By Debbie Renee Howard
It was nothing for me to spend at least 120 hours a week working in the marketplace. My extreme work ethics began with excuses such as, “I had to sharpen my craft, skills, and abilities in my related field within the healthcare industry.” There were very few women of color in my role. Then, it became the projects, and there were never enough hours in the day to accomplish them all. I certainly wasn’t spending as much time as I needed in prayer, meditation, reading, and studying of the scriptures, or even communicating with God consistently. There was so much Holy Spirit wanted to reveal to me, but my posture, position, and priorities wouldn’t allow Him to penetrate the altar of my heart.
I was seized by fear, panic, and exhaustion, trying to ensure that others perceive me as valuable. I was so focused on what I could do instead of what God wanted to do in and through me! You may ask, where does such a mindset originate? I wasn’t living the life of abundance, peace, and freedom, and I indeed wasn’t experiencing God’s presence in the way that I had read about in the scriptures. I knew in my heart of hearts that God hadn’t changed but that I had lost my way, and some unhealed areas were leaking from my heart. So, I began a retrospective journey back over my past experiences that created the unhealed wounds of my soul.
I reflected upon my childhood, in which there were some traumatic experiences. My parents divorced just before I reached that awkward adolescent stage of development. It was a critical time when I was struggling with my body image, self-worth, and identity! I was a die-hard Daddy’s girl, and I was trying to make sense of why my Daddy wasn’t physically present in our home anymore? Why wasn’t he around to protect me? I can remember thinking it must have been something I’d done! I came to understand and learn that adults deal with situations that have little or nothing to do with the children that are a product of the relationship! The exploration and explanation of such relational dynamics are other topics for a different blog article at another time!
Back to the subject at hand, at the tender age of 12, I was fondled inappropriately by an adult, adding to my trauma experience. My external defense manifested as weight gain and engaging relationships that weren’t healthy and NOT at all good for me! To be transparent, maintaining a healthy weight was something that had been an ongoing area in my life that needed constant attention and discipline. Weight gain became my way of hiding in plain sight.
My family had labeled me the “quiet one” in contrast to my sister. The fact of the matter was I didn’t know how to share what had happened to me. I carried so much fear, shame, guilt, blame, and the burden of wondering: who would believe me? I was just a child; there were others I was trying to protect! In hindsight, I cannot comprehend the irony of such a selfless act that was simultaneously self-sabotaging. How did I possess the capacity to suppress what happened to me for the sake of protecting others? I have come to realize and know that Abba Father had given me the strength to endure what was eating away at me internally.
During that time in my life, I also mastered the skills of isolation. It was a way to protect myself from hurt, disappointment, rejection, abandonment, and a whole barrage of internal buildup that I’d need to heal, address, and get FREE from in the decades ahead!
I took on quiet confidence and disposition of “I can do it on my own,” I didn’t care what “IT” was; I wore my fake badge of honor proudly! However, such a false form of armor became a problematic barrier as I began to grow and mature into a teenager, young-adult, then adulthood!
In my teenage years, I spent time engaging in the self-discovery process. I’m sure you think that’s the same as most teenagers. However, I believe that the Father wants us to be secure in who we are in Him. I didn’t realize that until my young adult life.
One day I was tired of carrying the load, it was time to let it go, and I couldn’t do IT on my own. I began to pour out my innermost thoughts in a very candid conversation with the Abba:
God, I’ve tried to carry the weight of the hurt, guilt, and shame because I did not trust you. I’m nothing without you; I need you in my life. I surrender my mind, will, emotions, thoughts, and all that I’ve tried to FIX on my own, and I give it all to you right now at this moment.
At that very moment, I felt such a release that I hadn’t experienced ever before. It was as if the Father had been waiting for me to STOP my self-reliance, strength, abilities, what I knew, and give Him the reigns of my life.
I began to meditate on the word to shift my mindset and posture to trust God with every part of my inner being and life: But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV; And I find that the strength of Christ’s explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty. Phil 4:13 TPT
The following is a parallel example of how self-reliance can cause us to move away from Abbas original intent for our lives subtly:
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American poet, essayist, and philosopher. Emerson won fame as the leader of the transcendentalist movement. Ralph Emerson was invited by Boston’s Second Church to serve as pastor and was later ordained. Unfortunately, after only two years, Emerson’s wife died; this made him question his thoughts and beliefs. The man who once believed in biblical miracles decided to resign his pastorate. He firmly believed that the individual must have the courage to investigate his own heart for spiritual guidance and trust his intuition. Emerson’s views suggest that men can generate completely original insights and that the truth can be experienced directly from nature without any divine help.
Paragraph citation: https://www.goalcast.com/2018/07/30/ralph-waldo-emerson-quotes/
Reflect. What path Mr. Emerson’s life could have taken?
I’m not implying that self-reliance is a bad thing, but it can be a disguise for mistrust—idolatry. Perhaps your idol isn’t self-reliance; it could be the mindset of independence to the point where you aren’t able to trust our Father in every area of your life or with the wounds of your heart. Whatever your idol is, be honest enough to explore it, the root of its existence, and know that God is waiting to partner with you on your journey to healing and freedom.
“Because I cannot rely on myself, I rely on Him, twenty-four hours a day.”~Mother Teresa
Debbie Renee Howard is a woman of faith, an Executive Pastor, Speaker, Consultant, and Transformation Coach. She has an innate ability to empower, inspire, develop and equip men and women to identify areas in their lives that lack purpose, and need healing. She achieves this through God’s Wisdom and her unique gift of insightful communication which provokes clarity and introspection.
Contact Debbie: firstname.lastname@example.org