I remember being that little girl... full of hope and dreams. Like most children, I wasn't afraid to dream big. Even though I'd endured a lot as a child, the enemy hadn't been successful at killing my dreams. As a matter of fact, the worse my reality was, the more I dreamed ... and the more I dreamed, the worse my reality became. It seemed like an endless cycle ... a tug-of-war of sorts, but I think it's safe to say that God used those dreams of mine to keep me from losing my mind. I've said it before and I'll say it again... it is only by the grace of God that I still have my right mind. God was surely with me.
God also used my hardships to keep me from becoming the fearful creature that Satan was so persistently trying to turn me into. I was fearless and I'd often wander off into whatever woods I could find near whatever house or apartment we were living in. I wasn't looking for anything in particular. I simply loved to be alone in nature. I loved the smell of nature, the peaceful sounds of leaves rustling, the feeling of the wind blowing against my face and I loved seeing the many creatures that God created. It was all so serene to me. Needless to say, I wasn't exactly "normal." I wasn't crazy or deranged (praise God); I was just unapologetically me. I loved life and I didn't want to conform to the rules of culture. Because I didn't conform, it wasn't unusual to see me racing the boys in whatever neighborhood I lived in. We would often race for money, junk food or whatever we could offer up as prizes. At the same time, it wasn't unusual to see me chasing the neighborhood girls with grasshoppers, crickets or whatever insects I could get my hands on. I would even catch frogs and run in the direction of the screams. I thought it was hilarious that people were afraid of such small creatures. Needless to say, I had many friends but I also had my fair share of enemies as well.
We moved a lot when I was young so I was always having to make new friends and fight off new bullies. I was a petite girl, but that didn't stop me from fighting whenever I felt the need to fight. When I look back, I can honestly say that I fought for the right to be who I was. I even fought with and for my friends because there was always some group of people who wanted to fight any person who wasn't a part of their mindset or group. You see, I came to understand something as a child ... something that I carry with me to this day and that is: sometimes, folks will attack you for not blending in, but you have to be more determined to retain your individuality and your identity than they are to take it away from you.
God has made each and every one of us unique. We're all different; we were created to stand out. I could talk with an entire classroom of children and each one of them would tell me something about himself or herself that makes that child stand out from the rest. Nevertheless, depending on the communities, families and belief systems each child is being raised in, every one of them would have their own unique reservations or beliefs in regards to being themselves in public. I've come to learn that the biggest fight that we fight is for the right to be ourselves. The truth is that sometimes, we get lost in ourselves and we have to go through deliverance just to find ourselves all over again. This demonic oppression normally starts in childhood. I wasn't a prodigy, nor was I "special". I was just a wide-eyed child who dared to have hope in what appeared to be a hopeless situation. I was also a child who didn't mind fighting if that's what it took to be me. I didn't want to blend in. I was happy with just being me. Many kids are fearful and will easily conform to peer pressure simply because they are too afraid to fight back. I've actually seen this happen with many young men. Nevertheless, the ones who will not conform ... the ones who dare to fight back often grow up to be leaders.
In many communities, classes and cliques, people tend to conform to popular culture. When you don't conform to what's accepted or what's considered the norm, you will be opposed, questioned, demonized, persecuted and even attacked. The reason for this is by not fitting in, you have managed to leave the confines of each group's understanding. Know this: most people fear what they do not understand and people often respond negatively to whatever it is that they fear. The truth is ... most folks are too lazy to embrace people who are unlike themselves. Why is this? Because we often master the mindsets that we're in, but when we come in contact with people who are not like us, we are unskilled at dealing with them. We don't know what to expect or how to properly respond, so we're forced to speak less and listen more (this is not a bad thing, of course). Additionally, by dealing with others unlike ourselves, we become more aware of our faults, strongholds and hang-ups. It is then that we are brought face-to-face with our own uniqueness and some people are afraid of being introduced to their true selves. They think that who they've become is superior to who they really are. Most people simply love the comforts of familiarity. Think of it this way. As a southerner, I'm rarely aware of my southern accent, but when I'm in the presence of someone from another region (especially northerners), I can't help but notice the thickness of my accent and how poorly I pronounce certain words.
By standing out, you unintentionally challenge whatever set of beliefs are in a particular place. This is why we see so much violence today. In crime-ridden areas, young men are expected by their peers to submit to whatever culture is in place in that area. Culture is nothing but a man-instituted set of beliefs designed to encourage conformity and discourage individuality. If they do not conform, they will be seen as a threat and violently targeted by their peers or, at minimum, ridiculed and terrorized. Truthfully, in many communities, by making good grades, some young men unintentionally set themselves up to be attacked or even killed. You see, by not conforming or being like "everyone else", those young men became leaders (in a sense), and by becoming leaders, they got the attention of their peers. The same rings true for young women. If a young woman stands out in her community, she will likely be targeted by her peers. Other young women will likely say things like, "She thinks she's all that" or "She thinks she's better than everyone else." As you can see, the offender has no real reason to attack the one she's offended with, therefore, she'll justify her attack by trying to figure out what her opponent is "thinking." Because she can't read her target's mind, she will label her opponent and then, proceed to attack her. It's similar to a football player tossing the ball to another player and then tackling him for having the ball. Her goal is to bring that girl into submission. It is to get her to conform to a certain belief system and to keep her from standing out. This is the proverbial "crabs in a bucket" mentality that we often hear so much about. In each peer group, there are self-erected leaders who are nothing but the equivalent of principalities operating in flesh (gang leaders, cult leaders, etc.). These leaders guard a mindset or a system of beliefs commonly carried out in whatever communities they have set themselves over. They have a knack for locating people who are not blending in.
