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Grace & Grounding: The Gospel of Healing

Finished Work

By Shereá Denise

Lord, do it for me.

Oh Lord, do it for me.

Lord, if You don't do it,

it just won't be done.

So, Lord, do it for me.

Song – Lord Do It for Me by Zacardi Cortez

(Zacardi Cortez on Terrell Grice)

 

As I mentioned in my last post, March 2024 was a very trying time for me. Things did not improve in April, May, or June. From day to day I did not really know what to expect from my body and - try as I might - my efforts to be proactive only continued to prove how little control I had or how little I could do to prepare or to keep things in check. I felt like my body was keeping me trapped in a very reactionary cycle and highlighting my personal limitations. While things were not as severe as they had been in late 2022 or early 2023, I was still struggling and becoming more frustrated and uncomfortable with each episode and flare up.

 

Desperation

loss of hope and surrender to despair; a state of hopelessness leading to rashness (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

 

Desperation is not a feeling that I was truly familiar with prior to experiencing these health challenges. Protect Your Edge by Sarah Jakes Roberts taught me quite a bit about it. I had to sit with the concept of desperation and put a name to the emotions that I felt when my body was especially out of sorts.

 

Desperation - for me - feels dangerous. It feels ravenous and uncontrollable, foreign and without definition. I have been very close to desperation a few times during this season of my life. I became entirely too familiar with what the older folks would say about wrestling all night long. There were some very long nights from March through June. They were difficult nights, trying nights, tearful nights. My partner told me that - despite rarely seeing defeat in my eyes - this particular season highlighted how defeated I felt in response to all that was happening with my body and my inability to know what I would have to deal with from one day to the next.

 

Even though I was not sure of what was happening physically, I seemed much more aware of what was happening spiritually. I did my best to pay attention to the signs and messages that presented to me. I received several messages that emphasized how God would not start something without bringing it to completion, messages about finished work. First there was the song by Tamela Mann:

 

When I was hurting,

You made me a promise that You'll stay here

and never leave my side.

That's why I'll trust You, now and forever.

It's already finished.

I put my hope in you.

If You touch it, it's a finished work.

When you're healing, it's a finished work.

Before it all started, You had the answers.

If You touch it, it's a finished work.

When You heal it, it's a finished work.

Song – Finished Work by Tamela Mann

 

Then there was another sermon by Sarah Jakes Roberts, Backed by Power, which forced me to consider the silent transition of power in my own life. I recognized that my health challenges made me feel powerless, but I did not realize how much power the fear and the anxiety about my health had gained. When Sarah referenced the moment we went from being faithful to fearful, from being purposeful to feeling lost, I had to steady myself and blink through tears. 

 

“God never leaves things unfinished. Undone is not what He does.”

–Sarah Jakes Roberts

 

As I continued to listen, I recognized that I had to decide whether I wanted God to restore what I lost (my health) or the spirit that I had before my health challenges. Personally, I wanted both, but I was unsure of how wanting both may prove to be a limitation. Perhaps my health was not as great as I recalled it being. Or perhaps I needed to process how I could co-create better health with God. 

 

I also had to wonder if everything that was happening was already something I had co-created. I reflected on my prayers from years passed. There were times when I put so much effort into trying to lose weight that I had likely prayed some ridiculous prayers about my relationship with food, not realizing that the consequence could be this. My food intolerances were growing by the month and my body was not subtle about these intolerances. It did not say maybe or no, it said HELL NO!! All caps, bold text, and exclamation points.

 

The concept of co-creating now (or maybe undoing what I had already unintentionally co-created) made me somewhat uncomfortable. I was never a fan of group projects, in part because I could not control whether or not other people completed their portion of the project and way too many people (i.e., more than just me) could determine the outcome. Granted, God is not people and my health is not a Social Studies presentation, but my hesitance was still the same.

 

“During transitions of power, one of the worst things that we can do is to try to create our own sense of safety. When we no longer feel like we have power, we settle for control. Control is a cheap imitation of power because it makes you God and it makes you believe that you can create a sense of safety that is better than the vulnerability required to stay connected to God in this season where [your] power is in transition.” 

