Conquering Lust

Sin was noise.

The more I sinned, the louder the noise got in my head. I would be overwhelmed by thoughts going in and out, continuously looping around my brain, day and night. It would get so busy in my mind, that the smallest thought would get lost in a maze never to be seen again. I would be paralyzed by words. Frozen by occurrences. Divided by past, present, and future.

I was doing everything right though. I looked the part. Women loved me. I acted the part. I had a handsome and cool crew of friends that commanded rooms when we entered. I had the prestige. People knew my name. I could hold a conversation with anyone. I could go anywhere and feel comfortable. I was doing all of the right things needed to be known, seen, and leave a mark. By all accounts, I should have been happy.

Even in laughter the heart may sorrow,
And the end of mirth may be grief.

Proverbs 14:13 (NKJV)

In isolation, I would fall into depression. I would go out with friends, drink, meet women, and whether I went home alone or not, would want to be left alone while being deafly afraid of being alone. I’d pick a different girl every night of the week to spend time with but really didn’t want to be with any of them. I would lay awake at night replaying scenes from the day, over and over again, with different decisions and outcomes nonstop. I would rationalize the good and the bad until no option was unscrutinized. Decisions left me anxious in times of action, and depressed in times stillness. Focus evaded me, confidence alluded me, I doubted myself, and at the same time, I didn’t know me at all. I was a bundle of nerves held together by scotch tape with a fancy veneer.

I’ve had numerous moments like this in life. However, three or four years ago, I didn’t want to deal with things the same way I did before; going out until I built a steady stable of women to distract me from myself. I didn’t want to hide in a bottle or beg to be around people that were similarly empty. Yet, I would stay at home watching those going out, faking happiness, but faking happiness together, while I sat at home wondering if there was something I was missing.

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.

PROVERBS 14:12 (NKJV)

I filled that space with religion, but not God, for a while. I built expectations of church, family, and friends that were unreasonable and got disappointed when they didn’t follow through. I did everything to reach some semblance of peace. I reached towards God, not knowing why or how. My surprise was when He reached back.

I started to hear from God again around that time and in Lukewarm Obedience I decided to push through the things thought were the most difficult to me, Celibacy and giving up my social relationship with Alcohol. The alcohol was the easy part, I haven’t touched a drop in months, but the Celibacy was the hard part.

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

2 Timothy 2:22

It was more than just the Celibacy that seemed difficult. I hadn’t been having sex but everyday was a challenge not to bow to lust. It was the masturbation when stressed, easy access to porn online, sexual photos on Instagram, shows/movies with long love-making scenes, freaky conversations on Twitter, lustful lyrics in music, and the constant thoughts about relationships. Everything was connected to make me desire personal satisfaction without limit. I was fighting hard, but it was only me fighting.

This past January hit and during a new 21-day fast, God’s voice became clear. He wanted to see how much I desired to be free from the things that bound me for such a long time. I didn’t just give up food, it was a time to get closer to the Lord. I listened to only Gospel music, gave up hip-hop podcasts, read my Bible twice a day, woke up at 5:30am to pray daily, fasted, and spent more time with my spiritual father. All this time with God started to calm me. The noise quieted. My nerves were eased and it was just better. I woke up every morning happy, and ready to get closer to the Lord.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Isaiah 26:3

In 2017, I focused on my Celibacy a lot. Every day was a success, I constantly counted days and celebrated each one, but when I stumbled, I stumbled hard. I would beat myself up and that would cycle into me stumbling again. It would start off as reading sexual tweets from women masked as their sexual liberation and fighting against misogyny. Then, it would turn into looking at pictures or 10-second clips of beautiful women. Then, I’d find myself searching porn or looking at old “memories” of my exes. By the end, I’d be a big horny monster, still unfulfilled, but content until the next urge hit a few hours later.

God started off gradual. He didn’t force anything. He just asked me if I wanted to continue like this. He explained to me that overcoming sin is not something I can do on my own. No matter how hard I try, there will always be moments of weakness, but in Him, I am strong. He told me that the reason I fail is because I’m doing it instead of letting the Holy Spirit work in me to change my desires. He explained that the reason I kept going back is because I’m not willing to change my current life. I cannot have two masters: myself & God. I needed to pick one.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Matthew 6:24 (NKJV)

God told me to clean my house. I looked around at my apartment and it was like I could finally see for the first time. I saw old artifacts, gifts, and reminders of women, dating back eight years, still taking up room. God told me to make space. While I was cleaning out my dresser, I came across my bag of emergency condoms. I was about to close the drawer when God asked, “Are you planning to fail?” I paused. Felt the truth, and I threw them away. God never yells or condemns me. He just asked a simple question. My answer shocked even myself. I declared to God, “I am celibate until marriage.” My whole body quivered for a second, and then I placed my trash outside for pick-up.

