Boom. Now you’re a Christ follower. You’ve believed in your heart and confessed with your mouth. Salvation? Check. Complete surrender? Check.
How bad can it be?
What if on the other side of yes meant:
Losing the support of your family because they believe something different
Biting your tongue when your only desire is to be heard
Enduring several heartbreaks amidst your endless effort to love well
Living paycheck to paycheck because God has called you to a lower paying job
Being barren for the first few years of your marriage
Being single for the complete decade of your twenties…scratch that, forever
Committing to the lifelong struggle of fighting porn, alcohol and drug addictions
Watching your child repeatedly deny Jesus and eventually spiral out
Allowing a foster child to move in when you can barely support your own children
Suffering from an illness where there is no cure
Would you still follow? Could you bear to justify that even in our darkest, imagined moments that Jesus still endured the worst? Will our allegiance be in our desires being filled or in the all-knowing, good God? In your deepest valley, can you even call Him good?
Obedience is not easy. We live in a romanticized world that has conditioned us to believe that every story should have a perfect ending. Yet we see day after day in our own lives that we are striving for something that may not exist. At some point, all things we hold close we must be willing to let go of.
You see, surrender is complete obedience. Our church culture preaches about confession and accountability and even purpose but what about simply doing what God has called us to do? I long to see a generation that submits fully to the authority of the Lord. Where our feelings are not the standard nor our lofty theological opinions, but the Word of God alone.
My allegiance has been tested, and I still say yes. It has cost me unbearable and unspoken pain, but none more than my Savior up on that cursed tree.
Black men, our beautiful black kings, even treat us as if they did not enter the world through our wombs…It hurts.
As promised, this is Part Three to the three-part series Limited but Free, where three women will share about their experiences being a minority. They will also share how God has been a pivotal part of shaping their identity in a world that constantly tears them down. It brings me deep joy and pleasure to introduce to you one of the first friends I made upon entering college…Qkirajah!
If you ever meet Q, you won’t forget her. There’s a special something about her, I’m afraid my words will do an injustice. Q’s presence is powerful yet polite. She is a woman of few words but is known to speak her mind. She is the embodiment of beauty as well as pain. She has experienced death, yet brings life to so many around her. We share the love of food, basketball and all things introverted. Above all things, the girl is raw and the girl is real. Keep reading, you’ll see what I mean.
I feel as if the most appropriate way to start this post would be “WARNING: the following may offend some” but seeing as I have the freedom to openly express my feelings, I am not concerned with who will potentially be offended by this post. Truth be told, the ones who will have a problem after reading this probably need to be hit with a little reality anyways.
BETRAYED BY SOCIETY
Over the past few years, I’ve learned that as a black Christian woman, I can expect to be offended at least once a day. In fact, identifying one experience that I have felt disadvantaged in as a black woman is so difficult. It is impossible to even count the number of times I have walked into a room where I have had to prove myself before even introducing who I am. For example, how my hair is laid (not-laid), my posture, my slang (lack of), and the list continues. However, because this is one of the specific tasks I have been assigned, I will only discuss a few.
IN THE CLASSROOM
There was a specific teacher I crossed paths with some years back in high school. Now, I came into the class knowing that my interactions with this individual would be trying based off his pre-existing reputation. (Side note, I am not a confrontational person. I never went into this class looking for problems.) So, the situation surrounding this experience was that I had recently been out of school for months due to having open heart surgery, that of which he did not know. I came into this class about half way into the semester. Immediately preceding my arrival, this Caucasian instructor greets me with the comment, “Oh hello! You must have been out making a baby, huh?”
I won’t go into details about the aftermath; however, just know that my parents made a trip downtown to have a conversation with the superintendent. I will mention that he faced the “bare minimum” of consequences because of “who he was” (. . .maybe not who he was, but more-so the color of his skin). As a black girl, who was not in Christ at the time, my outer response was hateful, full of anger and wrath, and far from how Christ now calls me to respond. Inside, I was hurt. Not just by the fact that it happened to me, but I was hurt due to the realization that I had to be taught by an individual who already assumed the absolute worst of me simply because the color of my skin.
