It’s been a minute, I know. I’m learning to speak only when I have a word from Heaven. Otherwise, I find myself cycling through writing schedules and timelines. While that has its place, it’s overall not beneficial so I’ve resolved to opening my mouth (and laptop) when something worth mentioning is surfacing. It’s late so it’s safe to say God is speaking because Ebonee is incomprehensibly alert and typing at the speed of light. This is gonna be good.
I wanna talk about pressure. We all feel it. Some of it is healthy and Godly. The rest is maddening and unnecessary. Have you ever felt like you’re running out of time, like life is making a fool out of you, or like others are getting stuff and your proverbial cup is empty? I have. It creates an unnatural pressure to do, prove and compare.
At its core, pressure is disturbing. So when something disrupts our regular routine or expectations, it can yield pressure and anxiety. More often than I’d like to admit, I’m under a ton of pressure. The worst part is that it’s mostly self-induced. For example, I turn 30 next year. The Lord is REALLY working on me because those who know me well know that I do not share my age. Writing it publicly is painful, but we’re overcoming unrealistic and misguided expectations together, right?
I feel pressure to hit certain benchmarks I don’t even remember setting. WHERE DID THESE GOALS COME FROM? I feel pressure to be an amazing friend. Not just a good one that you know you can depend on, but the kind that attends every event big or small, and texts in the middle of the day so you know you’re a priority. And ministry. I’m constantly looking to God to make sure I’m doing enough. That’s because I dream more than I do. I speak more than I pray. I accommodate more than I correct.
Then, there’s the pressure to make sure my suffering isn’t in vain. What do I mean? My brother died. What am I supposed to do with that? My grief must be useful for someone’s growth and faith, right? I must be in training to lead the “Grief Tour” where I tell y’all all about how God empowered me to overcome, right? This place I’m in today cost me a lot, and I’m making payments on my future all the time. I have to believe for more than unreliable expectations and vain comparisons. But. Just maybe there’s only one person God has called us to influence with our story? That one person cost God a lot also. They cost Him His Son. So that means even if your life only gets to influence one person toward Heaven, it’s worth it. Somebody, somewhere made a significant, positive impact on you and they’ll never get to know your name. You’ll never thank them. They won’t feel your hug. But God sees. He’s storing up their treasures in Heaven. What I’m saying is I’m learning that the pressure I feel to do and become pales in comparison to the faith I have to endure because I know my decisions and thoughts are important. What if I’d chosen to give up after Ricky’s passing? What does that benefit the Kingdom? Better yet, what does it say to the person who meets me and learns that I once believed Jesus rescues, comforts and makes whole? It tells them that the God I profess doesn’t always work, that he chooses for whom He intervenes on behalf of, and that He’ll abandon us even in our deepest agony. That He’s situationally sovereign, choosy with His comforts and will resolve to leave us in our grief. I don’t accept that.
Sis, don’t feel pressured to heal quickly. Be fervent about healing wholly. Know that you are only ever in God’s hands so every solution for every problem is quite literally within His arms’ reach (John 10:28).
I feel pressure to have the time of my life now because youth is fleeting, you know? I feel pressure to travel the world because #TravelNoire. Don’t get me started on Travel Noire (and why haven’t y’all ever reposted one of my pics?!). Then there’s the more serious stuff. I feel pressure to break toxic cycles in my family. We all have them. Simultaneously, I’m trying to preserve the good stuff to make sure I honor my family’s legacy. I Google myself regularly to see if I’ve done something great. You know? Just to check in case I’ve missed anything.
I feel pressure to advocate. To be the type of activist that supports most causes, gives her time and resources, and really walks the walk. As a millennial, we’re socialized to grind and not sleep. We’re indoctrinated to work hard and pretend it looks easy. All of that is contrary to the Bible. No wonder we’re depressed, confused and misled. I’m not advocating we don’t work hard, aspire and advocate. At all. I want to be clear. There’s a difference between righteous indignation and pressure. One empowers and the other exhausts. I think some pressure is confused with the tug of the Holy Spirit. It’s the feeling of you dying to yourself and selfish ambitions. It’s a wake up call. It’s in Proverbs 31: 8-9. You don’t think the disciples felt pressure? THEY WALKED AND LIVED WITH JESUS! Like we do. Except, they didn’t have the Bible as a means of understanding. I’m sure they felt a zeal to feed the hungry, help the poor and speak up when injustice occurred. They used that stirring to advance the Kingdom. God used 12 men to change the world. And here’s the thing. God didn’t call us to leave a legacy. He called us to make disciples. Because HE is the legacy. The 12 understood this. It’s like Paul said “To live is Christ and to die is gain” – Philippians 1:21. “The apostle Paul is saying that everything he has tried to be, everything he is, and everything he looked forward to being pointed to Christ.”
