“The opposite of courage isn’t cowardice, it's conformity.” - Earl Nightengale
I remember hearing this quote for the first time during my pastor’s Sunday sermon and boy did it bless me! I immediately wrote it down in the notes app on my phone. God had been downloading all sorts of messages to me already about conformity, so I took this as a sign of confirmation that I was in alignment. So many things had and were transpiring in my life at that time…I’m talking major shifts!
In my personal life, my almost 10 year relationship (we were together in total 10 years, but had only been married 2 ½) had come to an end, and I was waiting for the dust to settle & my divorce to be finalized. Professionally, what I thought was going to be a life-long career in the classroom, or in the field of education in general was suddenly not so crystal clear. Mentally, I was in therapy and was working everyday to improve my thought life, starve negative thought patterns, and rewire my brain in such a way that paradigms shifts took place. Spiritually, I was the closest I had ever been up to that point with God. I had finally understood what it meant to be in true relationship with Him and ya girl was doing all she could to just remain in the flow! The name of the game for me was obedience. If it didn’t come from God, then I wanted no parts! Physically even my look had changed. When God begins to do a work in you, it starts on the inside, but it’s funny how it starts to manifest on the outside as well. I was getting into the best shape of my life, working out more than ever and becoming more and more conscious about what I ate and the products I used. God was getting me ready for the raw vegan, zero-waste, off-grid living lifestyle that I had always dreamed of. I also made a drastic change to my hair–I think of the Coco Chanel quote “a woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life”–yeah, that was me. I traded in my natural kinky coils for locs–and blonde locs at that. Me–the girl who always stuck to her jet black hair because she was afraid to try color; afraid that it wouldn’t look good on her.
Who was this fearless, confident, boss lady and what did she do with the Elizabeth I had known all my life? I was becoming a whole new person and was in a sense meeting myself for the first time. And you know what? I loved her! This version of me was literally the woman of my dreams so I looked forward to getting to know her more. Life felt like it was worth living and I was happier than I’d ever been in years. I mean, truly happy. Now, that’s not to say that everything in life at that time was perfect, but even in the difficulties I was finding joy. I had peace that made absolutely no sense. It was so beautiful.
The not so beautiful part, however, was how some of the closest people to me were reacting to said changes. They did not seem to be supportive of my new found happiness & freedom. Experiencing their criticism and judgment taught me a valuable lesson: when you are elevating in life, there will always be folks around you whose goal is to keep you trapped in the very box that you were able to break free from. Instead of viewing your changes as growth, they interpret it as you being reckless, too haughty, or maybe even defiant and self-righteous. Too often people (especially Christians unfortunately) try to put God in a box. Darn you, religious spirit! It's like we forget that He can do anything He wants to! I mean people, did y'all forget…He’s God!
When I decided to go forward with my divorce, there were so many people (believers) that told me with point blank confidence that I was going to Hell–now, those weren’t their exact words, but that was the basic premise. They kept questioning my choice and would direct me to the book of Exodus to induce this spirit of guilt and shame because according to them, this was a major sin that I was committing. An unforgivable sin. Some of my own family members told me that they were on my ex-husband’s “side” because I was the one who asked for the divorce. Crazy right. But it's true.
Now, let me clear–I am in no way promoting or advocating for divorce. I do not seek to celebrate or glorify it. The reality is that it is an extremely difficult and painful process–for all parties involved. With that being said, in my case, my marriage itself was a result of disobedience. I can now think back to the countless moments while we were still in the dating process where God was trying to pivot me so I could give up the relationship and get back into alignment. But truthfully, I chose to ignore it. The keyword there being “chose”.
Everything is a choice.
We choose how our life story plays out not by the major decisions we make, but rather by the accumulation of small, seemingly insignificant decisions made everyday. This is what a lot of people miss. Divorce is a MAJOR decision! But too many focus on that one major decision while neglecting the back story and series of decisions that it took to actually get to that place. For me, it was rooted in overwhelming unworthiness.
As a child, I always felt overlooked and undervalued. I felt I didn’t stack up both in and outside of my home. There was no place to escape the negativity. I allowed the thoughts and opinions of others to cut me down so low to the point that I had zero self-confidence and gave in completely to insecurity. I believed the lie that I was lacking, ugly, unseen, and unloved.I silenced my own voice and allowed my light to dim. In seventh grade, I even contemplated suicide.
Now, this could have been the end of my story…but God!
God was with me through it all. He never stopped loving me because His love is not dependent on performance or perfection. We are saved by grace and it is that amazing grace that helped me to wake up to my true identity in Christ. And as crazy as it might sound, my divorce was an important piece in this discovery process: It forced me to take the time to unravel– the hidden parts, the brokenness–and really confront my issues. I had suppressed those feelings for way too long and here was God saying the jig is up! I had reached my expiration date and I couldn’t run anymore. There was no person or relationship to hide behind to detract from the confrontation. The toxicity, co-dependency and unrealistic expectations that were present within the relationship necessitated a divine encounter to illuminate the fact that if I was completely honest, I was not happy, not feeling fulfilled, and not confident about our future.
