do as she bade and win the race—for her. After that, I would be free to tell her what I wanted from her, I thought.
“We did all that was required,” Tayo continued, “And, today we’re engaged. I wanted to tell you some things at some junctures and even ask you some questions, but I guessed that because of your closeness to her, you might have conflict of interest if I asked your counsel as a friend. I didn’t want to put you in a position where you’d have to choose between me and Maria.” I remained silent.
“Femi, are you not going to say anything?” Tayo asked. I had nothing to say because I was only partially listening. I had strayed in thoughts back to my dream where I’d had to yield to Maria’s persistent encouragement as she emphasized ‘The Prize‘. As I looked up at the finish line, I saw Debby standing behind it, holding a poster with the inscription, ‘The Prize.’ I looked at Maria’s face and she nodded in affirmation. While I was contemplating going for the prize or insisting on choosing Maria, someone raced past me heading towards Debby. Like a flash, I gathered momentum and charged after the unidentified person, my heart beating fast.
As in the dream, my heart was racing again, a resultant effect of a series of what Tayo was saying, the dream and the thought that I may have lost the prize because of my delay and insensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Tayo misconstrued my heavy breathing for a bad temper.
“Femi, I know you have every reason to be cross with me, but find a place in your heart to forgive me for misjudging you in my mind. I’m so sorry.” Tayo begged.
“You have done nothing wrong Tayo.” I shifted my attention to Maria and then back to Tayo. Sister Mercy was quiet. “You did the right thing by not telling me before now. To be honest, I would have competed with you over her.” I chuckled. “I actually tried but the Lord has been kind enough to point out my mistakes to me.” I narrated what transpired between Maria and me earlier in the afternoon to him. “I have apologized to Sister Maria, and I have asked God too for forgiveness. I need you too to forgive me.”
Tayo was stunned. Obviously, he was more disappointed in me than Maria was. The expression on his face said something like, ‘What if you had succeeded with your plans?’
“You’ve been a good friend to me, Femi. You were there when there was nobody for me. You helped me up when I fell, and though I’m not pleased with what you did, I still forgive you. I owe you that much. I really wish that our friendship continues and that you’ll be the one to accompany us to see Tolani this weekend.”
“Thank you for forgiving me. If you still want me to go with you, I’d like to.” It was easy for me because my focus had changed. I could now hear God clearly. Now I understood what all that I’d been feeling towards Debby meant. It was God, all this while, speaking to me; leading me through a deep affection for Debby. Accompanying them would afford me the opportunity to see her. I wanted the weekend to be here already.
We spent the rest of the time planning the journey, praying together before leaving for our various homes. As I walked home with Tayo, the thought of sharing my dream with him crossed my mind but I quickly drove it out. When the weekend finally came, I was the first to reach the meeting point for the journey. Everyone was surprised at how joyful and eager I was about the journey, but there was no way they could guess why.
To be continued…