Thursday, August 7, through Sunday, August 10, 2008, the nuptials of Rev. Chris Okotie and Stephanie Henshaw, from traditional engagement, registry to thanksgiving, rolled before our eyes.
The 50 year-old 21st century man of God and the ravishing beauty who is 38 are now officially man and wife.
And on the eve of their thanksgiving at Household of God (Oregun, Ikeja, Lagos), the orator and dandy spoke about the woman that is his ‘womb mate’, his marriage, relationship with his ex-wife, Teena and honeymoon.
This late night exclusive is a multi-dimensional sculpture we know you will enjoy…
What’s special about marriage that a successful 50 year-old first class preacher of the Word would want another go at it?
Marriage is a fundamental to the existence of the human society. That is why at the beginning of creation, God established the institution. And the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation is predicated on the efficacy and understanding of that institution. That is why for somebody like me who has a destiny with God as far as life is concerned, I have to conform to the Biblical principle that enunciates the reality of marriage as it effects the entire Biblical revelation.
It was not because you were lonely and felt incomplete?
Not at all. I have always told people that the Word of God says we are complete in Him, we find our fulfillment in Christ Jesus. And if you have the mistaken understanding that someone is going to complete your existence, you will find your body in total jeopardy of being overtaken by the devil. Because if you don’t have personal contentment and satisfaction, and you are depending on somebody else for sustenance, that relationship is not going to work. You have to have the stability, the equilibrium within yourself, and so, when you enter into a relationship, you bring that along with you, and it further enhances that union.
But why did you choose to marry at this time? You were 50 in June and the church was 21 recently…
The truth of the matter is that I never planned it. The Word of God says that we are led by the spirit. And in Greek, it gives you the picture of the Holy Spirit standing in front and you are behind him as he leads you along. And that is why you cannot actually determine when to do what except the Lord reveals that to you. I knew I was going to remarry, but I didn’t know when. I knew that. And when the time came, the Lord communicated that to me, and I understood it clearly that the time had come. It’s just that when I got into politics, you know what God revealed to you, but you are not sure of the time. And the Word of God says your fate is in my Hands so it is Him who determines when we do what.
In the last few days, what has filled your heart, beginning from Thursday when you did your traditional wedding, and Friday, the registry. Then, thanksgiving on Sunday…
I have never been so excited in my entire life and that is the absolute truth. The only other experience that comes close is when I became a born again Christian. The first time I was married, I was 24, I didn’t understand the institution. I didn’t understand the convolution, the labyrinths of its complexities. I was a minister then. It was a difficult parallax, to conceptualise things, and maintain a balance. But today, I’m much older, I’m wiser, more established, and above all, more yielded to the spirit of God. I’ve come to know my Master, my Lord much more than I used to know Him. The fact that He was willing to give me a second chance and He chose somebody for me…I was asking Him when I knew I was going to get married, I wanted to know what kind of person should I look out for, because I’m not just an ordinary Christian, so that we don’t repeat what happened in the past. I was very, very excited, exhilarated, completely overwhelmed when He decided in the direction of Stephanie, because I’ve always liked her, admired her as a person outside of being a great woman. She’s very beautiful, she is a kind woman and gentle…The past few days have been surreal. I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that this is happening to me. It’s beyond my wildest imagination. I’m extremely excited, happy about this.
So, you didn’t mind the fact that she was already married twice, and had three children?
No. When people ask me, had she been married, I used to say yes. But a couple of days ago, I was talking about that, and the spirit of God told me that I ought to realize as a minister…That the girl that you are marrying had never been married to anyone, it said to me.
Then, the scripture came to me that if any man believes in Christ Jesus, he’s a new creature. Then, it asked me, ‘Are you the same Chris you used to be?’ I said, No. So, she’s not the same woman who married whoever it was…This is a different person entirely. None of those men know this woman that you know today. I said, Lord that’s true. Because the woman I know today is not the same woman I used to know in the past.
She’s now a born again Christian, yielded to God. A completely changed person. To tell you the truth, this is a virgin I’m marrying. Absolutely. And I’m her first husband!
