2013: The Year of The Exclusive Friendship

As I approach another year of possibility and inevitable challenges (whatever the year brings), I want to always try make sure I don’t repeat the same mistakes I’ve made in the past. When it comes to romantic relationships, here’s one truth that has held true time and time again in my life: there’s a huge difference between seeking God’s will and actually walking in it – especially when it comes to relationships. In 2013, I learned that lesson, and I want to share some of the truth God shared with me during that season with you.

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I didnt want to put myself what back in the category of, “friends with benefits, so I created my own, “exclusive friendship.” I was super convinced that there was in-fact a way to be friends and still remain focused on getting God’s approval for marriage at the same time.

I desired to be married, but had omitted the idea that marriage is a perfect union made by God (not by my own efforts or even prayers alone). Everything that was recorded as being made by God had no signs of life or even a hint of it’s creation prior God giving it life:

“Then the Lord formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 1:7, NASB)

That knowledge alone is the key to my relational frustrations – if God didn’t make it, it wont work. Okay, so you get that, but how does that relate to my present situation? Well, it’s simple, sorta. I met this guy back in 2013, we started a friendship and that quickly turned into a desire to be married. From that has come a lot of lessons, failures, triumphs, joys and pains. And honestly, I’m still questioning as to why God didn’t tap me on the shoulder and tell me to recalculate my course (or how I missed the big, “EXIT,” signs along the way), but then I wouldn’t have the invaluable lessons to share with you.

Though that relationship didn’t work out (or maybe it did), God used that experience to reveal so much to me about where I was spiritually and how that related to my reasons for wanting to be married.

God has shown me that before Chiereme could be joined with someone else, I had to be made whole as an individual. As I said earlier, marriage is a perfect union and you don’t go into a perfect union any kind of way. When I was new in my faith, I didn’t really understand what being made whole meant completely. I thought that we would be broken people living in grace until we upgraded to chilling with Jesus 24/7, but that’s only half of what being made whole looks like. Becoming whole is a process that starts with our relationship with God and will eventually touch every broken area of our lives until we are 100% renewed (aka with Jesus), but that process starts where we are and wholeness can be experienced if we are open to letting God into our brokenness daily.

Through that failed relationship, God taught me a lot about myself and the areas of brokenness I was still hiding from Him. It took about a year of wandering through this relationship to realize that I wasn’t as ready for a committed relationship as I thought. The beauty of it all is that God blessed me to be able to see those holes in my heart back in 2013, so that now I can look back and trace my journey to wholeness.

Looking back, this is what my journey to wholeness looked like:

1) I accepted Christ and He began to fill the God-sized voids in my heart.

2) As I grew as believers and began to see Christ shine in my live, I saw that there were some holes in my heart left from prior sins that I either brushed under the rug or was unaware of before the Holy Spirit brought it to my attention.

3) God allows experiences, people and the convictions that poke in those sensitive areas and I began desiring to fill those holes with the right things.

4) As God healed my scars (and still is), I moved on to the next stage or level of being made whole where God makes us more like Him – beyond avoiding sin, doing His work and being His hands and feet in our relationships, families, churches, communities and this world.

It wasn’t as clean cut as 1,2,3,4, but essentially, that’s how God works on me. We serve an all powerful ever-capable God, and He will work on different areas of our lives according to His agenda so this isn’t the golden rule for how God heals us.

And that’s the beauty of it all – that figuring out the exact process for how God is going to move and change our lives is not our burden.

I came to realize that in my process of being in an exclusive friendship, that there were A LOT of personal issues, past issue, heart-issues that I needed to work on. There were old memories, sins, and failures that crept back into my mind and heart during this time that I hadn’t felt or thought about in over a year. Was the friendship the culprit of these unwelcome thoughts or feelings? No, but I do think that it served as a true mirror. What started out as a God-focused endeavor turned into a more romantic and sensually stimulating experience. We didn’t have sex (thank God) but we did dabble in what should have been reserved for our future spouses. – even if we thought, “us,” was a part of God’s plan for our lives. I knew then that I was not ready, practically or spiritually.

