The Thief

One day a thief crept into our home. We were going about our business while he crept about undetected. Infinitely dangerous but we never suspected a thing. Until some things came up missing.

Like joy.

Like peace of mind.

Like contentment.

Comparison is the thief of joy

I keep running into that quote online and it will not leave me alone. If you have followed my journey thus far then you know that comparison was a struggle for me a couple of years back. The Lord has been gracious since then and I have learned how to steward my own portion remarkably well. It goes without saying that I may not have perfected the art of never envying another person’s life or possessions, but honestly, I am being perfected on a daily basis.

When I came across this quote yet again this week, it got me thinking about what exactly has been stolen from me in the years I spent neglecting my own life to envy another’s. One instant that immediately came to mind was that of a former friend. This was someone I had known since childhood but did not establish a genuine connection with until we were adults. By that time she had grown into a confident, beautiful, self-assured, take-no-prisoners of a woman and I was still finding myself but putting up a good front. I cherished our friendship because we genuinely cared for one another and we were each other’s trusted ear for our most sensitive secrets. But under the warm embers of our friendship was this nagging need to prove that I was good enough to be her friend. That toxic mentality gave way to competition. Although I loved my friend, I was also keenly aware of how much more popular and sought after she was compared to me. I did my best to mimic some of her style; I shopped where she shopped, wore similar hair styles and befriended the people in her life. My prayer was that some of her “certain something” would rub off on me and I would be more sought after and well-liked by association. In that instance, comparison stole my ability to be a true friend. Which one of us would want a friend who felt compelled to compete with us? Yet there i was being exactly that type of friend. For all the love I had for this woman, there was no way I was presenting her with the best version of myself as her friend if a part of me was jealously seeking to have something she effortlessly possessed.

When I think a little harder, I remember another friend with whom I found common ground based on our passion to see young people in Christ and flourishing. This woman of God is a natural at getting young people of any age to open up to her. She befriends them easily and keeps their confidences. I am the same way to a certain extent but the grace of God operating in this lady’s life made me question my own. Eventually, things went sour between us (it is a long story that I cannot tell without divulging intimate details that may cause embarrassment to all parties involved). Over the past five years, God has healed my heart and given me the hope of reconciliation. But honestly, I am embarrassed and ashamed of myself for the manner in which I acted. In my jealous comparison of the gifts operating in my life and the life of the young woman in question, I have treated her unfairly and without compassion. When I think back to some of the words I have spoken to this woman in the heat of the moment, I cringe. Here, comparison stole a sister in Christ and a partner in ministry. I have asked the Lord for forgiveness and have taken some steps to correct my missteps with the person in question but I know there is room for more. Reconciliation is the heart of my Heavenly Father so I am keeping my heart open to that possibility in this situation.

Lastly, this quote reminds me of the first few days and weeks (and maybe even the first year) of my marriage. I went into marriage with the expectation that my husband would be praying the heavens down daily over me, lavishing me with gifts and words of love, and meeting my needs spoken and unspoken without issue. Once we came home from the honeymoon and began living as husband and wife, I quickly realized that my amazing husband was very much flesh just like me and not the second coming of Jesus Himself. What made my reality harder to accept was the flood of Instagram pictures I had visually consumed and mentally stored away. Where was my breakfast in bed? Where was my surprise getaway trip? Where was my “just because it’s Wednesday” flowers? I wanted everything social media had shown me that marriage was suppose to entail. As I compared my reality to the filtered promises on the internet, I was crestfallen. Comparison stole my joy and had me questioning the gift of God that is my husband. Thankfully, I am surrounded by wise and godly counselors and the Holy Spirit Himself would not leave me to my foolish devices for long. The Lord intervened and opened my eyes to the ridiculous jealousy and envy I had for other people’s supposedly perfect marriages. The Lord reminded me that viewing the highlight reels of others would never improve my marriage or increase my joy as a wife. If I wanted a joyful and romantic marriage, I needed to get to work being a joyful and romantic wife. Learning to serve my husband from a place of unconditional love has infused everything I ever hoped for into our home. I still regret those moments I allowed the thief of comparison to steal my joy and plant seeds of bitterness in my heart against my husband. But I thank God daily that He has uprooted every evil planting of the enemy of my soul and my marriage. Comparison stole my joy for a moment but if I had allowed it, it could have stolen my marriage.