I unfollowed people on social media that lived in ways that I’d be negatively influenced by. My rules regarding women changed, putting space between me and women in relationships or keeping additional numbers of people around so I not alone past a certain time. I deleted ALL of my old “memories” of exes so I wouldn’t have anything to be tempted by. There was even a young lady, from my past that I loved dearly, that I had to let go. I realized I was leaning on her in case of emergency. If I had a bad day or something didn’t work out right, deep down I knew I could call her up, and she would make me feel like I mattered. She was my crutch. God’s words rang true, “Are you planning to fail?”

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 

Matthew 5:27-29 (KJV)

It wasn’t just lust I started to deal with, it was insecurities too. I threw away t-shirts and objects connected to certain times in my life that weighed me down. I let go of people and ideas that seemed to hinder my self-esteem. I looked at my life and removed all the distractions and stumbling blocks I could think of. I just wanted to be free. But, God had to tell me, this alone wouldn’t free me. My pastor said you can get rid of all the objects in your house, live like a monk, and still be bound. God said he was right.

It wasn’t the objects holding me back. It was me. It was the feelings, emotions, and beliefs that had to be broken and came out of agreement with. I held on to those things from so many years ago because I was afraid I wouldn’t get new things, meet new people, or have new experiences. I held on to the hope of meeting them again at another place, in another time, because I didn’t trust that someone could, would, or should love me again. I realized that even the lust wasn’t really about the sex to me, it was about feeling loved. It was about feeling like I mattered to someone enough to share their deepest secrets with. Sex was valuable to me. It was a way for me to prove I mattered and give weight to my existence. Yet, when I went even deeper, it was about my trust in God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

I finally got it. Was I still planning to fail? Was I trying so hard to hold on to the past because those were my “best days”? Did I truly believe that was it for me? A handful of nights of spontaneity and liquor, followed by days of trying to retrace my steps, fix what was broken, or hold together until the next chance for letting go? I wanted more for myself. I believe that God wants more for me. Lust lost its luster. It became easy to give up the things I was holding on to because I trust God to give me better. I just have to be patient.

Lust hasn’t been a problem since. I might have a second here or there where I need to remind myself of God’s promises, but I feel more confident and calm than I have in years. I have no desire to get ahead of my blessings because I believe my Father loves me too much to not have the joy of someone to share my entire self with one day. I’ve tried too long to do it on my own with little to show for it. My Father put too much time and energy into shaping me for me to be giving myself away for such a low price and at such a high cost. Lust is a trick. It is the desire to take something ahead of its time without knowing if its yours or not. Lust is impatience, distrust, and pride rolled into one. Lust is a lot, but it’s not mine anymore.

Hope you all enjoyed this. It was much harder to write than I expected. My perspective has changed and I wanted to share my lessons learned. Do you have stories of confronting Lust? Let me know in the comments below.

Turn Your Brightness Up!

#BeMagnificent🔆

A Deeper Love

In Self Love Defined, I stated that love was defined by 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. This is an adequate definition of love, but it’s an internal love, focused on characteristics that exemplify love in the world. However, the love defined let out how it looks in action.  Verses 4-8 talk in-depth about the characteristics of being friendly, humble, patient, kind, meek, polite, modest, forgiving, calm, benevolent, and good. I can be all of those things, but that doesn’t mean I love.

I can act polite but deep inside I can hate every moment of it. I can say I forgive but inside my heart is a rock, frozen in time due to a mishap long gone. I can outwardly show every characteristic of Jesus Christ, but inside still be unhappy, sorrowful, and paranoid. Actions don’t always align with words.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Love is authentic. A lot of people believe, “Fake it until you make it” but that’s a dangerous lie. You cannot fake love. How many people have lied to themselves every morning when they wake up saying that they are happy and still go to bed depressed each night? How many people have done the mystical math to convince themselves of a perfect relationship or marriage and it rings hollow to everyone they know? We can post pictures of wonderful self-love but eventually, the varnish quickly fades away.

Love requires a recognition of God’s truth to thrive and be genuine. Your love will eventually fail if it is based on falsehoods. Even self-affirmations require an acknowledgment that the negative thoughts you had about yourself were lies. Affirmations are nothing more than confirmations of God’s truth. Eventually, you realize that God’s love doesn’t actually involve you more than existing. Nothing you can say or do will change God’s love and that is the same for others. So, what examples of God’s love do we have?

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. “Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.

