Remember that time I was caught having an affair with my coworker, Gbenga? And how I felt like my world had ended afterwards? Well, my world did end, but my story didn’t. Here’s what happened.
Our chains are gone
Our debt is paid
The cross has overthrown the grave
For Jesus’ blood that sets us free
Means death to death
And life for me
– Hillsong Worship, The Passion
After the affair was discovered I was desperate for someone to talk to, but I couldn’t bring myself to open up to my friends or family. So I wrote a post about what happened on TNC. The forgiving, encouraging comments from you guys were what gave me the strength to keep going despite the depressed state I was in. I was able to get back to some semblance of normal life. I woke up, showered, went to the office, did what I had to do, came back home and went to bed. Rinse and repeat. On the surface, it looked like things were back to normal, but that could not have been further from the truth. Inside I was tortured by an overwhelming sense of shame, and guilt, and anxiety.
I started keeping a journal to keep track of how I was feeling each day, to retain my sanity. One day I would feel better, as though I was starting to get back to my normal self. The next day all the guilt and shame would come rushing back, and I would feel worthless all over again. It didn’t help that it was really difficult to avoid Gbenga at work – despite my best efforts, we were assigned on the same project again. Watching him interact with other coworkers each day was a constant and painful reminder of the friendship I had lost, and how lonely I felt as a result. Losing Gbenga as a friend made me realise how disconnected I was from everyone else in my life, so that I now found myself alone, with no one to talk to about what I was going through.
Soon I decided could no longer handle constant interaction with Gbenga, and I decided to take a 3-week leave of absence from work. I thought it would help me recover, but in retrospect it was a terrible idea. I had been standing on the precipice of a black hole, and the isolation flung me deep into it. I stopped leaving my house. For days, I followed the same pattern: I would wake up in the middle of the day, mope around the house and on the internet doing a lot of nothing until the early hours of the morning, and then go to sleep. Once I found myself crying on the floor of my bedroom at 3am, and I realised that I wasn’t crying because I was heartbroken. I was in tears because I felt lost and I didn’t have any idea what to do about it. I felt hollow, as though life had lost meaning. To fill up that hollowness, I started comfort eating. I must have been eating between 7 and 10 times a day (I’m not even exaggerating here). There was hardly a moment when there wasn’t something in my mouth. The sensations from the food distracted me from my pain.
On one particularly bad afternoon, I hit rock bottom. I decided to call Gbenga. I wasn’t really expecting him to pick up, so I was shocked when I heard the familiar voice.
“I’m sorry, I know you’re in the office.” Silence.
“Yeah. What’s up?”
“I miss… talking to you.”
“Is everything ok?”
For a few seconds, I struggled with whether to tell Gbenga how I was feeling. I wondered if he really cared.
“Not really. It’s complicated…”
“Ok, I have to go now. See you around.”
Blinking back tears, I ended the call. I had hoped that Gbenga would try to probe for more information about what was going on with me, but I took the fact that he did not ask further questions as evidence that he did not give a hoot.
As warped and self-centred as my thinking may have been at the time, the conversation with Gbenga inspired me to reflect on myself. Up to that point I had been wallowing in self pity, but I started to think about my own part in creating the situation I found myself in. Why was I so alone? I decided that it must be because I was not coming off as a nice person, and that I needed to love myself in order to be nice to other people. I stopped comfort eating and started taking better care of myself, and I resolved to start being nicer to people. I was even able to go back to work. Shallow as my motivations may have been, this was an improvement. But it was not enough to shake that hollow feeling.
One Friday evening when I got home from work, I was about to start my usual routine of Netflix and food when I got a call from a number I did not recognise. It was Bimbola, Gbenga’s wife.
I was terrified. I had heard of people being killed by incantations received over a phone call, but I never imagined this was how I would die. I debated whether to hang up or hear her out, but curiosity won and I asked her what was up. What I heard next could not have been more shocking. My jaw dropped as I heard Bimbola say that she just wanted to check up on me, see how I was doing and offer a listening ear if I needed someone to talk to.
It took me some time to process what I was hearing. Bimbola was… concerned about me? In what universe?
I told her that I did want to talk, so we arranged to meet up. Concerned as I was for my safety, I needed to know the real reason why she had reached out to me.
The next day, we sat across the table from each other outside the Hans and René at the Radisson. To add to my confusion, Bimbola had even paid for my ice-cream. After a minute or so of small talk, I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Why are you being so nice to me?” I blurted out.
