“Go back the way you came, & go back into the wilderness.” That’s what God told me; & my reaction, “You’re kidding right God?”
I’ve been thinking a lot about deserts & the wilderness lately. Places that are hard, harsh, dead, dry, the ground scarred with deep cracks… There is no escaping from the power of the desert. Parallel to this I’ve been so aware of & confronted with areas in my life that make me feel like I’m in a desert.
Especially the whole area of fear. I have so much fear in my life. The more it’s exposed the more I think there must be something seriously wrong with me. Do others have this much fear in their lives or is it just me? But while I’m trying to move out of my metaphorical wilderness, God’s saying stay. God why do you want me to stay in the wilderness?
There is always water. Somewhere underground there is water. Today I was thinking in order for life to exist in the desert the roots need to go down deep & far. Then, once it’s established a strong source of water through deep extensive roots, life bursts forth. Isn’t that like our hearts? My understanding of why God is telling me to stay in the wilderness is because He’s going to bring forth understanding & life in the areas of fear & identity.
One thing I’m also very aware of is when various situations happen it seems to really rock my boat. It doesn’t take a lot for me to feel doubtful & insecure. The most consistent theme is fear of rejection. For example, not producing effective & efficient results at work, not having a place in community, not being good enough for a relationship with a guy.
I find God amusing. I don’t know why, but it seems the guy thing & the community thing matter to God a lot because He’s going all out in my life lately in these areas. He’s working on replacing lies with truth, fear with hope, brokenness with healing, confusion with clarity, walls with freedom… grace, mercy, love, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, beauty, He’s turning each sad story into treasures of darkness.
Let me tell you some examples of my experience with guys:
Once upon a time I was trapped for a few years by someone with a dark possessive heart. He controlled what I ate, where I went, who I could be with, when I could sleep, whether I could end a phone call to him or not etc. He blackmailed me emotionally so many times with the words, “If you really loved me you would do this.” My naivety played a role in reducing my self worth but he made me feel literally 1 cm tall. He also worked out that I can be very affectionate when I feel vulnerable. So he made a plan & after a long time of acting on it he decided to inform me of his plan. His strategy was he would deliberately pick something to make me cry, & then after a while would choose to “forgive me” so that I would be more affectionate towards him. It still continued, I didn’t have any strength in me to challenge it or to walk away.
There were other guys. Saying no didn’t stop them. Some of them just laughed after the forced their hands on me. Once a basketball was thrown into my face hard; another time it was a heavy backpack smacked over my head; & a different time it was a milk bottle over my head that caused me to tumble down a whole flight of stairs. I’ve been punched, slapped & grabbed on multiple occasions. I’ve been tricked into a fake birthday party & my drink was spiked. Thankfully nothing happened that time because the drug made me aggressive. Once a guy walked me home & assumed something would happen. When I said no he got violent. I stood behind a locked door as he stood on the other side trying to smash the door down. My hearing, my nose, my back, my feet & my face have been ripped apart with cruel words. I’ve been told many times I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough & that I didn’t deserve any respect.
My experience of guys in that season of life left me feeling afraid, ashamed, guilty, worthless… But then, Jesus entered the story.
Ironically my heart can’t wait to be in a relationship. I can’t wait to be married. I’m so excited & hopeful about doing life with someone else & having a family. That’s God’s power for you. It’s the fear in my head that is the issue.
God cares about the details of our hearts & minds; & so whilst He could snap His fingers, He’s choosing to give me my freedom stories as part of a lifelong adventure of unraveling broken chains. It’s in the wilderness where I’m confronted with the fears, lies & misunderstood identity that I find my Savior.
Undoubtedly my past experiences of guys can & does influence fear, & subsequently the way I think or behave today. God is asking me to go back into the wilderness where I’m afraid because He wants to show me things only He can show. Usually the lies & fear comes to me when I’m in community or around guys. Unlike in my past where I tried to address those fears & lies in ways that were not of God, now God & I are in communication.
This is some of what God is saying to me lately:
I can see the future. I know better than you what you need. Trust Me fully. You are not at the mercy of fate, or tossed about at the mercy of others. You are being led in a very definite way. There is not one want of your soul that I do not supply when you ask. Also, I long to be your all. In the spiritual world there is no empty space. As self, fears & worries depart out your life, the things of the Spirit, the things you crave, rush in & take their places. Complete surrender of every moment to Me is the foundation of happiness, the superstructure is the joy of communion with Me. You are in uncharted waters. But I am the Lord of all Seas. I the Controller of all Storms am with you. Learn to shut yourself away in My Presence. & then, without speaking, you have those things you desire of Me: strength, power, joy, peace. A great work requires great & careful training. It is absolutely necessary. Not to everyone is it so. But only to those who ask to serve Me well, & to do much for Me. Believe that I am with you, & controlling all. When my Word has gone forth, all are powerless to stop it.