Marriage is more than just another step for me to reach in my relational goals. I now understand that marriage is another level of spirituality and an even deeper level of intimacy and commitment to God to be committed to another person.

In my senior year of college, I was on a desperate pursuit of going to a higher level of communion with God. I read and saw how God spoke to others through prophecy, dreams, and miracles and wanted to experience God like I never had before. The result was months, weeks, days and long nights of prayer, tears and frustration as to why I couldn’t reach ‘that level’ with God that I desired. I see the process of getting married the same way. There will always be three seasons in our life:

Planting (dropping good seeds on good soil )
Sowing ( getting rid of the weeds so the seeds can take root and grow)
Harvesting ( reaping the produce/blessings of what was sown)

In each season, God works on different areas of our lives to prepare us for the next season (which is always on the horizon no matter how long or short your current season is). As I considered how to proceed with telling my then love interest about what was on my heart, I began to examine myself and the why behind not feeling ‘ready’ or anywhere close when it came to marriage.

I knew that I was in a season of transition – Literally.

I had just moved back from college, and I was looking for the right job… or any job really.
I had a million things on my to do list that seemed to get longer with each passing day.
There were so many readjustments and changes that needed to be made in my life, and I was having a hard time keeping up with them… and him.

I really liked the guy, and God still used that relationship to teach us both valuable lessons, but I think that we were so busy seeking God’s will that we missed actually walking in His will by fully relying on Him and not trying to write our own story.

We began to be consumed in the ‘preparation process’ and quickly realized that were not prepared – or at least I knew I wasn’t, spiritually or practically.

Initially, I thought that it was perfectly normal to ‘prepare’ together, isn’t that what husbands and wife do anyway? – work together on themselves? But that was the problem! We weren’t married or engaged and though that was our desire, God only ok-ed our friendship which we had taken a step further by making it ‘exclusive’ and interacting as if the deal was already sealed.

And trust me, I’m not saying that you can’t better yourself alongside another person (that’s what friends are for), but that wasn’t working for me in that particular season.

All that to say, I realize that marriage is a serious commitment and a level of spiritual maturity that I wasn’t ready for. I knew that being a good wife was more than just making dinner, cleaning, and being sexually attractive to your husband. It is a commitment to God to honor the covenant you made with Him individually and making the effort to pray with and disciple a spouse. That’s a lot to focus on, and I didn’t want to bring my mess – past scars, sins and shortcomings into marriage, when marriage itself, has its own battles to be won. I knew that the perfect union is of two imperfect people, but I also believe that we owe God our best, individually before we can offer it to another person in marriage.

I knew that I wasn’t in the place with spiritually, physically or financially to join myself to anyone else. I didn’t expect to have everything together either, but I knew that the same way I prayed night and day and sought the Lord in my senior year would be the same hustle plus some, to be approved to be someone’s wife.

And a lot of you may be thinking, ‘okay, I see what you’re doing, but what about the guy? What was his response or take in this?

Well, that was the exact thing I had to pray about. It just so happened (only God) that he was going on a men’s retreat with his church the next day and would be focused on hearing from God anyway so we both had time to pray and seek God . Over that time, I prayed my hardest that God would say the same thing to him so it wouldn’t seem as if i just wanted to stop talking to him without a purpose. I remembered that when we first started talking, I was very skeptical of him and the whole idea of a ‘friendship’ with a guy I didn’t know and who claimed to be all of these things, to love God and later that he wanted to share that love one day in marriage with me. Every time I had a doubt or question, I would pray and literally in minutes or by the next night , the guy would bring it up in conversation or text something to me that answered the prayer I had. God was always moving ahead of me and all I had to do was ask and rely on Him to take care of the rest. God gave me peace about our friendship and that He had something in store. So I trusted that God would do the same this time around. I knew that his family, mentors, friends and others in his life would have questions and he may be a little confused or just hurt ( as was I ) from the pain of separation, but that’s really what we needed. We needed to rely on God and let Him heal our hearts so that our focus on Him would be restored.

