EDIT ADDED 5TH OCTOBER 2018
Well in the two days it has been since I wrote this post, I have actually been able to spend some much needed time listening to the Spirit of God. And now I am in the position of offering a real apology, as this post was really not written from a good place. it was written from a place of lingering anger, frustration and resentment. This is not who I want to be, and this is not what I want to offer to the world. I’m so sorry for letting these things get the better of me – yet again!
I hope to spend some more serious time listening to God over the next few weeks and months. I hope that moving forward I will be able to offer you readers posts that are written out of a genuine and consistent spirit of grace, gentleness, and true humility.
God bless you all, Tosin 🙂
This post is in part an apology to readers, but in part an expression of defiance. I’m not feeling my most articulate today so please bear with me if I do not quite manage to express things as elegantly as I would like!
I wanted to explain my approach to humility on this blog. I feel as if I am always apologising for perhaps sounding arrogant and I wanted to explain a bit of the reasoning behind that, that is, why I might be sounding arrogant. Even as I explain this, I appreciate that the explanation itself might come across as being somewhat arrogant. However, that is definitely not the intention.
Candour versus humility:
In “Christian” circles, humility is widely encouraged, whereas pride, or arrogance, is frowned upon. Please believe me that I know this. Pride or arrogance for instance is talking about how amazing you are as a person, blowing your own trumpet, perhaps showing disdain for other people. Humility is in many ways the opposite of that, going to great lengths to show that you are not blowing your own trumpet, being careful to avoid saying anything that might sound as if you are praising yourself. Some people, in their zeal to demonstrate their humility, then go as far as to pull themselves down in ways that they know that they are excellent. They would say “Oh I’m not very good at….” when they are outstanding. And this is smiled upon in “Status Quo Christianity” as “humility” (that is, SQ Christianity is very demonstrably not truly authentic Biblical Christianity, but the powerless nonsense that parades itself endlessly, shouts loudly, acts as if it defines Christian understanding and successfully skews external – and internal understanding of Christianity by its loud and endless shouting). I think that this is false humility, because it completely misses the point. The insinutation behind this seems to be “Well if I was good at XYZ, then yes I would have every right to have a big head, but as it happens I am not!” (I’m rolling my eyes even as I write this!) But the point is that whether you are good at X or not, it is irrelevant. Everything we have comes from God. And He has given us all strengths and talents. We can truly take credit for nothing that we have, but should rather be grateful for what has been entrusted to us. We don’t even own our own lives.
But you know what? Here I’m the one missing the point because this is not really the post I wanted to write. I guess what I want to say in this post is that for this blog, I have chosen to embrace complete candour even where this might seem that I am contravening the accepted standards of “humility” or “modesty”. So for instance, where I am outstanding, I will say I am outstanding. This is really not the done thing. Especially on Christian blogs. Especially on Christian blogs of single women who are trying to demonstrate their Christian commitment and maturity for the sake of finding their Huggie-Wuggie!
Should I give you a few examples of “outstanding”? For instance, when it comes to my Christian commitment, I am utterly, utterly outstanding – by the grace of God – that is, relative to so many mediocre Christians I have had the unprivilege of interacting with. I have to concede that I have also met a few other Christians who are truly outstanding, and a lot more humble than I am. Ironically, right here on this very same post I will talk about how my relationship with God has really struggled of late. This is not an issue of months, but rather of years. I have felt so ungrounded. But still on balance, I am a Christian of great commitment. But it is truly by God’s grace. I have to pray so hard to remain committed. And guess what, when I don’t pray, I can’t be bothered! Everything I have is of God. But I ask God for a lot, and He gives it to me – except a husband so far! The Bible teaches us that even the desire to ask God to be grounded in Him – even that is of Him, so I cannot brag even of that.
Why this candour?
Firstly, I have completely rejected Status Quo Christianity, and most of the Status Quo Christians I have met. And their definition of humility is simply not humility. In many cases it is a front for insincerity and endless humblebragging.
Secondly it can be so difficult to sit around twisting a sentence in this way and that to try to come across as “humble” by the accepted standards. I decided a long time ago that I can’t be bothered with that. My posts are long enough as it is. I spend long enough as it is typing them out, then tweaking them, then finding typos, editing. So I will just say it as it is. To be fair and balanced, I also try to be candid about my failings.
