Love is a Beautiful experience, especially when the girl is still carrying the original copy of her brain. The one that let’s her know that you don’t meet a guy today and start taking his name for prayer session.

Adura is one girl that my heart rings for every time I think about settling down, that was until I started pestering her to date me.

I thought she was just playing the hard to get kind of thing, more than half of a year we were “just friends.” She will tell me how much she wanted to make us happen but that her mother was still praying about it. In my mind, I was like “it’s only date I asked this girl to date me, which one is praying on top dating. Ordinary dating is becoming big issue, I will just walk away.”

Maybe I should have walked away, but I continued buying her Ogufe and ila alasepo after work. Goat meat and okra seemed to be her best meal, she would not stop cuddling and pecking me after such a meal.

Adura’s office was just a few minutes from mine, so we would arrive early together and leave together. One day she told me, they gave her one oil for her to anoint “our car.” I first laughed, I did not want to remind her that she was sitting in the first car I have ever bought and in fact the first car in my family.

When I saw she was serious, the bottle was in her hand, I gently followed her round the car, chanting psalm 23 and rubbing oil on motor parts. I tried to convince her that it was time to get serious together, she said the church elders wanted to see me for counselling.

“Adufe but it’s just dating, we have not gotten to that point na!” I protested.

“There is nothing one does in this life that must not pass through the scrutiny of God.”

“okay, why can’t we pray about it and let God guide us. Babe I love..sorry I like you, let us first agree on where this is headed.”

It was like play or joke, she started to behave quite cold and distant. We could hardly have a decent conversation without her making me feel like I had cheated on her.

I still did not take it serious because I felt she was just being the typical girl trouble. She stopped over at my apartment some few times and would never stay long enough for me to cook, entertain or talk with her. I wondered if this had anything to do with seeing her mom and the elders.

One of those moments I would have lost my cool was when I was taking a nap and I suddenly could feel sprinkles of some water or something all over me, and someone reciting prayers. I startled up from sleep and saw Adura sprinkling my apartment and reciting the psalms. If you have ever shared bed with a bed wetter, and you accused yourself before waking up, you would know how I felt thinking I had pissed and my bed was wet.

I grabbed the bottle of whatever it was she was sprinkling and threw it out. I stood staring at her as she screamed and cried about my godless lifestyle.

“How can you say you want to marry a woman and you cannot even fight battles, you are a prayerless man!”

I was wondering when exactly I talked about marrying her. The fact that I was feeding a woman who had taken my name for prayers and refused to accept my love, the fact that I would drive her to work, and I allowed this lady to feel the comfort of being with me, it all dawned on me. She was probably not assured of my spiritual capacity as a husband, but is that even a prerequisite for loving a man?

I showed her out of my apartment and refused to continue business as usual. We stopped talking or driving to work together. I would drive by her office as she was alighting from the Molue bus, wave at her for just brief enough time to not be considered a snub. I could not understand why a beautiful educated lady would abandon her decision and start following strange rituals for picking a man.

I noticed she didn’t even respond to my salutations, it was like nothing had happened. I started to miss Adura because it truly was not easy for me to start pursuing new romantic friendships. Maybe I should have just tried harder to meet other people.

I called and she picked immediately, I told her I would go to her mom’s church and we fixed a date.

It was raining on that Saturday, we drove for hours and she seemed in the best of moods. I explained to her my reasons for putting a pause to our friendship and she waved it off.

“You know I just want to be sure you love me and it’s not just some decision from your mom.”

“I know that Segun, but you should have also taken the right steps. You are a man and you should know that any family without the seal of God is bound to collapse, thank you for coming finally.” She said and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I drove with a light heart, the rain did not stop.

We drove up close to a clearing and she pointed to a foot path, that we were to follow it to the church building. I would never think anything could be wrong with this, so I alighted, locked the car and followed her through the clearing till we reached a bamboo structure.

My clothes were damp and I could not have been more relieved for shelter. We got in to meet Adura’s mom, two other men who I later gathered were options from her mom and they were also here to see the Prophet. Apparently, the choice of who would marry her daughter had been one long domestic war, Iya Eleta was a traditionalist turned faith praying, water sprinkling, bamboo cane wielding, daughter of the mountain top aladura confederation.

I didn’t want to understand how these things worked, after all it was not much different from Pentecostals, there was always some middle man helping adults decide who to marry or not. The process of picking could be worlds apart but the scrutiny was always the same.

“So Iwo naa nife arabinrin yi?” the prophet broke the silence, his voice had a tiny croak and his fingers had a small shook that made me wonder if he was withdrawing from hard drugs or fasting.

He asked all of us three men to kneel in front of the altar after confirming that we wanted to be sleeping with the maiden. I was only thinking of dating the girl, but I could not believe how fast things were taking turns to happen to me.

We had removed our shoes at the door, the cold breeze blew in without restraint, it also queried my resolve and even though I wanted to give up, I knew this ordeal just had to take its course. After all, common sense had warned me but I had decided to chase love to the ends of the earth.

So we prayed and chanted vows for hours, while the prophet spun and tumbled in a trance. He kept at his rigmarole and antics, I wrapped my arms round me and kept one eye open just in case things went south. My fellow competitors were also cold but they had arrived before the full downpour, so their teeth did not chatter as loud as mine. I turned this into some kind of prayer and muttered gibberish, just to fit into the buzz.

Adura and her mother were close to splitting each other’s skulls as they wrestled the prayer points. I could just imagine that it was a replay of how they must have argued about who should be the lucky man, that house must have been on fire. I started to nurse the funny thought that no man could survive such a heated atmosphere -maybe the reason her father left was not far fetched – the prophet made a high pitched growl and ordered us to open our eyes.

“You and you, go back home. Your destiny is not here.” he said, pointing at the other two men. They were summarily seen off to the door and Mama Eleta waved them off, she seemed to be the kind of woman who would love you affectionately up until the point “God says no to you.” She didn’t even seem disappointed, her three stick tribal marks wiggled as she continued to mutter prayers.

She was Eleta because some time when she was born, it was not yet wrong to scratch tribal marks unto the face of a girl child. She had three marks on both side of her face and soon got tagged “Iya Eleta.”

The prophet turned to me and glared at me, I was taken aback -this life is not war na- you should be rejoicing with me if I am the chosen one, so I thought. The prophet placed his hands on my shoulders and said, “are you prepared to be cleansed, to be made fit for this maiden?”

“Yes I….”

“Are you prepared to take this mantle and be separated, to be sanctified as this woman’s covenant husband?”

I started to try explaining that I was just asking her out and my salary was not even up to half of what is needed for half of society wedding. He covered his mouth with his palms and signaled me to be silent, he turned his back and bent behind the Altar to pull out three strong bamboo sticks that were freshly cut from what I could see. The sticks were long, they had been cleaned to remove the fronds and leaves.

He gave one to Adura and the other to Iya Eleta. In his other hand he had a Bible from which he read Isaiah 53:5 and then went on to read 1 Pet 2:24.

Adura kept telling me to be a man, I looked at each of them as he read and it started to dawn on me what this whole sanctification would be like. I was going to be made whole by his stripes.

That moment between when he pronounced the last phrase “….made whole” and when the first stroke wrapped around my back was when I realised I messed up. Till date, I don’t understand how I reached the door of my car.