Let No One Despise Your Devotion

Let No One Despise Your Devotion

Your devotion is like your story; no one can define it better than you. It is like your shoes; no one else knows how it truly feels.

Let me tell you my funny exercise story from a few days back. 👩🏾 I have been wearing my smartwatch almost everyday since last year as my personal commitment to physical wellness. With the restrictions imposed on everyone due to the pandemic, I am happy that it can tell me how many hours I stood up or moved about, and how many calories I had expended daily. On my most active days, I am very happy to see the rings close.

Unfortunately, on this blessed day last week or so, I woke up with a sparkling 💡 idea. Why don’t I set even higher daily exercise targets?

So, I did a quick google search: How many calories should a young woman burn daily, on the average? 🤔

Now, Google was kind. 😊 One of the pages I opened asked me for clarification; “Is this woman in question an active person or more sedentary sort of?” (Folks, I work an office job. From home. Do the math.) 

Ever the optimist, I chose a new target that was greater than the amount mentioned for not-so-active ladies but less than the amount for very-active ladies. Fair, ain’t it? 🤷🏽‍♀️

Alas, it was a whooping 1500+ calories from my former daily target! 😁

That day, I stayed active! I moved forward, backward, left, right, up and down. In the evening, I hopped on a treadmill and covered more laps than I had done in weeks… After it all, I checked my rings…

Ladies and gentlemen, it was as if the red ring did not budge. The other 2 rings almost closed, but this one was very very far from closing. 🤣🤣🤣

Did I do more exercise on that day? Yes. Was the progress all that obvious from my watch? Sadly, no!

There are seasons in our lives when our progress will be evident to all. There are other seasons when it would seem as though we are in a backstage.

No matter what phase I am in, I am learning NOT to despise my efforts.

No matter what phase I am in, I am learning NOT to despise my efforts. I am also determined not to let anyone despise my efforts, at least within my hearing. They can talk all they want behind my back. But if someone says something in my presence, I immediately set the records right, lest their words somehow enter my gateway and influence the way that I perceive my journey.

Devotion is anything and everything that a person does consistently in order to cultivate and maintain a relationship with God. 

Peradventure, you are in a season when your time is so demanding; like when your daily commute to work takes so long that you get to leave the house at the crack of dawn and you have resorted to reading your Bible and praying in the bus; or you are caring for a sick relative around the clock and all you can do is plug your ears and listen to audio bible passages; or you are a mom with a handful of little humans needing your attention all day long so that you are mostly on your feet and the best you can do is stick bible verses on your refrigerator, your washroom mirror and everywhere else you might bump into during the day! (this last one I heard from Priscilla Shirer as her experience some years back).

What do you think matters more to God? The fact that we mark off some arbitrary standard (like closing out self-imposed rings of time and volume) or the fact that we are consistently making efforts to reach Him?

If you know anything about God’s love, you will agree with me that it is definitely the latter. That is why the Bible says that we should draw near to God and He would in turn draw near to us. (James 4:8) I dare say that when we stretch our hands towards Him, He closes the gap and pulls us into His awesome presence.

So daily, we fight the devil’s lies, we silence the guilt of not being able to spend as many hours as we would love to; and we just reach into God. 

We just sing a love-song to Him as we wake up, and we thank Him for every good thing He has blessed us with. We chew on some bible verse. We set reminders at different times to interrupt our day and lead us into His presence again even if for just a few minutes. We paste verses in our phone Notepads and our PC wallpapers. We subscribe to uplifting channels and we play gospel songs from our devices. We do everything to keep the connection with God intact in this busy and fast-paced world. 

We enjoy God on the days we get 15 minutes as well as the days we get 120 minutes.

Because really, it is our personal relationship with Him; our tête-à-tête; our rendezvous with the Lord.

He loves it. We love it. We meet with Him. We enjoy Him.

Therefore, if we should not worry about the turns that our daily devotions may take, the only thing that really bothers me is that I do not want to lose the fascination and the pleasure of going into God’s presence everyday.

I do not want to not-go. I do not want to not-want-to-go.