Regardless of the many academic awards I had won and my involvement in almost all the extra-curricular activities the school had to offer, he still viewed me as a black girl who was destined to be somebody’s baby mama. I had to fight every single day after that to earn an “A” in that course. It took everything in me to hold my tongue when many comments were targeted towards me and other black individuals in the class.
…the absence of a black female leader in our church affects us.
IN THE PEWS
Another thing that I would like to touch on is that the church is not excluded from this. Even in the church, I have felt disadvantaged as a minority WOMAN. Recently, a group of friends and I sat and discussed how much the absence of a black female leader in our church affects us. We discussed the message it sends us as young black women, knowing that even within the church, the Bride of Christ, we are still at a disadvantage. It hurts. But this is the broken world we live in (keyword = broken).
Sadly, the society we live in is not much different. It is a part of the everyday struggle as a minority to live with the fact that regardless of how successful we are, our surroundings including the leadership in our country, the jobs we’ll have, the people we’ll interact with on an everyday basis will always treat and view us as inferior in some way. Black men, our beautiful black kings, even treat us as if they did not enter the world through our wombs. It seems as if they feel more valuable or important when they have a white or non-black woman on their arm. This is the standard that our society has created. It hurts.
CAPTURED BY THE CROSS
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)
As a black, Christian woman, I have learned to expect to be offended. To not expect offenses would just be ignorant. Jesus Christ went to the cross and died as an innocent, perfect man because he loved me that much and I still offend him daily. So again, for me to not expect offenses is ignorant and unrealistic.
But being offended has started to become a beautiful thing for me. Being offended reiterates the Gospel in my life. It points me back to the Cross. I find it comforting that I can take my hurt to a God that has been constant. I find it powerful that no matter how much the world puts me at a disadvantage, I’ll never be at a disadvantage in the eyes of a God that has overcome the world. I find it freeing that my identity no longer lies within the way the world views black women, but my identity is in Christ and Christ alone. The One who died a death I deserved. The One who goes before me to fight my battles. The One who has already claimed victory for me. My one and only Savior.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you . . .” (Isaiah 43:1-4)
Know that Christ sees us as worthy and that is all that truly matters
As promised, this is Part One to the three-part series Limited but Free, where three women will share about their experiences being a minority. They will also share how God has been a pivotal part of shaping their identity in a world that constantly tears them down. It brings me deep joy and pleasure to introduce to you one of the dearest of my friends, all the way from South Africa, Mpho Moepadira.
I have known Mpho all of two months, but it has felt like a lifetime. Her joyful spirit is contagious, and she lacks no ounce of passion. Though I love everything about her, I am especially fond of her ability to find the good in any situation. I can be very realistic and a bit negative at times, but after one conversation with her, my hope and faith in Christ is renewed. She is brilliant, vibrant and loving. Mpho truly embodies the entirety of a phenomenal black woman.
Being a black woman in South Africa is so beautiful, but you also get so frustrated that times have not changed much since how women were viewed in the past and how our minds are still conditioned to being less to other races and the opposite gender. The truth is that we are SO worthy and wonderful. Nevertheless, I still face tragic situations that easily make me so angry.
I have encountered a couple of incidents where I have felt disadvantaged in and given less opportunity because of my gender and color. It’s a double-whammy. For example, the constant pressure of having to succeed in all aspects of life, whether be it sports or academics. I carry the weight of every other woman and feel the need to ensure that I do not fail because the minute I do, it goes back to “girls are not good in sports” or “girls cannot be managers of big businesses”.
Being a Christian black woman also has other assumptions. Stereotypes make us out to be a pushover and boring. Who said Christians are unable to have fun? We also get viewed by some men that our role belongs in the kitchen and with the children only. It almost seems as if women are less important than their husband.