I needed to focus my attention on how to become the woman that God was calling me to be. A disciple, a visionary, a worshiper, a writer, a leader and hopefully someday a wife and mother. but before I could get to those heights I had to continue learning as I walked through the valley, learning to trust in God and in what He has already written as my love story.

To our Becoming,

Chiereme

What lessons have you learned in your past relationships?

What has God challenged you to do differently?

I’d love to know, do tell!

 

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Everything I Learned in 2015

When I started 2016, I wanted to have a different narrative for my usual new years resolution so I decided to start a tradition of pinpointing the moments of growth, discovery and recovery that God brings me through each year. It’s my hope that over the years, I will look back to find an anthology of grace and healing that only God could write for me. This is the beginning. Here’s everything I learned in 2015, and I hope you find the time to reflect and share yours too!

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Everything meaningful comes in the form of process:

learning and unlearning yourself, learning someone else, learning to pray, learning to love and learning to live.

People won’t know how you feel until you tell them (even if it doesn’t come out the right way the first time.

Try and try and try again – even if it’s almost five years later).

Prayer is circling.

I used to pray about something and forget about it. If it’s meant to be, God will make a way. And He does, but if we stop praying about something after a few weeks, why would God think it’s that important to answer you? Circling in prayer is having the resolve that even if your prayers outlive you, God is still able to answer it. Prayers don’t die – even after we do.

I can’t live in partiality.

I have to be whole first in thinking and doing before I can be whole in being. I can’t think of Jesus in one way and not love the imperfect human I see in the mirror everyday. I can’t expect to see a harvest in my love life if there is no harvest in the time spent loving the family and friends I already have. All or nothing.

Creativity is an occasion.

I don’t need a speaking request, event flyer, wristband or mic stand to put something out into the world. It’s my calling, my responsibility and privilege to soul detox whenever my heart feels like it.

I don’t need permission.

Somewhere along the 24 years of life I have occupied, I developed a bad habit of letting situations, people and fear dictate what I did or didn’t do with my time, resources, gifts and bottled up personality. I worried. I waited. I weakened. Until I realized (a.k.a. was told) that God isn’t flattered by my timidity. I’ve known Him long enough to talk to Him like He’s listening and work like He’s coming back expecting to get a good report.

Stewardship cannot just be about money.

Stewardship is about the discipline and diligence to not just handle God’s money with care and tact, but also the gifts, talents responsibilities and one-of-a-kind assignments He has me on. Budget your finances, your time, your investment in relationships, your church and community service and yield a full return on investment.

There is a blessing (or two) in the uncomfortable.

Throughout this year, there have been many days where I thought, my life is falling a part. And it was – on purpose. How quickly I forgot that little prayer I prayed more than once the year before and into 2015, Lord, unravel me. And that’s exactly what He has been doing. Letting the ground crumble beneath my feet, leaving me in the middle of His ocean without a paddle or life-vest to hold onto and letting me wander aimlessly in the wilderness called waiting on God. I felt uneasy, unsure and completely at peace all in the same breath. Growth is uncomfortable. Trying something new is uncomfortable, but if uncomfortable gets me closer to Jesus and one step further into my calling then uncomfortable is where I call home.

Perfectionism is the enemy of progress.

There are so many projects, books, blog posts, poems or songs that I’ve created over the years that have gone to creative waste because of my need for everything to look or feel, ‘perfect.’ That’s until I realized that my need for everything to be ‘together,’ had actually hindered my progress, dampened my creative mood and discouraged me more than anything else. Thankfully, perfection paralysis is no longer a road block for me. It’s like a light bolb went off: I started writing, opened up my wordpress (after about three months of sulking) and pressed the ‘schedule,’ button. I didn’t worry about the SEO or the likelihood of anyone actually reading it. I just did it.