You are her first husband?
I’m her first husband. It even makes it more exciting…I should have known because that’s what I teach. I’m a teacher of the scripture but I just didn’t think about it until the spirit of God reminded me of the reality of God’s Word. And that’s the truth about the Bible.
What are your hopes for this beautiful union? What do you hope to get from it?
I’m not actually thinking of what I’m going to get but what I’m going to give to it. because my understanding of the teaching is to look after the woman, to cherish her, to be Christ-like to her. To show her what the Lord could do for her if He was here physically. I become the conduit between herself and her Lord in the physical sense.
In my heart right now, I’m determined to love and honour her, to be a good man to her. I know she’s a good woman but my responsibility really is, what am I looking for? I’m looking for the opportunity to love someone, and sustain that love that is abiding and give her everything she has ever dreamt of, everything she’s always wanted in her life and she was never able to receive. Love her unconditionally, and I know that when I’m through with her, I can deliver her back to her Master and say, see what you gave to me, see what I did with her, as a faithful and dutiful servant. That’s what basically I’m looking for.
Why did you opt for an elaborate traditional wedding? A lot of people thought because it was your ‘second’ marriage, you should have done a quieter wedding…
It was beyond me. It was my church. You know I’ve never liked ceremonies. If you ask Householders they would tell you that they prevailed on me. I told them, and I even told my in-laws, that I just wanted something really quiet. I’ve never been a sociable, socialite kind of person. I’ve never been. But my church people were too excited. And everything you saw there (on Thursday), they did it. They made all the arrangements, I just showed up.
It’s what they wanted. They had a meeting with me, and they said grant us this request. Let’s just do it the way we could be happy about doing it.
But you didn’t allow them do the registry (event) like that? The registry (on Friday) was quieter…
That’s how they arranged it. Like I said to you, I just showed up at the occasion. In fact, the time of the wedding was arranged by them
They had first said 4 o’clock, and they moved it forward because of the things they had to do within the period.
They had said the registry thing would be on a quiet side, just go there, do like an hour. It’s because it rained, that’s why it was extended. It was, do what you had to do, go home and rest. Take some time off, and come to church on Sunday.
The big celebration is on Sunday (tomorrow). You know I’ve not been there for a while…but they are making elaborate arrangements there.
Why haven’t you been there for a while?
We had to move to the Island because of the Third Mainland Bridge situation. We relocated to the Island to be sure that we were able to meet the timing. Not being hindered by traffic and all that.
You were talking earlier about the Lord speaking with you about the woman you are to marry…Did you see Madam in the picture…
When ministers talk about the Lord talking to them, it creates a picture…It’s difficult for those who don’t…If you work for someone, like you have staff, they know your voice, they know when you see what you don’t like. And possibly people who don’t work in your organization won’t understand your mannerism, the nuances. But people who work with you closely know.
When Teena left, I didn’t think I was going to remarry. I didn’t. I thought maybe what I should do is concentrate on serving God, and put all my energies into that. Until He began to persuade me to the contrary, that that’s not what I want you to do. I don’t want you to be celibate, I don’t want you not to have a woman in your life because of what you represent.
So, it took a while to open up to that. And then I began to understand. Once I got the understanding, I started asking for direction. What kind of woman, is there a particular person you’d have me marry, so that I can give you all my energy, my concentration, my focus. What kind of person? The thing about it is that, most of the time, what He asks you to do, the tools are usually very close to you. I heard a man of God say once that God hides things from us by putting them very close to us. If you look at the experience of Moses, for instance, he’s going to go to Egypt and all he needed was with him. The rod in his hand.
So, I had already been friends with Stephanie all these years, not realizing that that was the purpose. And when it was now time for me to begin to address my mind to the seriousness of a conjugal relationship, I began to look in her direction. Of all the people that I had met, she was exceptional. To marry her would mean that I would have to court her for a long time, and teach her things about Jesus, about the church, the Word of God, so that she can be a spiritual partner…
It took years of sitting down, talking about Him, trying to reason together. Because the Bible says that two cannot walk together except they agree.