It’s crazy. I’ve focused more on doing than being. Now, I’m relinquishing the pressure I feel to become with the confidence I have to be still. Nothing is lost, and I am found. Time is precious, but not unredeemed. Youth is of the essence, yet fleeting. And work is required, but not in our own ability. To every thing there is a season (Ecclesiastes 3:1), and pressure is not the title of any one of them.
I pray we relinquish societal, self and succumbing pressure to be or do anything and anyone other than who God, the Creator, has in mind. Because that person is necessary. Important. Special. Capable. Brave. Whole. And loved.
Remember, God loves you and so do I,
By now, many of you have received end of the year notes filled with holiday wishes, and New Year’s resolutions.
This isn’t that.
I want to do a couple things. Firstly, thank you for the tremendous support this year. My email listserv has grown exponentially, my speaker calendar was off the chain and you’ve made 2016 the most poppin’ year to date on my blog. I appreciate your allowing me to be authentic and share my heart with you, even when it’s broken. I am a testament to the fact that love, like that from our Father, truly does heal (1 Peter 4:8). I was in bed yesterday watching a Lifetime Original Christmas movie (duh!), and heard the lead character say, “The thing about cracked sidewalks is that once you trip over a crack, you start to pay attention so you won’t fall in the same place again.” After hearing that, I immediately started formulating this piece. I can turn anything in a sermon because I’ve learned that God speaks in the seemingly most random places. Here’s what I mean.
I was on an airplane (what else is new?) listening to NPR’s TED Radio Hour, and thinking about how I was going to recap my birthday season and vacation for you. I was thinking about the things God spoke to me, my thoughts and feelings, etc.
Here’s the thing. The concept of Grace is hard to capture. I’ve had it wrong for so long that it just seemed normal. I thought I could manipulate Grace based on my limited understanding of logic and faith. The truth is we can only extend Grace to others to the degree in which we’re willing to offer it to ourselves. What I mean is that I used to believe that I could be gracious to those I love when they need it (and even when they don’t) without necessarily being gracious to me. Take my grieving process for example. I’m at the stage now where I have these “aha” moments when I remember that my brother is dead. That’s not to say that I regularly forget. When my mind learns the truth all over again, my emotions react as if they didn’t have any previous knowledge of recent events. I experience shock every time. I think this is a result of two distinct factors: my living so far away from my family and my understanding this new normal. Nevertheless, I get frustrated with myself because I feel like I have to “start over.” I treat grief as if it’s a 12-step process and every time I mess up, get it wrong or have a bad day, I go back to step one.
What does this have to do with Grace?
Again, we can only extend Grace to others to the degree in which we’re willing to offer it to ourselves. If a friend were experiencing any form of loss or sorrow, I’d try my hardest to be the best friend possible. I’d tarry in prayer for them, go on a 21-day fast with them, and just sit in silence when words aren’t needed. As for me, I’m a power player. I’ve grown very fond of my Instagram image. I think my networking persona is extremely becoming. And I adore the idea that I can control everything, especially my emotions. This superwoman complex, as I’ve discussed before in previous posts, is psychologically and emotionally damaging. It teaches us that our mistakes aren’t redeemable. It creates a false sense of pride in tangible and public success. It reduces Jesus to a distant and angry miasma. It forces us to put a time limit on anything that causes discomfort – or that doesn’t agree with the fairytale life we expect ourselves to live.WHERE DID WE LEARN THAT? What Disney movie did we watch too often? What made us believe that we only deserve Grace when operating as our best and greatest selves? The truth is it comes from all angles. We are conditioned to believe that a public life = a significant life Thusly, if we’re working hard, operating in our calling, trusting and believe God, it doesn’t seem like enough because you can’t snapchat your faithfulness. You can’t Instagram your prayer life. You can’t Periscope your growth. We want to see results, blessings and tangible favor. Sis/Bro, God is only concerned with your heart. Nothing else matters. And Grace is received at the heart level.