Friend, what has comparison stolen from you recently? If you still recognize this thief working in your life in ANY regard, I implore you by the mercies of God to drive out this enemy from your heart before it steals, kills and destroys the blessings that God has richly bestowed upon you.

Yours in Christ,

Omowunmi

Tales From The Trenches (Mother’s Day)

My first Mother’s Day (2014) was about a month after I gave birth to our first-born. I was still at home with our son since he was not old enough for public outings. I remembered feeling somewhat lonely that day as my husband went off to church without us. We were about to celebrate our first wedding anniversary that same week and after almost 365 days as a married couple, I had come to realize that my new husband was not big on holidays. He did not make a big deal about them so I adjusted my expectations for Mother’s Day accordingly. Maybe he would remember or maybe the mayhem of life with a newborn would sweep all thoughts of cards or gifts from his mind. Either way, I was prepared. I was thankful enough for the gift that we have in our new baby and that was all I really needed for day to be special.

My amazing husband shocked me by going all out for my first Mother’s Day. I had more gifts than I knew what to do with and my heart truly blessed God for how well I was loved as a wife and as a new mom.

At that time in my life, I had naively assumed that all of my friends who were newly married and not yet mothers themselves were delaying pregnancy on purpose until the time was right to build their family. At that point, I had a handful of sisters who were also newlyweds and only two of us were moms. In my mind, everyone else wanted a few more years with their husbands before they started bringing children into the world. As the years went on and the same friends of mine had yet to welcome their own bundles, I marveled that so many of my friends who were either in their thirties or right at the cusp were delaying starting their families for so long. Eventually, I got a reality check. Many of these loved ones of mine were not actively trying to prevent pregnancy. In fact, many had prepared themselves, emotionally, spiritually and physically for the journey of pregnancy and motherhood only to be disappointed month after month. It was a sobering reality.

I do not know why I assumed that everyone who wanted to get pregnant could. It had never occurred to me that anyone that I actually love and pray for would suffer the heartache of infertility. In my understanding, infertility was what happened to other people, those who had waited until they were menopausal before trying to have children or those who had long-suffered with medical conditions that were known to make childbearing next to impossible. It did not happen to happily married, young, thriving, Bible-believing women. That would not be fair.

All around me were women who had been married for far longer than I who were not yet mothers and I was totally convinced that it was because they wanted to wait till later. These were women who were leading ministries, running businesses and managing much more than just their household. It made sense to me that they did not yet want to add the responsibilities of parenthood to their long list of duties. Then there were the newlyweds who were younger than me by five years or more who were not yet parents either. Again, I assumed it was because they were not ready at the ages of 23, 25 or 27 to enter into the trenches of life with a newborn. Many of them were still learning how to be married so it made sense to me that they decided not to have children right away.

Lost in the melting pot of my assumptions were the friends who were newly married, newly pregnant and not yet showing, only to have their hopes crushed by miscarriage. There were others who were my seniors in marriage by almost a decade and I had assumed that they were childless simply because their time to conceive had not come. Worse still, those friends who were saving the sharing of their joy until after the safe arrival of their babies only to experience every parent’s worst nightmare of giving birth and having to bury their children.

For so many Mother’s Day in the past, I had never given a second thought to these different classes of women, all mothers in their own right – mothers in waiting, mothers of angel babies, and hopeful mothers to be. This year, they were at the forefront of my mind. Even as I celebrated the joy of fruitfulness, a part of me was prayerful for the countless number of women in my life who may be carrying their pain quietly.

You are loved. You are not forgotten. You are not alone.

Yours in Christ,

Omowunmi

Brokenness

Oftentimes I randomly wonder if some of the growing pains I suffer in this walk with the Lord are the leftover consequences of my brokenness. How much of my current pain is the residual consequences of a life once lost in sin? God forgives. God restores. God redeems. But consequences are consequences. The God who redeemed me was the One who made the laws I violated in the first place. He set boundaries up for my protection and I ignored them or blatantly crossed them in defiance.

