True Life: I didn't wake up like this [The story before the glory]
I woke up ugly actually. Dried up saliva marks. Bad breath. Flesh. My hair bonnet missing. Eye boogers. Swollen eyes. Flesh. Irritated. Moody. Did I say flesh?
The Christian world promotes an idea of transparency, but we often fail to do so. We project a false sense of perfection, while knowing that the only thing perfect about us is God. I fall prey to this too.
Lauren DeMoss Benson once said: "The only reason why the Proverbs 31 woman can be previewed as ’perfect’ is because she is a product of the God who lives within her. The only thing that's perfect about her is Him. She doesn't place her hope in her husband, her family or her looks, but in God." I have absolutely no goodness on my own, anything good or perfect about me is truly from God and His goodness towards me.
“The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”
Psalm 145:9 (ESV)
People tend to perceive me as that “Christian girl” that always talks about Jesus. People most often identify me with adjectives and titles like “happy, joyful, kind, prayer warrior and woman of God,” but in this article, I would like to shed some light on “the story before the glory” and what the Lord takes me through in my walk with Him.
A lot of women in our generation desire the “glory” without the “story.” In other words, we want the end product without going through the process, but in this walk with Jesus, there are no shortcuts to glory. There is no product without a process.
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
James 1:2-4 (MSG)
Let me elaborate in a more relatable way ladies; it's like long, bouncy, shiny & soft Brazilian hair. People admire and compliment it, not knowing that the vendor was terrible. It started tangling by the second week, the shedding amount was ridiculous and you did so much just to get to how it is now. Or for my team naturals, who felt like I just spoke in tongues, you know when you see a bomb twist out and you're like “wow that twist out is so defined and fluffy,” not realizing that the girl you're admiring bought a $12 curl wax and spent 2 hours of her previous night to get it like that. Honey, there is a story before the glory. Can I get an amen?
*waits for congregation to respond*
Before any woman of God can ever be deemed as admirable before the public, she has to go through a process. Here are three major stories that I’m sharing, based on my experience with the Lord and His Word. These are stories that I have to go through on a daily basis (process) before the “glory” that everyone on the outside gets to see (product). All of these stories require obedience in order to truly walk out this relationship with the Lord. Before we can be transformed into His image, we have to first let Him in, listen to what He says and respond with a “yes, Lord,” giving him permission to move in his fullness and it reveals that he is truly the Ruler (Lord) of our lives.
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
Luke 6:46 (ESV)
First Story: The story of Holiness
Before salvation, holiness was once a word that I wasn’t really familiar with. When I thought of holiness, I just imagined a halo above Mother Teresa. Holiness simply means “being set apart unto God.” It’s a war to live in this world as a young Christian female. I’m most often surrounded by a world that forces me to choose between itself and God when it comes to entertainment, fashion and conversations. I literally choose to neither respond to specific texts nor carry along with specific conversations, nor attend specific events because I know that it's not what the Lord has called me to do or be apart of.
The Lord makes us holy by His spirit; Jesus said that He was going to send us The “Holy” Spirit.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
John 14:26 (ESV)
In a world that’s full of “spirituals,” He could’ve just said He was going to send us his Spirit but He added “Holy” meaning His “set apart” Spirit--His Spirit that is not like any other spirit in this world. He sets us apart because He is already set apart.
It says in Philippians 2:13 “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
“As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth.”
2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NLT)
Before any sort of “glory,” you have to allow the Holy Spirit to set you apart from the world.
“So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:13-16 (NLT)
Second Story: The story of Sanctification
Ouch that hurts!
Do you think my heart naturally wakes up everyday and says "Good morning , beautiful birds! Hi beautiful family that I love ever so much! Jesus is awesome! Let me post something encouraging on Instagram today!" Some people are naturally perky, but I'm definitely not. Don’t get me wrong, some days I do wake up happy, but this isn't la la land. Most times I wake up like, "who's this knocking on my door?! ugh I hate waking up early. oh my gosh, I can't believe I have to do that today. Why is my eyeliner still on my eyes. Oh my gosh, it's raining." I have to make decisions everyday to deny myself and carry my cross and follow the Lord Jesus Christ, because when I wake up, my flesh wakes up too. So what do I do? What do you do? KILL IT. How do you kill it? Live by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the weapon of the Spirit is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17)
For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.
Romans 8:13 (NLT)
Sanctification is holiness in action and also working with God on our pursuit of holiness. When God sanctifies you, He goes through areas of your life that don’t look like Him and He molds them to reflect him. Here’s two out of a million examples; one would be as challenging as music. It was a big deal for me because it was painful to relinquish, but I gave it to God. Guess what? The Lord was sanctifying me to reflect Him and eventually I no longer desired to listen to those artists. The other can be as simple as waking up grumpy. As I read the word, the Lord began to renew my mind and show me that everyday is indeed a day that He has made, He is in control of everything and He is with me.
When you read His word and let the Lord in, that's when you will experience the power of God.
“May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”
1 Thessalonians 5:23 (ESV)
Third Story: The story of Surrendering
Despite how perfect my walk with the Lord may seem on social media or in fellowships, the Lord continuously reveals to me my heart, my rebellious ways and my tendencies to not desire to obey, forgive or rejoice in trials. Instead, sometimes I do want to be petty, respond in anger and irritation or text that boy the Lord told me NOT to. Sometimes I do want attention, sometimes I don’t want to lay my life down and sometimes I’m selfish.
Without Jesus and His grace, I might as well be the prodigal daughter every moment of the day.
Despite how perfect I may seem, the Lord reveals layers and layers of brokenness and hurts that I still carry. But do you know what separates me from who I was yesterday? Jesus. He doesn’t only show me how I’ve fallen short, but He shows me my identity and His love, strength and power. Jesus empowers me to walk in His righteousness. Jesus’ beauty transforms my rebellion to my surrender. I love Jesus so much, but it’s His love for me that draws my heart to surrender. He’s so good that even in my unrepentant state, He graces me to repent. Repentance simply means turning from sin and turning to God--but before you can do any turning, you have to first surrender. Surrendering is daily; the only way I can be deemed as “admirable” is because I’ve surrendered to the beauty and perfection of Jesus inside of me.
A life laid down is at risk of experiencing Jesus & his power.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.”
Matthew 16:24 (NLT)
In Conclusion, as a young Christian female I am here to tell you that we haven’t arrived and as long as we're still on this earth, we never will arrive. In this walk with Jesus, there is always a story before the glory. Our glorious end product is to look like Christ. Allow him to take you through the process so you can have your own story and most confidently attain the end product, which is Jesus, your glory.