Uncategorized

Where Nothing Grows

A preacher said something this week that stuck with me (link to the sermon will be on the bottom of the page). She said, there were areas of our lives where we have removed our expectation (faith) for God to do anything. These are the barren lands we do not even pray about because we have resigned ourselves to a future that looks no different from the present and the past. This is the place where nothing grows – not faith, not hope, not joy, not miracles, signs or wonders.

Nothing.

For me, it would the areas of my life where I would say things such as “it is what it is.” And resign myself to the fact that nothing can ever change about it. It is easier for me to embrace a reality that looks bleak, and make peace with the fact that this is what my life is going to look like, than to continue to hope for more and be disappointed over and over again. I can handle the sameness of never having more. I do not do well with raised expectations only to have them repeatedly shattered.

A decade into dating, my relationships were the “footpaths” in my life – the place that was once fertile ground but had been trampled so often by others than nothing could grow anymore. My outlook on relationships was damaged. I no longer prayed about them. I was convinced that God was not interested in my relationships anyway. He had bigger fish to fry. So, if I wanted to get married, it was left up to me to figure out the best option and just go from there. After God healed my understanding of relationships and I did eventually marry, the footpath changed.

It was no longer relationships;  it was my career. I had prayed and fasted about my career for many years without seeing a change. After almost ten years of believing for more, only to end up with less than I had in the years before, I once again concluded that God did not care about my career. He cared if I was a good wife, mother, friend and disciple, but my career was mine to figure out. He had bigger fish to fry than whether or not I could get a job. So, I stopped praying about it.  I removed my expectation that I could ever have the professional success that I saw my colleagues enjoy. It was not in the cards for me. Years of applying, and being rejected, feeling overlooked, and inadequate had me convinced that “this is just what it is.” I was destined to be one of those women who did not work because she could not find a good job. God used my husband to heal that fear of failure and success for me. Before long, seeds began to germinate and grow in that area as well.

Then the footpath changed again.

The most recent footpath I have discovered in my life is anxiety or worry. For as long as I can remember, I have always been the “worrier.” I plan things to worry about for the future. My mind is never not working and thinking and calculating and making readjustments. Caring for two toddlers with ongoing appointments for school, doctors, dentists, extra-curricular activities and so forth means there is always something to “not forget.” Managing our household schedule, budget, finances, vacations, doctors appointments, after-school care plans and such means that my wheels are always turning. If I do not keep the machine that is the Odedere Household moving along, it could all come crashing down in disaster. There is always something to think (or worry) about. Because of the mental load of thinking for myself, my sons and my husband a majority of the time, worry and anxiety became the norm. As I solved one thing, my mind would move on to the next concern. On and on like that until everything had a solution. If there was no solution in sight, then concern became worry, worry grew to anxiety and the anxiety became a paralyzing fear that made each of my limbs feel like they weighed a ton. When that fear becomes a behemoth (larger than life), I would run to prayer. I would cry out to God for relief since all of my own efforts had failed me. Even as I prayed about it, I would worry. Would God really take care of it? What if this was one of those times where He wanted something awful to happen to me so I could grow from it? (This is bad theology by the way.)

I have operated with this kind of fear and anxiety for all of my walk with Christ. I figured “this is just my personality/I am just a worrier.” I have never expected anything to change about how I operated in the world. I am just naturally anxious. God made me that way, did He not? I did not recognize this paralyzing fear as a footpath until the panic attack that happened in February.

Since then, God has been challenging my default settings as a worrier. It turns out that my fear is not just “how things are.” It was an area I had allowed the enemy to infiltrate and take over because I had never thought to pray against fear (fear of failure, fear of success, fear of the unknown). I thought fear was a human response and there was nothing  to be done about it other than just to ride the waves and hope the feeling passes sooner rather than later. I was fully prepared to live the entirety of my life being afraid (or worried) about one thing or another.

It is what it is, right? This is just how I operated.

Until God started showing me that this is a footpath. Fear had me in a stronghold for so many decades, it has taken me this long to realize that I was not always afraid. Up until a certain point in my life, I was actually pretty bold and fearless. And even in my faith in Christ, I am bold in so many other ways especially when it comes to the situations of others. But when I am the one that is under attack, instead of faith rising as it does on behalf of others, fear is my first response.

But God is changing my life in real time. As we speak, seeds of faith that have been sown on this particular “footpath” are beginning to germinate. This is no longer barren land where the enemy can introduce any thought or situation and cause me to fly off the handle. My faith is growing by leaps and bounds, and for the first time in my thirty-six years, I am fully convinced that fear does not have to be my default response to the arrows of the enemy.

When attacks are mounted, more and more, I see myself rising up filled with righteous indignation, inspired by the Holy Spirit and fighting-mad at the enemy of my soul that he would dare raise up such an underhanded “sneak attack” against a child of God. What an insult to the Heavenly Father who goes before me and girds me all around!

Literally, satan how dare you?

As I continue my walk with God, I know He will continue to show me the “footpaths” or  patches of wilderness in and around my life, the places where I have wrongly concluded that God cannot touch or change. I look forward to the day when my entire life is the lush garden that my Creator has in mind, each flowering field yielding fruit by the tens, fifties and hundred.

