It's ironic that I met Michael in a church, considering he's not a Christian. But that's where it all started—at a church wedding service for someone we both knew very well.
During one part of the service, I was scanning the crowd —and Michael, in his dark suit, clean cut hair and yuppie glasses, definitely caught my attention. I figured out that he was a friend of some friends, and I was glad when he sat next to me at the wedding reception. Sitting there at the University of Ibadan Trencher hall —wedding reception with friends and family, I enjoyed chatting with this funny, talkative, well-dressed guy. He was charming; even some parents at the table thought he was great. So when he asked if he could call me sometime, I did a mental dance of joy and gave him my number.
The next time I saw Michael was at a dinner with some friends and the newly wed. Michael and some of the guys were telling stories about stupid things they'd done during their University days. I knew they were exaggerating a bit to impress and/or shock us girls, but I still should have been turned off. But for some mysterious reason, I was still attracted to him.
Several days later, Michael called. He wanted to get together for a snack and chat—not a date, just a casual thing. I almost didn't go. But I'm a snack person and was touched by Michael’s thoughtfulness, since he doesn't even like snack but enjoy eating Suya. So I went to Mr Biggs with him —and I discovered Michael is very intelligent, says nice things about his family, and is easy to talk to. But. … not a Christian.
That should have put an end to my attraction. But I was drawn by Michael s interest in me. He was one of the "cool guys," and until then, nobody from that group seemed to notice I was even alive. Here was an average height, dark, handsome guy from the popular crowd showing interest in skinny goodie-two-shoes. Me! Of course I was flattered!
In the months that followed, Michael and I exchanged flirty text messages and I was lost in the world of pretending to belong. Since he lived a couple towns away, we didn't actually see each other much. But I did hang out with Michael and his friends a few times. When they started talking about drinking, I got silent. And when they talked about that time they went to University campus picking girls and ………….
I gave a "girl-power" speech about women not being sex objects. But my "speech" never got around to the most important thing I could have said—that we're made in God's image. Michael and his friends just sort of winked at each other and teased me about it. I don’t know why good girls are always attracted to bad guys.
Part of me knew right then that I should stop hanging out with Michael and his friends. But another part of me thought that maybe this was God's answer to my prayer for more non-Christian friends to share my faith with. I was confuse.com.
Then Michael asked me out on an "official" date. Not just dinner but to join him and his family and friends to celebrate his mum 70th birthday party in Lagos Nigeria on the last Saturday in the month of April 200X. Suddenly, this wasn't so casual anymore.
When Tomi, a church friend and a hopeless romantic, heard about this, she thought it would be a great opportunity to share my faith with Michael. Hmmm!
But I had the feeling the party would be less " halleluiah" and more "gobbledygook" once the celebrant has gone to sleep after the party.
Isaac, my best guy friend, told me to run as fast as I could in the other direction—not just from this invitation, but from Michael. But I wondered what that would communicate about God's unconditional love for all people—especially those who don't know him.
I probably should've listened to Isaac, but I felt like I owed Michael more than just a capital "NO." I sent him a text message asking about the sleeping arrangements and whether there would be drinking and girls. He said there might be some drinking, but that I wouldn't have to. He also included a flirty remark about where I could sleep. I was pretty certain he was joking. But "pretty certain" wasn't good enough for a topic that's so serious to me. Sex before marriage is a no-go for me, and I had to make that clear to Michael.
So I sent him another text message to make sure he understood where I stood. His reply assured me he was indeed joking, that I'd have my own bedroom or sleep in the same room with his sisters and that he appreciated my old-school views on SEX. "It's part of what makes you you," Pastor AMS, he wrote. Reading that message made me feel both giddy with excitement about Michael 's continued interest—and guilty that he didn't really know the biggest part of what makes me ME: Jesus Christ.
I was still undecided about the party—and Michael —when I had dinner with Rose, a friend from church. I told her about my growing relationship with Michael, and about his mum birthday invitation. Rose listened quietly and then said, "You know, I'm glad you finally brought up this whole Michael thing. I've been worried about you."
Really? Now it was my turn to listen.
"What are you doing with this Michael guy? You know he's not a Christian, right? You say it's casual, but I see your face light up when you talk about him." I grew red with the embarrassment of hearing the truth, which I'd been denying all along. "He's not worth it. He's not worth you. You are born-again”
In the silent moments that followed, I finally faced the truth. I had been fooling myself by saying this was only casual. I was attracted to Michael, and becoming more so with each interaction, flirtation, or teasing e-mail. And he was obviously interested in more than friendship, too. I also realized that most of my attraction had been to his attention and flattery. It had been a while since anyone had shown that kind of interest in me, and it was exciting. But now I knew I'd been playing with fire.
I'd known all along what the Bible says about getting too involved with non-Christians: "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers" (2 Corinthians 6:14). And I'd seen a few Christian friends date non-Christians and then suddenly disappear from church—and then start making more bad choices.
I should have known better than to fall for Michael in the first place. And that was the most difficult truth to swallow.
I thanked Rose for her honesty and accountability, and asked her to check up on me in the weeks and months ahead. After dinner I had a long talk with God in which I apologized for boosting my self-esteem from the wrong source—a guy instead of God.
I asked God for direction and realized, looking back, that he'd been giving it all along. Three different times when I'd tried to get together with Michael one-on-one, something—or someone—had forced us to cancel our plans at the last minute. God had been protecting my heart.
I also realized Michael needed God way more than he needed me. Part of his attraction to me had undoubtedly been an unconscious attraction to Jesus in me, and I didn't want to get in the way of that. So while I decided that dating Michael was definitely not an option, I also decided to try to remain friends.
When I called Michael to say I couldn't make it to his mum birthday, he was disappointed. I think he knew I was making a choice about our relationship, and that I was choosing friendship—and not dating.
Since then our text messages and phone conversation have been fewer and free of flirtations. I miss the rush of potential romance, but now I feel free to tell Michael about all aspects of my life—including my faith.
I've also asked Rose to keep asking me those difficult yet necessary questions about my motives and my heart when it comes to Michael. And I've sought to strengthen my security and self-worth by spending more time in prayer and Bible study, hopefully making me less open to similar temptation in the future—no matter how handsome, dark and cool he is.