My favorite preacher waxed eloquent today, with a story that had a sting in the tail. He was explaining the First Book of Kings (Ch.19 Vs.4-8) – the story of Prophet Elijah who gave up the struggle, and asked God to take his life. His thesis was that most people, when confronted with overwhelming problems, run from pillar to post, looking for shortcuts to their problem rather than work hard, hope in God, and pray for a solution.
The preacher told the story of a barren woman who, in her desperation to have a child, visited all sorts of seedy places, looking for who could assist her to overcome her burden.
“In this sort of situation, women are usually the special advisers,” he said. They will heckle and urge: “Have you seen this big pastor? Have you visited this man of God? Have you seen that herbalist?.”
One fateful day, the woman was given the name of Best Pastor, and told to go to him because a trial will conceive (sorry, convince) her. So she went.
“Strip” the pastor ordered, and the woman meekly obeyed. The pastor’s photographer, lurking behind, promptly stepped forward and took a picture of the naked woman. He (the pastor) proceeded to do his work, “as if he has the power to give a baby,” the preacher said.
Three months later, the man of the house noticed that his wife had been raiding their joint account. He investigated further, to discover that she had also emptied her personal account – and the couple of millions she had was all gone.
Knowing how desperate his wife was to have a baby, the husband suspected what must have happened and quietly put a tail on his wife. His private investigator eventually trailed her to the big pastor’s house. On getting the report, he promptly went to the police to report how his wife was being duped.
The police set their trap. One day, the unsuspecting woman went to the bank and withdrew the remaining N100,000 from their joint account and took off on one more rendezvous with the dupe.
… Without knowing that police were on her tail.
When the pastor was caught red-handed, the husband appeared and began hurling abuses at him.
The pastor burst into uproarious laughter. To the perplexed onlookers, he offered an explanation:
“See this woman?” he said, pointing to the barren lady, “she was once a mad woman, going about the streets naked! They brought her to me to be cured. And I did. See how respectable and responsible she now looks! Yet I am being accused!
“This is an ungrateful world” he told the police officers who were getting set to arrest him.
And with that, he excused himself, went into the house and soon came out with the picture of the very naked poor lady. He showed the picture to the police and asked the lady to deny that she was the one.
She could not.
The Police, according to the preacher, warned the man and left the pastor in peace.
Our Church broke into an indulgent chuckle. Tall story, we told ourselves; but funny one at that.
“You may think the story is far-fetched, but the woman I am referring to is in this church today!” the preacher said, with a deadpan expression on his face.
The Church went quiet.
He allowed a deep pause, and then repeated his claim.
“I say she is here; I would say that all of you know who she is!”
Nobody moved. The silence and sense of expectation were palpable.
“I say she is in church; or didn’t she come to church today?” he asked.
Apprehension set in. People turned and looked at each other, then back to greet the preacher with the same dumbfounded stare.
It was the preacher’s turn to chuckle.
“Okay, let me put it this way: If God behaves like this pastor, and His angels take photographs of all the secret things we have been doing all our lives, including the ones that each of us did this past week, what do you think?
“Think about it. We are all very clever at hiding the horrible things we do, but the pictures of our secret lives are being taken and stored. If the angels brought our own secret photographs to Church this morning and posted them on the bulletin board, how many of us will be better than the naked barren woman?
“Indeed, how many of us will be able to return to this church after today, if the world knows our little secrets?”
The journalist in me took over, as I took a quick scan of adult faces in the church.
They were a study.
It was like an eternity: nobody moved.
But mercifully, the preacher gave us a soft landing, telling us, as usual, that God loves us and wants us to repent of our sins and return to Him.
My people began breathing again.Phew!