God is just.

God is merciful.

In His justice, He must punish sin. Thankfully, the punishment for my sin was put upon Christ on that cross. But the physical and emotional consequences of what my flesh has participated in, lingers.

In the wake of my repentance and new life in Christ, there are still bodies littered on the battlefield of my past. People to whom I may have done irreparable harm if God does not intervene in their matter. This is not an egotistical survey of my own importance but a sobering realization that many of the people who participated in what culminated in my brokenness would have affected me for the entirety of my life if not for the redemption of God. So when I see others, whom I may have had a hand in breaking, living life without Christ in the wake of their own hurts and heartbreak, my strength fails me.

Those who saw me as a literal example witnessed the type of life I lived, the kind of men I entertained and the manner in which I spent my time and they did the same. Maybe not consciously and perhaps never with my words but they knew I approved of their choices because their choices were similar to mine. How do I help the woman who is still dating the types of men that chipped away at my self-worth and took ownership of my identity all while refusing to pay the price of commitment? How do I counsel the young person who is still frequenting the very same clubs that were my stomping grounds in an endless search for a good time that does not last beyond the effects of the alcohol and the bass of the music? How do I get them to see that the emptiness of every morning after a night of debauchery is the void that begs to be filled with Christ?

I speak. I shout. I beg and I plead but my words fall on deafened ears when the heart attached is dead in sin and has no grasp of spiritual matters. I am not asking for behavior modification. I am praying for a regenerated heart. Because without it, the lost remain lost. The broken remain in pieces and wholeness to them is a pie in the sky dream that is about as possible as walking on water.

(I know Someone who did that!)

Somewhere out there, someone has tethered themselves and sworn their allegiance to the past that Christ delivered me from. They have picked up the rags I once wore because the enemy of their soul painted them a new color and called it the latest trend, haute couture for their soul’s happiness. Lies.

Somewhere out there, a woman is pouring out her heart, body and emotions for the benefit of a man who speaks love with his lips but whose heart is deadened. He cannot love her because he does not know love. Yet, she persists sincerely believing that her love would be enough to change him from a child of Hell to an angel on earth. Unfortunately for them, neither her love nor his can save them. They must know LOVE Himself or the cycle of dysfunction continues. I know her well. I saw her in my mirror from the time I was 16 until mercy delivered me.

Brokenness may be temporarily hidden as we pretend perfection but all of our pieces come tumbling out when we attempt to function as we have been designed, in relationship with one another. Wholeness in Christ is a gift – I treasure it daily. But I would be delusional to think that because I am well in one area, there are no other parts of my soul that need the healing hand of God. Even as I sit here writing, my heart still prays to see restoration in the friendships that have died. Not because I am bitter, not because I cannot live without a lost friend but because reconciliation is the heart of my Heavenly Father. I was God’s enemy when He reconciled me to Himself. If He can do that, surely He can mend whatever is broken between me and those that I prefer to love from a distance because bringing them any closer invites Judas’ kiss and results in a crushing that I do not ever want to experience again.

Brokenness is familiar to me. Mine was initially the result of rebellion against the God I already knew (0f). Lately, it has been the mercy, compassion and chastisement of the Lord as He breaks my deeply embedded need to have my own way. When things break physically, we throw them away. When things break spiritually, God sends His healing and wholeness. Without being broken, I may not have recognized my astronomical need for God and ALL that He has made available for me through Christ. Being broken afforded me the privilege of being re-made by God (since I had made SUCH a mess of my life the first go-round). So in my journey, as I discover YET another piece of myself that is defective, flawed, lacking or broken, I have this hope that the God who made beauty out of such a broken life as mine can transform even this unfinished and imperfect part of me into something glorious.

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

– Gungor “Beautiful Thing”

 

 

 

 

My Funny Valentine

When I turned 30, I had only been married for two and half months – a newlywed by all definitions. As a single woman I had always imagined that the elegant dinners and adventures that I often planned to celebrate my birthday would be taken over by my husband as he moves heaven and earth to surprise me for every birthday, holiday and anniversary.

