The God of the Last Minute–I Don’t Like It

My Post-102.jpgWhile He’s an awesome God, He is also the God of the last minute and if we are honest, in these times He doesn’t feel so awesome. As we move into the “deeper” things of God, He starts to show just how multi-dimensional He is. He shifts us out of the courting stage in Him and into the training, the breaking, the molding. He challenges our ideas, our limitations, and our processes–and this is the LAST MINUTE GOD.

I’ve often heard people say that “He’s an on time God.” In fact, there’s a song about it as well, but I don’t believe that we really understand the magnitude of this statement or even the unrest that it evokes within us. While the timing of God is perfect in His sight, it is not always perfect in ours. I’m learning this hard lesson as He destroys every plan that I’ve constructed for my life.

Can I be honest? It’s quite unsettling. It hurts. It makes me feel schizophrenic. One minute I’m up and the next I’m in the valley in tears. The God of the last minute is one that I’ve never met and I can’t say that I really like this side of Him. I’m used to the doting God. The one who tells me how wonderful I am. I like the God of the blessings. The God of mercy. The God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.

But, didn’t He do this to Abraham? Didn’t God wait until there was no more time left in the game to show up? You know the story of how Abraham was instructed by God to take his son Issac on the mountain to offer a sacrifice unto the Lord (Genesis 22:1-19). God gave him the instruction but He didn’t offer much else. In obedience, Abraham went to the top of the mountain with His only son and was about to slay him until he heard the angel of the Lord speak, warning him not to kill Isaac.

But, what was going on internally with Abraham? While the scripture is silent on the matter, it does not take away from the human side of our father of faith. He was a man trusting God. And, trusting God is not always easy, especially if you can’t trace what He will do. I believe that Abraham had the ability to go through with the command because He had already learned God as the God of the last minute.

Let’s think through this: Abraham was impotent when God quickened his body with the ability to impregnate his wife. The Message version of Hebrews 11:12 says that Abraham’s body was “dead” and his “loins were shriveled.” (The shade is real). This shows us that God waited until Abraham couldn’t produce a seed within his own body to give him a supernatural seed. And, if God could do this then He certainly could provide the sacrifice, right?

This is where we come into a deeper relationship with God. It is not enough to say that God is God, the Lord, magnificent, a way maker, a healer, a provider, if we don’t have that type of history with Him. Yes, in the past I’ve known God as a way maker but never as a provider and they are distinctively different. Yes, He opened doors for me and gave me favor, but I didn’t have context to understanding Him as a provider until now.

The God of the last minute is God the provider.

Our timetables often get in the way of our understanding of this. Our desperate need to have timely provision restricts our faith and this is where God has to move in and change our understanding. God of the last minute is the same God of faith. It is only through hard circumstances, tight situations, unfavorable pressure that we can please God through our faith.

In Hebrews 11:6, it says that “It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him” (MSG). Sometimes we think that our works please God–and they do. Sometimes we think that our moral standing pleases God–and it does. But, what pleases God the most is our faith in Him.

I had to learn the latter half of the scripture, which says that we must believe that “he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.” In essence, I had to believe that God loved me and because he loved me that He would never withhold anything from me that would be for my benefit, but first He had to enlarge the territory of my faith.

This, He did through the last minute moments in my life.

 

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Why Your Preparation is NOT Enough

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I prepared for a year. I did the hard work. I thought that I was ready. I learned the hard way.

You may know the story of how I didn’t date for a year. After a 7-year relationship ended, I decided to focus on inner healing–which is a job within itself–because I was tired of being a victim. Not only was I tired of being a casualty of war, but I was tired of making casualties. I guess it is true when they say that “hurt people, hurt people.” During the year of introspection, I looked back over my past and saw the bodies sprawled behind me. How didn’t I see them before, but saw them while healing?

Healing does that. It puts a magnifying glass up to your life and shows you the TRUTH. Unfortunately, I thought I knew the TRUTH before my year sabbatical. I thought that I was God’s gift to His sons, but I wasn’t. More like an emotional terrorist running in and out of people’s lives as I dropped bombs of tension. I was a broken girl who was trying desperately to walk in a woman’s shoes. I was lost. But, God found me.

This post isn’t to recant those experiences though. In actuality, it is a post to tell you that your preparation is not enough for your next season. Hard reality, right? Let me explain.

