A message in season?
Tabitha Brown posted this message this morning and it gave me pause. I’ve been thinking about it all day.
“Somebody needs to hear this: You feel like life is wearing you out. Like it is literally beating you down and you feel like you’re losing. But God said you feel that way because you ain’t fighting back. You ain’t fighting back. Honey, you are letting things happen; you ain’t putting up no fight. It’s time to fight back. Ok? You can’t just letting the world and things beat you down. You got everything you need inside of you to fight back. But it right here. You gotta believe it. You gotta believe you can get up, stand up and you can fight back. Get in the fight, alright!“
It’s a lovely encouraging message and somewhat energizing. But, I’ve been done for a while. Over it. Sick and tired of everything and everybody. Siting deep in a “don’t wanna be bothered” stage. Only interested in hibernating and settling in comfort as a recluse in Hermit Ville. All while telling myself it’s only for a season. Surely once I finish my current task, I will have time, patience, and interest for interacting with people again.
Even while being honest with my mindset, heart condition and low spirit, I didn’t see myself as quitting or giving up on fighting faith’s continuous battle. But truthfully how can one still fight when they’ve laid down their arms and energy?
For two years, I’ve been trudging along in a space I didn’t plan on being in for any extended period. For five years, I’ve been attempting to rewrite my life and change its trajectory. Only to seemingly end up worse off than when I started.
Transformation isn’t linear
Currently, nothing in my life is as I want it or as I envisioned it. Yet three years ago, I was content in a happy place. Living in peaceful tranquility in a home I built in the most beautiful mountain setting I could imagine. It’s the hurt of my life that I allowed unhinged serpents to taint my garden, yet again, and run me out of my promised land. I had claimed my land of milk and honey and let it go in fear. Like Elijah running from Jezebel, I too sought refuge in the wilderness of a country that provides no safe places. I too, have been struggling to hear God’s whisper in the furious thunder of storms, fires and the quakes of fear, uncertainty and self-doubt. Is it here that I fight, Father? Or here that I stand? Is it time to move forward or time to sit still. Do I speak now or remain quiet. Am I embracing or pushing away? The sunlight is warm but the shadows bring comfort.
Great faith doesn’t save you from exhaustion and self-doubt. Yet holding on to be rescued by the nourishing provision and gentle reminders of our Creator gives make the bout of doubt worthwhile.
The neighbor that ran me out of my home, bragged about pulling his gun on people in public spaces. He bragged about making calls to the White House in such volume and vitriol that the Secret Service sent the local sheriff to give him a warning. He incited a mob of neighbors against me and planned on burning my home down because I was “doing too much” to enhance my property. I found out because he offered to relocate my Air BnB guests to a hotel so they wouldn’t be harmed. how do you fight that level of demented evil? How do you combat the psychosis of someone who wants to destroy what you have simply because they don’t want you to have it? The only way to fight on that level is to get on that level. To willingly taint my heart, mind and spirit with the evil intent to cause equal harm.
I haven’t stopped fighting simply because I just don’t want to fight anymore. I stopped from exhaustion. All of life has been a fight with no sustained reward. And the viciousness of the enemy is nothing I can, or am willing to, match.
For a couple of months I was willing to do that. My first response was to hit back. Restraining order. Told him to mind his business. Stay off my property. Don’t talk to my guests. What I left unsaid to him was: any fire that burns my house down was going to burn his as well. I imagined getting a gun – I deplore guns. I envisioned shoot-outs at my front door and wondered if I would be able to able to get shots off from bed if he and his cronies burst through my doors and windows in the middle of the night.
After months of not sleeping through the night, anticipating fire and other hate-filled assaults, I acknowledged eating vitriol and vengeance didn’t do my body, mind or spirit any good. Soon after, I decided to sell my house. My refuge in the wilderness of the world was no longer a peaceful or tranquil space.
