The Choice (chapter 15)

Seconds rolled into minutes, minutes into hours, and hours into days. Three months ran by since Sarah and Femi had been trying to achieve conception.

Sarah trusted and hoped she would receive a miracle. Pregnancy. But whenever it seemed like it, she found out it was only a mirage. Sarah rose from her bed and dressed up with a heavy heart. She left the house and went to church, pushing her thoughts aside. Sarah sat on one of the executive chairs on the altar along with the other ministers of the church. It was the annual youth conference of the church. Being perceived as a vibrant youth for Christ increased Sarah's assignments. She was a minister. She coordinated the drama group and the sanitation team. And during the conference, she had to moderate programs. Sarah walked to the pulpit after the brief rendition by the mass choir. She took the microphone and introduced the preacher who was to give the sermon during the third plenary session. The congregants clapped their hands as the preacher mounted the altar. Sarah dropped the microphone and returned to her seat. The preacher Sarah had introduced as Pastor Mrs. Helen Ademope took the microphone and prayed before she began to preach.

Sarah took her notepad and pen from the small table beside her chair. Pastor Helen spoke. "It's a huge privilege to stand before you people of God to share the word...." Sarah stared at the preacher. Pastor Helen was a renowned minister. An eloquent and beautiful woman in her early forties, well dressed and smart. "God will be speaking through me on the topic, 'Purity amongst youth: God's or world's standard?' I believe it's going to be a wonderful time in God's presence.

Somebody, shout hallelujah," Pastor Helen said. "Hallelujah," many of the congregants chorused.

Sarah began to feel uneasy. She repressed her emotions and wrote on her notepad. A few minutes into the sermon, Sarah tapped the minister seated beside her and whispered in her ears. Sarah rose to her feet and walked out of the church through the side door on the altar. She stepped out and fanned herself with her hands. She walked towards the toilet, although she had no need for it. She opened the door and sat on the toilet seat until urine found its way into the toilet bowl. She stood and cleaned up. She paraded the toilet corridor for some minutes before stepping out again.

Sarah combed her brain for what else to do to pass the time. But she knew a youth minister of her caliber shouldn't be found loitering outside the church when a plenary session was going on. It was unacceptable. But Sarah didn't want to be inside the church. Sarah hissed.

Of all the topics in the world that a preacher could teach, why did Pastor Helen choose the one she mentioned? The theme for the annual youth conference was 'The Place of Youth in God's End-time Agenda.' Every other preacher had dwelt on the strength and versatility of the youth in different ways until Pastor Mrs. Helen Ademope took the microphone. What did purity have to do with the place of youth in God's end-time agenda? Sarah wondered. What was Mrs. Helen's business with purity? The topic stung Sarah like angry wasps. She didn't want to hear any word on it anymore. Sarah strolled around the church. She would rather spend the time walking about than listen to a sermon that would make her feel bad and dirty. After all, her own case was excusable, she thought.

When Sarah felt that the pastor would notice her absence in the church, she walked back in. Sarah resumed her seat with a forced smile plastering her face and placed her notepad on her thigh. The sermon was still ongoing. "...Nowadays, it is a pity that purity is becoming a thing of the past. No more purity in speech, conduct, dressing, and other aspects of life. The most important aspect where the devil has afflicted the youth and the church as a whole is in the area of sexual purity...." Pastor Helen continued...

Sarah felt as though someone had hit her with a hammer. She blinked and buried her stare in the notepad on her lap. She took her pen, poised to write, but had nothing in mind. She scribbled rubbish in the jotter. "... It's heartbreaking that many churches celebrate this depravity. You see pregnant brides everywhere, in brilliant white wedding gowns at the altar, receiving the warm regards of church elders. It seemed to have become the norm. No one cares. And what results do we have?" Pastor Helen said and allowed her eyes to drift through her audience. No one seemed ready to attempt answering the rhetorical question she had posed. "Apart from many other negativities, we have married men and women who can't be satisfied in marriage, thus increasing the rate of extramarital affairs, scandals, and divorces. It seemed gone were the days when a brother would regard his fiancée as a treasure that must be reserved until marriage and vice versa.

Many now embrace masturbation and other sexual deviations in their lives. So heartbreaking, I'll say. Please turn your Bibles with me to 1 Corinthians 6:15–20. I'll read. It says, 'Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot?

Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh." But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body... Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which is God's.' As such, a youth who will have a place in God's plan for the End-time will be the one cleansed from all filthiness. One who beholds his or her vessel in holiness unto God...." Pastor Helen spoke on... Sarah became increasingly worried and disturbed. It seemed the preacher had come purposely to speak to her.

Her words set thorns underneath Sarah's buttocks. Sarah swallowed and blinked. "...I may sound harsh, but sincerely I do not mean to...

