Embracing the Grace in Obscurity

As one year ends and transitions into a brand new series of 365 chances to grow, there must be preparation. If you live in a “faith-based” environment such as myself, then you know the barrage of slogans, decrees and war cries started back in November. You’ve heard them, “Blessings Unforeseen in Eighteen”. I know, I know, total cheese fest!  But hundreds of thousands of people will dance, cry, shout and feel the spirit at the pronunciation of this and similar sayings around midnight on New Year’s. Amidst all the catchy phrases, soul stirring New Year projections, and epic prophetic announcements, we will go home on incredible spiritual highs. We will partake in bountiful spreads and toast to what God’s about to do in our lives. Only, we won’t stop long enough to consider that He does his best work, and best displays His grace in obscurity.

See, we will embrace the declaration over 2018, journal our deepest prayers, list what we’re believing for, and maybe even create a vision board. But that’s it! We will then fall into the same inactivity of previous years, just hoping and waiting for things to miraculously manifest. Even more disturbing is the immediate need to reveal our blessings and display our “come up” for all to see. The frustration that comes from being in neutral, supposedly waiting on God, is nearly maddening. The reality of heaven turning off the lights, tucking us away and requiring us to participate in our development becomes unbearable.  When the decrees are made, we expect God to instantly change our tax bracket without us having to learn money management.

We expect to be invited to sit at tables of great influence, but can barely differentiate a dessert fork from a salad fork. We’re not prepared to hold meaningful conversations about global topics, and wouldn’t know the appropriate protocol or what to wear in that environment. We believe that it is our year that God is bringing the one, but won’t engage in healing our souls from past hurts, so we can be available and fully capable of loving. We desire to get married but fail to prepare for marriage by learning how to communicate, how to cook, manage a home, (applies to both genders), healthy living, or simply doing whatever is required to become “the one”. Becoming someone that somebody wouldn’t want to live without requires development and preparation. Is God just supposed to let us be great at the snap of a finger?

Not only is your full participation required, but God will perfect you in darkness, in obscurity. You’ll write songs that  eclipse the top songs on the Billboard charts and no one will hear them. You may work twice as hard and be smarter than the person that gets the promotion, all while no one even notices your contribution. What if you audition for a lead role and get cast in a supporting role because no one knows your name yet? You might even be an incredible speaker or preacher, full of revelation and anointing but you’re stuck in your small little town coordinating Vacation Bible School every summer. See, obscurity will expose your heart, your motives and your passion. Will you go just as hard at your gift when there are no eyes on you?

Obscurity allows you to be shaped, to be formed and be corrected while you’re still in the developmental stage. God himself, being the potter, will place you on the wheel and His own hands will apply pressure to areas that are not smooth, that are imperfect. He’ll touch the places that, left unhealed, will later cause you to crack and shatter under the spotlight. The amount of pressure applied on clay while on the wheel determines the quality of the vessel made as well as the longevity of use obtained from it. Who wants to start well, but not end well with a strong finish? How many people do we see and read about who’ve made incredible contributions? They’ve wowed the world with their talents, but their character causes them to become notorious for their brokenness.

To be hidden, while being perfected… that’s the definition of grace. God covers us with darkness, so we can be authenticated. There’s a reason a wine that’s been aged in solitude is costly… it’s been perfected! So many of us want to “be great” while the world is watching. But greatness is harnessed in obscurity. You sharpen your gifts and skills when your only audience is sheep (ask David!). Master character, integrity, excellence, and wholeness before your name is in lights. The greater the spotlight the more every flaw, imperfection, attitude and deficiency is equally exposed along with your gift.

No one is expecting you to be perfect, but by all means be prepared. Obscurity will work for your good if you don’t mishandle it. Jesus altered the scope of history in 3.5 years as a result of 30 years in obscurity. Why are we in such a rush? In 2018 don’t get frustrated with obscurity, leverage it. If God cares to even pull you into a season of obscurity, that’s a down payment on your greatness. When you have completed your time of hiding, heaven itself will announce your arrival. You will know, everyone will know. Until then, do the work and get ready.

Here are my top ten tips for managing obscurity:

1. Relax, you’re not the only one

2. Stop fighting the process, surrender

3. Complaining elongates the Process

4. Capitalize on solitude; pray and listen

5. Let God show you your heart

6. Let God heal your heart

7. STUDY for where you are going

8. Personal development; get a Coach, a Counselor, submit to a God-fearing Pastor

9. Get a clear vision and plan

10. Wait for the green light, then GO

Growth: On the Way to Maturity

Do you remember having your food cut up as a child? Great care would be taken to ensure that your bite sizes had no bones and were manageable, requiring little to no effort on your part. Your parents and care givers recognized your limitations, knowing that your capacity was not yet fully developed. There was an unspoken understanding that time, patience and experience combined would eventually equip you to cut up your own food. The expectation was that as you grew and developed you would be taught and eventually trusted to extract the bones by yourself. So then imagine being 30 years old or even 45 and still needing someone to cut up your food. That would pose a serious issue socially, and point towards the presence of some type of developmental delay. Only thing worse would be refusing to eat at all due to the presence of bones.

