This week I had a conversation with some teenagers that upset me.
One of them shared how in their school, the girls must pull their socks up and under their skirts all day so that no part of their legs is visible. Apparently, the sight of their legs can cause their male teachers to be distracted. Really?
Why was I so upset?
If you cannot see it, let me explain. Why are we making fourteen-year-olds responsible for the behaviour of adult men? Why is it their responsibility, yet it is the men who should know by now how to control their urges? This story upset me because I heard the same thing as a teenager. At the same time, the boys around weren’t taught anything about managing their appetites until they were older.
Why do we make men’s behaviour the responsibility of women?
I understand that men are visual but are we saying they cannot control their appetites? To say that they cannot control the attraction and subsequent action is to say they are wild animals; that is not true. My experience has been that as we tell girls to be decent and control themselves, we are not telling the boys anything.
It is sad to hear boys put girls down or misunderstand their actions. As a result of this misinformation, when a girl says no, many assume she means yes. When she is assaulted and raped, it is her fault. If she wears a short skirt or form-fitting dress, she asks for something sexual. When attacked, the first question is about what she wore that day. Why?
This narrative must change!
We must teach our sons to be responsible for their thoughts and resultant actions. Man is created as the priest, protector, provider and leader so that the women are under his care. How can he demand that the one he should protect is responsible for his protection? How does he turn around, assault her and make it her fault? How can he say that she is the reason he did something so nasty to her?
Let us teach our sons their role; to stand up for their sisters and not gaslight them into shame and fear. Let us train the men to stand up and defend the women and girls before they are preyed on by others. It is time to make the men responsible for their actions and those of their brothers. They must hold one another to account for their appetites and the outcome of their actions.
Today I am just sad because, on this matter, very little has changed.
A while back, I showed up to see a friend with a sad face. A long conversation ensued about where I was on the journey. We spoke until I could see what he meant by sadness should never take root and I should never get used to it. Funny how I hadn’t seen it before.
How could I, a child of God, have so many sad days? How can the weight of sadness be so settled and not lifted? Did I miss something in my journey? Did all the people feeling down miss something too? How could such sadness take hold of the people and never seem to let go? Some days we smile to cover it, while on other days walk away and hide. How could such pain coexist with faith?
A lot of the sadness we carry is often from relationships.
Life can be challenging because of how we interact with people and then how we expect them to deal with us. We hold onto those feelings and even project them onto others unrelated to that pain. It is possible to be so used to sadness that it becomes our cloak and identity. Other times, sadness is a tool in the hands of God to teach us to press into him and earn of him. It could be the place to create compassion for others.
As I write, I see how I choose the cloak I live in; I am astounded. Everything works together in God for my good and His will. I must understand the importance of how I feel and turn it to Him. God is in control because nothing is impossible with Him. Everything happens according to his purposes and plans.
It then struck me that JOY is critical to life, but a choice.
It is not the absence of sadness or a feeling but rather the reality of God as the driver of everything. Joy is understanding His purpose with this season and then walking with confidence. Joy is grounded in God and only understood through Him. Therefore, I must choose to connect to the Father and remain hidden under his wings. No matter how hard the things around me have been, I make a definite choice. I choose to listen; I choose to follow; I choose to become.
I find strength in several scriptures that I will share here today:
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings, you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. Ps 91:4
The joy of the Lord is my strength, Nehemiah 8:10
For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 2 Cor 1:20
The name of the Lord is a fortified tower the righteous run to it and are safe. Prov 18:10
…as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises… 2 Peter 1:3-4
…Weeping may endure for a night, but [a]joy comes in the morning. Psalms 30:5b
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. Prov 17:22
My journey in God is founded on and grounded in the realities of His word and His work. The promises of God will never fail.
It was interesting to see how often we compare people and things.
A while ago, I had the unfortunate experience of being judged negatively by someone else’s experience; it stung like a bee sting. It hurt because of two things. First, the intention behind the situation had nothing to do with what they thought it was. Second, I was unaware of the matrix being used to judge me. The accusation broke my heart so I walked away from the person and conversation. In the end, an honest conversation with my coach righted my thinking.