Focusing on inner healing is the first step to freedom. It gives you the courage to face yourself, your experiences, and your fears. It allows you to begin the process of moving forward but that’s it. You’re only able to face what you can see, and that’s why it isn’t enough.

Now, this is a bit contrary to what we are taught in church, on webinars, and in small groups. When I realized that Christians were overlooking this very real reality, it shocked me but not without teaching me first-hand just how short-sighted we can be.

Friend, when most people say that they are focusing on healing, they often mean the things that they know they struggle with: low self-esteem, rejection, patience, emotional dysfunctions, anger, loneliness, worry, [insert the 5 things you may have on your list]. And, these things are good to work on, but that’s not it.

If we hope to qualify for the next level. If we hope to get married one day. If we wish to overcome our circumstances then we must allow God to prepare our preparation. Yes, PREPARE OUR PREPARATION. We can prepare all we want, but when it is time for God to deliver on a promise, He is not going to give it to the unqualified. He will not give you passing credit on a test that you didn’t study for. But, you did study…for the wrong test.

Have you ever done that while you were in school? Study for questions that didn’t appear on the exam? How did that make you feel? Unprepared? Like a failure? Nervous about your grade? This is how many people feel when they enter into God’s preparation. His study guide might look foreign to the things we remember going over in our lives. As we stare at His questions, we may wonder…how will I ever pass this test? I need more time.

Indeed. You do. When God starts to prepare you for the next level, He will not always come after the big things in your life–you’ve already done that–but He will shed light on the minor details. You know, those character flaws, that thing you do once a year, your secret thoughts, your subconscious self, your running personality, your simmering attitude. Those are some of the things He starts to mess with.

And, while I know that you may think that since you can handle the “big” issues then the little things won’t matter much to your comfort, that’s not true. The Bible says that it’s the small foxes that ruin the vine (Song of Solomon 2:15). It’s those hangnails that cause the most discomfort. It’s that corn on the little toe that impacts the entire foot. It’s the hair in the eye that disrupts your sight.

God will come after the small things, and you may think that you are going to lose your mind when He starts preparing you, but I encourage you to study the lesson. Go over your notes (life). Look at what He’s showing you.

What might seem small in this season, could ruin you in the next.

Should We Celebrate Making It?

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I sat to write in my journal a few moments ago and the first words that I wrote were, “I made it!”

These three words have never meant much to me honestly. In fact, they were like a catch phrase that we use in church to signify that we’ve been through something but made it to the other side. It’s equivalent to the phrase “…but God!” But, if I can be honest, hearing this phrase often kind of diluted its significance to me…until now.

“I made it” signifies that we are still alive. It does not mean that we haven’t been hurt during the journey, or even that we’ve dropped off the things that we’ve carried along the way.

“I made it” means that we are still breathing though some of us may have stopped living when the impact happened.

“I made it” means that you had the courage to admit that you made it through but not that you’re willing to show your scars.

“I made it” can be an imprisonment if we’re not careful.

So many times, we like to praise ourselves and others for making it through. When we hear someone’s testimony, rarely if ever, do we wonder if they’ve fully recovered.

No, “recovered” isn’t the right word because we never return to our pre-scarred state.

Somehow, “making it” stretches us out of shape. “Making it” makes us uncomfortable in our own skin for a while. “Making it” is just that…making it.

I wrote that “I made it” before I realized why I wrote it. I wasn’t speaking about “making it” through a storm or even a test, but “making it” through the day.

I “made it” because I was able to master my emotions today that threatened my productivity.

I “made it” because I was able to speak–no matter how briefly–about what I had/was/am experiencing. And, we all know that experiencing something in the present is completely different from looking back on a thing with distance.

So, cheers to everyone who made it today. To everyone who struggled to keep moving in spite of their feelings. To every mother who kissed her children. To every father who sacrificed. To every woman who prayed for her future. To every man who was sustained.

You. Made. It.

And, while your making it may not be mine, we can celebrate together.

*If we celebrate the small wins then we are more prepared to bask in the big ones.

Fighting Wounded

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I killed a giant today!

Not a metaphorical giant, but one that has threatened to kill me for over 6 years. Do you know what it’s like to live in fear? Do you know what it’s like to try to outrun, outlive, outmaneuver something chasing you? It’s tough, if you don’t know, and the mental unrest that accompanies your fight is even more unsettling.

