Unpretty

It’s so funny how find yourself thinking that you have finally arrived as a Christian……you pray quite a bit for the most part, the blessings of God are evident in your life, people admire you and look up to you and everything seems generally peachy…..and then God allows all the “nyama-nyama” (Nigerian slang for dirt) to rise up to the surface. You find yourself being corrected by people you unconsciously thought yourself better than and you have no choice but to take on their words of advice because they’re absolutely right and you’re absolutely wrong. Well, that’s exactly what happened to me last week and not just once.

I know I’ve mentioned the fact that I struggle with pride a couple of times on this blog but I didn’t really know how bad it was until it stared me in the face last week. I incited people’s anger and exchanged words with them in a way that made me sooo little. I wish I could say that most of my disappointment in myself was due to the fact that I felt I was not representing Jesus well (which is what I initially told myself) but the truth is that it was a blow to my pride……how could such a “lofty personality”as myself have been brought down by exhibiting such debased behaviour?

Suffice to say, I was humbled and it was a struggle for me to allow myself be humbled. A bigger part of me tried to justify my behaviour but thank God for His Spirit alive and at work in me that convicted me (and for wonderful @towo who keeps me accountable at work). I was somehow able to do the right thing and apologize but it was not easy at all!

More and more, God seems to be showing me those parts of myself that need work. It’s like when you finally get to a place where you have all the things you dreamt of but you thought too impossible to achieve or too far away in the future to get now, and then you realize that it’s not all you thought it to be. I’ve also blogged about this before in “After the Answer” but what I’m learning is that the responsibility that comes with realising a long-held dream doesn’t just come in the form of obligations to other people (for example getting married makes you accountable to another person, getting a promotion at work comes with more responsibility). There are obligations to yourself as well in that parts of you that need work become more evident and you need to work on them in order to grow.

If you were never a good follower and you are eventually promoted to a leadership position, you will be an even worse leader. You never knew how to submit to authority and true leadership happens to be service; you will have to submit to the needs of your followers by putting your feelings aside to ensure that everyone is focused on achieving the common goal. If you are determined to be a good leader despite the fact that you were a bad follower, you will accept that you need to make changes, make them and become a better person for it. On the other hand, if you had remained a follower, it’s quite possible that you would never have made those necessary changes to become a better person.

That’s exactly what I’m learning…..I didn’t know how bad a temper I had until I got this new job and interacted with people who were able to rub me the wrong way and expose defects in my personality. I have wonderful friends and I tell you I can’t remember the last time we fought or exchanged words because we understand and trust each other and so we can speak to each other and trust that we are being spoken to in love. But I’m interacting with people who I don’t really know that well and it’s giving me the “painful” opportunity to see those parts of myself that need work and be mindful of them.

So what am I saying people? There are seasons in life when everything seems to be going smoothly….you’re getting on with everyone and you like the person you are. However, there are times when the unpretty parts of yourself seem to take over and you’re not sure who this foreign creature is that seems to have taken over your body. The first step is not to bash yourself like I did initially because you will never ever be perfect on this side of heaven. Get past the pride and accept the fact that you will always be work in progress….we are constantly striving towards becoming like Jesus. That’s what the Christian walk is primarily about. Then you work on that part of you that needs to die….if you’re quick to anger like me then you have to check your self because the bible has very choice words about that:

“Like a city with breached walls is a man without self-control.”- Proverbs 25:28

“Whoever controls his temper is better than a warrior, and anyone who has control of his spirit is better than someone who captures a city.”- Proverbs 16:32

None of us will never be perfect; God isn’t asking us for perfection. Even the Apostle Paul admitted that he was striving towards perfection but he hadn’t gotten there:

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on  [strive] to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” – Philippians 3:12.

God isn’t asking for perfection and quite frankly I doubt He’s interested in it (if you think about the heroes of the bible, not a single one of them was perfect, except Jesus of course). What he wants is for us to stay tuned in to Him and remain sensitive spiritually so when those growing pains come calling, we recognise them for what they are; another opportunity to become a clearer reflection of Jesus.

The Secret Place

Hello wonderful people,

Hope you guys are doing fab. I’ve been away for a bit on holiday. Was in the U.K for my Masters graduation which was lovely (except for the horrific weather; I’m quite sure it was never that bad while I was there) but I’m back to my wonderful naija town and very happy to be back. Anyways, it feels good to finally have time to write here. Had a lovely time with the parents; everytime I think I’ve learned all I need to know from them, they always give me more. It’s no longer about them giving me specific instruction or advice; these days I learn so much about life, parenting and marriage just by watching them. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: God blessed me with wonderful parents who accept all my quirks and love me anyway. I know for a fact that I was not an easy child at all but I’m glad they’re starting to see the fruits of the different kinds of investments they made in me. We still butt heads though but that’s another post for another day.