Where my expectations high?

To quote a recently discovered wise sage, “Is an elephant heavy?”

My expectations for my husband were THROUGH THE ROOF! Reasonable or not, I expected to be showered with flowers and balloons and gifts and to be whisked off for an island getaway somewhere. After all, this was my 30th birthday! My biggest milestone yet!

Imagine my response when my birthday fell on a Sunday and we went to church like it was any other Sunday. There was no card; there was no gift. After church, I was still holding out hope that my surprise was lurking somewhere so I carefully suggested an afternoon lunch to celebrate. My hubby agreed and we went to an Italian restaurant close to our home. Lunch was okay even though I started feeling ill right after (early pregnancy). The disappointment of the day weighed on me. I am sure I made more than one smart remark about the lack of celebration of my special day.

The discontentment I felt about that particular birthday was hard to shake. Eventually, I had to take it to the Lord in prayer;  after pouring my heart out before the Lord, I thought I was over it. As we got closer to our first Christmas as a married couple and my husband’s first birthday as a married man, the Lord had to sit me down and explain a few things. I learned that my expectations of my husband to be the one always DOING in order to please me where not only unrealistic and misplaced, they were selfish and un-Christ-like. Marriage was not about me getting this gift or that or about having someone to make up for all of my single and alone years by going over the top for me. Marriage was about loving and honoring my spouse in obedience to God so that Christ may be glorified. From then on I made it my mission to out serve my husband in love. Whether or not he had made a big “to do” about my birthday, I was going all out for his because I loved him and I appreciated all he had done to take care of me and our unborn child. I decorated the house while he was away at work; then I popped up at his job at midnight on his birthday with dessert, homemade food and balloons. Lastly, I planned a surprise dinner with our friends for the following evening. Spending the weekend catering to my husband and lavishing him with love absolutely filled my heart with joy. Watching him beam and blush in laughter with each revelation and surprise was all my heart needed that weekend.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. The joy I felt in serving my husband and ensuring he knew how much he was loved and appreciated could not be duplicated – not even if I had been the one on the receiving end of all of the attention. In blessing my husband sincerely and unconditionally, I received a blessing from the Lord in the form of heavenly joy in my heart and God’s peace in my home.

That experience has set the pace for our future celebrations. Regardless of what my husband is able to do to celebrate me, even if it is nothing at all, I will take any and every opportunity to let him know he is loved.

With each passing year, my husband continues to grow in this area. He is coming from a background that never celebrated any birthdays or holidays as a child so the transition for him is a big one. But every year, he goes out of his way to buy me a card or balloons or flowers or a thoughtful gift for any special occasion and the gesture always moves me to tears. I am the one that is used to doing things extravagantly. He is not. So any effort he makes, motivated by his love for me, speaks volumes to me.

And the years when work, financial responsibilities and his schedule do not allow for him to do anything, I am reminded of how well he loves and provides for me the other 364 days of the year and by God’s grace, I am still able to shower him with affection and relish the privilege to spend another holiday in the arms of the man I love.

Being a proud member of “Team-Doing-Too-Much” I bought my husband’s Valentine’s Day cards a week in advance. Since I could not decide between cards, I ended up with five cards for my one hubby (LOL). Each card held a special message that spoke to our relationship as best friends, as lovers, as partners, and as companions.

My husband stepped his game ALL the way up this year and showered me with gift after gift. For a heart that was already content to receive nothing material, this was the icing on top of the most decadent cake. I appreciate my husband for his efforts to love me well this Valentine’s Day. It is perfectly in line with how well he has loved me for the past three years and nine months of marriage.

Taking each holiday  and regular day as a married woman as  an opportunity to lavish my husband with love has changed my marriage and it has changed my character. I am less selfish and less self-absorbed. I am no longer a spoiled brat who expects my husband to move heaven and earth for my happiness. I find myself more grateful for the simple things in life. I am better able to see the big and small ways that my husbands proves his love for me in our daily lives. I am more confident in my husband’s love for me, gift or no gift.

