JETH didn’t like the state of his thoughts in the last two days. He wasn’t the kind of man… had stopped being the kind of man to completely steep his thoughts on a woman.

But the baffling thing was that he wasn’t the one steeping his thoughts on her. She was the one steeping herself into his thoughts. She absorbed his every thought of her own will and he seemed helpless to do anything but—just think of her.

He couldn’t even concentrate on work, Jeth sighed and rubbed his eyes. What kind of a man went to church and instead of concentrating on his Creator, focused his heart and thoughts on some singing woman, huh?

“Lord, have mercy on me!” He muttered into his palms. “Clear my mind off her.”

But he knew it was a futile prayer. Hadn’t he prayed it to no avail since Sunday and yet still thought of her? Either God considered his persistent thoughts of her something he could master of his own will, or it was him willing the thoughts.

Heavens! Now he was putting this on God? Jeth shook his head and pushed off his chair. He desperately needed help to sanitize, or at least clarify, his thoughts, and there was only one person he could turn to when God wasn’t forthcoming. As forthcoming as he wanted, Jeth amended as he marched out of his office.

It didn’t take long for him to arrive his brother’s Engineering and Construction office at Trans Amadi Layout.

Ethan Ailemeh only ever so-lightly hitched up one of his eyebrows when Jeth strode into his office. “This is a Tuesday afternoon surprise.” He commented and without qualms abandoned the work he was doing on his PC. “What’s up with you?”

“Nothing. Good afternoon, bros.” He’d called him that since he was no more than a baby. And he’d depended on him, apart from God, since their father died more than a decade ago. “Well, something. But I don’t even know what it is. Or if I should consider it a problem.”

Ethan studied his little brother as he lowered into the armchair opposite him. He looked his usual smart self—wearing a three-piece suit like a second skin. Ethan always wondered how he never found suits suffocating. He’d never known a man wear more suits than Jeth did—except maybe a Minister of God, or a lawyer. But smart look apart, he had worried lines around his eyes and he looked tired.

“If it has you looking this exhausted, then I think you should definitely consider whatever it is a problem.” He jerked his head in the direction of the compact refrigerator. “Drink?”

Jeth shook his head. “No, thanks. I…” he exhaled, gathered his thoughts. “I had a bad day at church on Sunday. I just messed up before God. I wasn’t even there most of the time—mentally, I mean.”

“Hmm.” Ethan sat forward, joined his hands at the knuckles like he always did when he ruminated over a matter. “What was on your mind?”

“A lady.”

His eyebrow ticked up, but Ethan restrained his smile. Jeth’s face was just too serious for open amusement. “A lady. Did you invite her to church with you then?”

“No. I don’t even know her. I don’t even know her name. I asked but she…” Jeth stopped his ranting and breathed. “Sorry.” He apologised with a rueful smile. “I’m just so confused. It’s never happened to me before.”

“What hasn’t ever happened to you before?” But Ethan knew. Or he had a good guess.

“Hear a lady singing in church and then completely forget myself and my environment.” Jeth confessed. “It was during the third service… I chose to go to that service because I had work I wanted to finish and going to the fourth service and staying for the fifth would eat into the little time I had for the job. The choir was singing—In Christ Alone—I can’t seem to forget that song now.” He added with a grimace and shook his head. “I shouldn’t have so clearly heard her voice, bros, but I did. I heard her, like she was singing right into my ears. It was weird. So weird.”

“And did she have a good voice?”

Jeth almost smiled now. So like Ethan to ask the simplest and yet unexpected question. “She sings some kind of alto. A not-so-perfect alto. But it captivated me, her voice and later, her appearance and her personality. The little of it I perceived.”

“You spoke to her then.” Good move, Ethan privately approved.

“I embarrassed myself.” Jeth grimaced again and sighed at the sheen of amusement in Ethan’s eyes. “I followed… no, make that stalked her out of the church and then pushed through the crowd until we were side by side; then I started all of this talk about how I heard her singing and was struck by her voice. Guess her reaction to all of this, bros?”

“She gave you the cold treatment.” Ethan fully smiled now.

“You got that right. But it wasn’t so much a cold treatment; it was more a I-think-you-are-an-unserious-fellow treatment.” Jeth picked a paperweight on the glass-top finished wood desk and toyed with its angles. “She wouldn’t tell me her name and after she zoomed off in her cab, I started to berate myself for wasting my time in God’s presence. I was in his presence, bros, but I wanted him gone, so I can get with this lady. I heard not a single thing the Pastor taught. Not one, bros.”

“You can always buy the CD and replay.” Ethan quipped, very amused.

“Oh, bros.” Jeth groaned. “I feel so bad about Sunday. But I feel even worse that I continue to think about her when I don’t want to. She’s been occupying my thoughts and I don’t get why. Why am I thinking of her, bros?”

“Want us to go over the boy meets girl lessons again?” Ethan teased.

“Oh, Jesus!” Jeth slumped back against the backrest of the chair. “Are you going to take me for a joke too like she did, bros?”

“No. But it’s a tiny pleasure hearing you talk like this.” Ethan chuckled at his scowl and got up to get himself a drink. “What is your heart telling you on this matter?”

“My heart?” Jeth scoffed. “It’s the most confused organ in my body right now.”

Ethan pried open the can of malt drink as he took back his seat. “Okay. What is God telling you on this matter?”