I had taken issue with the person in this instance, but I had also done the same thing to others. How often have I taken offence when someone shows us late without asking? How often do we sit in our corner and decide what someone’s silence means? How often have we determined the impact of something was because of a specific action without asking? I was shocked when I saw myself in that space.
Several things came up from my reflections:
Do not judge or assume you know why something happens: there are always factors that I cannot see in the background of every interaction, and I need to be open to hearing about them. Every person is working through something, and they may be responding from pain, fatigue or other emotions I cannot understand.
Step back and evaluate your response: Yes, you are hurt or angry. Yes, you expected something different. Yes, others have done better. However, was your response the best? Could you have done something differently? How can you deal with the frustration created by the situation? What can you learn that will shift your response next time?
Forgive: We forgive for our personal sanity and not for recognition from the other person. We do not forgive so that we can make a show of it. We forgive to reconnect to our inner balance and remain connected to God. First, forgive yourself for getting angry and lashing out since it is not part of your character. Second, if you have been a short fuse for a long time, use this opportunity to learn to be a long fuse and gracious person. Third, forgive the other person. Finally, be free.
Extend grace: reach out and find out what is up with the other person. Encourage them, pray for them, raise a banner on their behalf, and place them in the hands of God.
As I reflected, I realised that I was upset because of comparing. I was seeing the actions of this person as the same as others who hurt me in the past. Ah! How good can life be if I do not compare people and experiences? How different will my response be when I learn to allow people to be themselves and meet me free of judgement? It would be absolutely different; that is what I am pursuing. There is extreme peace that comes with letting go: such peace.
Pursue peace by letting go of comparison and thrive.
I have been privileged to participate in conversations about past hurt and lost hope because of things that happened or others’ responses to us. I thought I was alone in this struggle until I participated in these brutally honest conversations with others. I knew life experiences change us, but I had not noticed how far back they affected many of us.
We are the product of the environment we live in and the experiences we have been through. We also choose how we will deal with the circumstances of life so moving on is a choice.
I learnt that many of my responses were and still are trauma responses. I learned that my shows of strength were a trauma response. I learnt that certain phrases I use often were double-sided trigger words.
Here are some examples of things I said and I know many of you do too:
I do not need people.
I do not need help.
I am good thanks; even when I am falling apart.
I cannot afford to fail.
I am stronger alone; I am better alone.
I can do better than everyone else.
I must be strong no matter what.
I never cry because it is a sign of weakness.
All these and many more are trauma responses. We are cultured to be strong, stable, indestructible, and unshakable.
Is that realistic?
Can one perpetually be a strong and busy warrior?
Can I always believe it will work on my own?
Can I always stand on stage without the input of others?
Am I a solo standing mountain, an island, a baobab tree that grew into a behemoth on its own? No!
This singular focus on being strong and always able has hampered my interactions with people. I could never understand how people were so indecisive or took so much time to think and make decisions. I fought the need to depend on anyone because others had disappointed my people and me more than once. I would assign tasks to people but always have a plan B so I could get the thing done.
Looking back, I see how I set people up to get away with a lot because I always picked up the slack. On the flip side, I was resentful when people around me could not keep their word and do their part of the deal for whatever reason.
Imagine my surprise when I realised, I had enabled this behaviour. I am a finisher and people around me know that. Whenever I am in a group or on a project, I always complete the task. People know I frequently take charge, accept it, and leave me to my devices. Yet I often stood in the corner complaining that people were unreliable. Now I know people are different and thus have different values, but could I help them grow? Not unless they want to grow.
I did not realise it yet, but I had internalised the situation, focused on being strong and accepting loads I did not need to carry. Sigh! All the unknown but deeply ingrained trauma responses seemed to make me stronger but also made me tougher to deal with. Externally, I was unshakable yet internally…it was a different story.
I was raging mad one moment and utterly sad the next.
I was happy and excited for a season and utterly lost for another.
I learnt to shut down and never expect help.