–Sarah Jakes Roberts

 

It was like she knew me personally. Prior posts in this series highlight how much I tried to control things. From the amount of weight lost to my body’s ever-changing reactions to how people saw me in this particular season of my life. I did not realize it was all truly an effort to find my power in a series of situations that left me feeling powerless.

 

Alongside the song and the sermon were multiple references to Philippians 1:6 and seeing the numbers 77108 and 444 everywhere. 

 

While these messages offered me comfort, they also gave me pause. I had so many questions, so much uncertainty. I tried implementing the practices highlighted in Backed by Power, asking God to teach me how to heal myself, but - after a week or so - I felt like I must be asking the question incorrectly because I did not seem to be healing. The desperation was ebbing and flowing, but it was still very much present. I was not quite sure what to do with the desperation. I tried channeling it into doing more research, taking more notes, and being more prepared. Despite seeming productive, it rarely truly was. It was more like… frantic.

 

As I continued reading Power Moves, I stumbled upon this sentence which (again) altered my perspective:  

 

“It wasn’t until my prayers reflected my desperation that I began to experience God’s presence.”

–Sarah Jakes Roberts, Power Moves

 

Though the quote resonated with me and I recognized that the signs and symbols may have been indicative of God’s presence, I still was not quite sure about what to do. Or - maybe - what not to do.

 

Frustration

a deep chronic sense or state of insecurity and dissatisfaction arising from unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

 

I felt like my pain and symptoms were intensifying. I was becoming more and more anxious. Even going to sleep was stressful because I was unsure of how whatever I had eaten that day would torment me once I went to sleep. Waking up to spasms, drenched in sweat, or shaking from low blood sugar was too common for my liking.

 

Any August Leo will tell you that that whole “make it make sense before I get mad” social media post is accurate. My body’s sudden reaction to everything was making no sense to me. The less sense it made, the more frustrated and angry I got. The more desperate and fearful that I became, the more angry I got. I was at the end of my rope and running low on ideas of what to try and what to Google. Whenever my body had a sudden or unexpected “moment,” not only did I have to recover physically for hours or days, but I also had to recover emotionally, which seemed to take twice as long.

 

I still tried to stick with the prayer. “God, teach me how to heal myself.” After a few episodes of particularly embarrassing and long-term flare ups, I was no longer as consistent with the prayer. I would be lying if I said that I expected it to “work” or that I was still as hopeful as I had once been.

 

Typically I pray the most while walking to my car in the morning. One morning while I was taking the short walk a question popped up that - more or less - boiled down to: What if I just stop?

 

I immediately dismissed the idea, fully recognizing that I was walking in the Superwoman Schema while quietly thinking to myself, “Stopping is like quitting. I was not built to quit. Quitting is not an option.” To me, stopping the research and/or no longer trying to overly prepare for what may occur seemed ridiculous and had the potential to leave me open to whatever chaos, embarrassment, or torture that my body had in store for me. It seemed like stopping would leave me with even less control, like I would be left to battle this situation with even fewer weapons, like I would be battling a giant with a sling and a rock. Such battles seemed to only be successful in the Bible. 

 

I also realized that I had returned to seeing my body as separate from my person. I could not consistently see my body and I as one… because why would I be doing this to myself?

 

To make matters worse, I was having a ridiculous reaction to the medication that I had been prescribed to address the inflammation and stress on my bladder. It was a shit show. Literally and figuratively.

 

The thought of stopping drifted for a few days, then I had a completely unexpected late night episode, which forced me to reach out - both in frustration and in desperation - to my reinforcements. I contacted the Gastroenterologist, my Primary Care Physician, and the holistic practitioner/acupuncturist that I had not seen since March (2024). I also visited the website for the Reiki practitioner that I had seen in the past and noted a new service on her website: Holy Fire Healing Release Reiki Meditation.

 

I began scheduling appointments and seeking guidance. This was me refusing to stop. This was me refusing to quit. This was also me spiraling because I was doing my best to exercise some form of control.

 

On June 22, 2024 I had my first Holy Fire Healing Release Reiki Meditation session. As is typically the case, Emily offered me great insight and taught me quite a bit about essential oils, astrology, crystals, and symbolism. In my opinion, the session was very powerful. It also offered me an alternate way of thinking: What if these health challenges were indicative of my growth and transformation as a person? What if a greater version of me was on the other side of these challenges?

