The euphoria that you experience when you're born again is nothing like you've ever felt. It's a feeling that you expect to last forever, because why wouldn't it? What people don't tell you when you enter into this new walk with Christ is that that after any extended amount of time in the journey, that initial high isn't always in your face. Like any relationship, once the "honeymoon phase" is over, and the relationship requires a bit more work, you realize just what you're in store for.
If I can be honest, this last semester has been rough. And like for many others, the month of November added an extra sore in what one would define as a "rocky period" in my walk with Christ. I've had doubts. I've had moments of not being able to see or feel the light. And all of this was wrapped in a package of feeling like I was failing God, because how could I, someone who was so on fire for Jesus but only a short year ago, now feel like this? And the bow on this package was trying to reconcile the season of waiting I'm in in discerning what God has planned for me next. A whirlwind of thoughts and emotions took over, and although I never questioned my faith, I clearly wasn't trusting God. It's ironic that I started this page and blog as a way to capture the authenticity of my journey, and to appreciate it more, and I began losing sight of just how significant the journey is, focusing more on the what's next, rather than the "right now."
When I first got saved, I referred to my relationship with Christ as a marriage. And like any marriage, it takes work, intentional effort and communication, and you can expect that it's not going to be smooth sailing the entire time (I've obviously never been married so I'm only describing this from what I've heard through the grapevine). But it's in these tough times, these moments where you realize you have to put in the extra work to maintain or renew the love, that you need to remind yourself why you made that commitment, those vows that are meant to help sustain you, and give you the strength and endurance to stay in this thing for the long haul.
About a month ago I was invited to give a speech to an organization that played a significant role in my spiritual walk, during the chapter's 40th anniversary celebration, and while I never actually got the chance to give the speech that I prepared, taking the time to reflect and write it really blessed me. It was the reminder I needed smack-dab in the middle of what was a rough time, and ultimately I know I was meant to write it because it was the sustenance I needed to get through that time period.
My hope is that for anyone who has experienced these low points in this walk, (because I know we all have) that the snippets from the speech I chose to share will help encourage you the way writing it did for me, at the time I needed it most. DISCLAIMER: What is shared below is how I wrote it for myself, partially in note form, so I've tried my best to tidy it up, and make it as comprehensible as possible.
"... I realize one of the things I took for granted while I was here—The fact that Georgia Tech has some unique, even down right strange folk on this campus. But I say this with much endearment. Having been in corporate before and even on another campus, it makes you realize and appreciate just how peculiar Georgia Tech and its people are- students, staff, faculty, admin, I mean everybody.
This word peculiar to me is interesting. I was in bible study a couple weeks back and we were going through Deuteronomy 14, and my church is old school so we still read KJV. But as we were going through the verses the word peculiar was used (Deuteronomy 14:2), and I was intrigued.
Merriam-Webster will tell you that peculiar does in fact mean weird, strange or unusual. But I was interested in understanding this word in its original,and biblical context so I looked it up. The word’s origin comes from the Latin "peculium", meaning belonging to or to be set apart.
I was asked to speak to you all today to not only share my story but with an ask and a charge as we celebrate 40 years of our history, and so my ask of you is this- Be peculiar.
What do I mean by “Be peculiar?” Well, in typical, modern-day GTSBE fashion it wouldn't be appropriate if I didn’t break this word down into some sort of acronym. So I did my best to break this word down into a few short phrases and words that I thought would help to truly capture the essence for not just the next generation of GTSBE members but even alumni who need the humbling reminder of the blessing we've had in coming here.
Persistently pursue your passion
This is the most obvious one in the whole list. And thank goodness we’re in a generation that appreciates this.Choose to do what sets your spirit on fire, what gives you a sense of mission because that feeling is likely what you were created to do. Trust that, choose that and pursue that.
We’re in a new age. Our generation is up against many things that previous generations didn’t have to face in the same way. It’s easy sometimes to get a feeling of paralysis, to feel like the problems are too massive for you to take on.This generation needs individuals who can withstand, who can run the race and work knowing that your efforts are not in vain.But also bearing in mind that this journey, no matter what stage of life you are in is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s easy to forget that in a generation that thrives on instantaneous gratification.But now more than ever we need people who can withstand what this world throws at them, because we don’t know what we’re going to be up against in the coming years. Run your race, and endure knowing that the victory to be won at the end will be worth all the trials and tribulations you had to face along the way.
