Do you remember those paintings where you stare at a focal point and all the sudden a picture appears out of in the midst of random dots? I wish I did; no matter how hard I tried to see the picture everyone swore they saw, each time I glared into the frame, all I got back in return was the same pixelated dots that I saw ten minutes earlier. Every time I heard someone say “oh I see it!”, I would get vexed and be moved to try yet again. I literally tried for years to see the picture that everyone saw except me.
Irony. This allegory was nothing more than a theme of my life story. So intent was I in seeing something that was not there, I would keep analyzing and trying to make something materialize which refused to come into clear focus. Thus, I spent most of my twenties and thirties chasing my own tail. No matter how much I accomplished and achievements I checked off, all I kept seeing was a pixelated existence of happiness. This tendency of mine haunted me even as I attained all that I could have wanted in life. I thought I had the love of my life, I landed a job at one of the consulting firms that people nod their heads over when I told them here I worked at, got a masters degree at a university that would make people say “wow” each time uttered the name.
Yet external conquests refused to beget internal joys. I was a tree planted by the water but I kept finding myself sauntering in the desert. Temporary happiness followed by lulls of emptiness, in time I crashed and dejection became my existence. All the sudden, my status went from hollow to exigent adversity. My first taste of profound ennui struck me in 2007 right in the midst of a season of abundance. Bracketed by good fortunes, I felt nonetheless like I was being pinched by turmoil and uncertainty. It was at that time I opened up the bible desperate to find some sort of light in the midst of my darkest moment.
A random flip of the page landed me on Jeremiah 17:8. What I read spoke to me, but I yet to gain the wisdom to understand what the verse was trying to teach me. With an trembling heart but an unknowing mind, I read the following words:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD. For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant. Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit” ~ Jeremiah 17:6-8
These words were meant to heal the very pains I carried in my heart since I was a child. The first gash at my heart took away my innocence before I was old enough to understand iniquity. From the first time malice patted me on my forehead and discomforted my soul, I was greeted by one too many incidents that made me decide to turn my life away from God and to chase flesh instead. My walk in the desert began the minute I blamed God for my circumstance; each tribulation only furthered my resolve to rebel against my once source of happiness.
There was a time when I was young where I wanted to actually minister and be a part of the church. This desire of mine I crumbled up and tossed into the fireplace when I kept seeing men who were pretending to be of God using their position to take advantage of others. Add on top of this memories of seeing the closest person to me hurt herself in ways that still gnaw at my spirits as memories of her inert body still visit me in my dreams, I had enough of God and chose to manage all outcomes in my life. I became a control autocrat; a czar intent on accounting for all variables and charting my own future. I had no need for God in my life; my ego became my master even as I thought my ego was serving me.
This was all fine and dandy as long as it was just me. But the minute someone else came into my life and love became a variable I could not longer control, I started to fray at the edges. I went from serving my ego as God to serving the source of my affection as my lord. But I would learn this one lesson, no one likes a needy person and nobody wants someone who does not have a mystery about themselves. I lost my first love the minute I started fearing losing her. It took more than a decade of continual heartbreak and banging my head into the wall before the ex factor became a factor no more.
It was during one of my breakups that I broke apart into the chasm of sadness. For years, I danced between fulfillment and desolation. It’s only now that I look back and finally understand what Jeremiah 17:8 was telling me! Wisdom gained through two years of mind bending tribulation made me finally submit and give control over to a power greater than my ego. Though I still struggle to control for all variables, the more I have faith, the more the abundance pats me on my forehead–it’s like I’m living my youth in reverse as understanding replaces insolence. Eight months ago, tears and fears were my normal and I’m not talking about the band from the 80’s. To say I was planted in a desert is to do my situation no justice; I was rooted deep in the scorching sands of a wasteland that is depression.
As I gave up on myself, God refused to give up on me. One person after the other was sent into my life to keep the ember of hope kindled even as I wanted nothing more than my candle to be snuffed out. Many things happened along the way that led me away from dejection and delivered me to this path of redemption. One of the earliest kind acts I remember that gave me hope was something that most would look upon as a minor gesture. One day about 9 months ago–when I went to the laundry room to put my clothes into the drier after taking a nap–I found my clothes not only put in the drier for me, they were then folded neatly and put into my hamper. To this day, I have no idea who did that for me, I just remember a spark of hope where there was none before that moment.
A spark soon enough led to fireworks. A most sublime connection led to a five hour conversation. A five hour conversation led to an emotional connection. A hello gave way to a butterfly that continues to bless me with encouraging words as she washes away the hurts others visited upon me with loving advice and encouraging words that moved me to start Ghion Journal and in the process to stop looking backwards. In the midst of the desert, when I learned to have faith in God again and decided to stop being in control, the hot sands shifted into brooks as my leaves bloomed in the very place where I once only had sticks and a stony existence.
It was my need to see the picture when I wanted that prevented me from seeing the picture to begin with. If only I learned to relax and let the picture come to me, I could have avoided a prolonged pixelated state of distress. But this too is a blessing, the only way I gained this wisdom to be in the moment is by first going through the hardship. Too often we keep chasing happiness not realizing that we have to go through the sad parts of life before we realize the blessings that come after wards. I write this not as a preacher or a minister but as a person who endured hell and emerged on the other end better off than I did when I went through it.
For those who struggle and find themselves in sorrow, please hang tight and in time there will come a better tomorrow. Life might never be a bed of roses and daisies might not always greet our footsteps, but if we learn to appreciate the muddy moments, in that same mud one day will grow a beautiful flower that will bless you when you least expect it. I went from a caterpillar always searching for happiness to being cocooned in utter distress. Temesgen, to God is the glory, I found a butterfly at the end of my exodus and for that I am eternally thankful. I finally see the picture after twenty years of staring, come to find out I was looking in all the wrong places. #RelishAllOfIt
” It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” ~ Psalms 118:8-9
Led to this abundance
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.