Maturity eats the meat and throws out the bones, while immaturity gets offended that there are bones. Life is full of uncertainty and challenges. Nothing is easy! Nothing is handed to us in a perfect state; not relationships, marriages, careers, or ministries. The common denominator in all these arenas is the presence of PEOPLE. If someone out there has figured out how to excel on their own without the help of other people, by all means kindly share your secret.

The most incredible yet infuriating creatures on this planet are people. Broken,beautiful, inspiring, contradictory, hilarious, maddening, perfectly imperfect all wrapped into one. Because we are raised to get what we want when we want it, many of us mishandle people. When we are accustomed to having things done for us and never having to extend ourselves, we develop unrealistic expectations rooted in immaturity.

I remember meeting my husband and thinking that he was a nice guy but there were too many bones. This meant I would have to work. I was going to have to stretch myself to embrace someone that didn’t come ready-made and perfectly prepared for me. The bones made me uncomfortable and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be bothered. For a moment I was prepared to walk away from our friendship simply because the presence of boney areas of his life inconvenienced me. Reality is it revealed my immaturity. My expectations were unrealistic and I had watched a nauseating amount of romance films.

I nearly missed out on one of the greatest gifts God ever gave me because I was offended that it came with bones. Look, that’s just how this life thing kinda goes. You pray for a “Promised Land”, God brings you to it and then expects you to rid the land of giants and whatever else is occupying your land. You can’t just walk away and pray that the giants die or that God leads you to another promise. Immaturity will have you offended that your promise requires your participation. Offended that all the work wasn’t done for you.

Maturity on the other hand says ” this is just a bone, throw it out and eat the meat”. There’s a grace and compassion that comes when you choose to be mature. You can celebrate another’s genius but understand their human frailty. You learn from their wisdom but don’t disqualify them when you disagree in a separate area. When you’re mature you don’t walk away from a job because a colleague doesn’t like you. You determine to learn and grow from your work experience, despite the obstacles. Don’t leave a church you said God sent you to over foolishness. Don’t quit on life because it presented a challenge or difficulty… it’s supposed to! And you’re supposed to GROW THROUGH the challenges. Don’t give up on your dream because you encounter pushback.

Life is a journey and maturity is a choice. There’s so much beauty that can be seen if we decide to not get tripped up. We can’t be offended over minute things, majoring in minor things when the whole is actually greater than the sum of the parts. I’m not saying that we should overlook character issues or tolerate negative and toxic environments in the name of maturity. I am saying that sometimes we walk away without having even tried. Maturity requires a discerning eye, so look a little deeper into those around you. Find a reason to love, believe and hope for the best in others and for heaven’s sake… EAT THE MEAT!

Doing it Afraid…

It never fails that the start of every year brings resolutions that more often than not, never come to life. We all have our repeat offenders; I’m going to join the gym and finally lose this weight; I’m going to start eating clean; I’m going to start journaling and having quiet time every day; I’m going to pursue the dream in my heart THIS YEAR!!! Most of us have stood wether alone or surrounded by people, watching the seconds count down to midnight every December 31st, thinking…. Here I go!

Unfortunately, our best of intentions and our best self motivating pep talks so often fail in getting us to take a step. We Google meal plans and food prep ideas, we even PAY for gym memberships, we buy the journals, we write out the business plan, but somehow don’t seem to fully engage. Some of us don’t even venture that far toward our dream because we tremble at the thought of committing by writing it down or telling someone about our goals.

Have you ever seen a small child discover their shadow for the first time and get so scared that they run. The only problem is that the shadow doesn’t go away… It keeps returning!!! This has been my story! I’ve so often ran away from the shadow that reveals my own greatness, the dream that validates my own existence. I’ve left books and songs unfinished because they required too much vulnerability. When the dream in my heart demanded faith, I chose to allow fear to paralyze and immobilize me. Afraid of this shadow, this unknown and undiscovered part of myself, I resorted to running away as though I could turn off the ideas, the songs, the dreams, the version of me that was alive in my head and in my heart… The better me!

In hopes of turning on the light so the shadow could fade away, I began to give language to my fears. I’ve been afraid of being misunderstood, afraid of exposing my heart and maybe people see me… And don’t like me! What if I fail? Better yet, WHAT IF I SUCCEED? What if the demand is greater than my capacity to give? What if I say or do the wrong thing? What if I wait too long and never fulfill my purpose? Too many fears to name, but one thing is for sure, I’m busting out of this self imposed prison. I’M DOING IT AFRAID!!!! I’m going to blog, write my books, and finish my songs. I’m going to speak what’s in my heart regardless of who disapproves. I’m going to live out loud!!!! The reality is, the shadow never goes away, so I’m choosing to embrace it.