This is why I always say the pandemic was the best thing that could have happened, because it really did force me to sit with myself, and my thoughts. To face my insecurities, childhood traumas, triggers, and unhealthy appetite for validation and approval from others. I learned the difference between real love and infatuation. I learned what the role of a husband and a wife is really supposed to be. I learned about godly character and what that looks like in a man and woman. I learned about the sanctity of marriage and its true purpose and design. I learned about Kingdom.
These were all things that I wished I had known before ever getting into a relationship, let alone married, but God’s timing is perfect and there is a reason that I learned it all when I did. It all served a purpose. I could get into the many lessons I learned through my healing journey, but one major key is this: Life's a journey back to center.
God took me back through so many past experiences while he was helping me get healed and whole so that I could understand His original intent and purpose for my life. I began to have vivid flashbacks of childhood memories where he was showing me how my giftings were present all along. I felt like He was essentially communicating: you’ve always been different and unique because that is the reason that I designed you. I felt like I was becoming this whole new person when in fact, I was actually just getting closer to who I have always meant to be. Who I was born to be.
My new creative, empowered, almost rocker-like appearance wasn’t some phase that I was going through. It was me–the real me– that I had kept locked up in a cage, finally breaking forth. She had been there at the beginning, but somewhere along the way (in my case, that being the pre-teen, middle school years and continuing into adulthood), I stopped listening to her, stopped allowing her unique expression of life to be seen and experienced by the people and world around her. I stopped loving her.
We are our truest selves as children, I truly believe that, but unfortunately, the world and society at large is there providing a constant stream of expectations, standards, and rules that we are taught to subscribe to. These ideas work against the things that God has spoken over our lives and can ultimately detach us completely from Him–The Source. Which is what happened to me. I disconnected from the source, became involved in a relationship that was never ordained by Him, and ultimately caused my own 10 year wilderness season. But thankfully, he had a due date and because I was in position, I was able to break free from the chains that were binding me so I could step back into the flow. It's your classic prodigal son story.
I say all of this to say that when you make the choice to become a true follower of Christ, you have to be as bold as a lion! You have to have the courage to not be well-liked and be content with the fact that people will judge you and make assumptions about you, your character, and your life choices. True followers are mold-breakers. They are unafraid to go against the grain because they know that it all serves a higher purpose. So whether you’re divorced, have tattoos, have a shady past, or in a questionable relationship, career, or some other endeavor please know that it does not discount you from walking in the fullness of God’s grace.
Remember folks, man looks at the outward appearance, but God judges the heart. As long as you have a genuine heart of repentance and fully commit to serving the Lord and His kingdom, God will welcome you and will begin to take you on the ride of your life! He will start to awaken the very things that make you who you are so that you can start to grow in your understanding of your purpose. He will give you clarity and direction as well as the blueprint, or marching orders if you will, for how to successfully and efficiently bring the ideas into reality. He is such a generous Father and He loves His children so much! But again, you have to have a willing heart and be truly committed to not only the process of healing and wholeness, but also to being recommissioned to serve in the army of the Lord, respective of your specific God-given gifts, talents, and abilities.
We are all one body and it is so imperative that we remember this fact: we are the hands and feet of Jesus. As a collective, the more we flee from sin, the world, and anything else holding us back from operating in the identity in which Christ fashioned us, the better we all (and the world therefore) becomes. So I implore you, if you are in a place where you know God has been calling you out, summoning you to break free from the comfort zone of conformity into the realm of the unknown and uncertainty, take the leap!
I dare you! I dare you to trust God hard enough to know that even in the midst of uncertainty (and what at times can feel like confusion), and spiritual warfare, it really is all working out for your good. Don’t place too much focus or attention on what your financial situation looks like, or any of the other circumstances because its just a distraction. We serve a miracle-working God, who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all we could ever ask or think! So, as Joshua 1:9 declares: “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest,” I invite you to adopt that as your battle cry. Have courage, kill fear at the root and conquer!
It took courage for me to make the choice to break from conformity and live the life that I was purposed for. It took courage to silence naysayers and not allow them to make me forfeit the promises that were awaiting me after I took the first step.
Following the will of God produces such a blessed assurance within you.
So when we step into obedience and allow God to do what only He can, trusting that it might mean letting go of creature comforts, or things that the world has identified as markers of success and status. We must recognize the fact that validation from the world equates to disharmony with God. Hear me when I say: God does not bless no mess! So ya’ll can go ahead and chase the world if ya’ll want to but I’m going to be over here like Isaiah saying “Here am I Lord, send me.” Or like Mary, mother of Jesus declaring to the angel of the Lord, “Let it be unto me as you say.” One more–let’s not forget my current favorite, Queen Esther, who with such bold confidence declared: “If I perish, I perish.”
The most confident people are prepared. Once you have successfully broken your ties from the spirit of conformity, you are then granted access to your full authority in Jesus Christ. It's the Level up for me! You can stand toe to toe with any giant you are facing, no matter how great in size, and know without a shadow of a doubt that you were placed in that very environment or situation for a purpose, on purpose, and with a purpose.
And most importantly, since you stand with God—you are on the winning team! Break free today and watch how God will blow your mind!