They were tears of submission. Like … God, I’m done fighting you on this. You win. I’m done trying to figure out the “why?”. I’m done creating imaginary conflict inside the depths of my mind in order to justify this distance. I’m acknowledging what you always conjure up within me when you want me to know that it’s time to move on: a feeling of discomfort. I’m listening. I’m siding with you on this one. I just don’t understand why you’d tell me through our conversations that you’d want me to find a new tribe.
The story of Elijah and Elisha came up in Bible Study. In that space, we spoke about living in two kingdoms — the earthly and heavenly — and how we have access to the heavenly realm through Jesus by way of our conversations through prayer and through Word. We have access to the same power and the might of the prophets. We can put on the armor of God. We, too, are protected by the same forces that kept those who were believed to have the closest proximity to God. What’s there to fear when you have God’s army right with you?
This year has been a lesson about having faith or fear. Fight like Ephesians 6 — the armor of God — or run away and submit to our earthly emotions of fear, doubt and disappointment. I learned that fear that can be an idol and that we serve a God that forbids false idolatry in Her kingdom. We fear being alone, we fear the worst in our lives and in the lives of other people. We fear God’s wrath for past decisions. We fear never being loved.
It’s easy to fear when you forget Who — and that army — you already have. All of what I heard that night was a reminder of what I’ve learned through my personal one-on-one time with the Creator: faith over fear. But the story of Elijah and Elisha struck me most because it reminded of why I went to Bible Study in the first place: learning how to let go and let God move you forward.
“Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Stay here; the LORD has sent me to Bethel.’ But Elisha said, ‘As surely as the LORD and as you live, I will not leave you.’” (2 Kings 2).
This exchange happens three times in this story, here on the way to Bethel and later in travels to Jericho and the Jordan River. Elijah heard a word from the LORD that it was time to leave and while Elisha knew this (he even told to crowds reminding him of so to “be quiet”), he didn’t want to leave Elijah’s side despite Elijah’s insistence to do so. But once they touched the banks of the Jordan, Elijah asked Elisha, “what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” Elisha asked for a “double portion of your spirit.” Once both men crossed the Jordan, Elijah left Earth on a “chariot of fire”.
Elisha ripped his garment into two. In Jewish custom, the ripping of one’s garment is to represent the pain and grief of loss but within its deepest meaning, it represents the removal of one in the physical but not in the eternal. While one may no longer be with us on earth, their soul is still with us. Their presence will still be felt.
Despite the known outcome, Elisha didn’t want to let go — he couldn’t let go — until he had no choice. Elijah was gone with only his cloak left to represent his spirit. This spirit would help Elisha crossed back over the Jordan River which left the prophets saying, “the spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.”
I totally understand why God would want me to leave a place or person whose presence is not in accordance to what God wants for my life. This summer, I walked away from a situation that felt good but wasn’t good for me. Chasing highs will ultimately leave you at your lowest when it’s a high that God told you that you have no business touching. I remember writing to God asking for Her to end things. I hated how I felt, how my emotions were all over the place. I made no lick of sense to myself. God responded that I had to walk away, God wasn’t doing my work. After fighting all of what I felt — how it had been six years since I’ve experienced these emotions and a year since I felt someone else’s touch — and wanted to feel, I had to walk away. I can’t be in active defiance of what God wants for me. I don’t want that smoke.
So while I understand why God would unsettle my spirit to help me walk away from a relationship that I wasn’t ready for, why on earth would She pursue me to walk away from a relationship that helped me gain closeness to Her, to Jesus. Why am I being told to leave a tribe that gave me the Scriptures that are my battle cries, where I learned that “what I want to do I don’t always do” and that “by grace you have been saved”? I wouldn’t be an advocate for God’s Word without these people. There is no Ciara on September 28th, 2019 without them.
For real, God? Really?
Truthfully, I’m at peace with not knowing the “why?” or the “what’s next?”. I’m just at peace because I finally listened to God. For once.