All these views are faulty. Some of my favorite scriptures that combat these lies are found in Genesis. Genesis 1:27 states,
“God created mankind in his own image…so that they may rule…over all creation…”
This clearly indicates that women were also made to rule and have responsibility. Although the roles may be different (Genesis 3:16-19, woman carrying the entire future of humanity; and man having to provide and take care of his household), we are just as vital and important to God’s plan. In 1 Corinthians 6, God also makes it clear that we as his children have the right to do anything, and yet more importantly in Galatians that Christ has set us free (5:1)
We should not allow ourselves to be burdened by the yoke of slavery ever again. All of these Scriptures indicate that we are already free from how society dictates us as an inferior people. It so important to cling onto the truth, that our identity is found in Christ. Everything that we are and are not is truly summed up by God’s powerful word. Know that Christ sees us as worthy and that is all that matters. Even when we do fall short, failure is not what defines us anymore. Praise be to God that this eternal truth of freedom can never be taken away from us!
Do you truly believe I gave you your energy, your youth, your wisdom, your influence, your power to sit on it?
Everyone hates to be single. I get it. It feels like junior varsity or second-class citizenship in the kingdom of God. Marriage is a single unit of the ultimate expression of the trinity. I’ve always heard it starts with family. Hmph? Well…where does that leave me and you?
Me as a single twenty somethings. You as a single thirty somethings. Me as I have run out of prayers for my “future husband.” You as you are tired of dolling yourself up in competition to be pursued by someone who has several options other than you. Me as I have read all of the books to “prepare” for this next season. You as you have attended all the conferences on being content in this subclass Christian society.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
Can I tell you what God has put on my heart for all of us miserable unmarrieds, by-choice singles, and freshly divorced?
“I have you where you are for a reason. It is not by accident that every single relationship you have been in has not worked out. The guy/girl seemed like the right one. It felt like the right one. But now you see clearly, none of those people were the right one. You see, rejection is necessary in order for me to bring about my best for you. If I allowed you to have everything you wanted, there would be no room for my blessings. You are too special to me for me to allow your blurred vision to take you to places that will eventually harm you. You have heard people call this place you are in a waiting season. Where in scripture do I directly address you to wait to be married? Where in scripture is there a promise that you will be married? Are you praying to me for a spouse more than you are seeking MY righteousness and MY glory? Marriage is a means to the end. Do not be fooled, beloved, by the elementary principles and societal structures of this world. What is the greatest in the world is the least in My kingdom. What is the least in your world is the greatest in My kingdom. You are not wrong to have desires, and I have every scripture promising that I actually gave you those desires when you came into relationship with my Son. It is the Holy Spirit working within you to desire good things…to desire MY things.
But to wait? Do you truly believe I gave you your energy, your youth, your wisdom, your influence, your power to sit on it? That is not the answer. No, I need you to GO here and now. While you have nothing to lose and no one to be responsible for, GO. While you are pursuing holiness alone, GO. While you have the time and free-flowing passion, GO. I am scanning the earth to find a willing soul that will go, right now. Later is not promised, but right now is your promise.”
How will you use your now? Look around you…who is in your right now season? The world does not need a finished version of you. They need a right now you.
The wait is over. Jesus is on one knee. Inside the box is life and life abundantly.
If this quarantine has taught me anything, it has shown me my lack of appreciation for the church. My earliest memory of Sunday mornings was being woken up with “get ready, so we’re not late”. That tradition has spilled over into my adulthood…into many of ours. Even if we do not routinely attend church, we know that it is happening. What exactly is missed about church? What is it that leaves us feeling incomplete even as we stream a variety of services online? We have all of the tools in the comfort of our own home, yet something still seems off…
We are missing the Church Experience.
There’s a certain something that takes places within the 1-2 hours that one partakes in on Sunday morning.
The Drive: You are in your Sunday best. Make-up done. Fresh fit. Maybe a little hungry since you spent more time than usual on your appearance, but no worries because there are donuts and coffee waiting in the foyer. The anticipation of what will happen leads you to drive a little faster, as you realize traffic is at an all-week low.
The Door: As you get out of your car, maybe a few minutes behind, you see a few smiling faces at the entrance. They make eye-contact with you while you’re several feet away. Even if you considered going back home, you’re stuck now.
