Sylvia sat next to Paul in their family-matching outfits on Sunday. Even though they attended a swanky church, Deacon Paul as he was now called had held their fashion advancement at ransom- it never peaked. New Day church was full of lights, a joyful, intention-driven house of graphics and worship with many cappuccino and latte lovers. If you were not millenial you didn't fit; even the house mama's had held on to edgy colored wigs, block sandals, and shredded jeans with colorful waterfalls to cover parts that no longer took their rightful place. Their eyes always seemed to be glassy filled with memories of the beginnings of 'when Church became fun in their city-but who am I lying to- it was when church became fun countrywide. The days of gospel sing-outs by Ron Kenoly and them. 'Limit X' .. those who knew- knew, a band that had blown the sky wide open.
Paul and Sylvia were the next generation of church in Kampala, looking forward to rising in the ranks, they had even traveled for ministry to several European countries and South Africa. But there was something amiss, the 'traditional' somewhere Paul had come from, the almost cool haircut but not, the 'kitenge' outfits that were modern enough but not Afro beats cool didn't add up. Paul had come from a poor family raised by an overly spiritual father and elder in Newday with a false smiling stepmother, his own mother had left the country to escape whatever it was that had been haunting her all her life, bringing her bad omens, bad men, bad luck with money, down right-sheer bad luck.
Sylvia's life hadn't been easy either but she had made it to university and 'become'. She did not just go along for the ride serving the Bazungu[American and U.K. white]pastors who started Newday she had done one thing women do better than anyone else, she reinvented herself, in following their way from the inside out and then reaching back from when things were good in her own childhood. She integrated into a stunning wonder.
Then Paul happened, Paul happened.........Sylvia and Paul were swept up in the deeply intense magic of the number 1 choir they both belonged to. A whirlwind romantic journey with ministry bookings in several nations, places, and playlists. Sylvia could see the rough edges on Paul but his sole commitment to the things of God won her heart. Sylvia thought his steadfastness, long fasts might make the broken pieces of her heart whole. She would get his style in check and help him with his incomplete degrees. They both served the church well, Paul just appeared to serve deeper and was less fleshy more separate from the acceptable things of the world that had crept into the way Christianity was done these days. His manly arms always drew Sylvia in, and so when the two-year magic of serving together in the largest choir in the church neared its end. They both felt a vibe.
Sylvia finished her CPA qualifications. The couple's attraction grew amidst the unletting cheers of all their friends and fellow church servants- in fact, nobody led worship duets like they did- they peered into each other's eyes with aching and longing for their heart cries to sweep the congregation into a frenzy that brought heaven down. But to each other, a deeper longing arose and they knew it and held on to it, first, in service to their GOD. The church offered Paul a staff position. Their journey began.
It had been odd for Sylvia that he chose to take a '40-day fast' starting - the wedding night, something about a dream and voices he heard in the spirit to make their bed holy. Paul seemed to go into a dark lonely place during their honeymoon. Sylvia grieved her marriage. Darkness fell like a hip of soft sad clouds over their hotel rooms, when it was time to return and get welcomed back to church, she wore the makeup and the wig to cover her unraveled wedding day hair. She had her sister Naomi do her makeup to cover the bags under her eyes. Naomi thought they were from lovemaking and not an actively breaking heart.
Luckily, Sylvia's scholarship for her masters in Canada came through and Paul talked her into attending in person even though there was an opportunity to study online. The saddening thing is he told the church people that it was a sacrifice they were going to make for the sake of his dear wife's dream. Sylvia determined to talk to her husband before she left -whatever was making him sleep on their new sofa, tied up in a frenzy of prayers had to be discussed- she wanted him and if she was not desirable she thought she best know.
But then that wasn't necessary anymore, Rita came home to candle lights on a well-laid table, music, and Paul in his apron cooking up a storm. Hello my chicita, my lily of many valleys.. he rumbled on with Songs of Solomon. Surprisingly, Paul had put wine out for her, he didn't believe in it. But Sylvia had been so sad she thought breakthrough or break night had finally come. A prayer answered. He lifted her off her feet, tears flowing down as he caressed his bride and took her into a night of passionate intimate detailed lovemaking, it could have been choreographed.
All was well, all was finally well!!
Until the next time, the next months, seasons in and out intertwined with demons and angels, prayer circles, and hope. Sylvia graduated with her master's degree from Toronto, the couple gave birth to twins, and for a moment celebrated. They were proud to wear their titles 'Salongo' and 'Nalongo'- 'Father and Mother' of twins. The couple continued to serve at New Day- they were often the envy of many eyes. Meanwhile, Sylvia worked on lifting..lifting every and many things. Deacon Paul who was steadily withdrawing from them, resenting her ever so passively as doors, gates, and borders tore wide open for her.
The twins had started to lose their God-given shine and when Sylvia talked to Paul's family about their love struggles- they said there was a spirit after their marriage. Sylvia thought a therapist's opinion would be useful but they chose to exorcise him over so many spirits, thinned him from year-long fasts,- which Sylvia cheated and ate more comfort food than her core could handle. Things begun to bulge.
But that Sunday she could do no more, the choir noticed, and the couple went to see the marriage counselors.
In counseling, the Pastor madam asked Sylvia the most questions, placating her with marriage- is a journey, it is difficult, men feel disrespected, we are Christians, and God hates divorce. Sylvia felt betrayed by the insinuation that the main problem was with her and the girls of these days, her sensitivities, and fleshy ways as well as motherhood and working challenges and giving things time. Sylvia hadn't even mentioned the darker addictions- she caught him in the guest room with unsavory material, and he claimed it was an adult movie advert that just popped up. They were many things she didn't mention, for her sake, for her mother's and aunties' sake, for their children's sake, for her own power -the very little that was left of it.
That day Sylvia called a therapist for her own sake, for her own introspection, for her own clarity, for freedom, for healing she wasn't seeing demons.
For you Sylvia, for the courage of choosing life, the next best step, we keep faith for Paul that he will find treatment, medication even, and together we will stand in the light holy, and healthy #mentalhealthoctober #mentalhealthpriority