 

I left the session prepared to explore Rue essential oil, Lemon essential oil, Serpentine, and the symbolism of snakes and bees. I also left with a tip for responding to certain symbols and symbolism. Emily noted that - when she sees bees - she simply says, “I’m listening.” She shared that bees are one of the highest spiritual animals and that they typically come to us with a message. A few days later, I noted a related statement from Sarah Jakes Roberts in Power Moves:

 

“Every single thing that God has created, down to those pesky mosquitoes, serves a purpose and adds value to creation. The flies we swat away and the bees we run from are all on assignment.”

 

Though my southern inclination is to swat or kill the bee, this insight made me reconsider that. It also highlighted that I needed to do a better job of being open and listening.

 

Surrender

to yield to the power, control, or possession of another upon compulsion or demand; to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another; to give (oneself) up into the power of another especially as a prisoner; to give (oneself) over to something (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

 

As I was writing this post, I heard something telling me to ask God to teach me and/or show me how to surrender. This was interesting for a few reasons. I have always had a love-hate relationship with the word “surrender.” The concept is beautiful, but - in practice - it is frequently abused by others. Oddly enough, surrender was also one of the words that I was offered during the Holy Fire Healing Release Reiki Meditation session.

 

(Note: I have not always been the person who heard messages. I used to receive messages through dreams or through numbers. In some moments in my life it felt as if I would go for weeks, months, or years not receiving messages at all. The whispers have either been nonexistent or I have missed them altogether. As I have been traversing the obstacle course of my health and healing, the auditory messages have become more noticeable. Not necessarily louder, but definitely clearer.)

 

During the Holy Fire Healing Release Reiki Meditation session, the practitioner mentioned how it would take both the emotional, the mental, and the physical aspects of my being to work together to address the problems that I was experiencing. Her words were very telling, as I had just had a therapy session the day prior, would be having a gastroenterology appointment in the days following, and had scheduled an acupuncture appointment for early July. This would be my first time seeing the holistic practitioner since March. 

 

In response to my request for an acupuncture appointment, the holistic practitioner called me. She talked to me about how things had changed for me since March, explained some new research that she was conducting, and advised me that she had experience as a Functional Medicine practitioner, which could prove useful when looking for alternate ways to heal my body.

 

As I was updating my partner about my plans for next steps, ironically built on the emotional, mental, and physical healing that the Reiki practitioner had mentioned, they asked me: How are you walking around in this much pain?

 

I do not know whether I felt relieved that someone other than a medical professional or holistic practitioner realized how much pain I was in or whether I was shocked by the question.

 

My response was: What choice do I have?

 

Again I heard the message: What if you just stop?

 

I continued to feel guided towards the idea of surrendering to heal. As we have already discussed, I am someone who tries desperately to remain in control because it helps me to feel safe and prepared. When I think about surrender, the definition - alone - makes me uncomfortable. The idea of surrendering when we are talking about my health takes my standard discomfort to a different level. Just continuing to let things happen without trying to address, correct, or fix them is a foreign concept to me. This is obvious from my question to myself earlier in this post: What am I supposed to do? The question - in and of itself - demonstrates my upbringing. I am supposed to do something about health problems. They are not supposed to just linger. There is supposed to be a solution.

 

Operating in a manner that I fully recognize is the opposite of surrender, I began *drumroll please* researching the concept of surrender. I mean, if I was going to make an argument for or against the idea, I had to understand it first, right?

 

Google and Disney+ offered some interesting insight:

 

  • “But there's a reason it's called a practice. So practice surrendering every day. Because when we are certain that we are being supported, we can afford to wait, and wait without anxiety.” (https://gabbybernstein.com/5-steps-to-spiritual-surrender/)

  • “Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.” –Sadness, Inside Out

 

In true Big Brother fashion, after conducting a few internet searches on surrender, some other potential sources started showing up as recommendations for me:

 

 

My research taught me quite a bit about what everyone else thought and said about surrender. As I sorted through my own thoughts, I realized that so much that I learned about surrender seemed contrary to everything that had been instilled in me, everything that I knew about myself. I was accustomed to trying harder and pushing through. It seemed like this season of my life was asking for the complete opposite of that. Some of the “requirements” that came with surrender seemed contrary to who I believed myself to be. Much of what I read - especially from spiritual or Biblical perspectives - emphasized surrendering in recognition of a bigger plan. I definitely believe that there is a bigger plan for each of us, but - as it pertained to my health - I could not understand how any of this was part of a bigger plan. Why would my higher power or co-creator want me to go through this much pain, to have this much anxiety, to be this uncomfortable all of the time? If this was about building trust or forcing surrender, it seemed like some very extreme measures to take.