I’m a observer, not a fighter
Last year, my first long-term temp job in years, fired me following a performance discussion filled with racist and sexist commentary. My first reaction, after filming a couple of outraged videos was to contact EEOC. I had documented months of racist comments that I had spoken to my agency about. The EEOC representative outlined the complaint process as taking many months. I didn’t have it in me to fight for a job I didn’t want and was happy to be rid of. Not fighting back was becoming a default way for me.
However, that doesn’t mean I’m not protecting myself in other ways. Conditioning and preparation are helpful in future battles. Though I didn’t do any gun training in Arizona, getting a license to carry was one of the first things I did my first summer back in Wisconsin, months after selling my mountain home. Nearly two years in, I still haven’t held a gun or made it a range; getting used to the idea of holding such a weapon requires time to process. I’ve been on my third long-term temp assignment for the last five months at an elementary school and I’ve been an astute observer of casual racism and unconscious bias. I haven’t alerted anyone to it. I’m done with confrontation as well. It’s interesting to me to have experienced the threat of a lynch mob in a near retirement community followed by observing the racially skewed conditioning of elementary students in an urban environment.
Although my first reaction to life’s egregious situations is outrage and umbrage, my gifts and positioning lie in observation and storytelling. So as much as the conditioned fighter in me wants to rise up and kick ass, I recognize that I am not called to be like David, God’s warrior king.
Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”
Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
Pilate said, “So you are a king?”
Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”John 18:35-37
A couple of hours after Tabitha Brown’s message sparked and challenged me, I received a text from an unknown number inviting me to a Matthew West concert that night. I don’t normally respond to unknown numbers, but an old friend had been trying to connect me with another of her friends who had recently returned Milwaukee. The mutual friend had suggested we go a Tauren Wells concert a couple of weeks ago. There had been a whole email chain I had been months late to seeing and responding to so I texted the woman to make contact once I caught up. That concert came and went with no reply to my text, so I left it alone.
It crossed my mind that the unknown number could be the person trying to connect with me for several months. I replied that I didn’t know the number and asked who they were looking for. She identified herself as the person our mutual friend had been trying to connect me with. I had already committed to staying in the house all day, but because I had been so difficult to connect with, I accepted the invitation after a bit of back and forth.
The concert was refreshing and revitalizing. It was the first social event I’ve shared with anyone since returning to Milwaukee two years ago. Basically, I needed it. Towards the end of the concert, I began writing this post. Something about being immersed in creative and testimonial spaces saturates me into overflowing.
I needed to be reminded of the promises of God. I needed to hear a storyteller share his and others testimonies. I needed to remember that the power of my tongue is not in silence, it’s in speaking truth which gives life. Perhaps I needed an outline of how observation and storytelling are indeed forms of fighting for Believers. The wisdom of song, storytelling and testimony provide much needed encouragement and vigor to those who must endure. I haven’t given myself credit for the endurance of standing.
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.Ephesians 6:13-18
The ways of the world will twist and toss us about in reckless heaps. Reconciling what you know in your spirit with the visceral reactions of your flesh is a battle that keeps us off-balance throughout life. A survival trick is to remember the flesh and spirit are naturally in opposition, but flesh can be conditioned to align with the spirit.
Still standing and testifying
When we’re under attack, we want to retaliate in the flesh, but the best tactical response is collecting the information of the experience to enrich our testimony. Every day we’re on this earth is another day of survival we can talk about. To paraphrase Tabitha Brown, just because the world and things are beating us down, doesn’t mean we have to stay down. Unlike my initial understanding of her message, we don’t have to get our licks back. Life doesn’t have to be tit for tat. We can learn to let the evildoers do what they do without rushing our response or testimony. We can choose to allow our shoes of peace to carry us to places where the Good News of our testimony will be well received.
For the accuser of our brothers and sistersRevelation 12:10-11
has been thrown down to earth—
the one who accuses them
before our God day and night.
And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb
and by their testimony.
And they did not love their lives so much
that they were afraid to die.