Just as with everything else, we have been raised to believe certain things, taught to act a certain way, and to do both, without any question. For most of my life, Lent has just been something to “do”. I knew it was a part of growing up with the Woman of God herself known as my grandmother. I knew it meant giving up SOMETHING. I knew it was all about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less.
In light of saving myself, the right way for me to begin is to at first acknowledge the number one lesson Lentil season has taught me overall. It’s a quote that goes a little something like this- “I learned that I could be both WILD and HOLY.” Now, what do you mean Dia? Doesn’t this imply the very thing that the good book says NOT to do- conforming to this world? Yes and No. This simply means that there’s this ongoing misconception for the need to be perfect in order to be “Christian”, the need to be “ordained into ministry” in order to spread God’s work, the need to be “holy” in order to have God in you, or the need to be “saved and sanctified” as if we all don’t have skeletons hidden deep in our closets. Well, I do consider myself a believer in God. And it is because of my own darkness that I AM CONFIDENT I am filled with light. So, yes. I am not ashamed, afraid, nor concerned with “conforming” to this world, because we all have a little God in us that certain science likes to call “a conscience” or “intuition”. Regardless, we all have that little nudge that tells us to do what’s right, to love a little harder, to help someone else, to share our story, and to treat others as we would have them treat us. Aren’t these all essential to what we believe God stands for? What we believe He sent his Son for? So, of course, we’re going to ignore this “inkling” sometimes…We’re going to “suppress” the feelings that what we’re doing isn’t right…We’re going to ignore what’s “wrong” in order to have a little “fun”. WE’RE HUMAN. It’s inevitable, and if we think that we can forget our “humanity” (suppress our humanity) in efforts to be “holy”, well we don’t quite understand God, do we?
On to what’s important, the wonderful Lentil season. What is Lent? Well, thank you for asking. Lent is the one time of the year that Christians, Catholics, Saints, Ain’ts, and Sinners focus on “simple living”, “fasting”, and “praying” in order to grown closer to God. Digging a little deeper, it’s also a time of repentance, a time to sacrifice YOURSELF in recognition of God’s sacrifices, and a time to realize your purpose even. How did this season go for me? Well, nothing but the hard truth and struggles are below in the seven lessons below on what Lent taught me:
1) While sacrifice is important, what’s more important…is choosing REALISTIC sacrifices. Today is the last day of Lent, and it’s been….a STRUGGLE. But, nonetheless, a good struggle because I recognized my struggles. And what’s a struggle without recognition? Usually in this season, in the past, my grandmother and I “sacrificed” things like meat and online shopping. The goal this year, for me, was to pick a true sacrifice so that I could focus on prayer. And boy? I chose…something. I chose to sacrifice: food (fasting from 9AM to 5PM), lust, and social media. Welp. All three eventually fell through the tubes. Hey, I’m just being honest. I lasted through fasting longer than everything else I gave up. Lust? Well, c’mon now, HELLO…humanity exists here. I don’t even know what I was thinking on giving up this, but in my efforts to “resist” my lust, I did learn more about how temptation works, the consequences of me giving in to it, and how I am indeed “conforming”. And social media? Well, because of recent photography project I’ve taken on, this was nearly “impossible”. BUT, I did a good job of NOT posting on Snapchat everyday (I may have combatted this by sending personal snaps to people, but this still sounds right?). So, lesson #1…if you’re going to DO Lent, just like anything else…give it your all. It’s a commitment just like classes, your career, or your dedication to getting a summer body. It’s a dedication to growth.
