“Have you ever been punched in your private part?” That was the question Ekenechukwu hurled at me during his 3-hour-long exposé of his new life. He had called me late last month and asked if I could grant him the big favor of paying him a visit. I could not turn him down, especially because we’ve known each other since July 1993 when we met at a church somewhere in Ikeja. Besides, he was (& still is) one of the 7 people on earth that knows me very well.
“I think it’s time you share with your online audience my story,” he said while closing gently the door to his one-roomed self-contained home. He had read my September 20 writeup – A Husband’s Fathers’ Day Wish – and felt the timing was right for him to share his experience with the hope that the heart of every man & husband out there can be touched for good. Somewhere in my head I tried to figure out why he chose me instead of one of the top bloggers or newspaper companies. He told me that our hearts were intertwined hence his first reason for choosing me. His second reason was that he felt the LORD was leading him to talk to me. I usually feel an uneasiness when someone tells me they’re led by the LORD to talk to me on an issue. Uneasiness because both the LORD & myself know that I am not the perfect person to bring solution to the heartaches of people like these. But I guess only the LORD can see what the LORD sees in me for Him to have led Ekenechukwu my way.
“Oluwaseun, it’s time,” he paused with a smile while staring me in the eyes as if he could see something no one else could. He stared for what seemed like 10 seconds and if you were a stranger in the room, you would have thought that he was depressed or about to do something drastic. And then he smiled and repeated my name for what seemed to me like the 6th time. I asked him why he kept pronouncing my full name instead of the usual “Seun” and his response shook me: BECAUSE “OLUWASEUN” & NOT “SEUN” IS WHAT I SAW IN THE LORD’S BOOK OF… He left the sentence uncompleted but somewhere in my heart I heard him complete the sentence. Our mutual smiles ended simultaneously as soon as it emerged.
He mentioned how he became a REAL Christian earlier this year (2018). At first I was a little confused because I could have sworn that he became a Christian the day we met in July 1993. Apparently there was a new date now and according to the new date, he’s barely a year old as a Christian. He smiled.
“I became a true follower of Christ when my wife left me last year,” he continued. Apparently his wife had left him after being married for more than 8 years. She had left along with the 3 girls they had, the youngest of whom was just 2 years old. One of the last phrase his wife had uttered – I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE – was put on replay in his head. His business had suffered a series of perpetual losses in the last 3 years and he had not managed his emotions well as a husband & father in the aftermath. A few days before the final eviction date given him by his former landlord, he had gotten home to discover that his wife was gone.
He paused and looked at the ceiling. He was not looking like someone who was worried or disturbed or depressed. He looked at the ceiling as if he saw what Stephen saw when he was being stoned in the book of Acts.
“Where was I?” He continued.
He had tried his best to resolve what he thought to be the issues resulting in the breakdown of his marriage. The more he tried, the more it seemed to get worse. Until he found himself at a marriage mediation office that was put in place by the government of the land. It was at that meeting he was dealt a blow that eventually made him ask me that question: “HAVE YOU EVER BEEN PUNCHED IN YOUR PRIVATE PART?”
As he recapped a summary of what happened that fateful day, I noticed he tried to hide what seemed to be tears streaming from his eyes. The wife had asked that he be excused from the room because she wanted to present incriminating evidence. He was called back in a few minutes later. He was shocked that the wife had mentioned an incident that happened in a moment of weakness on his part years earlier. He had quickly confided in his wife back then and both had concluded on the steps to be taken to ensure that the incident isn’t repeated. He was shocked that the wife would bring up the issue as the main evidence that he was not fit to be a husband and father. He didn’t mention the details to me but I could see it in his eyes that he was heartbroken.
He left the mediation meeting and the first person he could think to call was Praise Fowowe one of his mentors. It felt like someone had dealt him a heavy blow below the belt and I could see in his eyes what he could not say with his mouth. HE HAD WEPT. He was heartbroken. He had failed as a husband and as a father and it seemed like his life and marriage was now part of the statistics of the many that have hit the rocks in recent years.
“Oluwaseun, that was the day I became a true follower of Christ,” he said. “That was the day I understood what Jesus must have felt when Judas kissed him. That was the day I understood when Jesus prayed to the father to ‘forgive them for they don’t know what they were doing.'” That was the day he rededicated his life to Christ. He looked at me and smiled.
“I still love her,” he continued. “And even though many leaders have told me to move on, how can one easily move on when your heart had been broken into pieces like that.” His prayer life took a new turn. His commitment to the things of God took a new leaf. His understanding of God’s ways took a new perspective. And as each day passed, it seemed that God himself was breaking his already-broken heart. “That’s why I could connect with that husband you wrote about who wanted his wife back,” he continued.