This year has been about Sisterhood — here and afar. I remember hiding under the covers, almost to the brink of tears and in the late stages of an PMDD episode, thinking about how alone I felt. Texting men is my way of loosening the grip of loneliness. Something about hearing a man talking in your ear, reminding you about your importance, somehow lifts all of the wrong spirits. I have a cadre of men in the deep depths of the phone contacts that can fit the bill. I just didn’t want to go down that road again. A few weeks ago, I did. The text messages sent back and forth would make the devil squirm in disgust.
In that moment of fight or flight, one of my homegirls responded to an Instagram story. Thank God. She was this reminder that I have this crew of amazing God-fearing warrior women who save my life every day by just their presence within my mind. They keep me from the stupid — or doing beyond the stupid I’ve committed. I’ve met all of these women through the tribe that you, God, are telling me to leave. Again, I don’t get it.
But I’m at peace with not knowing the “why?”. I’m just at peace knowing that they are one text, call or Instagram message away. I have a squad, I’m not alone.
It had been a solid six weeks since I went to church. When life gets rough, I tend to retreat. I blame that on my enneagram — 5w4, that’s me — but in reality, I realized that I was sacrificing time with God to be in solitude with myself. The least I can do is give some time back to God. She’s given me breath, for goodness sakes.
There’s something about being in the house of God that reminds you to be thankful. I joke that God airdropped me into my church because I often need to be reminded to give thanks and be grateful even through the rough stuff. My church is full of saints thankful to wake up in the morning. I’m embarrassed to say that some days I don’t acknowledge God until my day is almost over.
One of the sweetest saints of them all looked at me like, “Girl, where on earth have you been?” When I told her that I tend to disappear when stuff gets rough, she quickly put me in my place and told me, “Un, huh. Girl. Oh, no. You can’t do that. You need my number. Call me whenever you feel that way.” There was this Spirit-filled moment in church where my pastor said that “you learn the longer you’ve been in this walk that God’s got this and that everything will be okay.”
Tears of submission. I’m done, God. I’m done trying to do everything my own way. I’m tired of fighting you and what you want in my life. I’m tired of trying to do everything by myself, trying to figure it all out. You got this, OG. I’m done.
But this tribe you are pushing me to leave was the stopgap when I didn’t have this church home that now reminds me that I’m thought about, loved and that I’m good despite what the Enemy tells me. I’m supposed to move on from this?
I’m at peace with never knowing the “why?”. I’m just at peace knowing that I have a place to worship and learn from folks who have “been there, done that.” I’m not a captain without a guide.
Elisha didn’t want to leave Elijah. Elisha heard it was time and decided to keep on the journey despite the protests of Elijah. There was grief once it was all over, the garment ripped. But what was left was the spirit to move forward, to continue to do God’s work.
There’s a moment after Jesus died on the cross. The curtain leading into the temple ripped in half. This symbol of grief and sorrow of loss, this symbol of Jesus’ body leaving us but his soul — his Spirit — still being with us. That Spirit that Jesus left us when he ascended up into heaven to be with his Father. That Spirit that still speaks to us, teaches us, guides us. This Spirit that descended down to lowly, undeserving me once I gave my life to Christ. The fruits of that Spirit: kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are only discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgements about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgements.” (1 Corinthians 2:12–15).
This Spirit that saved me from myself before I even knew who was responsible. This Spirit that I refuse to listen to when the results of following that voice could feel too painful. A Spirit that, in my infancy, I am still trying to learn to follow at all times. When I don’t have to always cry tears of submission when I decide to give it up to God. Where I give it up to God and later cry tears of joy and thankfulness because I did what I was told.
Like Elisha, I’m not leaving empty-handed. I’m leaving with these lessons, Scriptures, calls to action and this reminder that we’re all in ministry. This cloak which taught me how to love, what it means to be in fellowship and how to love men in a healthy, God-approved way. This cloak that challenged me for the better. This cloak that by its mere presence continues to bless me in ways that I don’t deserve.
And I’m done questioning it all.