By Yvette Babs Walker
I’ve always thought I had it all together. That I was in control of my own destiny. That I managed my own career. My own happiness.
Friends told me so: remarking on my ability to control difficult situations; telling me that I was calm, cool and collected; that I always seemed happy.
A lot of what they said was true – on the surface.
I am keenly aware of my own flaws. And, I sometimes have forgotten that any success I have is not my own.
Nothing of my own doing.
I give my parents and mentors a lot of the credit.
But mostly it was God, my Father in Heaven, who was my loving puppetmaster. And understanding things better and differently now, I am a willing doll on His string. I can’t make the moves any better than He can. And so, I acknowledge this and praise Him for it.
For years, I could not and wouldn’t do this. I was a believer, yes, but I chose success over Him. And it affected my life is many different ways.
I had a failed marriage and I still struggle with that blame. I was married, yet never had a baby. I have struggled with losing weight, even getting weight reduction surgery that, only at first, seemed to work.
Would submission to God have changed any of that? I don’t know, but I am sure that through Him it would have been easier, remembering the scripture from Matthew, chapter 11: “My yoke is easy, my burden is light.”
Today, I consider myself still successful. I’m remarried – this time to a wonderful, Godly man. But this time I’m also deeper into a relationship with the Creator. This time around, life is richer, sweeter.
So, how did I get here? Years of faith, going to church (I’ve never stopped) and a decision just last year to step out of MY comfort zone and into HIS.
There is an internet meme that I saved and look at often. It shows two children soaring on a roller coaster. The older child on the left is smiling and laughing, clearly enjoying the ride. The younger child on the right looks terrified.
The caption reads:
God: “I have a plan for your life.” What it feels like:
The photo depicts the children on the roller coaster.
The joyful child is the Holy Spirit.
The terrified child? Yep, that’s me.
Moving away from him
I’m a career journalist who recently made the move to working at a university. I enjoy working with students who want to go into the field I’ve loved for all of my adult life.
I’ve always known I wanted to be a journalist. God gave me the gift of writing, of storytelling, of description. I’ve worked for six different media companies over 20 years in Indiana, Texas, Michigan, Texas again, Missouri and Oklahoma, as a reporter, copy editor, assigning editor and newsroom executive.
As an objective journalist and editor who made decisions on what would go on the front page or a magazine cover, I felt I couldn’t speak openly about faith for most of my career. Somehow, I believed I couldn’t show partiality to religion (note I said religion, not my relationship with God), for fear I would be accused of not doing my job.
In doing so, I did not speak Truth to Power. Because God is Power. The most powerful.
I covered murders in Gary, Indiana; edited stories about animal cruelty in Detroit; directed front-page coverage of missing and slain children in Kansas City; and managed coverage of a serial rapist in Oklahoma before I left daily journalism. Through it all, I privately held on to my faith, even when I began to get jaded and desensitized to the violence. I never publicly called out in prayer for help from God.
Things began to change in 2006 when I moved from Kansas City to Oklahoma. I moved into what sometimes derisively is called “The Bible Belt.” For me, it was a loosening of my belt. I could breathe. I could talk about faith. I could even post on social media about God.
Perhaps the most telling example is my first week in Oklahoma City. I went to a new church and saw the sermon was going to be given by a deacon with the same name as one of my new colleagues.
Imagine my shock when I saw that colleague at the pulpit. A newsroom manager who was a deacon? Wow.
Oklahoma, I think, allowed me to unshackle my harnesses. I came here not seeking God, but I found him here, stronger than ever.
Which brings me to how I got to where I am, and finding Him in the smallest sounds and actions.
Seeking comfort in the wrong places
After my marriage ended, I sought comfort: in food, seeking a new human relationship. God was there, but not on the front burner. I was still going to church – never stopped – but it wasn’t my priority.
In 2013, I was up late, facing a long, dark night of contemplation. I was divorced, and had made some questionable dating choices. For the first time I truly felt alone. I couldn’t sleep, and got out of bed. I looked out the window and saw the stars in the night sky. I cried out to God.
“Help me, Father.”
The idea of growing old alone was one I couldn’t handle. I saw myself an old woman with no one by my side. How would I cope?
Not in a clap of thunder or through a burning bush, but through a Christian music radio station that I used to listen to when I was younger and had recently rediscovered.
Matthew West’s “More” began to play, and I sobbed.
“I love you more
than the sun and the stars
that I taught how to shine
you are mine”
West sang the message God had for me.
“I love you yesterday
And today and tomorrow
I’ll say it again and again
I love you more”
A revelation! Being alone wasn’t what I feared, it was not being loved! And just like that, He told me I was! How had I forgotten this?
It’s hard to describe. But by the end of that song, I felt peace cover me, draped around me like a warm blanket. I went to bed and fell asleep. I woke up, no longer afraid, no longer anxious, no longer alone.
And so I began a year of NOT dating – of focusing on God, NOT human relationships.
To be honest, I don’t remember that year. I remember feeling loved and held, but not the day to day. One day, I believe God told me my year was over and that it was time to find someone new. I did not hear an audible voice, but that would come later as I seek to “hear” him more and more.
Because I was comfortable with online dating, I used that tool once more. However, this time I made a special request on my profile page. I required any men who replied must have a relationship with Jesus Christ. And I quoted Ecclesiastes chapter 4, verse 9-10:
“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.”
The third response to my profile page came from Tim, who is now my husband. We married in 2017 and he read that quote in his vows to me.
Tim loves and honors me, but he loves God first.
I love and honor him, but I love God first.
This is a challenge to most modern marriages, but there is a peacefulness to this, too. Jesus said in Matthew, chapter 10:
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
Retreating back to God
Last year, I took yet another step toward my Father. I went to a weeklong retreat for creative Christians and worship ministers, Where I had another encounter with God. It was the biggest commitment of time and resources I had done so far. During an exercise that challenged us to listen to His still, small voice, I sat outside on a warm summer day asking him, begging him, to speak to me. Something I thought he hadn’t done since I was a child.
It wasn’t that windy, but suddenly a breeze came up and knocked a small acorn out of a tree. The acorn fell out of the tree dropped onto a van underneath the tree, echoing LOUDLY. It shocked me how loud it was.
I smiled. He got my attention. He had been talking all this time, but I hadn’t been listening. Since then, in prayer I ask him to speak to me and I have received messages.
A friend undergoing cancer treatment once told me, “Faith equals strength!” and curled his arm like a body builder.
Yes it does! It builds strength when there is none. It create boldness and challenges you to dare. It helps you to stop looking backward and start looking at Him.
Today on the roller coaster called life, I’m still the terrified little boy. But I’m learning to laugh on the ups and downs.
This originally appeared in Brilliant Awakening Magazine.