Thanksgiving, Dead Ends & Divine Awakening

The most important thing we can devote ourselves to is giving attention to the things of God to save our soul. This must be an active, persistent and deliberate intent on our part, regardless of the difficulties that lie in our path.

A.W. Tozer

I’m writing this just after reading Tim Keller’s essay about his thoughts on death, and reflections on his life after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. A man who has been counseling and comforting people about their losses and suffering currently stands in the face of death and speaks with great conviction. I am moved by his honesty and perceptiveness, challenged by his posture of faith in this challenging moment of his life. His words are dipped in surrender and wisdom and what strikes me as coming from a place of blessed meditation when he writes:

As God’s reality dawns more on my heart, slowly and painfully, and through many tears, the simplest pleasures of this world have become sources of daily happiness. It is only as I have become, for lack of a better term, more heavenly minded that I can see the material world for the astonishingly good divine gift that it is.

Today, I turn 26 years old and I want in on this heavenly minded business. This eye-opening intimacy with God that points us in the direction of what is true and pure and eternal. I like how Keller calls it “God’s reality,” immediately separating us from any abstractions we’ve built about Him and any presumptions that hover around our lives. Theoretical ideas about God’s love and the future resurrection have to become life-gripping truths, or be discarded as useless. I am drawn to the physicality of this statement, how what we believe about who God is must become real to us and in our hearts. So tangible that we spend our days immersed in it, that our actions stem from godly intentions, that we are fully convinced, with no wavering whatsoever, that grace abounds to us and indeed, shall continue to abound for the rest of our lives.

This year has been hard. Very hard. I moved to a new state, started a doctorate program, taught for the first time in my life—with as much nervousness as one can imagine, struggled in my friendships and relationships, and suffered greatly from loneliness, disappointments, and heartache. It is also the year I loved big, took risks, graduated as the Outstanding Student at Chapman, received the distinguished Narrative award, lived alone for the first time, and walked into the Student Health Center requesting counseling because everything felt as if it was crumbling down and I couldn’t make it through another day. It is the year I sought help and received it. I learned to forgive myself and others too; to establish boundaries and be true to myself.

I challenged myself with a Literary Movement class and read difficult modernist writers like Virginia Woolf, George Saunders, Russian formalists like Viktor Shklovsky, among other unconventional artists. I said yes to ice cream, car rides, and movie dates; I let down walls and let new people in. I am in a school that does not make me question if I belong; I feel so seen, so supported. I unplugged, took naps, turned down offers to avoid being overwhelmed, and traveled to be with friends. I published a lot of book reviews and wrote very few poems. I learned to laugh at myself. A lot. I slowed down. I learned to be unafraid of and comfortable with quiet and solitude. Most importantly, I think this has been the year of two significant things: Gratitude and surrender. I don’t remember turning to the throne of grace as much as I do now–and for anything and in all seasons. 

When I was heading home from the airport after a wonderful Thanksgiving break, I received a call from my close friend about her niece having been born, but two months earlier than the due date. And of course, this is not unheard of, but it still did not dismiss any cause for worry. In the backseat of the car at 1am, tired from flying and all the teary goodbyes, my immediate response was to turn to God. I could sense the fear as my friend spoke to me on the phone, I could imagine all the what-ifs that were already starting to take over the narrative of the newborn’s health. I was sad and somewhat bewildered to think that nights ago I sat at a table surrounded by friends and good food, arms around me hugging me tight, and elsewhere, there was a baby breathing through a tube for oxygen, hanging on for dear life.

If there’s ever a time where I’ve been so keen to witness so much of life as visibly fleeting, moments slipping through my hands as new days form, as our hours are filled with canceled plans and what is anticipated, it is now.

I am awakened by the temporality of things, forced to come to terms with my own living and investment, how I pass my time, and to what I give my heart to.

That night, in surrender, God was first and only, for no other reason than He is sovereign and good and has all the boundless power I cannot ever come close to making sense of. So I said to my friend on the phone, “No, we’re not going to panic. We are going to pray about this this instant and we are going to trust. We are going to call Him into this situation because you and I are both powerless to do anything about it.” Months before, I would quickly mirror the fear and feed into the lie that the moment was a nightmare, that the worst was about to happen, that we’re done for. But no, not this time. I hope to be constantly mindful of God’s sovereignty–in the good times and in the bad. To be as quick to call on His name as He is to bend His ear to listen. To delight in the practice of fellowship, even while knowing my needs are already impressed on His heart. 

And my, when it comes to gratitude, my words fall short all the time. It is a conscious state of mind, a consistent posture of the heart, a sharp remembrance that moves me to tears, shakes me at the core when I acknowledge all I’ve been given, the gifts that have been purposefully placed in my life, my very breath, the realization that my days are known, my life is held, my existence is a heavenly-woven miracle that will never be abandoned.

A Note of Thanksgiving  

Good Shepherd,

I see it now: Your faithfulness, your unrelenting love, your comfort, your never-ending pursuit of me. El Roi, the God who sees me, in all my ways. The quietest and longest of nights, the crippling hours of the day, the fear that weighs down on me, the maddening silence, the shock state of grief, the emptiness and shame and powerlessness, are not hidden from you. That you see me, my burdens, and come to my rescue, shower me with love, crown my days with hope, breakthrough all my defenses, and touch me where it’s dark and hurting and falling apart. My peace. My daily portion. My strength for every hour. My confidence. The friend of my heart. The one lover of my soul. My longing for more. My here and now. My all-consuming, always steadfast. My new dawn and sunrise and truest hope. Thank you for everything.

I don’t know what this new year has in store for me, but God does and it is all the assurance I need. I want this to be the year I give attention to the things of God, the year my eyes are fixed on Him. As A.W. Tozer writes, to have “an active, persistent and deliberate intent” to seek Him and put Him first. So much that all that I am and will become shall flow from this commitment and rich fellowship. If I wish to love and serve and encourage and take delight in my blessed calling, it starts when I can die to myself and consistently turn to the source to be renewed and transformed. 

I love this song by Hillsong that aptly captures where I am in life; it is my anthem of grace: All the things I’ve done, All the times I’ve run, All my dead ends redeemed… My soul finds rest where it makes no sense. There the blood sets me free. Amen!

9 Comments

  1. naahyde says:

    Thanksgiving!🌻
    Happy birthday, love❤️

    Like

    1. Thank you, my dear friend! 🌞🌞

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy birthday to you!!💞🎉

    Like

    1. Grateful! Thank you so much!💖

      Like

  3. Akwaaba Roberts says:

    👏🏾🧡

    Like

  4. Ohemaa Esi Annan Dadzie says:

    Try your tongue is that of a ready writer, you have spoken of excellent things. You have literally written in clear language the deliberations of many souls. We think about these things and even dream about them but we are never able to talk about them.

    Like

    1. Praise God!!! ❤️

      Like

  5. Emkay💓 says:

    I admire your vulnerability and resolve. Belated birthday 🎊🎊

    Like

    1. Thank you, Emkay! I appreciate you for reading 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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