Another aspect of Status Quo Christianity is this: that women (especially single women who are looking for a husband Tosin!) are expected to be meek and mild. Am I being unfair? So naturally I threw that thinking right out of the window! If I am “meek”, I hope it is fair to say that I am “meek” the way Jesus was “meek” when He walked the earth as a Man. Making whips of cords and throwing sellers out of the Temple springs to mind! I believe that Jesus is the model for Christian women as surely as He is for Christian men. If He “said it as it is” then so will I!
Furthermore, I am unapologetically a feminist. In fact, it is precisely because I am such an ambitious feminist that I am as committed to my faith as I am. Because there is no glass ceiling in God. NB, the Church is not God! I knew that in any other industry, even in the Church, because of my gender and my ethnicity I would be automatically kicked to the bottom of the pile, so a younger freshly graduated version of myself coolly chose God, that is God Himself, not His Church, as my “real” career! True story! I say I chose Him. It might be fairer to say that God chose me. Either way, the choice was made and while life has in many ways been quite difficult since that choice was made, I have not regretted my choice/being chosen for even a second! I believe that the Bible teaches that women are made in the image of God as surely as men are, and that God blessed women with phenomenal talents as surely as He blessed men. Furthermore I believe that God calls women to be powerful in Him as surely as He calls men. The Bible says that God is no respecter of persons. If God’s power is available for men, then God’s power is available for women, accessed by women in exactly the same way that men would access it: through intimacy with God, knowing Him, living His word.
So then, this is not the blog of a powerless honey. Rather this is the blog of someone who aspires to be powerful in the most powerful way there is: plugged directly into the power source that created the universe. You feel me?! And to communicate that, in certain ways I’ve got to say it as it is. When I tell you that I aspire to power in Christ, I have to spell it out so you can see I am not playing at Status Quo stuff. Yes I want to raise the dead. This is a challenge that was issued to me at university, which was quite a few years ago now. And I resolved there and then that I am going to raise the dead. I’m not there yet. I am not even remotely there yet. But by the grace of God, it will happen, in this lifetime. Otherwise, I might need to be raised back myself to achieve this determination!
I’m not even going to be “humble” in deflecting all power, as in: “No Lord, please let it go to someone else!” No, Lord, I want it all! Every last drop! And the wisdom to handle it. Remember, you can equally have as much power in Christ as you want. We can all be as powerful as we want in Christ, as He will allow us to be, at the same time, because He is that big! What I mean is that the fact that I take absolutely everything I can does not in any way diminish the share that is available for you, or anyone else! If you don’t want your own share of God’s power – shrug! That is your decision! As for me, I am taking everything that God will give me!
Black? Dark Brown?
Another big part of the issue is this: as a
Black woman whose skin colour is dark brown, I feel as if I am consistently misrepresented in the media and pervasive culture every single day. It feels as if the message consistently bashed out in various unsophisticated ways is that Black dark brown-skinned people are inherently inferior at everything involving character, competence, intellect, skill and judgement, except perhaps athletic prowess and singing and dancing. So by being candid about my own strengths on this blog and all my other blogs, I hope to help recalibrate that very wrong thinking at least in a very small way. In any way whatsoever that I would automatically be cast as inferior I am definitely not inferior. Candidly, in many of these same areas I am world-class, and that is simply being candid. (And ironically I am also quite a strong athlete, or at least I was in my younger days. Yep, even almost world class! Or at least that is what my PE teacher at Secondary School told me!) And I am not an anomaly amongst Black dark-skinned women, by any means. Actually, in my life in the outside world I often feel I have to tone down who I am, and literally simplify the way I speak, to stop other people from being intimidated by me.