“God?” Jeth frowned and slowly heaved his body back to upright position. “I haven’t heard from him on this. And I have prayed, multiple times, about this. He’s just silent. Maybe he’s displeased with me for allowing a woman, and not him, contain my whole thoughts during church service.”

“Don’t be ridiculous! God doesn’t operate like that and you know it.” Ethan chided. “He is God and he knows your heart. He directs your heart. His Word says: ‘whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’

Ethan held his brother’s eyes. “Sometimes, our ears might not be tuned enough to hear his directives, but our spirit is, so long as we are his children and we have given over our lives to him. His promise is that he will instruct us and teach us the way we should go. That promise includes directing our moves without first asking our permission if he should.”

“So you think God is behind me hearing this woman singing?”

“Are you thinking relationship and marriage now, Jeth?” Ethan asked instead of responding to his question.

“No, I’m not.” Jeth shook his head, his mind still trying to grasp Ethan’s words.

“Do you think you are ready for marriage at this point in your life?”

“I…” Jeth paused to consider the question. Then he nodded. “I guess I am. I only always thought that when I was ready, I would get a conscious prompting towards that direction.”

That was your conscious prompting.” Ethan said and sat back to take a sip of his drink.

“That— You mean, my hearing… her singing in church?” Jeth asked it, considered it, still could not believe it. “But how can it be? God speaks to us clearly… he has always done so with me. Besides, I wasn’t even praying about this. It wasn’t something my heart was yearning after… at least, not consciously.”

“Who knows better what the yearning of our hearts are than he who owns our hearts?” Ethan asked and smiled. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, Jeth, and lean not on your own understanding. Your little mind is too small to fully comprehend his ways.”

“What?” Jeth jerked forward. “What did you say?”

Ethan stopped his hand halfway to his mouth and shrugged. “I said, your little mind…”

“No, not that.” Jeth broke in, his heartbeats have quickened and he suddenly felt lightheaded and at the same, it was as if he was becoming aware of something that had eluded him. “Trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding.”

“Aha. Forgotten your book of Proverbs?” Ethan was watching him closely now though.

“I heard it as I knelt to pray Sunday morning.” It had been so distinct, those words in his heart. “I wondered why Proverbs 3:5 would be ringing in my head but…” he could now understand it, couldn’t he? “He was preparing me for meeting her, wasn’t he?”

“His ways are not our ways and his thoughts are above our thoughts.”

“Will you quit sounded mysterious!” Jeth chided and rolled his eyes when his brother laughed. “Gosh, bros, is God saying she… that  that woman is the one I’m to marry?”

“That, you will have to ask him.” Ethan said and drank his malt with pleaure.

That he will have to ask him, Jeth said the words to himself and wondered if he needed really to ask… or to act?

HE looked out for her when the mid-week service ended that Thursday and saw her as soon as she walked out of the church auditorium.

“Hello. God bless you.” He gave her a bright smile as he fell in step beside her.

“Oh Lord, it’s you again.” Shiloh sighed, somehow not surprised he was in another dark three-piece suit. He must think himself some kind of fashionable man. Unless he was a lawyer; then that’d explain why he was this persistent.

“Oh no, it’s Jethro, not the Lord.” He sent an absent waving greeting to a fellow group member. “Of course, I don’t think you’d sigh so exasperatedly if it was the Lord.”

“Are you trying to be funny?” Shiloh threw him a narrowed-eyes glance.

“Did I succeed in being so?”

“No.” Shiloh strode out the congested entranceway, stopped before a girl selling homemade juice. “Give me Zobo and Pineapple juice please.”

“I’d like Zobo myself.” His instinct was to get out his wallet. But Jeth squelched that thought. Something told him this was an independent woman.

Shiloh looked at him. He was smiling. Calmly and confidently. “Give him Zobo.” She said to the girl with a sigh and passed her the five hundred naira note. “Forget the change.” She added before turning on her way.

“That was a nice thing to do.” Jeth observed, impressed that she’d done it.

“I didn’t do it to earn your praise.” Shiloh sidestepped bodies and blaring cars.

“I know that. But I am still impressed. And thank you for the drink.” He hastily drew her out of a surging forward vehicle. “Sorry, that was an impatient driver.”

Shiloh lightly shook off his hold. “I wasn’t going to stand in his way and get crushed. Still, thank you.” They were nearing the junction and she needed to send him off. “I’m not going to tell you my name. I don’t know what you want, but I’m not interested. So, you can stop stalking me and go on your way. Please.”

“No, I won’t.” Jeth shrugged at the glare she shot him. “I want a wife and this is crazy, but I think… I believe she is you.”

“Say… what?” Shiloh actually stopped and gaped at him. “Are you for real?”

“I am.” Jeth flagged down a taxi. “Your ride is here.” He said and opened the front passenger door. “Have a safe drive home. Before you sleep tonight, pray for me. Because I will be praying for you.”

“You… you just…” Shiloh stuttered to a stop. “Unbelievable!” She finally muttered before turning to stumble into the car.

Jeth smiled as he watched the car re-join the evening building-up traffic. He still didn’t know her name. But he knew something about her—she had a generous heart. That was a start… a good enough start.

He turned and walked back to his car. But Lord, if this is her, make her come to me.

“Amen.” He said aloud to his prayer and got into his car.


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Dedication: For February celebrants. True and everlasting love is my prayer for you.

And for all lover of love.