I no longer want this better version of me to only exist on paper, or only in my heart. I want the world to meet her. I WANT TO MEET HER. So here I go… For real!

The Wait Zone…

There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting! Especially if you’re working, pushing, praying and believing while you wait. I posted a few weeks ago on my Social media, asking the question  “how do you celebrate others when they get what you want?” I was blown away by the messages that flooded my inbox. From waiting on promotions to waiting to be the bride to waiting to finally be financially secure… I heard it all!

So many people can relate to believing so hard, and then watching someone get what you’re desperate for. Not sure what’s worse; the fact that you didn’t get it or that they didn’t wait or work nearly as hard or as long as you… If even at all! Trying to muster up genuine joy to celebrate yet another friend’s blissful nuptials while you’ve been waiting on love for the past decade is no small feet. What about being overlooked for a position when you have put in years, have been loyal, consistently exceeded goals and expectations?

I can remember a time in my life where I was committed to growing with a company. I loved working there and felt connected to the vision and values, i felt the company represented. I did what was expected and more. Anything that I could do I did, believing that I was being positioned for promotion. When the opportunity became available I applied! Much to my surprise another candidate was chosen. I had a superior track record, more time invested, the experience needed and the required skill set.

So to add insult to injury, once this person was brought on, they became my boss essentially. That was the day I had to make a decision. Would I allow my hurt and disappointment to keep me from celebrating them. This was pushing me to heart-check. I had to determine my motive for wanting the position. Had I allowed this pursuit and this desire to somehow consume my heart to the degree that it affected my joy? Had I given that much power away? That day, I made a difficult choice… Nevertheless, the right choice.

I decided that no person, no position, no title had the ability to define me or control my emotions. This is not to say that it was easy to find reasons to embrace the individual and the situation, while trusting God. I had to trust that God was ordering my steps and that even in this door closing, he had answered my prayers. People expected me to be upset, complain, be bitter or be insubordinate. But I made it my business to show kindness, respect and joy toward this individual. I believed that my blessing was tailor-made. I settled in my heart that God was not keeping something FROM me. He was keeping it FOR me.

It wasn’t long before my proverbial ship came in. I had celebrated someone else, even when I was hurting and God rewarded me. My decision to trust in faith unlocked my reward. What God did for me was so unexpected and simply miraculous. So many people celebrated me! But because I couldn’t take an ounce of credit, I simply gave all glory to God. Friends, celebrate even when your name isn’t called by men. Trust that Heaven is going to call your name in such a way that no one will be able to take credit… Not even you! God is going to put you on display like a precious jewel. You are next in line for a miracle!

Abra-Ka-Da-Bra

With the increasing globalization of Western culture, uniformed thinking is bridging racial, international and socio-economic barriers everyday. The term abra-ka-da-bra means the same thing to a child in a sleepy Irish town, as it does to a man in the ghettos of Soweto, and also to a skate boarding teen in American suburbia. In the vernacular, this term provides us with the understanding that once spoken something happens, something is created, and something appears or even disappears. There’s a childlike faith to just believe in the unthinkable and unimaginable. Unfortunately, the use of this term almost always produces manifestations, the source of which is not God.

So what happens when our God demonstrates His power and displays his might you ask….signs and wonders. I recently read a passage of scripture that has left me excited and expectant of what God is getting ready to do. Psalm 77 ( You have to read it in NLT!) outlines the writer’s woes and feelings of rejection. He wonders if God has slammed the door on his supplications as he longs for the “good old days”. But then suddenly he begins to recall the wonderful works of God, His power, His love and mercy to Israel. He remembers God leading them out of Egypt a journey the writer calls “the road of God”. Wait a minute. Could yours and my journey through our difficult seasons be the “road of God”? Verse 19 is where God really showed out. He brings the Israelites on a pathway through the mighty waters; a pathway which no one knew was there. (Shout here!!!!) This means that there wasn’t a way out and then the next minute there was. There was not an answer, and then there was. There was no logical solution to their problem, and then there was. Catch the drift!

Talk about something from nothing! That’s the power of our wonder working God, who delights in showing off his might on the behalf of His beloved ones. As we start this journey of consecration together, many are disheartened, weary, confused, frustrated, etc… I encourage you to take this challenge and align your heart and Spirit to God’s heart. I believe that God the father wants to see that child like glimmer in your eyes as He begins to create things out of nothing. I’m not going on this challenge to move God or make him do a single thing for me or in me. However, my heart is turned toward him in humility and I am willing to sacrifice comfort for character. I expect breakthrough and miracles to manifest as bi-products of this consecration and time of sacrifice.  Our God is a wonder working God.

For Further Study : Psalm 77 (NLT)

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