Ruth 1:16-17

Ruth gives an amazing example of love. In this scene, Ruth is responding to her “former” mother-in-law’s attempt to send her away to her home country to find a new husband after both of their husbands died. Oprah, Naomi’s other daughter-in-law, already went back home. Ruth refuses to leave Naomi. Realistically, Ruth has no ties to Naomi at this point, but Ruth is a shining example of loyalty here. Ruth shows an intrinsic bond with someone to share in their life, good and bad. Nothing in this talked about benefits or what each other would get out of it. In fact, Naomi tried to send Ruth away so she could get married again and find happiness. Ruth remained steadfast.

True love for others is the ability to share in life with someone else. It’s not just sympathy or even empathy. You are not just putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. You are accepting that you will never understand everything a person is going through or their situation, but valuing their existence. You see that there is a continuous connectedness between you and each person you meet. You choose to honor. You see their value in existing because God loves them like He loves you.

Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart…

Acts 2:46

Eventually, you’ll see that there is no separation between people. Sharing time, energy, and things with others is just getting to know another part of the human experience. Caring for others becomes like caring for yourself. Loving others becomes loving yourself. Blessings flowing to your neighbor are blessings for your, regardless of reaped benefits on your part. Loving others is learning to love yourself. There is no difference.

What are some ways that you have learned to love others? What is one moment that you can think of that people shared unselfish love with you? Let me know in the comments below.

As Always,

Turn Your Brightness Up!

#BeMagnificent🔆

Simplifying the Commandments

When I was younger, I often feared God from the Old Testament Bible stories. In The Ten Commandments Moses climbed up the mountain to receive knowledge from God and people were so unruly that Moses broke tablets and lightning came down from the sky. Rivers split to protect and to destroy. As a child, I was so scared to do anything because God would punish me for my bad behavior.

I often freak out because I didn’t even understand the “rules”, where they came from, and what they meant. As a six-year-old, what does it even mean to covet someone’s wife? I got the not kill or steal part, but I had no clue what a Sabbath was. This left me afraid of doing anything against the Bible. I was always afraid if I curse or that bubble gum I took from Granny’s candy dish was going to have me catch on fire the next time I walked in church.

Therefore the flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not strengthen his force, neither shall the mighty deliver himself.

Amos 2:14-16

Thankfully, I never needed to wear fire resistant underwear because of flammable pants, my nose never grew, and my eyes never got stuck that way. I believed that if I didn’t specifically do the Ten, I could do other things. I told half-truths or omitted things instead of lies. I never dishonored my parents, so I must be honoring/respecting them. Similar things to get around not making God mad and whatever the church told me to not do, I avoided for the most part. But there was still a fear of mean God, punishing me for something one day.

But since then, I’ve realized that God no longer punishes you for your misdeeds immediately with fire and brimstone, but he allows the consequences to come naturally. You may not get set on fire for lying but people distrusting you and having to lie to cover up a lie is your punishment. I always wished someone explained it simply instead of complex language and one day I found Romans.

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Romans 13:9

For many years of my life, I thought that if I loved, cared for, and did for others, I was successful. I loved others so hard, that when it was time for me to recharge my own battery, I was empty. I was loving other people so that I could love myself and found out I was attracting people who didn’t love me at all. I was empty and not getting poured into. In fact, I didn’t even know what love looked like.

A hidden truth behind “Love your neighbor as yourself” is figuring out a true reason why you shouldn’t commit adultery, murder, theft, or the act of coveting. You must value and love yourself so much, that anything less than the best is almost dirty to you. I shouldn’t want your girlfriend because I should want someone who is solely desiring me romantically. I shouldn’t want to steal from someone because the fruits of my labor are too sweet to deny my own gratification and rob someone of their fruit. This is a fine love but it is a passive, self-contained, and ultimately a self-serving love.

Something was missing and I spent days thinking about how there was a dissonance between me only focusing on loving myself, and not infringing on others that left me feeling dirty. If I just didn’t do harm and treated myself well, is that truly God’s love?

I figured out what was missing from the version of love that I was building. Come back and find out how it all pieces together tomorrow.

Turn Your Brightness Up!

#BeMagnificent🔆

Self Love in A Loveless World

Love is a process.

Make a conscious decision every day to wake up and love. There are no days off. There are days where you may not feel it. Some days are easy days. Some days are difficult. Every day you must love.

This includes yourself.

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Matthew 22:39

The catch is, you can’t love others like you love yourself if you don’t love yourself. But, how do you maintain yourself in a world that continuously wants to take from you?

Boundaries

After learning how to show love to yourself, you must learn how to set boundaries. Make a definite decision to be clear on your needs and wants to others. You can’t do that without the self-reflection that I mentioned Tuesday, but what does that look like with actual people? You have to

Know Yourself

There is a stark difference between being open to experiences and being open to being abused. There are new experiences that can help us grow and experiences that will take away from us. Know what things you are comfortable with and which help you grow. Also, know what things are hard on you and leave you emotionally & physically drained.