We read in The Sun today that you said she won’t be the deputy of your church?
Yes. I’m not talking about it in within the context of the church. It’s standing with me as a life partner. When you have a husband that is called of God, the marriage concept is that the woman actually helps the man. Because when God wanted to create the woman, he said I would make him a helper who is like him.
It is like a dot surrounded by a circle. The man is actually surrounded by the woman as the protection shield. There is a scripture that says as the mountain surrounds Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people.
The concept of marriage, many times, we think it’s the man protecting the woman. But it’s not really like that. It is the woman protecting the man. That is why when sin was going to occur in the garden, the serpent didn’t go to the man, it went to the woman. It knew that if it gets the woman, it has got the man. It knew that she was his shield.
What did you learn from your previous marriage that you know will help you in this union?
A lot of things. Number one, I learnt that marriage is not about infantile immaturity…I see a lot of young people get married in their 20s, or even in their early 30s. I do not think that that is good for them.
I’ve really taken time to study the Word of God, and I discovered that the age of maturity for a man differs from a woman’s. And there are certain pre-requisite in the scripture that are necessary, that must be in place before you can have a successful marriage.
At the time I got married, Teena and I were young, immature. A certain bravado that comes with immaturity. Like when you see a child who can stretch his hand into a fire not knowing that it can burn.
The impetuosity is as a result of that juvenile or excessive exuberance. I’ve learnt that marriage is more important to God than we think it is. It requires a certain level of spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is not necessarily about biological age. Because you can be 50 years and still be immature, an infant spiritually. Like the things of God, they come with time. Each has a role to play if it is utilised in their position of Biblical knowledge.
I have grown. And in that period of time I’ve learnt. I’ve realized that one of the things that made it difficult for Teena and I was the fact that we were too young. And we did not quite understand the responsibility…
But you grew together…You were together for more than 17 years…You matured together, so to speak?
Yes. There were many obstacles…It is like learning on the job. I’m not learning anymore. I’m no longer an apprentice. When you are an apprentice, you make a lot of mistakes. You have to do a lot of damage control. One has grown. And I’ve discovered that the most important thing in life is not what you take from people, what you receive. It is what you give.
It’s what you give! Why is that so?
It’s what you give. Because when you give something, it becomes a seed, and a seed that is planted always comes back to you multiplied.
If I want corn, I will plant a few seeds of corn but in return, you’d see all the corn that comes back to me. That’s the principle of life, that’s the way God works. Everything He does is a seed. The miracle of God is always in a seed that is planted. That’s why the Bible said it’s more blessed to give than to receive.
I discovered that as you walk along the chequered pavement of the mortal existence, you become a sower. And a sower never lacks. It is either you are sowing the seed of joy in other people’s lives, and the different things they need, which becomes multiplied right back to you. Then, I had certain expectations. I didn’t have the attitude of a sower.
Another thing that I’ve learnt is the fact that when Jesus was on the cross they pierced His side, and out of His side came blood and water. Those are the two dimensions of a man. There is the water dimension, of a man, and the blood dimension.
Water is transparent, you can see through it. The water dimension are the things that can be observed from the outside. Like you now, your workers know your water dimension because they associate with you, and they now. But only the close ones, like your wife, knows your blood dimension, the secret things.
The blood dimension are the things revealed to the wife by the husband. We are brides of Jesus Christ, that is why He revealed these mysteries to us.
I discovered that there were certain blood dimensions of my life that Teena did not understand and not because it was her fault. I didn’t take the time to reveal those things to her, to share those things with her.
Because you were an apprentice yourself…
Exactly. That infantile, not quite understanding the mystery of marriage, how the man is the aggressor, the protagonist. He has to be the one to lay down his life and he doesn’t just die for his wife, he has to resurrect.
Sometimes when you read the scripture, it says husband, lay down your life for your wife. The concept of laying down your life is because of resurrection, Jesus didn’t just die. If He had just died, I won’t be a Christian. He had to rise from the dead to authenticate my salvation.
