Nothing prepares you for the sense of belonging when you meet your people.
I was driving home from a meeting with the Matriarch when our conversation turned to some laughs she had with a mutual friend who was telling her about the antics of my campus days. Of course I was always the one played within the boundaries and coloured within the lines for most of my life. However, one critical event threw me out of the usual lines into a vortex.
I had always hang out with the saved crowd but suddenly I was persona non-grata and found myself very alone. By the stroke of one act, I was no longer valuable to the conversation and the patterns of life. In response, I shifted my life completely and kept a brave face so everyone thought all was well but alas. This conversation was twenty plus years later and she was surprised at just how much I had been through but never said a word.
In reality, that season almost broke all of us in different ways.
One thing I learnt from then on is to know my people. I have spoken about that a couple of times this year but it keeps coming back in conversations so I will keep talking about it. This friend regaled the Matriarch with stories about how they feared me but others in the group stood up and said it was ok. He has even booked a date to come and tell her more stories and I will definitely go just for the laughs.
As I listened, I remembered a few people who in the middle of that season, took me aside and asked if I was ok and how they could help me. Those simple offers for friendship, conversation and support became my survival kit for the next eighteen months as I completed university. They also became the measure by which the faith community judged me as fallen and many didn’t associate with me for a while.
It is so easy to judge people when we don’t have all the facts.
I remember telling the folks that I am ok even as I was heartbroken. I remember putting on a smile, a laugh, and waltzing through life as if without a care while I bore a heavy burden of sadness, regret and loneliness. In time, I became so good at hiding that very few people, less than five, knew how deeply I was hurting. I got judged as a snob because I ‘moved on’ and ignored people but what did they expect?
I had determined in my heart not to give anyone the satisfaction of knowing that their actions had broken me. I was set on being the happiest and brightest I could be never letting life get me down. I was going to make it through the fire even if I had to fake it for a while. In time I thought I had healed and life was good but in truth…it was all hidden waiting to explode with more force than a one hundred year old dormant volcano.
All it took was the breakdown in two more relationships…
Suddenly I had to deal with the pain of these breaks and all the pain and anguish from the past. I cried tears that were more than five years old. I walked alone in dark places because no one knew or would believe I was struggling. The lost relationships were compounded by work challenges and failed projects that broke my faith in myself just a lot more. Could it be that this ‘strong girl’ actually wasn’t strong? Was the strength she showed a fascade? Oh yes!!!
Beloved, there is a place to be strong as steel, tough as nails, keep going in the heavy rain, ride the storm etc. Yet, true strength does not come from putting on a face, veneer, or mask. Masks fail at a point and that is even worse than being vulnerable with a select few. The art of rising in life is based on a few key things:
- A solid spiritual foundation: Faith is more than a list of do’s and don’ts; it is so much more than overnight vigils and loud declarations. It is a certainty that God is with you no matter what you are going through and it will all work out for your good. It is more than good deeds and doing the right thing; rather it is knowing the reason why you do things. Faith has little to do with how you were raised and among who; rather it is who you are now, what you believe in and how you are living out your life. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. This means that the day you live your life based on the things you can see…you have lost hope. Faith is a deep certainty in the Word of God spoken over your life and the reality that because you live, move and have your being in God, He has got you covered.
- Deep accountability: You MUST be accountable to a few people; note I said a few people. You need a circle of people to watch over your life with you and hold you to the commitments you make and the plans you set. They will have permission to discuss and question your moves with the aim of helping you think things through thoroughly. They hold your hands up like Aaron and Hur did for Moses in the battle with Amalek so that Joshua could keep fighting and win. They will lighten the load as the judges did after Moses appointed them on the advise of Jethro. Finally they will increase your impact like the eleven disciples did when Christ left the world.
- A decompression routine: What do you do after a long day? What do you do when things are tight? How do you dissipate energy to regain focus? Where do you lean to recharge and rebuild in trying times? How do you renew and refresh in good times or after major success? This pattern is important because you need to identify what is going on around you and put in the right measures to deal with it daily, weekly, monthly, annually etc. It could be as simple as prayer, keeping a journal, talking to someone, watching the sunset, getting away for a few days, screaming and crying away from people, talking to a loved one, reading a book, watching a TV show, documentary or movie, giving back to your community…the list is endless. This helps you expend the negativity, heighten the positivity and get to the right footing so you can be effective in your assignment.
- Enjoyable work and assignments: When you have something meaningful to do it gives you energy to keep going. Sometimes it is giving of yourself in a project or assignment to an individual or people. Other times it is work or a job. Whichever it is, find a place to give of yourself. I have found some who are called and content to raise their children, take care of sick, devote their lives to prayer, build businesses, champion governance or whatever form it takes. Even as you find work and assignments, be sure it is true to your calling and assignment on this earth
Let nothing stop you no matter what. Let no one stand in your way. Never let go of who you are even in the midst of trying times. Every day and every step gets you closer to the full reality of who you are.