He mentioned how God had used his broken marriage to bring him closer to HIM. He pointed to a corner in his room as evidence of a new passion that had been borne out of the broken pieces of his heart. As I approached the wall, I could see almost 2 dozen post-it notes on the wall. As if he could read the question in my mind, he muttered with his signature smile: “these are the marriages & people that I’m currently praying for.” As he said that, he removed one of the post-it notes and said to me in words that sounded like they were coming from a grateful heart, broken but grateful nonetheless. “This person’s case has been resolved,” he said with a smile and brought out a red pen from his pocket to cross out the name.
I smiled as I watched him smile.
As he looked at one of the sticky notes on the wall, his smile seemed to grow wider and wider until it seemed like he was smiling from ear to ear like one of those cartoon characters.
“Oluwaseun, even though I want my wife back with all the fibre in my being, I’m happy and content knowing that, according to her, she’s been happier ever since she left. I have nothing against her. Infact, I realize it’s easy to blame her for leaving. I realize its easy to point the finger at her like Adam did to Eve and put all the blame on her. But when one finger is pointing at her, Oluwaseun, I realize that at least 3 of my fingers are pointing back at me. 3 fingers are pointing back at me and declaring that it was my fault she left.”
At that moment, Ekenechukwu was smiling on just one side of his face.
SILENCE. …for what seemed like 2hrs.
“Oluwaseun, I wish I learnt how to be a great husband in primary school and secondary school the way I learnt how to get an A+ in Maths. I wish we took mandatory university courses like RELATIONSHIP 101, MARRIAGE 101 – 401, UNDERSTANDING WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A BOY & A MAN, and UNDERSTANDING WOMENOLOGY: THE COMPLETE GUIDE. I wish men and husbands will realize that we, like ADAM, are largely responsible for what becomes of EVE. I wish husbands in the midst of their busyness will carry their wives along all the way so that there would not be an opportunity for the serpent to have a discussion with EVE. I wish we will wake up to the realization that the enemy is usually not just after the breakup of the marriage but mostly after the destruction of the foundational structure of the next generation: the children. I wish men will swallow their stony ego and apologize even when they’re right and love their wives even when they’re not feeling it. I wish husbands will not wait to appreciate the value of their wives after they’ve left them, whether or not it was their faults. I wish husbands can ask their wives if they’re doing a good job as husbands or if their wives would consider shooting them if it were not considered a crime.”
A tear was struggling to drop from his right eye. He wiped it with his left thumb.
“Oluwaseun, I’m grateful that my heartbreak has resulted in a broken and contrite heart. I’m grateful that I’m closer to my LORD as a result of this brokenness. I’m grateful that He has given me a message in the midst of the mess I created. And most of all, I’m grateful that the LORD has forgiven me and given me a second chance.”
By now, we were both sitting on the carpetless floor beside the prayer wall. He was looking at the wall with the list of names like A**, BU****, CH*****, & a list of names that start with half of the letters in the alphabet. Ekenechukwu had been broken by what broke his heart and now he was praying for others not to experience what he has gone through.
He had recently asked his LORD if there’s a possibility of his wife returning and the response he got sent shivers of goosebumps down my spine. Apparently the Lord had led him to an article about a couple, Harold and Lilian, who got divorced in 1967 and in April of this year remarried. Over fifty years after divorcing, 83-year-old Harold Holland and 78-year-old Lillian Barnes ignited a hope in Ekenechukwu’s broken heart that indeed with GOD nothing shall be impossible. “I was almost sure I heard a voice in my heart saying IF I CAN HANDLE THEIR SITUATION, TRUST ME TO HANDLE YOURS,” he concluded.
He brought out his multicolored post-it notes and wrote my name on it before adding it to the collection on the wall. “This is to let you know,” he added, “that I’m literally praying for you everyday.”
I was moved. We had talked for over 3 hours and it seemed like just 10 minutes. We hugged for what seemed like a transmission of strength & grace between two friends. As I hugged him and said goodbye, I noticed that my eyes had been teary. I smiled.
As I left his place, I prayed to be a man after God’s heart. Its been over 5 weeks that I visited Ekenechukwu and I’m still praying that prayer. A prayer that even though OLUWASEUN AKISANMI gets his heart broken by someone, God will use that heartbreak to make his heart broken and contrite and consequently draw him closer to HIM.