For anyone who had a disappointing Valentine’s Day whether because you are single and felt left out or maybe because you are married and felt forgotten, please be encouraged. Yesterday does not prove or disprove that you are loved or valued. It is just another day and it is what you make it. If you are single, find someone to lavish with your love. Whether it is a parent, a sibling or a cherished friend. Do something extravagant (or simple) for someone because you love them and with absolutely no expectation that they will return the favor – that is the true essence of giving; anything else is an exchange.

If you are married and your spouse disappointed you by not going all out or even acknowledging the day, I know you are hurt and I am so sorry. Maybe like me, you need to adjust your expectations. If that is the case, I pray that God shows you ways that you can lavish unconditional love on your spouse. Celebrate them even if they cannot or will not celebrate you. If you are anything like me, I can guarantee that in giving, you will find inexplicable joy that can only come from the Lord.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours!

Yours in Christ,

Omowunmi

The Niece/Nephew I Did Not Meet

Therefore comfort one another with these words

1 Thessalonians 4:18

My dear sister and friend. I do not presume to know your pain and I can not even begin to imagine what you are feeling in this moment. I have been pregnant twice in my marriage and by the grace of God, both of my children are here. They are healthy and they are thriving. I can hold their faces close to mine and kiss them as many times as my heart desires. You may be doing the same with your other children. Or you may be holding nothing more than the memories of the days, weeks, or months they spent inside, cocooned by your love and connected to you as only a child you have carried can be. You may have spent months in joyful anticipation of their arrival or maybe you only had weeks to cherish their lives before the screen went dark.

I cannot presume to know your pain.

What I know is what almost every wife and mother knows. When we are presented with the news that our love for our husband and God’s love for us has created a separate life that will be a testimony to both, hope springs eternal. We plan for the days when they will join us on this side of heaven. We share the news with those whose lives will be impacted and changed for the better along with our own. We are fiercely protective of them, refusing and rejecting anything that will cause even a semblance of harm to their growth and well-being. We forgo our favorite wine and sushi, turn down invitations to activities deemed risky or unsafe and attend every doctor’s appointment because we know their lives depend on it. We pray for them more than we pray for ourselves. We speak into their futures the godly desires of our mother’s heart. We imagine their childhood and dream about them as adults. We love them before we ever even meet them. We show off their little black and white pictures with barely captured eyes, noses, feet and hands. We celebrate with glee when we discover their God-given gender – musing about Mommy’s little princess and Daddy’s little guy.

Or at least we would if we were given the chance.

You may have had nothing more to hold of your children than the one positive plastic applicator that told you they were coming. And as soon as hope set your heart dreaming, your worst nightmare became reality.

I cannot presume to know your pain.

Here is what I know, Sis. Children are a gift from the Lord and the fruit of the womb is HIS reward, nobody else’s. We did not get our children because we deserved them. God graciously gave them to us for our good and His glory. In His giving, He is good. In His withholding, He is good because NO GOOD THING will He withhold from those that love Him.

And God loves you, sis.

I know you know this but I am here to remind you. He is not looking for ways to set you up for the utmost heartbreak. When your heart breaks, Christ is with you because He is a High Priest who sympathizes with us in our anguish; He came in flesh so that He is the one best able to show us the way from sowing in tears to reaping in joy.

The pain you are feeling is unfathomable to me, my dearest friend. But I know a God who knows ALL  that you are enduring and guess what? His grace is multiplied towards you when your pain is greatest. Where grief abounds, God’s grace abounds much more. And even in your mourning, let me remind you of the beautiful promise of God’s comfort. In your mourning, God is giving you His utmost attention because it is His desire that you be comforted. I pray that the God of ALL comfort will be with you, tangibly like never before.

When I think of you, I bless God. Because even in our grief we do not grieve as those without a hope. We have a hope that endures, His name is Christ Jesus and He is The Resurrection and The Life. He is the only one who has conquered death and put the grave to an open shame.He is the ever Victorious One – so do not believe the enemy when he tries to tell you that all hope is lost. Who can conquer a King who conquers death? NO ONE. Death is not victorious. On the last day when the dead in Christ shall rise and we who are alive are caught up to meet Him, you and I will see clearly that death has had no victory.