The truth is that it doesn't matter what position you hold in the church; if you choose not to live according to God's will, you will lose your place. And that's if you had a place, to begin with.

Having a place in God's plan for the end-time starts with surrendering your life to Jesus. Until then, you have no place in Christ Jesus. But does it end with salvation? No! It doesn't. Jesus Christ tells us in John 15:13–14 that 'Greater love has no one than this than to lay down one's life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.' That means you are not yet a friend of God nor will you enjoy the full benefits of knowing Jesus if you do not abide in Him and do His will...." Pastor Helen spoke on. Sarah sighed. She wished she could disappear from the church and its premises. Or at least have Pastor Helen threw out of the church instead. Enough of her teaching. "...Many youths only give a portion of their lives to Christ and keep the rest to themselves.

When it comes to holiness and righteous living, they will say 'God is not strict,' 'God understands,' 'God is too merciful to punish wrongdoings,' and all sorts of heresies. But when it comes to blessing, they remember that silver and gold belong to God and that He'll give them.

How gullible have we become? The Bible says in Proverbs 6:27, 'Can a man take fire to his bosom, And his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, And his feet not be seared?' Pastor Helen said. She looked up from her Bible and stared at the audience. "Can you walk in filthiness and conformity to the world and expect God's best? It is impossible. Yes, God is merciful. He is patient. He waits for you to surrender your life completely to Him so that you may take your place in His agenda and live an exceptional life in Christ Jesus. Yet, this same God is holy. He detests iniquity. Please turn your Bibles with me to James 1:21–25. Let someone read for us," Pastor Helen said... A tall lady amongst the audience rose to her feet, her eyes fixed on her open Bible. She read the scriptures. "James 1:21–25 says, 'Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror, for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.'" The lady resumed her seat. Pastor Helen nodded. "We've all heard what the Bible has to say. Anyone who disobeys God and thinks he is saved deceives himself.

You can't afford to believe in heresies such as 'once you're saved, that's the end, 'no one can be perfect, 'we can't do without sinning,' 'God understands what is in vogue,' and many others like that...." Tears stung Sarah's eyes. Pastor Helen's words pierced her heart. "... Let's take a careful look at Ephesians 4:3–7, which says, 'But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this, you know that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things, the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.' You see," Pastor Helen said and looked up from her Bible. "As God's children, you can't live like those who do not know Christ. Hear this. You must detach yourself from worldly standards. A youth that will fulfill God's purpose in this end–time will flee from the world's standards and obey God.

Not partial obedience as in the case of some, but absolute obedience to God and His will...." Pastor Helen continued. Tears escaped Sarah's eyes. She took her napkin and swiftly cleaned her face. She knew she was guilty. Guilty of conforming to the world's standard. She bit the inner edge of her lips.

"..The good news I bring to you now is this; if you can hear me right now, it is not yet late to take your rightful place and begin to fulfill God's purpose for your life. If you'll step out in sincerity and surrender all to Jesus Christ—the mediator of the new covenant— and allow Him to purge you of all worldliness, you'll begin to walk in purity, take your place in God's plan and fulfill destiny. Jesus beckons on you today, right away, to come and embrace your rightful place through Him. Come fulfill destiny. Please come. Come surrender to Jesus. Wherever you are right now, stand up and identify with Christ. He can see and hear you. Tomorrow might be too late...."

Pastor Helen spoke. Tears glazed Sarah's vision. She was to take the microphone after Pastor Mrs. Helen Ademope was done praying for those who signified to surrender their lives to Christ. But she felt a strong urge to raise her hand and identify with Christ. Sarah felt the need to rededicate her life to God. Maybe this was God reaching out to her again. Sarah thought for a while. If she rose to her feet and stepped out to surrender to Jesus, what would other ministers think of her? Nobody would believe someone like Sarah wasn't in right standing with God. She was too respected for that. Even the pastor could call her thereafter for questioning. Another wave of thoughts washed over Sarah's mind. Did it matter? Was taking her place in God's end-time agenda not greater than anybody's opinion about her rededication to Jesus? Was she not supposed to please God first? Sarah kept contemplating. Pastor Helen made an altar call and began to pray with those who stepped forward. Sarah swallowed. She felt uneasy and nauseated. She tapped the minister seated beside her and whispered again.

Sarah excused herself and rushed to the toilet. As soon as she opened the door, an expulsive force ran up her throat. She retched, and vomitus came pouring into the toilet bowl. When Sarah regained her calm, she cleaned up and returned to the church. Pastor Helen had finished her sermon, and another minister had taken up moderation of programs. Sarah felt as though something had tipped over her body's equilibrium. Sarah didn't finish the day's program before leaving for home. She felt sick. Sick from within.

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