One of the amazing things is ... even when you leave a bad community, you will see this behavior exhibited in every group, class and neighborhood. Mankind loves to create cultures and these cultures serve several purposes. These purposes include, but are not limited to the following:
- Cultures are oftentimes the "accents" of a particular group. They help to identify the class, race and income level of a particular individual. For example, if you head into a rich community and begin to speak slang, they will know that you are not from their community.
- Cultures help establish familiarity so that the people can easily relate to one another. The truth is ... again, human beings are lazy creatures who do not want to venture too far outside of their understanding. All too often, we want to meet people who we can relate to.
- Cultures help limit certain mindsets to certain areas, thus, ensuring that the rich remain rich and the poor don't venture too far outside of a certain income bracket or neighborhood. Understand this: when a mother (for example) raises her children in a certain area amongst a certain mindset, she is pretty much teaching them the ropes of that mindset. Like their adult counterparts, children don't like to venture too far outside of what they understand.
- Cultures help to establish a set of rules within a family, group or community. These rules ensure that the people in submission to each culture does not violate the culture by leaving it.
- Cultures help certain people to take leadership positions and retain their leadership. The rules in every culture ensures that any person operating as a leader in that culture has a secure place.
Culture is everywhere ... even in some churches! When culture is found in a church, we refer to it as "church culture" and it is the culprit behind what we commonly refer to as "church hurt." With church hurt, a believer may not blend too well into the church environment that he or she is attempting to become a part of. For this reason, that church's leaders or the members may attempt to "fix" that person or drive that person away. This often leads to church hurt and backsliding.
Culture is binding; it keeps people from reaching their full potential in Christ and it does this through the use of fear and familiarity. People often fear standing out because they do not want to draw negative attention to themselves, but in order to be used effectively by God, we have to stand out if we want to stand up. We can't effectively lead people if we're following the culture that's misleading the people. By attempting to do so, we'll only become religious leaders of a culture (cult) and not godly leaders.
Why do chameleons change colors? One of the reasons is so they can blend into their environment and hide from predators. Chameleons can run over twenty miles an hour and this would allow them to escape most predators, but changing colors takes less effort. Additionally, chameleons change colors to impress one another. The same rings true for many in the church. We often try to blend in out of fear of being attacked by religious predators. Most church folks believe it is easier to blend in than it is to run away from an ungodly church. For this reason, many find themselves swallowed up by the Jezebel spirit or bound by the very spirits their leaders are bound by. At the same time, many believers try to impress each other by standing out from within the confines of whatever it is that they've conformed to. In other words, they learn to master bondage.
Familiarity is another reason people tend to stay bound to culture. To break away from the "norm", a person has to walk away from many of the people that he or she loves and is familiar with. Nevertheless, to truly enjoy peace, happiness and have a functional relationship with God, we must forsake that which is familiar to us. This isn't always easy because we are then led by God into seasons where we have to fight off spirits of loneliness, rejection and self pity. During this time, we are led away from the realms, belief systems and things we have mastered and we're led into the unfamiliar. This is what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. We give up familiarity to embrace our God-given assignments in the earth (purpose). It is then that we receive a new heart and a new mind. That's when God will give us the desires of our hearts because we are no longer led astray by fruitless fantasies brought on by cultural bondage; we are no longer captive to the sins of the old, wicked heart.
Growing up and even now, I've had to be immovable and it hasn't always been easy because sometimes, the people the enemy uses to push me are the people I love and respect the most. Nevertheless, I've learned that the keys to success are:
- Having a sure relationship with God.
- Trusting God.
- Fearing God.
- Depending on God.
- Having a faith based foundation to stand on.
- Being immovable and firm when the winds of opinions, religious misconceptions and judgments beat upon my heart.
- Forgiving others quickly and remaining humble so that I can access forgiveness whenever I need to tap into it.
- Being willing to release people when God tells me to release them. This is to ensure that they don't bind me and I don't bind them.
- Moving forward when God says to move and not questioning Him every step of the way. I don't need to know where He's taking me; I just need to know His voice so that I can be led by Him.
- Being unapologetic in regards to who I am and never "scaling back" just to appeal to man's insecurities as a whole, group or culture.
- When I started designing websites, I received opposition from people who'd gone to school to build websites. They felt like I'd invaded their territory and it wasn't fair for them to have gone to school to do what they do and have to pay off student loans, only to have people like me come on the scene with no schooling. This is a spirit of entitlement and such reasoning does not carry over in this lifetime. If I had given in to the emails and criticism, I wouldn't have my web design company today.
- When I started designing seals and logos, I received opposition from people who felt like it was an evil deed for a minister to have a personal seal. I've had people to attempt to speak curses over me, but I did not move. You see, my "stint" in the world taught me to be what one man of God refers to as a "tough cookie." I studied, prayed and held firm to what God told me. Had I listened to the religious fanatics, I would not have my Seal and Logo company today. I'd be working a 9 to 5, making little money... but hey, they would have been pleased with me. Unfortunately for them, I wasn't looking to please them.
- When I started writing and publishing books, I received opposition from people who'd been in leadership far longer than I had. They felt they were supposed to be doing what I was doing and I should be sitting off in the congregation somewhere warming up a pew. Again, this is the spirit of entitlement. Had I listened to them, I would have had to disobey God and I wouldn't have written or published the books God has blessed me with.
Do I still receive opposition? Yes. But one thing I've learned is ... the level of opposition that you receive and the level of your opponent tells you a lot about where you are in Christ. What's keeping you from being you? Understand this about culture:
- It'll pick your path for you ... if you let it.
- It'll pick your life's mate for you ... if you let it.
- It'll determine how you rank in society ... if you let it.
- It'll determine how you see yourself ... if you let it.
- It'll take the place of God ... if you let it.