I became a doctor today. YAY! While I am not a medical doctor, I did obtain a Ph.D. And, the road has been anything but pretty.

While on the outside, many saw me smiling today, what few understood was that I won wounded. There were numerous times within my program that caused me to absorb spiritual, mental, and emotional hits. These experiences, more times than not, threatened to harden me. They left small ticks on the canvas of my body that are only traceable through my moodiness. But, I made it, right? Of course, that’s all that should matter but it’s not.

When we get these degrees, we leave changed. And, while change can be seen as a good thing, we cannot overlook the negative impacts of certain experiences. More times than not, if you’re ever able to listen to graduate students talk, you will hear about the horrors of their experiences as they pass stories that are as common as initiation rituals.

But, that is not the point of this piece. Today I killed a giant, but I had to kill it wounded. I don’t know if you’ve ever fought wounded before, but it takes more energy to fight when your body is struggling to recover as opposed to if you were well.

For 10 days, I’ve been struggling to recover. Not from the fight with anxiety that I had a few years ago. Not from the emotional wounds that I acquired when I felt marginalized in a classroom. Not even from the consistent critiquing while in school, but from the wound made by my brother’s death.

In my previous post, I scratched the surface about how I felt about my brother’s death. While I didn’t go into detail at the time, I did express my unrest with the situation. But, for the last 10 days, I’ve been battling wounded.

See, I could not drop the weight of my responsibility because I was grieving. I could not set aside my commitments, deadlines, goals or dreams because the breath had been knocked out of me. I was already fighting to maintain my breathing.

The world kept going. People kept smiling. My phone kept ringing. People still needed me. I still had to defend my dissertation. I still have to graduate.

I know now what it means to fight wounded. I know how it feels to hold the wound with one hand, and fend off attackers with another. I know the feeling of helplessness and weakness. I also know what it is like to feel satisfaction.

I defended my dissertation wounded. Every 15 minutes I found myself checking the clock because I felt myself coming undone. Can you imagine coming undone in the last hour of your career as a student?

I was under a pressure that I’d never felt before. I was dealing (avoiding) grief, finishing a degree, and breaking the glass ceiling off of my family. I was under pressure and people were counting on me. I was counting on me. But, I was hurt deeply.

I killed the giant though. I killed the thing that was standing in the way of my promotion. I shattered the glass ceiling and created a new floor on the next level. I fought the good fight of faith, and I fought hard.

I write this post to let you know that it will never be a perfect time for you to live on purpose. It will never be the right time for you to overcome. But, you have to stay the course. You have to do it even when you don’t want to. You have to push even when you feel like wallowing in self-pity. You have to stand even when you don’t desire to.

…even if it means fighting wounded.

How Tragedy Exposes Commitment

picI had just received news that I’d been waiting for three weeks when I learned of my younger brother’s death. Just an hour before, I was on the mountain top experiencing a feeling that words could never capture. “Joy” was not right. “Excitement” wouldn’t do. “Thankfulness” probably isn’t sufficient ether. I can only explain it this way, I was feeling the emotion that only happens when God shows you that he hasn’t forgotten about you.

After the “happy” phone call,  I walked into an opening session of a conference where I would be presenting the next day. The speaker was talking about the importance of science fiction writer Octavia Butler and her impact on society. I was happy to hear this speech because I, too felt the same way. At the end of the speech, I looked at my phone and saw that my father had called. It was odd because we generally don’t speak in the evenings and his call was out of our normal routine. I missed the call. I called him back when I made it to my car.

He said, “stuff just got funky.” This phrase is something only his children know the meaning of. It means that something terrible happened. I thought he was going to say that someone got into an altercation, or perhaps a car accident, but never what he was going to say. I asked, “what happened?” He said, “your brother is dead!” My brother? I have two: one in Kentucky and the other in Atlanta. “Which one?” Jared.

I couldn’t ask many questions because I think that I was in shock. Jared was only 24. Within a matter of minutes, I went from the mountaintop to the valley. My dad didn’t have much information to share, but told me that he was headed to Kentucky right away. “Ok,” I said and we hung up. I called my mother and cried for a few moments. I was unsure how to feel. It was the best of times and the worst of times at the same time. Literally, a tale of two cities.