I could go on & on with what God is saying to me. I don’t have it all figured out. I look at the fear & I’m so overwhelmed at the thought of, “will I ever be in a different place to where I am now?” But I do know four things.
(i) God is faithful. (ii) His Grace is unreal. (iii) All He asks for is my surrender of everything so He can deal with it. (iv) Finally, stories are powerful. They are tangible measurements of God’s Love for us. It’s in the telling & retelling of our testimonies that we can fight fear & lies, & that we fall in Love with our God.
Nearly two weeks ago I went out for dinner with my friends & as we sat around the table I couldn’t help, yet again, thinking how blessed I am to have this amazing community. Unfortunately the moment was slammed with another thought, “The last time I had an amazing community of friends my brother died. Why do I have this community? Who is going to die this time?”
Lately I’ve been very aware of fear in my life. It’s like my heart is conflicted in a beautiful tension of feeling paralysed & breaking down walls or lies. Let me give you two battle grounds where this is going on.
Firstly, I love my community of friends here; so much so that I made a decision to be very intentional about not letting anything happen to it. For example, our group has guys in it. The fastest & surest way of division happening is to like someone & they don’t like you back.
So I purposely set out to make sure no guys could pick up a signal of interest from me & misinterpret it. In fact I was so set on doing this that it was a surprise to me last Sunday when one guy said to me, “But I thought you didn’t want to be in a relationship. You keep saying you don’t want anything to compromise this community & family.”
I realised then that I can think I’m communicating clearly but what I’m communicating may not be what people hear. I do want to be in a relationship, but I’m afraid. I’m afraid of loss, of rejection, & I’m afraid of losing my best friend (at least you should be BFFs if you’re dating them?! Haha).
After Mike, after my last relationship, after saying goodbye to the UK… I’m not closed to relationships at all, but my heart is fragile to loss & change. This community is my family, I’m scared that too will go away. Yet, if a guy does come along in my life, I do want to be brave enough to jump in.
The second battle ground is this. One of the coolest things about this group of friends is they give me so much permission to be myself… I know what I’m about to say is going to sound like a complete contradiction but bear with me… however, the deeper into community I get, the more this seems to be challenged.
I’m still figuring out who I am. Especially post Mike. A lot changed once he died. Especially the way I see the world, people & life. Certain things became more meaningful & I became a lot more intentional. I like deep conversations, I like encouraging people to be greater versions of who they already are, I like asking people how they are really doing… But in order to do that I first must be vulnerable. Even if my vulnerability is simply asking the question. No matter how great or small the vulnerability, it’s direct contrast is rejection.
The constant threat of rejection is exhausting but lately the consequences of vulnerability seems more intense. Like recently things have happened, or comments have been made to me that were not supposed to be negative but Satan has used it to cut deep into my heart. The thoughts going around in my head subsequently are:
“You drain people Akila”, “People want to laugh & deep stuff doesn’t refresh them”, “Akila people can only handle you in small doses”, “Akila people push you away because you are too intense”, “Akila you are too emotional”, “Akila you think you are trying to treat people the way you want to be treated but really you are just broken.”
I don’t want to be any of those things that are in my head. That wasn’t what was supposed to happen. I didn’t ask for Mike to die. I didn’t ask for me to change. I don’t want to drain people. I don’t want people to only be able to cope with me in small doses. My heart feel so raw, shaken & vulnerable thinking this could be.
Tonight, before church, I was trying to put on mascara without crying it off & I was talking to God about all this. I said to God, “I want to me just me. I want to be real & intentional. I want the deep conversations. I want to genuinely know how someone is doing. I really love & care for people. Even if people can only cope with me in small doses, I don’t want to change because this stuff matters to me, this is how I show people they matter to me.”
As I’m trying to figure all this out with Jesus a thought came to me, “Akila they’re not running from you, they’re running from vulnerability.”
Later after church I shared my fears with my life group leader & she gave a really beautiful illustration of a needle with thread. The needle point of vulnerability is so sharp that it can be painful for me & for others, but the thread that the needle brings is community.
Community is so much bigger than just a group of people hanging out. If God is the heart then community is what He uses to pump life into our souls. Life that fills our being with purpose. Life that He uses to demonstrate His love, His freedom, His truth. Community is life. Messy, beautiful, adventurous, living life. But it’s His life, & He gives it to us. He calls us to be our Brother’s Keepers.