 

A few days later, while re-reading the definition of desperation (loss of hope and surrender to despair; a state of hopelessness leading to rashness), I realized that it was possible that I had already surrendered to something unknowingly - despair.

 

When considering surrender from that perspective, I realized that what was implied was that I surrendered when I was not thinking about it or when I did not feel like I was able to think my way out of something. When - for all intents and purposes -  I did not have a choice. While not all of me had resigned myself to my current state becoming my permanent state, there was a part of me that did not understand what more I could do. A hopelessness had been creeping in. Slowly, but steadily. I felt like I was fighting water, fighting drowning, and wearing myself out in the process. Considering how exhausted I was, I had to ask myself if this was going to be a surrender by force or a surrender by choice. It seemed apparent that I was not winning this battle and that looking at it as a battle was taking a great toll on my mind. Would things get worse if I did not surrender now? Had things already become worse because I did not surrender sooner? 

 

If I was going to surrender, to practice surrendering, and/or to remain surrendered, I would have to start implementing some changes that aligned with Dr. Anita Phillips’ tagline in the Surrender (How to Rest in God) sermon: Hands off. Mind off. Eyes off.

 

I re-committed to some of the self-improvement practices that I had been intermittently introducing into my life over the past several years. Practices that were not directly connected to my body or my health, but that informed my perspective and improved my mindset. I worked to be intentional about giving my attention to things that were motivational and uplifting. I made time to read, no longer just purchasing books as if the mere purchase of the book would somehow bestow all of the benefits of reading the book on me. 

 

From this post I am sure that you have gathered that Power Moves by Sarah Jakes Roberts has been one of the more informative and thought-provoking reads for me. Even I can admit the underlining and tabbing is at an all-time high in this particular book. Sarah is cooking. With grease AND with fire.

 

One thing that continues to stand out to me about the book is the emphasis on co-creating, but defined somewhat differently than the group project experiences that I have had in the past. The difference - in large part - is about what Sarah Jakes Roberts identifies as the character of God.

 

“It's important that we don't make a habit of buttoning up our prayers with a request for things. Instead, wanting to get to know God apart from what God can do for you is the only way to truly be in relationship with Him. When you get to a place where you know God even when life isn't moving in the direction that you anticipated, you don't charge it to God's character, because you know God too well to think He'd do anything to hurt you.” 

–Sarah Jakes Roberts, Power Moves

 

Healing Wounds

Exploring the alternate perspective of co-creating helped me identify different areas where I needed to do better, where I needed to do my part. That included working through the prompts in books that I typically skip over. It meant contemplating some of the messages I had received that made me most uncomfortable. It also meant recognizing when I was supposed to be on the sideline and not in the game. (There is a message here about pride and humility, but that might be a whole other blog post.)

 

First up? Uncomfortable messages. 

Topic one? Wounds, both emotional and surgical.

 

One message that I was continuing to sort through was the idea that surgeries cause trauma to the body. While I had pursued weightloss surgery in hopes of creating a healthier body for myself, I did not prepare my body for nor comfort my body following the surgery. Preparation was not something I knew to do, but I took full responsibility for returning to work too quickly and not resting enough after the procedure. Recognizing that now I was in a space and place where rest was being forced upon me at times in response to flare ups or general exhaustion. The irony was not lost on me. I had made so many decisions about what my post-surgery life would be like, thinking that - once the surgical/physical wounds healed - I would be outside living my best life. My life had definitely changed - in both wonderfully unexpected and terrifying ways - but what bubbled up for me was how I had never dealt with all of the other wounds. Wounds like the stress put on my body from the surgery, wounds like the emotions trapped in my body from continuing to suffer in silence or swallow my grief, wounds like the lack of coping skills I had when eating my feelings was no longer an option, wounds like having to adjust to being seen and spoken to differently by people who had known me my whole life or who did not know me at all because of my appearance. 