I gave off the energy that I didn’t need help,
I got upset when no one stepped up.
I lived with a deep fear of disappointment.
Often we don’t know how deeply scarred we are by life. Even more often, we lash out at people or are living with anxiety that this is from unresolved traumas from the past. I finally accepted that it is easy to look normal and still be dysfunctional because of what happened in the past.
I realised that trauma comes in different degrees depending on the causes. I learnt that I am likely as traumatised as the next person so I cannot judge them. I have learnt that I can no longer pretend that all is well. I have been affected by life’s circumstances. I need to heal. I can become more than I ever thought possible despite my past and the things that have scarred me.
Know the Word God gave you; BELIEVE; Speak that word every day; Pray the word; Depend on the word; Defend the word. ======= To contend for the word, Be the one who stands their ground STAND until the word comes to pass. Do not be deceived it will not be easy Yet it is simple; Just STAND. ======= Stand and don’t cede ground. Stand in faith BELIEVE He is true KNOW His Word never fails I t is simple; Just STAND ======= Know the Word God gave you; BELIEVE it thoroughly; Speak it every day; Pray the Word; Depend on the Word; Defend the Word. ======= The WORD produces The WORD performs The WORD changes The WORD fortifies The WORD fertilises Depend on the Word ======= The WORD is reliable The WORD is living The WORD is active The WORD is a sword The WORD is a divider Depend on the Word
You know the saying that we give birth to ourselves? I encountered its fullness yesterday.
The young king is a master planner like me and boy oh boy, he is better than I was at his age. He is so good and has been quietly scheming about my birthday for two weeks. On Tuesday he says, ‘Don’t worry about dinner today and I will also take care of the kitchen tomorrow.’ Now who wouldn’t want a break from the kitchen?
We got up for an early morning class that didn’t work, so I went back to sleep. I now know he was glad I slept because he had time to put the rest of his plan to work. Aki, these young ones watch and learn more from that than conversations. I had a call at noon so I got up after 11, caught up with my sister and prepped for the call. That call…wow…it was absolutely brilliant, maybe one day I will tell the full story.
After the call was done, the king says, ‘Your lunch is in the sitting room,’ and I find my favourite meal ready and waiting…for those who have never tasted matoke and groundnut sauce; I have no words. As I settle down, and take the first bite, a birthday message begins to play on the TV. This young man sent a request to specific people asking them to send me a birthday video and he even gave them a timeline of submission.
Honestly, I thought something was afoot but decided not to think about it.
The seamless nature of the day including sending his grandmother to do his shopping for my gift ahead of time, the right beverages at the right time, participating in a call with family, the arrival of a chocolate fudge cake and dinner, got me thinking. If a soon to be thirteen year old can do things with such precision, what of my Father in heaven?
Before He knit me in my mother’s womb He knew that in 2020, there would be a time of sheltering and containment during my birthday season and I would need a creative young king around to pull off some serious magic. He knew that I would be so consumed with seeking direction for the year to come that there would be enough space and covering for the young king to manoeuvre and accomplish his assignment. He knew what would be needed and ensured I’d trained the young king with firmness and diligence, refusing to back down when things got hard.
Surely God has a plan for everything.
The current situation of containment was carefully planned by God and he’d been preparing me. The story my life has to tell is tied to me being at peace in God no matter the situation. The course of my life and all the challenges therein has begun to make sense yet I know there is still more to understand. So I have to be in school with God for the rest of my days.
I sit on this side of the New Year certain of a few things:
The only thing that will get me through this phase of life and every phase to come is the WORD of God. The written word of scripture and the spoken word from revelation and meditation.
There are people destined to walk with and hold me to account therefore I must, yes must, seek to know them by The Spirit, connect with them and walk in truth and honesty. FAMILY.
There is no room for double mindedness only discipline, devotion and commitment. I must set my heart and mind to accomplish all that God has set out for me regardless of the things that will come. FOCUS and FIDELITY.
There is path that only I can follow to attain and become. There is a way my life will to become that is guided, girded and founded in God. PROCESS
Nothing is random, nothing is a mistake, it is all carefully planned and orchestrated by the Master of all things, Adonai. I must depend on him in totality because all things are working together for my good. TRUST.