So I’ve had a couple of ideas on what to blog about (so watch this space) but there’s one I’ve been putting off for a while and it’s basically the major lesson I’ve learned in this new season of my life. I said before that I had been struggling with trying to balance this new job with other aspects of my life; family, friends, choir, exercise and most importantly, prayer. Now before I started work, I felt like I had finally conquered my prayer struggles (which I blogged about) and that I would never have to face it again (which I have come to understand is soooo not the case). So when I found myself facing the same issue again, I was heading towards depression street. See, I’m the kind of person that does not like to learn the same lesson twice cos it means (to me anyway) that the first time around was a waste of time and I absolutely hate wasting my time. Finding myself back in this place for something so important was very disturbing.

Looking back now, I understand why I needed to go through that process. You see, when I blocked like an hour and a half everyday to spend time with God in the mornings, it was great but I tended to spend time with God in my bedroom and then leave Him there and carry on with the rest of my day. Don’t get me wrong, it’s much better than not spending time with him at all but it’s also much better to be able to carry God’s presence with you wherever you go. A number of my friends who have walked the path I’m currently on (Eloxie, Agatha, Kiki) tried to explain this to me but I didn’t understand initially. I guess I had to experience it for myself. The day this revelation really hit me was when I read my Proverbs 31 woman devotional and it spoke about the classic verse of Psalms 91:1. I love the amplified version of this verse:

“He who dwells in the secret place of the most High shall remain fixed and stable under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand] – Psalm 91:1 (AMP)

Two things stood out to me in this verse: dwelling and remaining fixed and stable. See, I’ve read and heard this verse several times but I never really understood what it meant. I always had this picture of Elijah in the cave when he was running from Jezebel after he had killed the prophets of Baal. His location in those caves was a secret and God was present in the still small voice so there you have it (which I now understand is a tad ridiculous). In summary, that verse never really applied to my life cos I wasn’t on the run *shrug*. However, when that verse was broken down to me, it opened my eyes to the truth of carrying God ‘s presence where you go.

That secret place that the verse refers to is that place that can only be fully understood by you and God cos that secret place is your meeting place. It’s that place where your communicate and where the dynamics of your relationship are established and where they constantly evolve. It’s that place where you receive instruction and you have communion with Him. And when you continue to dwell in the place, it means that you spend more and more time in His presence. When you continue to dwell in that place, you feel Him wherever you go. It won’t even be enough for you to just block time in the morning to pray; you’ll find yourself talking to God in the shower, before you sleep, on the way to work, in the office. You’ll even understand the need to go into the loo for 5 minutes just to spend some time praying or actively focusing your thoughts on Him. Those are different ways of communing with God. When you do that, He begins to reveal more of Himself to you and you draw closer to Him in a way you didn’t know before.

It’s honestly a very beautiful thing to have with God. There are times when I actively focus my thoughts on Him just to make sure He’s still there and there’s that warm reassurance in my Spirit that I really do carry Him with me wherever I go and He’s right there with me. It reminds me of how I often look at myself in any mirror to make sure I still look the same way I did when I left the house (losing a bunch of weight will do that to you *covers face*) and I still look the same (thank God). I used to think that I had to wait to be in the “position” or “state” of prayer before I could pray but that is sooo not the case. You can definitely pray to God when you’re doing number 2 in the loo (I will confess to being guilty of that). Honestly people, God wants us to be real with Him and be able to talk to Him about anything anywhere.

So what am I saying today people? When you understand that secret place you carry within you where you and God reside and you continue to dwell there more and more each day, you will truly have the revelation that you are under the shadow of His presence. As that continues to happen, you will find that you’re a more stable person, not just in His presence but in your life in general; you’re not moved by the things that do or do not happen around you because you can go back to your secret place instantly and talk to God about it and He can choose to reveal His heart to you on the matter or just flood your heart with His peace. You’re less moved by your environment and you find yourself becoming more of an oasis of calm for the people around you. That’s the kind of person I’m interested in becoming and I know I’m well on my way. As I continue to abide in our secret place (mine and God’s), I can only become better and stronger…..so can you.

Peace and love,

Grace’s daughter