The Donuts: Maybe there are not donuts at your church. I’m referring to the idea of a space where you stop and gather yourself before walking into the place of worship. It could be coffee, water, or picking up a few mints. It is the moment where there may be one or two others at the station that you can speak to. This particular set-up allows you to know that this place is for you with you in mind.
The Doxology: Praise and worship! This is probably the most notable aspect of church. It is hard to replicate this virtually. The beat of the drums, the rumbling of the bass, and the rhythm of those around you creates a “bigger-than-you” moment. If you dare close your eyes, you’ll be swept away to heaven’s gates as the lyrics ground you to God’s truth in a beautiful and melodic way.
The Dissection of God’s Word: Our main course is here. Hearts open, distractions minimized, cups out. No doubt in mind that God has called specific men and women to bring forth his Word in a powerful way to the church. Many of us choose the congregations on which we’ll join because of this aspect. I don’t blame you. It’s very important, maybe the most. We read the bible throughout the week and listen to podcasts, but this is where we submit to the authority of the one that God has chosen to speak to us through. We take out our journals and extend our empty cups to be filled again.
The Deliverance: Oh, the altar! (Personally my favorite part of church.) It’s the moment where each person is center stage. There may be background music or communion, but it is not the same as before. From public praise to individual intimacy, we are invited into a space of response. Did the sermon convict you? What is God saying to you? What should you repent from? In this moment, what is God calling you to surrender? Do you need to lean on others around you, as they intercede through prayer on your behalf?
My heart tends to grow weary as I drift into the thought of those days being behind us. But do they have to be? Can this happen virtually? Are we able to create this experience at a distance? I hope this challenges us to think deeper and strategize as we strive to find normalcy again. I pray that we keep the integrity of the Church so that God’s glory will not fall short due to our pitying. I pray that we can adapt and adjust to these isolating times with the gifts that God has given us.
Let’s gather again as we distance.
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20
March 30th, 2019 was by far one of the greatest days of my life and the most empty.
To preface the reader,
My husband is the greatest Marriage is amazing (when used for God’s purpose) God is to be praised for my heartache poured out below…
In the beginning of my engagement season, I knew my wedding day wasn’t going to be Pinterest-board worthy. I knew that it wouldn’t be my dream wedding and that I would be disappointed, regretful, and dissatisfied in the moment, but I would laugh later at the things that went “wrong” in my eyes. In the 5 months prior to my wedding day, I spent my time planning, preparing, praying, calling, questioning, booking, reading, seeking counsel, and waiting. I decided on details that I had to keep telling myself was for ONE DAY. Over and over I reminded myself of God’s promise that worldly joys are temporary, true satisfaction is in Christ alone, and the wedding was just the beginning of my marriage, not a happily ever after, roll the credits, type of ending.
The dress, the flowers, the food, the cake, the venue, and the man. It was exactly what I had hoped for and nothing I expected. I had just married my best friend! Yet leaving my wedding reception on the day I looked forward to for the majority of my life pinched me numb with a joy I had never felt before. Almost like when you’ve just scorched your tongue from coffee and continue to drink despite not being able to taste it.
Was I hungry? (I did only take a couple bites of my food. ) Was I tired? (I mean I had been awake since 5 am functioning on about 4 hours of sleep.) Was it the reality that I was going to have to share a bathroom with a BOY for the rest of my life?
Whatever it was, it was a huge weight sitting in the pit of my stomach as I rode off into a cold, windy, overcast sunset.
March 30th, 2019 was by far one of the greatest days of my life and the most empty.
The Day After
Yet, on March 31st, 2019, our first official day as Mr. & Mrs. Allen, I sat across from my very best friend in the whole wide world and yet, felt all alone. All the attention Terence and I were receiving faded away and everything fell silent. No more bridal showers, brunches, or bachelorette parties, the countdown clock had run out. When it all boiled down it was just him and I. My life drastically changed in a matter of hours and the emotion I experienced jammed my thoughts and left me feeling dizzy. Good dizzy? Bad dizzy? Who knows? I would have been absolutely content with moving away and starting from scratch a whole new life with Terence, and to some extent, there WAS a new life awaiting me, just not the way I expected.