This fear malarkey is hard core to address, but once upon a time when I was 14 years old God told me, “Akila I made you for people.” I want to be faithful to that calling. It’s my heart, it’s how I’m wired. What an incredible joy it is to be called my Brother’s Keeper. I’m not confused about this, but the fears bury this so that everything dumped on top causes confusion & disunity.
I don’t have a conclusion to this blog post as this is still a journey. But I do know that I don’t want these fears to kill me. I don’t want to change the root of who I am. I do want to grow. I do want to walk in freedom rather than fear. & whilst I’m trying to move away from acceptance in other people’s eyes, I really do hope I can be a good friend to people.
PCOS is not a new concept to me. In 2007 I was struggling with my health and I had a laparoscopy operation where they went through my belly button to investigate. The doctor later told me I was borderline, some doctors would say I had PCOS and others wouldn’t. In his opinion I didn’t have PSCO.
However I was apparently borderline and so when things seemed to be getting serious with my last boyfriend I told him. I just explained what had happened, what the condition was and that maybe there might be difficulty getting pregnant. He couldn’t handle it. More than once in the months to follow he said, “Akila did you do something to cause this? You must have done something.”
The possibility of having PCOS was one of the reasons why our relationship came to an end. So you can forgive me for being so afraid of rejection now that it’s been confirmed I do have PCOS. Why in my last blog I said, “I can’t envision a guy having that faith. Am I belittling people’s faith – no, not at all. What I’m saying is I don’t think a guy will have faith in me. I can’t imagine being good enough just as I am for someone else. I can’t imagine a guy would pick me…”
But God is incredibly faithful. I didn’t tell anyone back home that I was going to the hospital last month; and the very day after my hospital appointment my sister told me she received a message from my pastor.
“Laura was just thinking about your Akila and then Genesis 8:11 popped into my head ad I just wanted to pass it on to her. A seemingly random verse but wondered if it is specific to her situation this week. But I don’t have her number on this phone or whatsapp?! Could you please forward this message please? ‘He waited 7 more days and sent out the dove again. It came back in the evening with a freshly picked olive leaf in its beak. Noah knew that the flood was about to be finished.’”
I was so surprised. And yet not at all. Surprised my pastor sent this message to me but not surprised that God was speaking. Speaking hope, peace and truth back into my life. I suppose like Noah I felt a little trapped, scared, uncertain of the future, and no way to really know my fate. Noah looked out and only saw water, I looked out and only saw aloneness. Noah sent the dove out to get confirmation of his being able to return to land; God sent me an olive leaf confirmation that He is faithful and He hasn’t abandoned me.
My church life group here in South Africa have been amazing. God’s really used them to bring community and belonging into my life again.
Side note: for the first time in my life I find myself feeling so free to be me. I don’t feel inadequate in their spirituality, I don’t feel I need to prove anything, I just feel embraced and included. It helps that some of them seemingly have very high emotional intelligence levels haha. But because they give me so much freedom to be myself I find that I just want to keep giving back to them. At the moment it seems to involve a lot of food haha. Two girls moved recently and there were plenty of guys to help them physically move their belongings, I just bought the cinnamon rolls and chocolate croissants to keep them all fed and happy haha.
Side Note 2.0: I miss my parent’s house so much. I miss the big kitchen and the big living room to have people over. I miss people coming over for a cup of tea, or for dinner or just to hang out. But because my friends in my life group bring out a desire in me to invest in them I’m looking for ways to make things happen in the context I’m in. This week I’m attempting my first dinner party in my teeny tiny flat haha.
But back on topic. The depth of community and belonging is going deeper than what most of them probably realize. For example there is a guy in my life group that is really helping me navigate through some of the health things. I don’t think he really knows about my health, or that he’s helping me, but he is.
Back in August he was in a bike accident where a lady in a car turned right and cut him off. He was in hospital for a couple weeks and the doctor had to remove 3 toes on his right foot because they were too damaged. His attitude though is really amazing. I keep thinking if someone did that to me I’d be so pissed off. But he’s really trying to lay it down and give it all to Jesus.
Our health situations are very different but his continual laying it down and walking in grace helps me to think about my situation and how I can do that. He seems pretty unburdened by the accident, and that encourages me to keep working on getting to a place where I too can just be free and unafraid.
I just find it so special when God uses our friends to help us in deep ways without them realizing it. It inspires me to keep striving to be available to God to help others like that also. And to believe I too can be a candle in people’s lives even if I can’t always see it. But mostly I’m just really grateful God is using this amazing group of people to redeem past words, past rejections and past dreams that have been buried out of fear. I hope one day they each really understand what they did for me.
“This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:4-7