Listen to Yourself

If someone asks you to stay late at work, take on an extra assignment, or go out to an event you really have no desire to go to. Pause that moment and think about your initial reaction. Did you make the super uncomfortable face with the scrunched eyes and the uhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmm sound? Yeah, that’s you saying you don’t want to do it. Accept that and follow that desire.

Protect Yourself

This is the enforcement section. Have hours where you don’t answer your phone for work calls. Know when you have the energy for emotional labor and when you don’t. If something hurt your feelings, it’s okay to voice those things. To all of my givers out there, SAY NO!! You don’t have to do everything for everyone. No is a perfectly good answer and you don’t need to offer ANY explanation to do so. Honesty is also a perfectly good habit to build as you get older. They may not always like your answer but they will always respect it more than lying or avoiding it.

Surround Yourself

Surround yourself with loved ones. Specifically, people that care for your well-being. These are the people that will let you know if you are doing right AND wrong. They let you know when something is off and gladly share in moments with you, regardless of time.

We often want positive reinforcement and people that will make us feel good, but it is dangerous when that is all they do. If you can’t tell me that what I am doing is wrong, I might face an even worse consequence down the line and never know why.

Remind Yourself

Remember who you are. You are a child of God and worth love, joy, and peace. I will never say it will always be easy, but it is worth every second of learning yourself, embracing yourself, and loving yourself. Don’t let the world take that away from you.

What ways do you set boundaries for yourself? How do you protect your space and self? Let me know in the comments below.

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Turn Your Brightness Up!

#BeMagnificent🔆

Reborn Daily

Summer is a time for adventure. Summer is a break from the chaos of the more hectic months while being filled with spontaneity. You want to barbecue with friends? Go ahead. You want to take a day trip to the beach? Do it! Every day is a chance for something new. Summer is bottled sunshine and joy.

Except when it isn’t.

For the last few summers, I have felt a deep loneliness. A dark, suffocating cloud that tries to remind me of all the pain and failures in my life.

I’ve lost friends, relationships, and family members all around the same time each year. Summer seems to remind me that I am broke and alone, trying to make the best out of what I have.

Solitude magnifies whatever is there at the time.

I have a lot of friends that I love dearly but most of my friends have their own lives and so many things going on that I’d hate to distract them. My family always wants to see me, but my financial situation always gets in the way. Then, the darkness from my grandmother’s Homegoing sits on my chest, making it harder for me to move. I get stuck, in my supposed lack of everything.

That’s when I realized how much I needed to work on being okay with myself. I wanted people around to validate my existence. If a person chose me to talk to or spend time with, that means I have value to someone’s life. When people weren’t around or someone left me, I would take that as a sign of my unworthiness. I am not meant to have close friends. I am just going to be alone.

Solitude is a great teacher of reflection but if didn’t realize you walked into that class, on test day, it’s going to be rough.

I sat at home wondering, why do I need to talk to somebody right now? I had an urge to fill up the silence in my life, with something else. The more time I spent reflecting, the more I realized that I filled up my free time with parties, events, and people because being truly alone scared me. When you are alone, that’s when you are forced to keep yourself company.

I started to think about my desire for relationships and how I had options and people that wanted my time, but something indescribable kept me from being content. I truly enjoyed some of these people but deep down I would go through periods of disgust, not with them, but myself. I don’t want to talk today.

I desire close friends but I’m so tired of opening myself up and then getting hurt. 

When I started to connect with God, things slowly changed. I’d be happier for a longer period of time. I’d feel good waking up and going to sleep because I read my Bible or did a devotional. But eventually, that glow would fade.

As it faded, I was reminded I had to build myself up again. Refuel with the Word, and try it again. I had to constantly remind myself that I was worthy because when I didn’t, I would feel dead on the inside again.

Every day I feel somewhat dead.

Every day I have to revive myself with reminders of love and worth.

Every day a dark cloud tries to form.

Every day I push the darkness away with affirmations and prayer.

Every day I feel down.

Every day I feel a little stronger.

Everyday the enemy attacks.

Every day my God keeps me safe.

I’ve struggled so much with self-love because I was raised not knowing that my value is in my existence. I am loved because I am. People in my life come and go but that doesn’t change who I am. I am loved. If I am not loved by anybody else, not even myself, I am loved by God.

I am loved because of my existence. I exist because I am loved.

I remind myself of that every single day.

What have been some doubts and dark clouds that you’ve struggled with? How do you change your forecast? What brings light in your life? Please let me know in the comments below!

Turn Your Brightness Up!

#BeMagnificent🔆