On top of this, I felt exposed. I was in a hotel, surrounded by strangers, and it felt like all eyes were on me. Like, “just married” was written on my forehead and empty cans were tied to my feet. The excitement of what happened the day before was slowly fading away and anxiety set in.
Was it everything I hoped it to be? Did our guests enjoy themselves? (I really hope my polaroid guest book was successful.) Did we get enough pictures? Maybe I should have had the reception at a different location?
I was replaying over and over every moment and every decision that in my mind I could have made better. I was reanalyzing and reassessing every detail, rethinking all the ways the day could have been better, and ticked all the ways it went wrong. I was driving myself c r a z y… Unknowingly, I placed expectations on my wedding day that were revealed after the noise grew quiet.
It is so easy to get caught up in the glamour of a wedding, that we ignore the gunk marriage brings out
I’ve realized now, the wedding day is just what the enemy wanted me to focus on to disguise the BEGINNING as the END. In John 10:10, Jesus warns us that the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy and that only through being saved by Him, we have life and life abundantly. Satan’s intention was to distract me from the true joy that sat before me; from the true reason of why I now had two rings on my finger: Jesus’ love for Terence and I. God loves us so much He tied us to one another so that we would know His love in a deeper way. The picture that marriage portrays is a deep desire that Jesus has for us. As the Father is one with the Son, so two(male and female) become one; but it’s not God’s intention to make Terence and I a better couple…it’s to reveal the need of a love only supplied through the cross Jesus bore on our behalf.
God-ordained marriage is to be a sacrificial covenant between a man and a woman. To show the two the relationship between Jesus and the Church. That His gospel may be understood deeply by the two, that his glory may be displayed by the two, and that two sinners would pour out grace upon grace to one another from the source it flows abundantly from. His greatest commandments are the very foundation they are called to stand upon, to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love their neighbor, in this case spouse, more than themselves (Matt. 22:37).
And Every Day Until…
It is so easy to get caught up in the glamour of a wedding, that we ignore the gunk marriage brings out, especially the gunk it brought up from my own heart. My selfish desires and sinful ways are being broadcast live for Terence to see everyday. I would write them all out but ONLY Jesus got time for that… So to sum it up, I am a sinner with a heart condition only cured by the grace of Jesus Christ, not by “I dos” and a smooch. Being married to Terence has revealed that I need a Savior. I need Jesus to help me love him, and he needs Jesus to help him love me, not just in the beginning but every day that I wake up as Mrs. Allen. By relying on the Father, I relate to Terence knowing I can’t satisfy him.
The Father satisfies. Christ is the ultimate spouse, partner, protector, healer, and comforter. Terence can’t be the captor of my heart, but the reminder of who wove it together from the beginning. Despite our imperfect love for others, God will never leave us, nor forsake us. He doesn’t react out of defense when we get upset with Him, He sees all our flaws, failures, and farts and loves us still. He is gentle and assertive. He loves us perfectly even when we don’t understand what He’s doing. He sacrificed Someone He loved very much so that we would be with Him (John 3:16). He loves us BECAUSE He loves us. (No typo here, the reason God loves us is because He does!!) We don’t have to earn it, nor do we have to pay it back in full, it is freely given.Christ brought me into marriage to shine a light where it was dark. I am not meant to be independent nor dependent on Terence, but to look to the Father for help, in hurt, and for healing.
To the Soon-to-be Brides:
I pray that your day is magical, filled with a joy that only God can give through marriage, but I pray that you NEVER wish to go back to it. I pray that you look back at your wedding day and reminisce on the joy that God brought you two into, but most importantly the joy of marriage God will keep you two in. God will KEEP your marriage. God will SUSTAIN your marriage. God will be GLORIFIED through your marriage. God merely begins the work in you and your husband on your wedding day and He is faithful to see His work through.I pray He makes each day better than the day before, not because you play dress up, pamper yourself, or dance the night away; but because God, through His word, His holy teaching, is pruning and molding you to serve, honor, respect, and submit (yep I said it) to a man who leads, loves, cherishes, and who WILL grind your every gear.Only God, being rich in love and mercy, grants us the ability to humbly sacrifice our desires and wants for a man He’s called us to marry.