On the drive back to where I was staying, I wondered if I should give my talk the next day. I’m sure people would understand if I didn’t. Grief has the power to do that. Yet, this was neither my only responsibility nor commitment. What should I do? I am a feeler. I easily feel and take on the emotions of others if I am not careful. And, knowing my process, I am one who can allow things to completely consume me. But, this was not the time for me to fall apart. I could not afford it, but I could not afford to ignore that fact that one of my younger brothers was now gone. So what should I do?

I kept my commitment for the next day. I delivered the speech  though I can’t say that I was completely focused. I showed up because subconsciously I knew that in life things will always happen that will threaten to make me a liar. I had to push through. I had to do what I said that I would do no matter what. And, this is not to say that I neglected myself and my emotional well-being, but it is a recognition of my destructive emotional patterns and my need to overcome them. This revelation happened in grief.

Not only was I responsible for that talk, but I was also commitment to the members of my book club. I’d promised them a daily email for the book that we were reading and we still had 3 days left for me to fulfill my word. No, I didn’t want to continue reading and sending the email. No, no one would blame me for checking out on the emails. Yes, I would receive the sympathy but would I become strengthened? Perhaps, but I didn’t want to speculate. I HAD to continue. I HAD to keep going. I HAD to be responsible even when I didn’t want to be.

Grief taught me that I was committed to my commitment. Grief showed me that I wanted to keep going even though I wanted to stop. Grief showed me that some commitments are bigger than my emotions. And, while I will take the adequate time to grieve, I cannot drop my commitments and other people while walking through life’s ruins.

Insecure, How I Discovered This Shortcoming

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I thought that I had it all together. I was living my best life. I was finishing a degree program. I was in a relationship with the person of my dreams.

People always told me that I was attractive and outwardly I believed them, but something just wasn’t right. Somehow, deep down inside, I was still unhappy and very hurt.

These feelings caused a deep-seated insecurity within me that no one knew about. My emotional turmoil often surfaced in a bad attitude and a low tolerance for people. I was often snappy and held people at bay, why? Because I was insecure and insecurity often kept me lonely. Even around others.

I didn’t find out the truth of my positioning until I cut all of my hair off in 2013. I did a big chop (the process of cutting all of my hair’s relaxed end off), which left me with 3 inches of hair. When I looked at myself in the mirror I didn’t recognize the woman looking back at me. She was ugly. She was unsure. She was me.

It was a hard journey, traveling from insecurity to security. In fact, there are still moments where I negotiate between the two. One luring me to come back to the past while the other beckons me to move forward. But choices had to (and have to) be made and in that moment and the years after. I decided to try to love myself out of the insecurity that I was once bound to…and I did.

When we are insecure, we lack confidence in ourselves, which we then project upon others. This, more times than not, is when we put ourselves in prison to serve hard sentences that we were never intended to complete.

I discovered mine just by cutting my hair off and seeing myself in the mirror for the first time.

What about you?

The #1 Reason You Need to Focus

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Your life has always depended on your level of focus, but far too many of us have failed to really pay attention to how our lack of concentration hinders progress. I would also go as far as to suggest that you can trace your entry into a destructive relationship to a time that you were not as focused as you should have been (sigh).

In essence, it is important to understand that one of the ways in which we become derailed in life is due to our inability to remain locked into the vision. More times than not, we stop running to pay attention to our opponents, friends, and colleagues who are also participating in a race of their own. While it is a good thing to be engaged in the lives of others to a certain extent, it is problematic when we become consumed to the point of sabotage.

Ultimately, I believe that when we stop concentrating on our assignment in the Earth, we willingly stagnate our progress, and thus sabotage opportunities for elevation. Now, I know you might be thinking that this is an extreme thing say, but if you look back over your life and really pay attention to your actions, you might be able to see how my statement rings true.

Therefore, it is important that you stop this behavior now before it continues to restrict you in the areas that you seek to progress in most. Hence, the #1 reason that you need to focus in this season is because you are threatening to repeat the cycles of your past. Contrary to popular belief, destruction does not start with bad thoughts, but a lack of focus. Honestly, when you aren’t focused on the goal, then you leave room to think in ways that are contrary to what you are trying to accomplish.

So, I want to encourage you to FOCUS. If you’re already focused then remain that way no matter what!

Remember, your best life is on the other side of your intentionality that comes from your level of attention to its execution.