There’s probably a meme or a .gif for that.

When I tell you that this has been the year of the meme, please believe me! There’s something almost therapeutic about finding the exact facial expression or illustration to convey how you really feel at any given moment. At the core of the meme is the medicine of laughter which has helped a lot of wounds heal a lot quicker than any prescription could ever do.

[INSERT HERE: fave memes and gifs]

Every wound hasn’t healed.

Though Jesus has been gracious to me, giving me peace in moments of emotional chaos, filling my cup when I’m running on empty and surrounding me in communities and circles filled with His love, I realize that there are parts of me that are still bleeding. Fresh wounds that may not be visible at first glance, but still burn, still feel tinder to touch and have yet to heal. These wounds don’t make me, but they have shaped who I am – in some good ways and in some not so good ways, but thanks be to God. One day I will talking about these wounds in past tense. I will wear these healed scars like badges of courage. He will make my scars beautiful.

Marriage is another mission field.

I’ve always looked at marriage at something sacred, beautiful and for mostly everyone – that is until the last two years. I saw the the beauty and the beast that can show it’s ugly head between man and wife. I watched pastors like Francis Chann strip my initial understanding of marriage, rip it to shreds and give it back to me again smeared with the blood of the Gospel.

I had dozens of conversations with single and married women and realized I was seeing it all wrong. It’s not just the “next step” in this thing called ‘adulting,’ marriage is another level of spiritual growth. It is not a garden to go frolic in – it’s more like a dessert. Where God has placed you and your new accountability partner for life to cultivate while He makes something beautiful out of the both of you. Marriage is another plot of the mission field. It doesn’t start when you’re ready. It starts when you commit to be committed no matter what.

I am stronger than I feel.

I’ve always held fast to the idea that as a human, as a Christian, and as a woman, it’s okay to be weak. It’s okay to admit that you’re not strong enough to handle something. It’s perfectly biblical…right? Not according to Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord.” For the last (2) months of 2015, I have been hanging on to that verse for dear life. It challenged what I thought to be true: I’m supposed to be weak so that God can be the strong one. Which is true but only after I have done my part.

My pastor recently made this statement in relation to New Year goals or resolutions: “pray for the miracles and work on the manageable.” And that’s exactly what I think Psalm 27: 14 is saying. This verse is our permission to completely exhaust our human capabilities so that when God steps in, we are 100% aware and thankful that He goes above and beyond our strength to do things we could only dream up. I have learned to be strong.

September will never be the same.

A lot of things happened in September of 2015: conversations, my lowest of lows, some great moments, events conversations and new friendships, but most of all, I realized how small I am and How big God is. I realized how accurate words said in the heat of a moment can be. And I began to understand why some women, men, and children find ways to take the easy way out of the pain, the redundancy of bad decisions, the seasons of waiting.

I began to see with God’s eyes that deep down inside, no matter how we try to dress it up, bury it or veil our depression, our guilt, our disappointments, they will always find a way to surface. The question is who will uncover it in you?

Find joy in the unexpected.

As I reflect on 2015, I can’t help but wonder what I could have done differently or how I can make this year even better, but I realized that almost every moment of pure delight, sheer joy and wonder happened unexpectedly. I didn’t plan it, didn’t see it coming or had no clue what I was getting into – but it worked (or it’s working) out to be for my good.

I’m challenging myself to do more and be more. I’m embracing God by embracing me – the way He made for the purpose He made me. I’m finding contentment in this wilderness. In the forest of uncertainty, the unbeaten paths of learning to fully love myself, the quiet mornings of learning to be still. I don’t know what will happen in 2016, in the next six months, or the next six minutes, but I’m waiting on the Lord. Expectant and preparing for what is to come.

What was 2015 like for you?

What lessons did you learn now that you can look back at that page in your life?

To our becoming,

Chiereme