To all the Single Ladies:
If you believe anything, believe this, you are loved, cared for, and heard. You are wanted, cherished, and desired. Maybe not by an earthly man, but by a Perfect Man who laid His life down to meet all your needs.
I’m so so so sorry if you’ve ever felt that you’re on the clock to get married and your time is running out. I am so sorry if you’ve ever felt that marriage is something you have to attain. I am so sorry if you’ve ever felt that marriage is the end goal when in fact it is the beginning of something challenging and humbling. I’m especially sorry if you’ve felt that marriage is a place you’ll never be in, because that is not true. As cheesy as it sounds, you are right where God has you!
Through marriage God is teaching me to die to myself, to die to my wants, to die to my desires and cherish another human life more important than my own, and it is HARD. It’s not all roses as a wedding makes it seem. God is teaching me that my choices no longer, nor ever did, revolve around me, which I made them out to be in my single life. God has graciously opened my eyes to see that I desperately need Him in my marriage, in my job, with my friends, with my family, and ultimately my heart. That may not be the lesson He’s teaching you. You may be content exactly where you are and for that God has you in completely different circumstances, not good or bad, just different.
Hear me out, I believe God can use you in a greater way than He can use me. My time is divided in such a way that when I get home I can’t just leave the scraps of my day for Terence. It requires boundaries to be set in order to give him the same energy I would give any relationship, job, or, especially, my intimacy with God. From a different angle, I have to divide my time in more directions to cultivate and grow my marriage, that means less time with my family, friends, and my job. I can’t give my all to one place or else I’ll have nothing for Terence when I get home.If you believe anything, believe this, you are loved, cared for, and heard. You are wanted, cherished, and desired. Maybe not by an earthly man, but by a Perfect Man who laid His life down to meet all your needs.
With a year behind me, I definitely can’t consider myself “wise” when it comes to marriage, but I sure have felt pulled and stretched in ways I can’t deny. I wrote this mostly for my own heart and to have in writing a memory of God’s goodness to His relationship with me. I also wrote it for any reader to know that God satisfies any heart, in times of expected joy, unexpected sorrow, or the confused thing I had going on. Through and through God remains the constant source of life and He gives it abundantly.
Meet with Him, seek His glory, and share what He’s done through Jesus Christ YOUR Lord. May God bless you with Himself, Carly Allen
In late 2019, a new headline was introduced as several citizens of Wuhan, China began to undergo a sickness. This particular phenomenon spread at the speed of lightening causing numbers to grow off the chart. News then spread to neighboring countries about this outbreak. At the end of March, the United States is leading the race with a hundred thousand new cases.
The coronavirus is the physical condition that we are afraid of, but I dare say that God is revealing a more deadly virus that has been incubating for years: Control.
During the outbreak of such an unknown, quickly spread disease our world is now grasping at whatever they can to soften the blow. Politicians, their predictions. Parents, their sanity. Healthcare workers, their expertise. Patients, their next breath. Underneath it all, our world is grasping for control.
Currently, our ache for control has surfaced for many of us because we indeed have none. We are no longer the masters of our career, education or finances. We just don’t know what is to come. For many years, our country has been built on control. Whoever has the most money has the most power. With power, there is control over others. Those who are under that power are oppressed. Furthermore, the drive for those who are oppressed are to make it on top. For as long as time ever was, the grind and hustle for money has become our ultimate goal…also known as the “American Dream”.
Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
God’s dream for us is not a fanciful sprint to have a perfect family behind a white-picket fence. His reality for us is to be His children, wholly satisfied in Him. He gives us water that not only hydrates us but promises that we will not thirst again (John 4: 14). There are thousands of sources that will prepare you for the coronavirus. I have only four steps that I believe will allow the presence of God to cleanse our souls of the germs of control:
Pause in front of the mirror to see who you really are. We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. Daniel 9:5
Turn on the water to rinse off the lies that you believe. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8
Apply soap to disinfect what you cannot see. The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
Rinse again and believe that you are made new. Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38