2) PRAYER CHANGES THINGS. During fasting, y’all know…ya girl LOVES TO EAT. So, I was constantly motivating myself “Adia, you can do this”. I was getting up just to catch breakfast before 9AM and praying through the next eight hours that God wouldn’t let me drop dead from starving. I found myself ACTUALLY looking at the scriptures posted on my dorm room wall more. I was going to my room to pray more. I was slipping off to the bathroom to pray. Oh, ya girl was praying. And it was during this time in prayer, that I learned what it meant to pray “BOLDLY“. During the Lent season, I only wanted two things- to get a scholarship to a top graduate school and finally make a graduate school decision. Well, to make a long story short, a devotional from Joel Osteen taught that we simply have not because we ASK NOT. Whatever it is you want and whatever you’re asking for, God is like a parent. Just as we ask for that $20 for gas money or $50 for a loan but really we’re about to blow it, we ask for what we desire (this doesn’t mean that you will get it BUT you still ask). Secondly, along with asking, I learned I was doing a big NO NO-bringing my problems to God. I was complaining about why I needed money for graduate school and why I needed this because I didn’t want loans like my family. I believe this is a DON’T. Instead of reflecting on my problems, I learned how to state GOD’S PROMISES. So, instead of saying why I needed what I needed, I threw to the big OG what He promised me, thus delving me into scriptures even more. It’s like pleading your case, something else a child does often with a parent. The key thing learned here is to believe (no matter what or where your faith resides) that God is going to bless you. GOD WANTS TO BLESS YOU. Believe that the universe, in some bizarre way, revolves around and favors you. Once I stopped complaining in my prayers, the blessings started FLOODING. Not only did I receive a scholarship, I finally realized that I was one of the only few (and possibly ONLY) BLACK GIRLS to receive admission to (where I later found out) the top department at a top school in the U.S.
3) You can’t hurry God. This is “typical”, right? Haven’t we all heard this in a pew on Sunday morning, while secretly hoping the Pastor would get to the third point already? God’s timing is NOT our timing. Once I received admission, I was still continuing to pray for admission into this (somewhat) dual-program and internship offer. And I believed, if God had for me what I thought was me, there was NO doubt in my mind what my choice would be for graduate school. So, I prayed. I prayed and I journaled. And I meditated for what seemed like FOREVER on “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)”. Then, when I began getting impatient, doubt drifted in. These thoughts floated: “Dia, how can God bless you when you can even bless Him by staying true to Lent?”, “God is not going to do this since you did (fill in the blank with a MULTITUDE of RECENT sins)” , “This is going to be all your fault if you DON’T get it and you deserve”. BUT, once I flipped my hair, realized who I was, and realized WHOSE I was…I thought “NO HEIGHT NOR DEPTH WILL SEPARATE ME FROM THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST (ROMANS 8:39)” What God has for me, IT IS FOR ME. And whatever is “destined” for you, if you shall say, IT WILL HAPPEN. With that being said, a lot of days I had to just breathe, I had to wait on the Lord. And waiting yielded a funny experience…While I was waiting on a particular email and steadily praying, something (that good ole’ “intuition”) told me to check my “Junk Email”. Long and behold, I checked my inbox and the email I’d been waiting on was a whole MONTH old. God already sent my blessing, but he had to reveal it to me on HIS time. And his blessing wasn’t even ALL I wanted but after “compartmentalizing my emotions”, I realized it’s what I NEED.
4) You can’t DOUBT God. In the midst of all these blessings and the midst of commanding God to “flood” my life with blessings (Yes, you can COMMAND GOD), God wasn’t done. Another email came, rewarding me admission into a summer internship at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The time also came for me to VISIT this dream school of mine. Well, you’d think I’d visit and everything would be perfect. Wrong. We took this long trip to Atlanta and I walked on this “prestigious” campus and saw the white faces around me…What do you think happened next? I ran in the bathroom and cried. It was completely out of my control, and I couldn’t believe it…because I hadn’t cried in months. And I didn’t cry just once, I practically cried the whole weekend. I felt like….an “imposter”. I felt like this was a joke, I did not deserve my spot, and I wouldn’t fit in nor make it here. My heart was racing a mile a minute and I was trying to convince myself of ALL the reasons I needed to go another school. I couldn’t wrap my head around how God blessed me, IMPERFECT DIA, with admission to this AMAZING school, an opportunity that would PROPEL me as a future doctor, AND a chance to work at the CDC. It was….overwhelming. I was so filled with fear, I wanted to escape. I literally had it in my mind to reject the offer, reject the school, and just go somewhere else. But, the warrior in me didn’t let that happen. Most importantly, some very good friends around me didn’t let that happen. I let go of my doubts and trusted…if God made a way,…if God opened this door….this wonderful door SO MUCH OPPORTUNITY, I HAD TO WALK THROUGH IT. I clicked the “Accept Admission” button.