Bimbola smiled. “I’m not being nice to you, at least that’s not my intention. I just felt that you needed a friend, so I’m here to listen.”
At that, I broke down in tears. I was overwhelmed by the knowledge that Bimbola of all people, had been the one to reach out to me in spite of the pain that she must be going through, caused by my own actions.
As I wiped my face with a tissue offered by Bimbola, she went on, “I don’t want to ask you anything about what happened. That is in the past. But I just have one question.”
I held my breath. This was it. Was she going to ask me why I did it? Why I picked her husband? Whether I had been sent by the forces of darkness to destroy her marriage?
“I just have one question. What do you want out of life?”
If I had been asked that a few months ago, I would have confidently spouted off some high-minded answer about having an impact on the world and leaving a legacy behind. Of course I knew what I wanted out of life. But immediately she asked me that question, I knew that I had no answer, and that was the real root of the despair I had sunk into. Not heartbreak, not loneliness. Before the discovery of the affair, I had lived to please myself. And when I was faced with the realisation that the way I had been living was hurting other people, I knew I could no longer live that way. But I knew no other way to live. This was why I had felt lost and hopeless.
I told Bimbola that I did not have an answer to her question, and she advised me to take some time to reflect on it. The ice-cream long forgotten, we sat there for over an hour talking about what I had been going through over the past few weeks. And incredibly, Bimbola listened to it all with genuine concern. Eventually, I brought the conversation back to why she was here, talking to me about my problems.
“To tell you the truth, it’s the grace of God that brought me here. Without it, I would have just ignored you. There was no reason for me to talk to you. But God had other plans. He asked me to reach out to you. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy for me, but God’s grace is what gave me the strength to do this.”
Grace! So that was her secret. I was curious about Bimbola’s experience of grace, and we spent another hour talking about it. She told me how throughout her life, she had felt the grace of God guiding her steps even when she felt distant from Him. She too had battled with depression, not just in the aftermath of the incident but throughout her teenage years. And each time, God was there, helping her overcome it. She told me how she had entrusted her life to God, trusting Him to reveal her purpose. Why try to do things on our own if God’s grace is available to us free of charge, through the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ?
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
– John Newton, Amazing Grace
As I listened to Bimbola speak about grace and God’s purpose for His children, it was as though I was a thirsty traveler coming upon a cool stream. It wasn’t like I hadn’t heard this before, I was raised as a Christian after all. But I had closed my heart to the Gospel and made up my mind that I did not need God to be a good person. Why should I have to worship Him, or pray to Him? After all, loads of people were doing just fine without God, or so I thought. And for a while, it had seemed that I was doing just fine too, but the incident showed me the error of my ways. Horrific as it was for everyone involved, that was the push I needed to acknowledge that I could not do it on my own. God found a way to turn all that suffering into joy, as only He can. Bimbola’s self-sacrifice and willingness to show love to me even though I had hurt her deeply, was to me a reflection of God’s unfathomable love for me in spite of my sinfulness.
Through the grace of God and Bimbola’s help, I opened my heart to the Gospel, and it was as though I was hearing the message for the first time. In time, I let go of my pride and let God in. When I made that decision to have faith in God, I felt all the shame, guilt and anxiety that had plagued me for so long fall away completely. My earthly desires had been replaced with a desire to please God. I had been given a second chance at a life ruled by love and self-sacrifice, not by pride and self-gratification. I had been set free.
Whom the Lord sets free
Oh, is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
– Hillsong Worship, Who You Say I Am
I’m sharing my story here partly because my heart is so filled with joy at my salvation that I want to shout it from the rooftops (no one would hear me over the noise from the generator so I’ve settled for a TNC post). But the more important reason is because I feel compelled to show others the miracle that God has worked in my life, so that they will know that He is God. Could anyone have predicted that Gbenga, Bimbola and I would be friends today? Or that the person who wrote this post would ever describe herself as a born again Christian? God’s ways are truly beyond our comprehension.
I believe that God has a plan for Good for each one of us, even though the path might not always be clear or easy. All we have to do is make the decision to have faith and surrender our lives and hearts to Him, and we will be saved and receive His grace. No one is beyond God’s mercy and love, and even when we stray He is always waiting to take us back. If you feel that you have strayed from God’s light at all, whether you find yourself 2 centimeters or 2 kilometers away, don’t wait till next Sunday or even till tomorrow. Come back to Him now with all your heart, and feel the redeeming power of His love. Your Father is waiting patiently for your return.