 

Most medical providers will tell you that there is a point in the healing process when you have to expose your wounds to fresh air for them to finish healing. Sarah Jakes Roberts talks about this more in depth during her sermon, The Tutor and The Test. These last two blog posts in particular are me exposing my wounds to fresh air. Though I am not fully removing the bandages in these words, I am acknowledging that the wounds are there. At some point these wounds became too much for my body to hold and - in order for healing to happen - I have to acknowledge them and expose them, not judging whether they are good or bad. Not consuming myself with what others will say or how they will respond. Not continuing to focus on not looking like what I am going through.

 

In addition to reading more, I also increased the amount of time I spent resting, limited my use of social media, stopped researching my symptoms, and tried to focus on the present moment and the messages that I continued to receive. I revisited listening to podcasts, hoping to gain clarity and insight from those that were working on walking in their power and/or learning the importance of investing in their well-being. 

 

One podcast episode by Myliek Teele reminded me of why I started writing this series. It also led me to further process my thoughts on external validation and expectations of perfection. Myliek said:

 

“…but a thought that I had before I got started was remembering how important my appearance was to my mother as a kid. And not just my appearance, but her appearance mattered so much to her. And she'd get up like three o'clock in the morning to ensure she had enough time to get through her beauty routine. Coffee first, and then hair, makeup, clothes, touching up her nails. I just remember watching my mom spend all this time on the physical appearance, but I just kept thinking, like, we are not well, you know? So often, even as a young kid, I felt like we are dressing up our problems. We looked good, but we for sure weren't feeling well mentally.” 

(Splurging on Peace: Sharing My Practice)

 

I wholeheartedly understood what Myleik was describing and how growing up in spaces where people focused more on looking good than feeling well could leave you open to harm that you would later have to work to address and heal. I do not know that those involved in our upbringing recognized that their focus on outward appearance would one day negatively impact the inner workings of their offspring and descendants. In fact, I highly doubt that any of this was done intentionally. In my opinion, much of this idea that we had to perform despite not being well or appear 100% even when we were not came from the expectations established during slavery. 

 

Those people who were enslaved experienced tragedy  and were not permitted to have any form of a reaction or else they would face harsh and violent consequences. As Gieselle Allen has stated, our worth was heavily tied to how others saw us and how much we could produce. The extreme trauma experienced created some forced coping mechanisms that would prove problematic for generations to come. Similarly, many generations have spent so much of their time fighting against the ideas of laziness that they work themselves to death in the name of productivity and external validation.

 

I had to challenge my thoughts about being productive, about resting, and also (surprisingly) about seeking out accommodations. I had to accept that my current state requires certain accommodations and that is not something to be sorry for or embarrassed about. 

 

This journey has afforded me the opportunity to become more informed and mindful about accessibility and hidden disabilities. Reading The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor and meeting people like D’andre Hardy of The Seen Society have proven beneficial in empowering me to advocate for myself and necessary accommodations, as well as being considerate of others and the accessibility challenges and limitations that they may have. These challenges are not always obvious or apparent, nor do they have to be. We never know what someone else is going through and it is not our right nor responsibility to decide what they need and/or how they need it.

 

This is where I pause to remind you of the importance of advocating for yourself - not only with medical providers - but with employers and in other spaces where your health is compromised or you need certain support to be your best, most healthy self. You do not have to be uncomfortable because others cannot see what ails you. You do not have to convince someone that you are worthy of being supported in ways that may look different than others. Remember to ask for what you need and pay close attention to how those requests are met/not met, respected/disrespected. You do not owe your health to anyone - friends, family, or employers.

 

I believe the storm will soon be over.

I believe the rain will go away.

I believe that I can make it through it.

Oh, I believe it's already done.

I believe family will get better.

I believe God will provide.

I believe the promise that He made.

Oh, I believe it's already done.

I believe that my God is a healer.

I believe that I will survive.

I believe that God is able.

Oh, I believe it's already done.

Song – I Believe by James Fortune & FIYA, Shawn McLemore, & Zacardi Cortez

 

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Read Part Six: A Greater Plan

Read Part Eight: Coming Soon

Find additional posts and resources here.

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