This blog is where I get to be who I am, use language in a way that is natural to me and talk candidly about my ambitions etc. This really is going to sound awful, but part of me feels like saying “If you are going to feel intimidated, then go ahead and feel intimidated.”* Those words are written with an exasperation that comes from feeling that you constantly have to be making yourself smaller to make other people feel comfortable. I would say I am just a regular Nigerian woman, and as a rule, we very much have brains, we are very brilliant and we are very ambitious. Perhaps no other
Black brown-skinned woman is going to tell you this, so let me have that privilege. Or perhaps other women who look like me are waiting for you to look around, and notice of your own accord that suddenly everywhere you look, Black, brown-skinned African and specifically Nigerian women seem to be rising to prominence, and this despite the countless obstacles of racism and sexism that seem to litter their path in every direction….
Another thing is that dark-skinned, African, Nigerian women like me tend to be highly educated. I don’t want to equate “brilliance” with education because I know that there are many of my sisters who may not have had an opportunity to have gone to school even a single day, who are nonetheless brilliant. However, many of us are educated. Yes, I have a degree, but in terms of education I am definitely at the lower end of the spectrum compared to many people I know, of my own generation and that of my parents: PhDs, Post-Docs, Doctors of this, doctors of that! Professors of this! Professors of that! Engineers – mechanical, chemical. Countless Computer Scientists. And yes, these are women! In fact, women of West African, specifically Nigerian heritage are the single demographic who are most likely to have a university degree or higher education here in the UK. If you find that hard to believe, then it gets even more amazing: unbelievably this is true not only in the UK but also in the US!** And this has been true for years! And yet, you would not guess this from looking at the media, and its portrayal of African women or Africans, or dark-brown-skinned people in general, would you? I almost fainted when recently in a newspaper they were talking about a doctor in Sudan and they actually had a photograph of a very, very dark-skinned, almost literally Black-skinned man wearing a doctor’s uniform in Africa! Also you know this recent controversy about “Black” and other “BAME” doctors and consultants being paid less than their “White” counterparts in the NHS? That is one of the first acknowledgements I have ever seen in the media after living in this country for decades, that there actually are “Black” doctors working in the NHS – even though I personally know so many such doctors.
So that is another aspect, but still quite an important aspect. That is one of the reasons why I am going to say it as it is: because someone needs to shout the corner of talented and ambitious dark-skinned women and frankly tell the world what we are truly made of, and what we aspire to.
With all that said, obviously I still need to be humble though. I want to say it as it is to talk about the power of God, and how powerful He makes me, and also to portray an honest view about being a real person, struggling with real things. I want and I need to be humble because God calls us to be humble, even if the Status Quo Christians are doing it the wrong way. Yes, I have huge potentials in Christ, and I like those potentials, and I like talking about them, but I need to make it clear that it is all from God, and all the credit must go to Him. In every way, God Himself, rather than the ambitions I have in Him, must remain the centre of my thoughts.
At the best of times, this is a really delicate balance to navigate. However, there have certainly been times when I have felt that I have struck the right balance. What complicates this issue at the moment is that I have really been struggling in my relationship with God, to make time to pray. I have written in another blog post on my Bible blog that: “Humility is listening to the Spirit of God” which I believe is sincerely the most accurate definition of humility. It is not about putting yourself down or trying to seem modest. That is still making it all about you. Rather it is putting God first in your thinking by actively listening to what He says. Well because my prayer life has been struggling I have not been listening to the Spirit of God and so I lack that sensitivity that greater intimacy with Him would give me, and has given me in the past. What I feel like is one of those people who has their headphones on and does not realise how loud their voice is to other people. However, by the grace of God I am working on it. So hopefully, not too long from now, this blog will consistently represent big power, but even bigger humility, all in service to the biggest God you could never imagine!
*Actually no, let me phrase it this way: “Please understand that you too were created with phenomenal potentials. So instead of being intimidated please pull up a chair and start thinking what huge dreams you too will pursue, and what level of intimacy with God you will need to pursue your own huge dreams.” You see, this is the perennial problem with the Christian Gospel, which is the same problem today as it has been since Jesus walked on the earth: it gives very little people, even women, even “Black” women, very big ideas which are completely above their station in life! Which is probably one reason why the “Status Quo Christians are always so quick to step in, to make sure that the power structures – and strictures – that exist in the Church look exactly like the power structures that exist everywhere else!
**I need to find links to justify this…
I also need to put relevant Bible verses…:)