5) “PEOPLE ARE NOT LOYAL TO YOU. THEY ARE LOYAL TO THEIR NEED OF YOU. ONCE THEIR NEED CHANGES, SO DOES THEIR LOYALTY” – REV. CHARLES B. JACKSON SR. If you haven’t learned ANYTHING else by now, understand…this life of ours…this life of yours…is only YOUR life. It does not belong to anyone else-not your parents, your family, your church, or even your friends. While praises went up and blessings came down, it was inevitable that something “unfortunate” had to follow. It’s how the weather works. It’s how life works. It’s how the universe tests you to see who’s really strong…who’s really a fighter…who really has strength. And you know what Lent taught me? It takes true strength to choose love. Because that’s what the world needs. I’m talking a true, unconditional love, unselfish love. A type of love that is so forgiving, that it’s unfathomable. It’d behoove me not to say over this LONG journey of 20 years, I’ve learned that friends come and go…people come and go…and it’s okay. After learning the value of being alone, I think I’ve reached this weird point of being fine alone. Now, no one deserves to be lonely, but let’s face facts. People are human, just as I am. Just as you are. While humanity comprises imperfectness, it also comprises lying, disloyalty, stealing, pain, killing, and all of the above. And what do you do when the people you love do any of them to you? Well, you love. When drama accompanies your blessings….when the devil begins to infiltrate…choose LOVE. L–O–V–E. The way I see it, where would I be if someone just up and left me after my deceit, my lies, and my struggle? So, who am I to turn my back on anyone? I cannot judge and I do not long to be judged. I cannot curse anyone nor do I expect it in return. Now, no no no…let’s not confuse this…do NOT be ANYONE’S doormat. We’re too much royalty for that. BUT, you be light, you be love, you be everything that people are NOT when drama unfolds. You be compassion, warm, gentle, and kind…..and essentially, unbothered. Besides, if you can’t rely on the good Book, a wise man by the name of Future said “Chase a check, NEVER chase a (refer to Google Play Lyrics for the rest).”
6) Repentance is key to peace. I’ll let it be known to anyone…I consider myself this bundle of light that God has placed with a distinct purpose to illuminate other people’s darkness. With that being said, my “flame”, as a good friend told me is very difficult to oust. So my bringing forth of light could mean new memories, new adventures, new inspiration, new lessons…NOT confined to God. My light is deeper than the constraints of religion. HOWEVER, I am not perfect. I sin, too. Sometimes, intentional. *inserts smirk face*. Sometimes, I just want to get “lit” too *inserts other emoji*. Sometimes, I’m Adia…and that means I’m just as free as can be, not questioning responsibility, not questioning emotion…just living. Sometimes, this can be dangerous. Sometimes, my curiosity could be “conforming” and I MORE than recognize this, I ADVOCATE FOR It. Because of it, I learned the most important part of Lent (next to sacrifice)-repentance. Where do you hide your skeletons? Where do you take the garbage? Where do you wear your shame when lurking late from places you should’ve avoided? The ONLY thing that has afforded me my peace…is God. And repentance. Repentance allowed me to confidently know that no matter what I’ve done, no matter what I’ll do, God already knows. The universe ALREADY knows. The way is already paved. Our destiny is waiting on US. And the last thing to stop us is guilt, fear, and regret. What is this destiny exactly? Ultimately, we have to believe a BETTER life AFTER this life. But, I haven’t quite delved into my beliefs on that, yet. But now, our destiny is prosperity, peace, happiness, and salvation. Ah, salvation. Knowing that your “soul” is cleansed…your “soul” has loved..your soul has been freed….and your soul has been LIGHT. How do we get any of that? Well, repentance gave me all these and the only I reached repentance was through steady prayers, deep breathing, and affirmations.
7) FINALLY. The number of completion. God is limitless. To end this testimony of a blog post, all I can emphasize is the same thing Kendrick Lamar said…”I am a sinner, that’s probably gonna sin again.” With that stated, I am proud to say I am moving forward. I’m moving onward and upward. I am choosing to not only learn how to love but to exert it in every way that I can. I am choosing to believe that my dreams have been placed, or rather “destined” for me, for a reason. I am choosing…the light that God has given me. Because, He is limitless. And I’m not saying that because of the blessings, I’m saying that because of my inward struggles-my fear, my anxiety, worries and insecurities. I’m saying that because of my past lies, sins, and combination of experiences that could have made my life SO VERY different. It’s not luck. It’ll never be “luck”. It’s FAVOR. So, remember, wherever you are..whoever you are…take your limits off of God. Take your limits off the universe. Stop worrying, stop complaining…Just breathe…and get ready for YOUR flood.