There are things I haven’t done before and places I haven’t been that now must be conquered for Him. Therefore I must step out on every instruction no matter who or what in the knowledge that though it is a new path, it is ordained by God to bring Him glory. BOLDNESS
I am sure where you are in your walk or if you are encouraged or discouraged. All I know is that there is a way our lives have changed and there is no normal to go back to. Find time in this season of sheltering and containment to clarify who you are and how you must be from now onward, then walk in it.
It is incredibly easy to hold on to people and things too tight to remedy for our inner turmoil.
Do you have relationships that are challenging or have failed because of being tight fisted? Do people in your life say you are clingy? Have you described someone as high maintenance and demanding? Have you been described as such? What could the cause of this be?
I spent time digging into my life and found that whenever I was feeling lost and lonely or I was dealing with difficult things I had a few default responses. I would hold on tightly to the people around me and use them to validate my feelings; I would pretend to be okay but inside there is a war raging driven by anger and sadness because people couldn’t see my pain; I would stand in the corner terrified by my life and expect people to see I wasn’t okay so they would come and ask. How did I expect that to happen if I didn’t speak up?
I was stunned to realise that I wanted my people to be mine and no one else’s.
I wanted monopoly over their lives and attention. I wanted them to drop everything and come to listen to me regardless of where they are. I wanted them to answer my calls and messages immediately even during work hours. I wanted them to just know internally when I wasn’t ok and o know the actual thing that was ailing me. I wanted to be the focus of the lives around me that were core to my survival.
In time I had to realise that no one can be forced to be around me nomatter how much they say they love me and no one can really understand me unless they have an interest in doing so and have a divine instruction and revelation to stay around. Why? We are all special and not everyone is built to live and deal with us. There is a specific core. I also realised that this kind of connection is a two way street so I wanted their attention and devotion I needed to be willing to return the same attention and devotion.
I remember telling a friend, and I may have said it here, everyone in my life is categorised.
The journey to wellness and balance demanded a shift to a more realistic view of me and life. Everyone has a place and each place as a sense of expectancy to a certain end. It means that those in the inner circle have greater access to my inner sanctum and can ask questions and demand accountability. The further out one gets the less access they have to personal information. Why? Not everyone needs to know and not everyone can handle the inside of me. Sounds simple enough no?
My people and I can read each other from a distance, from the tone of a message or unction in the spirit. The part that really fascinates me is how deep the freedom to call one another out goes. There is little we can’t talk about and lots of strength we share one to another. We are driven to see each other become better people so where there is foolish we address it, sadness we assess and engage it, challenges we resolve them, joy we celebrate loud, long and hard.
The caution though, is to remain an individual even as part of the tribe.
Sometimes, when the journey has been long and arduous, it is easy to lean into people so much that they become the ones living our lives for us and directing every step. This isn’t healthy. Pillars are important to a building but they aren’t the whole structure and the same applies to our people. It became a stark reality that I needed to find and make space within and around me for myself and my people to feel free to be away and be confident that they will come back and the experience would make us stronger.
It has been quite a learning to curve to understand and accept that my people have friends and support pillars outside me and I cannot change that. In fact, these outside engagements could be the key to making our connection deeper. Even harder was the ability to give them the freedom to not only be away, but also to be silent even for months on end trusting that when they resurface we will be able to reconnect. (The silence for months is my current lesson…wah!!!) This applies to friendships, family connections and even marriages. So often we think that unless we do everything together in marriage we aren’t a unit now I know that to be rather false.
I found that, having and pursuing personal interests on one’s own adds incredible depth and variety.
It has been hard to realise that I may not know everything about every member of my tribe, but I must be grateful I at least know most of the things. The thing that gave me the most freedom was the realisation that these other friendships and interactions add so many dimensions to our connection through diverse experiences, interactions, ideas and expressions.
