The question had been asked severally and frankly, I was growing weary of answering it. Still, I recited my response with a positive face. It had been three hours in the same chair surrounded by my fiancée’s father, grandfather, uncles and elder cousins. It was 8 men versus one. I sat in the middle of their baraza as I was hard pressed to answer question after question after question. Three particular questions were repetitive. The first one is the opening statement in this blog. The other two were: Do you have a job? Do you have any idea what marriage is? My fiancée watched helplessly as the sun set and I still sat on that same chair doing my best to convince her father, grandfather, uncles, male family friends and elder cousins that I was serious about my relationship. I look back at that moment and I really appreciate it! Yes, you heard right! I appreciate it. I thank God for Turi’s father who didn’t make it easy as pie for me to get his daughter. I thank God for the uncles and grandfather who grilled me with questions concerning my background, my finances, my faith and my family. Not because any of these things were perfect but because they mattered when it came to where they were taking a family member of theirs. I also thank God because that backbreaking experience made me into a better husband. We need fathers who will tighten the nuts for their daughters’ hands in marriage. Before you go all Hulk on me, listen- there is a difference between giving your children hell on earth and tightening the nuts. I have known of situations where the parents were opposed totally without any grace. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about something different. I’m talking about asking the man the hard questions that he needs to be accountable for. I’m talking about confronting the man on his ability to provide, protect, preside in family issues and preserve the dignity of the girl he wants to marry.
After hours of interrogation, I knew a few things for sure: One- Turi was loved by her family. Now you may think quite the opposite. You may believe that if your parents really love you they should not even oppose the idea of you getting married. Au contraire my good friend. Our parents may not have the best communication skills (not that we are the best at it). They may not know how to express best that they don’t want us to end in poverty, struggling marriages and regretful decisions. Their best way may be to say, “You’re not getting married to that girl/boy.” Before you pen a sad page in you diary, ask yourself: where are they coming from? Jesus said that even evil fathers give good gifts to their own children (Luke 11:13). For the most part, our earthly fathers have good intentions when they are cautious about whom we marry. They love you, Beloved. That particular encounter let me see that Turi’s father wanted his daughter to live fulfilled.
One of the men in the grilling session tested me by telling me that I was free to date other women and compare them to Turi. They would keep Turi for me. If I didn’t like those other women, I could come back but they wanted me to test and see which women I would love more. Many of those questions are tests of your character. Dear gentlemen, are you settled on the lady you are going to marry? By consensus of the eight men, I passed this first test. I had to show that I had put my money where my mouth was.
Dear gentleman, do you plan to provide for this girl? Do you have a plan or idea of where you want to live? I was asked by an uncle about my work. What did I do to earn a living? Beloved, you don’t need a college degree to pass this test. You need to look in your hands and ask God how your abilities can raise money. Turi and I raised money through theatre, since we act. I used my writing to publish a book and sell. This is to encourage you that even if you don’t have a job, you are not limited. You need money to pay bills. You need money to buy food. You need money to travel between places. You need money to go watch movies. You need money to buy her a dress. Christian men specifically need to man up here. You cannot refuse to work and hide behind Bible verses such as “My God shall meet all your needs…Phil 4:19 or phrases such as “I’m not looking for a job cause I know God will provide.” If you abuse scripture, don’t expect that scripture to support you. I’m not saying that those scriptures are not relevant- they really are; I use them. However they cannot replace God’s mandate to work. You need an action plan and you need to commit it to God if you have a personal relationship with Him (Proverbs 16:1-3). God will not bless your hands- He will bless the work of your hands, dear gentleman. God will not drop cash in your pocket from heaven; he will drop you an idea instead. If you are not faithful, you will miss the opportunity to make money. Before God uses the extraordinary means, I have seen that he uses the ordinary means. Work is a gift from God and you need to work to earn money. But you don’t need a gold mine to get married. Start humble but count the cost. Many people start with very little (it’s okay) but don’t settle there. The Bible says in 1st Timothy 5:8 “But if someone does not provide for his own, especially his own family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” However, God is the ultimate provider- not our bosses or our jobs. You can get laid off but He can still meet your needs. Here is how to know that wealth comes from the Lord. The Word says…remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors as it is today.(Deuteronomy 8:18) For more about money, read this blog.
I thought it was over. The 3 hour grilling was not enough. I was summoned a few weeks later for further grilling. This time, it was less formal. Turi’s father asked to see me in his house. In the second encounter, I was instructed to come with my friends. And so I did. My good friends, Ian and Patrick accompanied me. I found out that this test was to proofread the first. Were my friends like me? If I said I do not drink, what happens when Ian and Patrick are offered alcohol? I claimed to be a Christian- were Ian and Patrick genuine Christians? From this second encounter, I learnt that your friends reflect the consistency in your life. If Patrick and Ian did not reflect any of the things I said in the first encounter, they would know I was a pile of hogwash. Gentlemen, you cannot fake this. No amount of rehearsing or comparing notes with your friends will put up an act before a girl’s father. He can smell inconsistency a mile away and if you reek of it, you need to explain who will come first in your life- his daughter or your friends. You see, a man’s friends should encourage the right decisions he makes. And if they don’t necessarily agree with him, they should be brave enough to let him know that he must accept the responsibility that comes from his decisions. If I had a daughter I would want to know the friends the boyfriend keeps. I soared through level two with lots of thanks to Ian and Patrick.
In level three, the two families met. This session was even more cordial than the previous. More cordial does not mean less serious. In this session, Turi and I were put together and asked a few questions. Why were we getting married young? How long had we dated? What did we think marriage was? Was it a lifetime of mushy feelings or commitment? And finally were we ready to walk down this road knowing that neither side of the family accepted divorce? We answered well without faltering. It is easy to say yes but the rubber meets the road at level four.
In level four, you are already married. They watch you- not just her family, but your own too. Are you treating her well? Is she happy? Have you lived up to your word? In level four you’re not a man because you promised something but because you deliver! Making a promise does not make you capable; it makes you accountable. In level four, I can confidently say that I have won the respect of Turi’s father and family. And she has won my family’s. However it is important to note that you can lose that respect. In fact, losing it is faster than gaining it. It has been over one and a half years of learning and building relationships. I don’t know if there is a level five, but I know this: if you honour your family in your wedding and marriage process, you will reap their blessings and you will become a treasure they will speak of. Something tells me level five has to do with kids. Those married longer with children may know. Meanwhile, let us trust that Ernest Junior won’t be too far off.