I cannot presume to know your pain, sis.

But I encourage you to trust God. Trust His goodness so fully that even when evil seems to rear its head, you can confidently say to the enemy “what you meant for evil, God turned around for my good.” Trust God so fully that you can see His hand in every circumstance, no matter how dark. Trust Him so fully that the testing of your faith purifies you rather than breaking you.

I cannot presume to know your pain, sis – so I will never dare to impose on you something I have never had to walk out in my own life. The only thing I know about your loss is the God who saw it coming and is with you even now. God trusts you, not in your own right but God trusts Himself in you. His Holy Spirit lives within you and He has given you and will continue to give you all that you need in order to endure, overcome and prevail in this time of testing. You will not fail. All you really have to do is get through each day, moment by moment. As long as there is life, there is hope.

I do not have the right words to ease your pain, sis. But I am here. I am here to sit with you in the darkest times of your life because I am convinced that Light will triumph over darkness. I am here to cry with you if your pain needs my tears as well as your own because honestly, my heart does break for you. I am here to rejoice with you when the spirit of heaviness finally gives way to the garment of praise. I pray that what you have sown in tears, you will reap in joy in Jesus Name.

I love you.

Yours in Christ,

Omowunmi

When Perfection Fails

Have you ever scratched at a scar that you presumed was healed only to have it bleeding again? It reminds me of just the other night when I was walking along minding my business. I saw a few people that I use to know but because our acquaintanceship has been raft with ups and downs, make-ups to break-ups if you will, I decided not to intrude where I was not invited. To be honest, I was a little afraid. The rejection that once wounded me should have been healed by now but would wisdom really have me put myself in the line of fire in a moment when I was feeling so vulnerable (alone in an unfamiliar place)?

“I am not saying ____ to them”

The crass thought floated across my mind before I could sensor it. My flesh was on high alert. My natural mind and high voltage emotions remembered what it felt like to be rejected and branded and rejected again. My emotions bucked against any attempts to remember the healing and grace that God has poured out since then or the restoration, if not of relationships, then at least of wholeness. In that moment, perfection failed.

Where was the woman who has been made whole by the redeeming power of God? Where was the on who was bent on being long suffering because her Savior’s love has suffered long for her own case?

She was hiding in the back drop. Weighed down and wearied from the past six hours of caring for demanding, little hands and hearts. It was a busy day. My energy was low and my children were operating on all cylinders. Couple that with the ongoing inability to steal away even just for a few minutes to refresh – and I had the recipe for a perfect storm.

When perfection fails, grace shows up. The fear that gave way to the fleshly response was dissolved by an extended hand of fellowship. After a short moment of polite conversation, we went our separate ways. I wish I had been the bigger person in that moment but I was not. What I could not do, grace did on my behalf through another person.

Perfection fails me regularly.

“Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. ”

(Jesus  as recorded in Matthew 5:48)

The question that drives my life is this. What would it look like if God decided to demonstrate His love to the world by sending a thirty-something year old wife and mother who looks like me to impact her family, her corner of the world and her circle for the sake of the Gospel?

Or to phrase it another way, what would it look like to have the life of Christ lived fully in and through me in my same marriage, with my same children, with my same friends and in my same church?

Because, for too long I had lived with the notion that I could live a more Christ-focused life if I had a different kind of marriage or if my kids were better behaved or if my community was more supportive or if I had different traits, characteristics or personality than the one God has given me.

And it is not true.

I am not required to become a different person in my own life in order to meet God’s standards. By and through the Holy Spirit, little old me can do much to proclaim the glory of God even if my circumstances never change. I do not need God to deal me a different set of cards – I need Him to perfect His work in me so that I can reflect Heaven to those I meet on this earth.

I have not mastered it. But  when perfection fails me, grace steps in.

The Fear of Man

The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.