This goes hand in hand with earnest endurance, but this is to help you understand what exactly you are enduring. One of my favorite quotes is by Maya Angelou and what she says is true- “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you cannot practice any other virtue consistently.”It takes courage to stand up for truth and justice, in a world where people tell you your life doesn’t matter. It takes courage to not just talk about them, but actively work towards your goals. It takes courage to stand up to a fellow student or even a faculty member who may be trying to undermine your potential because of the color of your skin. It takes courage to do research that is non-traditional because you see the value and impact it can have on broader communities. It takes courage to go against what even your parents and friends think you should do, because it makes the most sense to them, but you know it may not be your calling.But know this, it also takes courage to trust your instinct and that inner voice, rather than relying on reason. Trust that conviction the voice that tells you to keep going. And have the courage to do now, and know later, because that voice will not lead you wrong.
It also takes courage to be understanding, even to those who you think may not deserve it.Choose empathy and understanding over hate and aggression.Which leads me to my next point...
Choose to love. Love yourself and love others. Love is a choice and you have to make that choice in every situation, every day. Love is manifested in a variety of ways, there’s the love we have for each other, “Philadelphia” and then there’s that unconditional love. Unconditional love can be for yourself and/or for others, not bearing anything that could hold you back from truly experiencing it.Choose to love yourself, unconditionally this day, as you are, not who you want to be or where you want to be.Once you can learn to love yourself in this way, then you can really understand what it means to love others in the same fashion. And man, what a place this could be if we all tried to learn what that love is really like.
Be intentional, be purposeful in your thoughts, words and actions.This like everything else is a choice.This one is hard, because this also means we have to be more careful about what we take in, and who we choose to listen to, especially of those little things that impact us in ways we may not realize.But when you can align your thoughts with your words and your words with your actions, you can be sure that your heart will also get in line as well.
Understand something, there is only one of you.There is only one person with your name, with your height, with your personality, with your experiences, with your gifts and talents, with your desires with your passions, with your strengths and weaknesses. Be you and be who you were created to be.Figuring out who that person is does not happen overnight, but let your story be written as it was meant to be written for you, not as it was meant to be for someone else. You are you because the world needed one of you. You are here because the world needs one of you.This is not meant to be an arrogant thought but a humbling one. I mean who am I to be someone that the world needs?My personal answer for that is still pending but I challenge each of you to figure that out for yourselves and watch how things begin to align.
Reach back, reach forward and remember
My final ask of you is this- let's make it so that no one in this community, although small, never gets left behind again.Never forget who you are, where you come from and I hope that as a community this night was a reminder of just that.We have come from some mighty individuals, giants who have paved the way so each of us can be great, to have the freedom to choose who we want to be in this world.Make sure that in that freedom you are choosing to connect, and influence the life of someone else, especially that of someone else in this room."
My closing prayer: "Lord I thank you for allowing us to experience the low points in this walk with you. I thank you for the humility that comes from this experience, and the reminder that this walk with you is not always easy. Father, forgive us for the moments we've questioned or doubted, or allowed fear to creep in during these pauses and silences in this time. Father I pray that these low points don't cause paralysis or discouragement, but that they can be used as the fuel necessary to seek after you with more boldness and intention. I pray that the peace that only Jesus can bring, takes hold and pushes out any anxiety that prevents us from growing in understanding and intimacy with you. Your word tells us to pray about everything and worry about nothing so I lift those up to you who may be holding onto a spirit of worry and that through your power, they may have a renewed mind as to experience your good, acceptable and perfect will. Father, we trust in you and know that you have ordered our steps and have already worked everything out for those of us who love you and are called according to your purpose. So I pray that we are able to rest in your truth, trust the journey and withstand all obstacles with faithful endurance and courageous conviction. It's in the name of your precious son Jesus that we pray, and thank you. Amen!