I did not want to write another self-esteem piece, not another singleness piece, nor another piece about mental illness or race. I did not want to write about any of that. My intention was never to write at all. I live at the intersection of vulnerability, authenticity and prideful perfectionist self-preservation. Often times, I only want to share a story if it ends with “and then God rescued me, and now I am the perfect model of Christianity and you should be a Christian and trust God too because my life has been miraculously transformed.” This is not my story. At least not the whole of it.
Once in a while, I will make an Instagram or Facebook post, baring my heart. I always ended these posts in the same way: with a claim of a rescue, a redemption, a healing, that I wholly believed would happen but had not yet occurred. I would receive messages thanking me for my authenticity from Christians and non-Christians alike. But that was not my story. I would also sit in my room for days after, filled with anxiety and regret and cry because the truth was that I was still struggling. Every single time, I would ask God: “We’ve done this before; we’ve worked through this before, so WHY AM I LIKE THIS?” This is my story.
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I have recently spent some time in reflection, in wrestling with God, in realigning my heart. It was then, when I felt compelled to share. So once again, this is a self-esteem piece, a singleness piece, yet another piece about mental illness and race. This is the story that I ought to have told.
There are three people you need to meet to understand me: Paul, David, and Jonah.
We’ll start with the fun one. If you’ve spent any time in a Christian community as a young woman, you’ve heard the words “wait for your Boaz” thrown around. I always said that I was waiting for my David. There is something about David that attracted me to him: his brokenness, his authenticity before God, his heart for prayer, his understanding of his humanity, his leadership, and his servant heart. David was the man that I aspired to model my life after.
Singleness has been a double-edged sword for me. I love being single. This is both out of my own struggles with my self-esteem that produce a fear that I will never be good enough for anyone, and out of the fact that singleness has allowed me to connect with God in such a beautiful and intentional way. If you know me, you know that this has manifested itself in constant jokes about my wedding which always end the same way: “but I’m actually not going to get married so….” Still, I knew that God had placed a desire for relationship on my heart. My prayer had always been to take that desire away, but that was out of fear. Fear that my David brokenness, my authenticity before God, my deep understanding of my humanity, was too much a burden for anyone else. Part of that, is a trust issue. I walk the tension that many educated black Christian women face: does God care about our singleness? It would be easier if he could just call me to a life of content singleness, but he has refused [TRUST ME, I HAVE ASKED]. I wish I could write that these are not fears that I have anymore, but I walk this tension daily. All I know is that I’ve made the practical commitment to stop praying that God take that desire away and start asking God to shepherd that desire.
Last year, I started running. But I didn’t just start running. I started running, continued running, and I finished running. I started running a mile once a week on my active recovery days at the beginning of August. By September, that mile had turned into 14 kilometers every Sunday at 6:00 am before church. Someone once asked me if I was running toward a goal or away from something.
When I started university, my prayer was Exodus 33:15 “If your Presence does not go before [me] do not send me up from here.” University is so confusing. It was hard trying to discern what God wanted me to do. When I finally heard from him, the directions were clear but limited. So I went, pursued the program God had called me to pursue. Last year, I felt the “and then what.” So I pulled a Jonah, and just started running, both in the physical sense and in my life.
When I started running, I knew I was going the wrong direction. Sometimes, you should be careful about the prayers you pray, because God has given me the ability to physically discern when I am headed in the wrong direction. And I felt it. Every run I went on, I was running to tire my body out so I wouldn’t feel him saying “Abigail, just trust me, this is not it.” So instead of listening, trusting and just heading to Ninevah, I signed up for a half-marathon and added 3 more running days into my calendar, I plunged deep into the wrong direction for myself in other aspects of my life as well. Then I broke my toe, and I couldn’t run anymore. I couldn’t lie to myself that my other life choices were “God’s plan.” Without running, I sank deep into one of the worst seasons of depression I have ever felt. Deep in the belly of my whale.
BUT GOD. God is ALWAYS faithful even when we are faithless. Just like Jonah sang for 3 days in that belly. I sang through my depression. I may never be able to run more that 10 kilometers any more, but I’m finally headed to Ninevah and I know it will be stretching. I know it won’t feel safe. But Ninevah, that’s God’s plan.
And now to the last guy: my main man Paul. I resonate with Paul because, I’ve struggled with self-identity for the longest time. I get into these cycles where I struggle to love myself, because I don’t see anything worth loving. Yes, even before Jesus. Paul is important to me, because Paul was one of the worst of the worst, but still Jesus loved him. It had nothing to do with who Paul was and everything to do with who Jesus was. I still pray for victory and healing over how I see myself. I know that this is a struggle shared by a lot of women, especially women of colour. So, here’s my take as someone who is still walking in this: YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL AND LOVED SO DEARLY AND IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU AND EVERYTHING TO DO WITH GOD. You will always be loved.
I prayed for a long time for God to take away the trauma, the brokenness, the low self-esteem. I even remember praying for God to take away my race. I did not want to be black, broken, and self-loathing anymore. I saw my identity, my brokenness as a weakness, but I’m realising now: It is a strength. It is not my strength but His. I think so many people are going to experience Christ’s love through our shared humanity.
2 Corinthians 12: 8-10: Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
In my time of self-reflection I’ve been reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I’d like to end this off with a few of his reflections on the purpose of brokenness.
We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and as a result, deny our own humanity (at 288-289)
I am more than broken. In fact, there is a strength, a power even in understanding brokenness, because brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can’t otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us (at 290)
We workin’ workin’ or more accurately: He workin’ workin’
Born in Kenya, Abigail now lives and learns on the land of the Semiahmoo, Katzie, sc̓əwaθenaɁɬ təməxʷ (Tsawwassen), S’ólh Téméxw (Stó:lō),W̱SÁNEĆ, and Kwantlen peoples. She is a recent law graduate, lover of Jesus, and passionate about puns and vanilla ice cream.