Proverbs 29:25 (NKJV)

I remember it so well – sitting on the floor of the large, carpeted room, each young lady chattering in low voices to another or listening intently as we opened our hearts to share the darkest and longest held secrets most of us had in our lives. Older ones praying to be a cautionary tale for our younger sisters in the Lord to avoid our mistakes and to fight the good fight of faith. It felt safe and warm and completely God-approved to let them in on my long-held secret. I told them with bated breathe and hard fought tears of the one failure, mistake, betrayal and abuse that set the course for the next 15 years of my life. Afterwards, I felt cleansed and relieved that I had done the task the Lord put before me. I spoke as He led me and I knew He would water His word in the hearts that needed it.

Months later I began to question what I had done. Was it really the Lord? If it was Him then why would He have me bear my soul to women who would later openly reject me? Knowing they had my words in my most vulnerable hour of transparency made me blush with shame every time my eyes met their deadened stare. These women did not care about me but they still had my secrets. What would they do with it? Was I already being laughed at by complete strangers? Who else knew of the things I had shared on that once-sacred occasion of open confession amongst sisters in the Lord? The thought would send my heart racing erratically.

The experience colored me in a shade I never expected to wear. The transparency that the Lord granted me with the salvation of my soul was almost stolen from me. When given opportunities to share hard truths of God’s deliverance in my life, I would hesitate ever so briefly. Was it really Him admonishing me to speak? Could this crowd (or small collection) of faces be trusted? Was this an occasion of casting my pearls before swine or giving what was holy to the dogs? The doubts clamored to be obeyed, vying for the position of Commander in Chief of my actions. But for the grace of God, they would have had their way with me. Where the fear and the doubts were strong, the voice of the Holy Spirit was stronger. He would not be ignored. I have had no cause to regret sharing anything that God has directed me to speak. Even the occasion that used to fill me with mortification has been healed. I have suffered no true loss by obeying the Lord (I count nothing as a loss if it resulted in my closer walk with Christ). Any hurt that was inflicted was the work of the flesh and the Arm of the Lord has been strong in healing those self-inflicted wounds.

These days when the zeal of the Lord consumes me and I long to share something I have learned in His word and/or by His Spirit or through His grace in my journey of life, ever so often I have this pause in my heart. Is this giving too much to too many people? Talking to a roomful of believers is vastly different than giving my words to 700+ “friends” online or 1300 “followers” on a site. Was the enemy lurking about, looking to devour me with the very words I provide about my life and my weaknesses? These are the questions I ask myself on a good day.

On a “not-so-good” day, the fear is “how will this be received by older believers whom I respect and whose affirmation I may still be seeking by my content? Will this cause the non-believers whom I genuinely like who have tolerated me thus far to write me off as just another fanatical narrow-minded, homophobic, patriarchal Jesus freak?” I will be honest in saying that there were more than a few times when I have hit the backspace button on content I desired to share because I did not want the accompanying backlash. Thankfully, I can say that these occasions are few and far between and they are never on issues of (eternal) life and death. By God’s grace, the Lord has never dealt softly with me if I dare to withhold His Gospel. The one time I have tried it, my insides felt like they were on fire; I lost all peace and my body physically shook in protest until I obeyed. It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life. I felt absolutely naked in speaking as the Lord instructed. But as soon as I obeyed, the Lord covered me richly in His grace.

The fear of man has proven to be an entrapment in my life.It has kept me from enjoying the freedom that Christ has so graciously granted me. It has made me doubt the promises of God over me (mainly that I am a new creature in Christ and truly old things have passed away and indeed all things have become new). The fear of man would hold me in bondage to a past that Christ has already washed away. The fear of man would have me remember my lascivious, arrogant, flesh-centered days and convince me that I need to “lay low” in Christ because I have done too much to qualify to tell others of the salvation that can only be found in Jesus. There is no reward in fearing man, at least not in my experience. The fear of man would have me dismiss as “personal conviction” the matters that the Lord through His grace has shown me to be the entrapment of the flesh if I dare give room for them. Rather than sharing what He has spoken concerning these things, the fear of man would tell me not to “impose” my own personal take on the matter on others – knowing in my heart of hearts there are younger siblings in the Lord who would benefit from a sincere warning regarding the snare of the enemy.

