Show me the mess! Ode to SJR
This year, one of my big goals (honestly, maybe my only one) is to get to the next level in my relationship with Christ. I have come to the realization, "Christian" is not meant to be a passive label- in which I sit back and let life happen to me. But, an active role- in which I walk in authority in the promises God has set before me and take hold of the things He has called to be mine. I want to build the strength to do it all unequivocally, in complete dominion and faith based on the word and knowledge of God.
One of the first things I did was looking for YouTube videos, I started watching sermons daily. I actively pursued and sought the company of God. I didn't know where to start so I was watching a lot of mainstream preachers like TD Jakes and Elevation church. And by Gods grace it was a great place to get my feet wet. I learned a lot from the sermons, heard verses I'd never noticed and grew my appetite for Christ in a format that was relatable, beginner-friendly and exciting.
One day, I came across this video by Sarah Jakes Roberts (SJR). She was speaking with so much power and authority. She was walking in her anointing and seemed so sure of the person that she was and I loved it. I loved the identity that she had in Christ and watching her was like throwing alcohol on the fire that was my desire to discover my own identity in Christ. So, like any millennial would when they come across good content, I binged it all! I have never, in 24 years on this planet and across many congregations ever heard a female preach- let alone a young woman of color. She was the first person I saw that looked like me! One day as I was watching her videos and she said "my dad is here tonight". I was at my desk like "aww", now imagine my shock when the camera panned to TD Jakes! In hindsight, I should have realized. Her father being a preacher resonated with me because, I am also a PK. The PK experience is very unique and knowing she could relate made her more relatable. And all the more impressive, she has stepped into her own light to the point that I didn't even recognize her (or honestly care who) she was related to! I recognized her by her relationship with Christ.
Then as I continued binging, I came across one sermon in which she said she was pregnant as a teenager. I was shocked- this beautiful, successful, happy, bright, bubbly woman was pregnant as a teenager? So, of course I went to google and I came to learn that she was pregnant at 13 years old. But, you know what was interesting? I did not see a lot of tabloids or negative articles. A lot- if not all- of the things I saw was information she had shared, interviews she had done and books she had written on her experience. She was using her experience as a testimony. That made me love her even more.
Why did that make me love her more? To see someone who I genuinely admire share that they had been through trauma, made me feel better about my own life path and experiences. I have not faced teen pregnancy but, I have had my own share of trials, disgraces and things that I am not proud of. And, one of the biggest disservices we do in the world- one of the biggest misgivings we have- is that we hide our trauma. We don't want to talk about the hard times we have had, we don't want to share about the times we have done something wrong and we want to hide our shortcomings. I would argue that that is one of the worst things you can ever do. Yes, I get it we don't want to distort the public perception of us. But, let me tell you, learning about SJR's pregnancy did not change my mind about her one bit. It did not discredit the preaching's she had done, it did not make me reconsider listening to her and it did not make me think she was a bad person (or any other word someone may call someone who found themselves in her predicament). If anything, it strengthened what she had said and who she had become in my eyes. It made me feel like, if she can overcome that- I can overcome anything that comes my way.
As sisters in this world, we have to help each other. We have to hold each other up. And yes we do that by sharing the great things that happen to us. But, we also do that by sharing the struggles that we've had and may still face. I think a reason a lot of people commit suicide and a reason why so many people feel so alone in this world is that everything feels so personal. Trauma feels so personal. It feels like you're the only one things aren't working out for, you're the only who is struggling, you're the only one feeling sad. Trauma feels so personal. In the individuality of it, you feel isolated and you feel singled out. That's a big part of embarrassment. That's a big part of depression. That's a big part of shame and guilt. That's a big part of lacking perseverance- feeling like you're the only person who has to persevere.
So, when we hear the story of a strong woman we admire, when we see a woman who is where we want to be in life and they say "Hey, honestly and truly, I really struggled" or "I had an issue with self-esteem" or "I've been dumped too!" - all of a sudden an experience that was meant to shame and isolate us, has become an experience that connects and unites us.
That's why we are here and that's why I am writing this blog. In my experiences, I can hold a hand out to someone else. It is not just you who is trying to figure things out. I am a first generation immigrant from Ghana and I do not always get things right. I am not a perfect person but, I am also not throwing in the towel just yet! And if I can do it, if I can keep holding on to the towel- so can you. If I can walk in authenticity, why the heck can't you? If SJR can get through a pregnancy at 13, we can also get through our experiences.
Some of the most comforting words in the universe are "me too" . That moment when you find out that your struggle is also someone else's struggle, that you are not alone and that others have been down the same road. Who could benefit from seeing your "mess" today? Remember, there is no message without a "mess".