When a man is going to lay down his life for his wife, he has to understand that just dying for her is not enough, which was what I was doing when I was married to Teena. I was just dying for her. The power that sustains the marriage is the resurrection. Because when you resurrect from the dead, it attracts a dimension…when Jesus rose from the dead, He said all authority under the heaven and the earth is now mine. You didn’t have that before He died.
The depth of understanding that I have now makes it easier for me to look at a woman like Stephanie and see how loved I am by God, and blessed that such a person has been placed under my custody.
It is a tremendous experience.
But from the way you talk, you are unabashed about referring to Teena, and we suspect that you have a very good relationship…
Oh, absolutely! We are very good friends. Very, very. We were friends before we got married and so when things didn’t work out, we realized later on what happened, and our friendship has been sustained. She is very happy that this is happening to me. She used to tell me, you need to get married, you are getting old, you need to have children…
Talking about children, you said you wanted to have twins…
Yeah! I don’t want to have more than two children…
And you want them at once…
Yes. That is the understanding I have. I know a lot about my life because the Lord has revealed a lot of things to me about myself. That’s why I have the confidence to do the things I do.
Many, many years ago, He told me that. And when He told me, at that time Teena wasn’t there. But I couldn’t understand that it means that our marriage wasn’t going to be…He was speaking to me about my future, and I didn’t see Teena there. Only now I’m able to piece it together.
Can you quickly explain to us what you mean by ‘womb mate’? You described Stephanie as your ‘womb mate’ in The Sun interview…
In the Bible, there is a word that is commonly used that is called brethren. What brethren means, the Greek, speaks of somebody that shares the same womb with you. For instance, your sister, your brother, from the same mother, are your womb mates because they came from the same womb. The same womb you came from.
When the Bible is describing the closeness of our relationship, it doesn’t describe it as soul mate. A soul mate is somebody you meet after you are born, and then you grow into a certain affinity. Your womb mate is somebody who received the same birth qualities, birth atmosphere with you. From the deepest and secret place of creation. In that matrix, everything that is done there is done by the Hand of the Almighty God.
That is what gives us the affinity, the closeness, the nearness, that filial connection that we have between us and Almighty God, and the paternal superintendence that He has over us, is a result that we are all created in the same womb.
When I look at Stephanie, that’s what I see. I see somebody that was created in the womb that I had been. And the same hand that understood exactly what her mission was going to be as relates to me. By the same Hand of Almighty God that formed me, she was formed. So, when I take a look at her, I have no shadow of doubt that that woman had been particularly created for me. I know it from the innermost recesses of my heart that before she was born, God had already decided that this is the woman that Chris Okotie would bond with. That is why I’ve never wavered all these years, I’ve always loved her.
I know you have heard different stories about different people. But this had always been the woman I love, and I told everybody. So, that’s why she has been my womb mate.
You must have received a lot of gifts, which one do you cherish the most?
We haven’t checked them out yet. We’ve been busy because of all the events that are going on. By the time we go on our honeymoon, we take time to check them out…
Where are you going on honeymoon?
First part would be United Arab Emirates, Dubai. Then, I want to take her to England, France (Paris), and the United States.
I would not walk alone for the rest of my life. I told my church when I was talking to them, that for ten years, I walked alone, lived alone, gone to holidays alone –it’s been difficult. But it would never happen to me anymore. Because she would follow me everywhere I go now…Every single place. I will never walk alone, lai lai. I’ve found what I’m looking for, so I’m at peace.
I’ve never danced so hard. You know at the registry, we danced and everyone was just looking at me. My sister was saying to me I’ve never seen my brother like this before. I’m ecstatic. I’m completely overjoyed…This is what I’ve always wanted, it’s just that she wasn’t ready to marry me, I would have married her since.
Why was she not ready?
She wanted God to speak to her directly first. She wanted to be sure that I wasn’t just marrying her because I love her. She wanted to be sure that it was something the Lord approved. That’s why she’s separate from everybody I’ve ever known. She’s a friend. And she truly loves me…
This story was first published in Encomium Weekly edition of Tuesday, June 26, 2012