I look forward to the day when there would be no such place in my life where nothing grows.

(Sermon Series: Crazy Faith Part 5- Daily Faith – Brie Davis – Transformation Church) – Get it here!

 

Uncategorized

From Breakdown to Breakthrough -Through The Fire Part 2

Disclaimer: Before you read Part Two of this journey, it might be helpful to go back and read Part One. Read Part 1 Here

In February, I was faced with a setback so fierce it felt like it would actually consume the life I have come to know for the last twelve years. The fear of the unknown was paralyzing as I imagined the worst outcome – shame, professional loss, lack and poverty. I imagined everyone who had known me for the last two decades shaking their heads at my misery, wondering how I descended to such a shameful low point. I had completely expected the situation to swallow me whole. The panic attack that ensued was the catalyst I needed to seek professional counseling.

I took myself to a therapist to begin to unpack the unnatural terror I had about the unknown future. Four months after my first session, I am here to report that I am currently in one of the best seasons of my life. The situation and circumstance that I thought would be my undoing has actually been used by God to allow me to win my battle against fear. Fear has dominated my life in one way or the other for as long as I could remember. Fears of failure and success made it hard for me to see the kind of progress I have always desired. But the most pressing fear in this situation was the fear of the unknown. I do not like surprises. Even good things, when they are unplanned, rock me to my center. Knowing that I could not predict the outcome of what was a threat against my very livelihood and future shook the foundations under my feet.

But thanks be to God that he did not leave me the quivering mass of anxiety that first walked into my therapist’s office in May. Over the last several months, God has shown me that my fear was based on a lie. The lie told me that my life would only be “okay” if this situation went away. If the threat manifested into my new reality, then there was no way for the plans of God over my life to prosper.

But what an insult to the power and might of God!

I had wrongly concluded that not even God could undo the damage to my life if the circumstances that were still a threat, became a fact. I had let fear swallow up my faith and it resulted in a woman who looked nothing like the warrior princess I have been growing into over the last decade.  The process to breakthrough was not in God changing the situation that frightened me, but in Him growing my faith and changing my mind. Through this particular trial, I have been able to see that God is not dependent on human beings if He is determined to bless me. In the midst of what should have been the hardest season of my life, I find myself thriving like I have never done before. I found the pace of grace in my work and it is being rewarded by my bosses. I leaned into the grace of God which allows me to work in excellence for someone besides myself, without letting my children or household suffer. I am the healthiest I have ever been, emotionally and spiritually, because this situation spurred me into getting the help I needed for things that have been a struggle for as long as I have been an adult, some even longer. It seems that God is causing ALL things to work together for my good by using the very storm that  I thought was going to drown me, to move me ever closer to His promised future.

And isn’t that just like God? To use the very thing that the enemy meant for evil, something that has caused others to end their lives or retreat from living all together, to promote His own children to their next level. By no means do I believe that this attack came from God. It was sent as a strategic weapon of the enemy to take me out – to make me doubt my abilities and give up on every long held desire of my heart. The enemy definitely meant to destroy me. If the enemy had his way, I would be living in the eye of depression as we speak. I would have retreated from life, quit my job, abandoned my relationships and spent my days buried under my covers in tears. I did it for a few days earlier this year. It would have been very easy to just stay down. You cannot get knocked over if you do not stand up again.  But God had better plans for me than that. He has declared that I would live and not die, but rather declare the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. So here I am, thriving. Because I am finally learning to rest in the promises of God. Because I finally understand that when God has determined to do us good, He will not ask permission from our circumstances before his desires for us are accomplished. The situation that spurred my first panic attack in over a decade is still ongoing. But in the midst of it, I have had the deepest kind of joy I have ever experienced in my adult life. I am experiencing a new level of authenticity in my marriage and friendships. I am more sure of my abilities in my career. And I have a greater understanding of who I am and why I move through life this particular way.

Because of that richer understanding, I have more to say when it comes to speaking intelligently about my journey. I am able to write about my journey in an authentic way that is brimming over with God-given joy. Life is still not perfect but at this point, I have more testimonies of God’s goodness over my life than I have ever had at any point before.

Without the threat of failure and the fear of unknown danger that presented itself in my life in February, I would probably be coasting along, the same version of me that I was when the year started. There would have been no motivation to examine why this fear almost paralyzed me and subsequently, I likely would have lived with this unknown fear for the next several years never realizing that it was unnatural and destructive to the plans of God for my life.

So, I am finally at a point in my life where I can say, I am incredibly grateful for the storm. I am thankful for the fiery furnace. The storm did not drown me and the fire did not consume me. The waters washed away more than just the unnecessary material things that I thought I needed; it also cleansed my vision to see clearly. The fire did not just burn away the security of a life where nothing changes so nothing grows; it also purified the gold that was within me; melting away impurities such as fear and self-reliance until all that is left is a faith that has been tried by fire.

Exactly seven months and five days after the enemy’s attack, I am happy to report that I am walking in breakthrough. Fear no longer has me.

I, Omowunmi, have escaped like a bird out of the hunter’s trap of fear and failure. The trap has been broken forever and ever, and I am free! (Psalm 124:7)