It also dawned in time that if I want to rise as an individual who is part of a strong tribe, there are people in my tribe who want the same. Could I be the one holding them back by my application of behaviour, culture and traditions that are archaic and non-beneficial? As I have interacted with more and more young people, I also realised that there are things we are the older generation see as the bedrock of relational stability that mean nothing to them because they don’t have the same social context as we do. This forced me to think through finding ways to connect with people around what is important to them and show them what is important to me.
So I say love deeply, connect honestly but hold loosely.
Holding loosely demands that I deal with the fear, anxiety and pain within me that demands I have certain people and conditions around me for stability. Holding loosely means I must address and resolve the internal sources of uncertainty that make me feel imbalanced. Holding loosely means I trust God to know and orchestrate the right elements for my growth and rise. Holding loosely means I have to trust that the value I give to my tribe is enough to keep them coming back. Holding loosely means that when a member of the tribe needs to leave, I can allow them that privilege without guilt trips and fear.
Holding loosely means that I can admit when I need help and find it even if it means looking for it externally. Holding loosely means I take responsibility for my inner state and do all I can to resolve the challenges and build strength. Holding loosely means I love, accept and forgive me first then share the same grace to my tribe and the rest of the world. Holding loosely means I am can forgive and move on even if the other party isn’t exactly repentant because forgiveness is for me. Holding loosely is letting go of the pain and learning to live without expectation but full of expectancy. Holding loosely is learnt over time and gives freedom to love oneself and grow into the most beautiful version of myself.
The last couple of days have been challenging with a combination of flu and lots of work. Several days I didn’t even have an appetite but ate because of medication and the need to keep going. I even resorted to adding sips of energy drinks to my life for the energy boost I needed. What struck me the most is that all I needed was a sip here and a sip there to get through; a 250ml bottle takes me more than 24 hours. Crazy right? But that isn’t the story here.
I have an additional coach who is just as committed as my other one. I have wondered why God would allow two people to come in and just offer to push me as if one isn’t enough. Anyway…I digress. She is super fit by all standards and has nothing to lose or so I thought yet is an encouragement to me of overcoming adversity and physical challenges. A few years ago she tore a tendon totally and was told she would never get back on the fitness path again. Many of us would take that as permission to give up and lie down, yet not her. It has been a long journey but she is fitter and more active today than before the injury and is back to wearing her heels. I am encouraged to own the space I find myself in.
Last weekend I spent time with a wonderful group of high school students discussing media and its impact. In the middle of sharing it hit me between the eyes that my issues with my body began a long time ago because the booksI was reading presented a certain type of woman as the perfect image. Well, it didn’t say outright that this is the perfect woman but there was a reference to certain measurements. dimensions and shapes that were appreciated and I was those dimensions in class six so you can image that shortly after as I continued to grow I passed the beautiful size and so begun the silent journey and internal battle of I am not good enough.
No one external told me I was big in fact, I remember the boys around me staring until I begun wearing long skirts to cover up and avoid the attention. As I grew older I would attract attention and it would make me feel uncomfortable and that I need to change things about my body so they stop staring. It is only recently that I have realised that they aren’t staring (yes they still do) because I was garishly fat, it was because there was and still is beauty to observe, cleverly placed there by God.
I had judged the situation and taken a position about myself, stamped and sealed it as final and then moved forward with a false perspective. On the outside I was cool and confident but on the inside I was always working on getting and staying a certain kind of small so I could be and remain beautiful. As I have undergone the last ninety seven days of fitness, one of the exercises has been to look at myself. I have looked at myself in the mirror…really looked and begun to see the beautiful girl God created, somewhat shy at times, with a big smile and beautiful curves. I haven’t lost loads of weight…just 2.4kg and several inches yet I love me as I am. I see me as different; I believe God’s word over me.
You see, I have finally understood, just under thirty years later, that I am beautiful because God has said so. Period!!! No other reason needed.
He couldn’t be out of his mind when he ‘…formed my inward parts; HE covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise Him, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are His works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from Him, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. His eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in His book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.’ Ps 139:13-16 NKJV (Paraphrase is mine)
Love who He created you to be…Embrace His plan for you.