I gave my life to Christ a month after my 26th birthday. I had been alive long enough to see the impact that social media has on the lives of young people. I had been one of those young adults who published every high and highlighted very low. Going from boasting in my sin to publicly hating and denouncing it earned me many more snickers and stares than I could ever know. Had I given into the fear of man at that time, I would never have declared Christ as Savior and Lord with such a loud voice. When I find myself cowering now because of what “they” might say, I must audibly remind myself that “they” did not die for my sins. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; the fear of man is a snare.

Do not fall for the trap.

Yours in Christ,

Omowunmi

 

A Vision Of Her

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

1 Peter 5:10 (NKJV)

Every day I get a glimpse of her. Some days I can see her from sunup to sundown – from the time my children wake up until my weary hands wash the last of the dinner dishes. Other days, she is only visible for a fleeting moment and dissipates like a mirage – her image a refreshing oasis in the dessert of an ever-growing to-do list.

This woman, thirty maybe forty years old. Who really knows since she wears youthfulness like a favorite perfume and her eyes dance so merrily at the sight of her loved ones. Her demeanor ever beckoning to others to come, sit, unburden their heart or share a meal. Her husband seems to be a special kind of lucky (he would say blessed). Their home, a refuge from the millions of unnerving tasks that work requires. He seems to only take a full breath when he walks into their home. A smile on his lips as his wife welcomes him with open arms and unconcealed adoration. Her day was busy too, but she is never to busy to share this long awaited moment with her best friend and lover.

Her children arise and called her blessed. They may not know the words but their never ceasing insistence on being in her presence around the clock speaks volume of their love. Tiny, dirty hands pull at her constantly – her eyes may speak of the weariness of it all but her voice only speaks love, wisdom and discipline to little hearts that record it all, incubating everything she says, teaches and is – to be hatched in their adolescence, adulthood or perhaps when they become parents as well. She wears wisdom like a queen would wear a crown – regally, visibly and consistently. Should she be caught unawares without it, quickly she repents and makes her adornment complete.

Her meekness is strength, restrained. Genuine, sincere and born out of fortitude rather than fear or inadequacy. She loves without hypocrisy. Slow to anger but rich in compassion, mirroring the God she proclaims. Adaptable and capable, having learned to be full and to be hungry. Steadfast in hope and unrelenting in her prayers. She is generous with her tears as well as her laughter.

Her work ethic speaks for itself. Integrity is her calling card. She willingly works with her hand and curiously passes on nourishment until each project is finished – perhaps food is only a reward for a hard day’s work.

From her profits, she blesses her household. The heart of her husband safely trusts in her. She is a safe place for his affection. There is no worry of possible betrayal because in conduct and in character, she is as a secret garden, walled up, guarded and solely for his enjoyment. She does him good, never evil.

When I see her, my heart rejoices and I bless God for His creation. I know she is God’s perfect workmanship. His grace is apparent all over her life. Her very existence testifies of His goodness and her good works make me glorify my Father in Heaven.

I saw her when I gave my life to Christ. I saw her when my father gave me away to become a wife. I see her when I pray for my children. I see her when submission is a joy rather than a challenge. I see her when my husband speaks his appreciation of my contribution to our house. I see her most often when I pray – for my children, for my husband, for my sisters and for the Church. There is a vision in my head – a picture of the woman God desires for me to be in my household and in my marriage. As I conform to the image of Christ through His Word, through obedience to the Holy Spirit, and through prayer, that woman becomes more of a reality. I may never see myself completely transformed into this woman, but I know that I can be all that Christ intends me to be if I would only obey.

Becoming what Christ intends is going to require suffering. This I know because my flesh does not like the sacrifices it would take to look more like Jesus. My body craves for sleep and my eyes burn with exhaustion at five o’clock in the morning when the Lord is calling me to pray. Many days, the desire for sleep deafens my ears. But there are days when the spirit is infinitely more insistent of its willingness than the flesh of its weakness and I am able to pray, even if only for 10 minutes. If denying myself, biting my tongue, giving myself to prayer rather than to vengeance and submitting my will in obedience rather than doing what my feelings dictate all feels like suffering, it is a pain that I joyfully welcome. Because I look forward to the time when God Himself will perfect, strengthen, establish and settle me.