So, I pray, “May I never lose the wonder… Keep me interested. Draw me in. I want a deep and stayed hunger for Your presence, your Word and prayer. Help me to always come in. Every day. And to meet with You. Because You matter the most. You are my every reason. Dear Lord, help me to come in daily.” 🙏🏽

Closing exercise rings does have some value, devoting to meeting with God daily is valuable in every way!

The Marriage Requirements List

The Marriage Requirements List

“Hey Simi, what qualities would you have on your marriage requirements checklist?”

“My what now?” My BFF coughs, sputtering her drink.

I give her a pointed look.

“Wow Ticg, for someone who is mostly reticent, you sure know how to dig out really deep conversations.”

One corner of my lips lifts in a small smile. 🙂

Everyone calls me “Tris” as a short-form for Beatrice while my twin brother Bitrus was dubbed “Truce” by his rather obnoxious friends. 🤨 But somewhere along our very unlikely friendship journey, my best friend decided that I should go by “Ticg“(which she pronounces somewhat like “Tick” by the way) as an acronym for That-Introvert-Christian-Girl. Of course, everyone else kindly refused to adopt that nickname for me, but she stubbornly continues to call me that. So now, it’s kind of our thing. Not that I mind the name anyway; it is everything that I am – I am a christian, I am very introverted and I am a girl. 🤷🏽‍♀️

“Fine! I will humour you.” says Simi.

I notice that the room has gone quiet and that Bitrus, Chuks and Judith are now listening to us. Simi does a slight hair fling, immensely enjoying the attention before proceeding. “In order of importance, I would like to marry a guy who is God fearing, visionary, TDH, richhhhh and romantic, as in veryyy caring and understanding.”

“TDH?” snickers Chuks.

“Tall, Dark and Handsome” Judith provides.

“Oh, cool. This is getting interesting. 😀 Why don’t you go next, Twinnie?” Bitrus says to me.

I count with my fingers as I think aloud about my expectations;

“My must-haves… The guy must be born again. Spirit filled, He must have good character; it’s very important to me that I see him actually bearing the fruit of the Spirit, being loving, patient with others, kind and at the same time in control of himself…” I pause, “He must have a serious job or business, or at least be willing and ready to work. He must have the same values as I. He must have respect for everyone – he must not be abusive of others but must treat the weak, women, children and poor people with respect.”

I suddenly realize that I have held everyone’s attention for a few minutes so I grow self-conscious and smile sheepishly, apologizing.

“Sorry guys, I got into my head for a while there.” 🤦🏽‍♀️ 😁

“No, actually that was really good, Tris” Chuks encourages.

The others concur and Simi squeezes my hand affectionately, “Now you make me sound so superficial” she whispers so that only me can hear and I pat her hand to reassure her, “Of course not, Simz. You are one of the deepest people I know.”

“What are your nice-to haves, Beatrice?” Judith urges me on with a quiet, contemplative tone.

“Umm… It would be nice if my man plays an instrument, sings, paints or something” I confide shyly.“Oh, I would love it if he teaches the Word.”

Everyone breaks into a grin and Bitrus gives Chuks a high-five. I do not know what that is about.

“Finally, maybe he could have a nice British accent, have a healthy sense of humour and know how to cook.”

“Preach it sisturr! I like me a brother who can whip together some real meal for his pregnant wife! Simi practically yells.

If you haven’t figured that out, Simi can be extra but I love her just the way she is. We are almost polar opposites. One of us loves being expressive and in the spotlight; the other is rather reserved and mostly observant but we understand each other just as well.

“Pregnant! How did this discussion drift to that direction so quickly?” Chuks shakes his head and we all laugh heartily. Simi and Chuks are usually the life of the party. 

When our laughter dies down, Chuks offers, “I can share now.” 

“Here are my deal-makers. She must be born again, Spirit-filled and must have good character, especially respect and kindness.”

“Only 3 must-haves?” Judith’s question echoes my own surprise.

“You have no idea how hard it is to find those seemingly common qualities altogether in just one person.”

We all take a moment to reflect on Chuks’ statement. 🤔🤔

It is true that Chuks tends to put up a jovial-boy persona but anyone who knows him well knows his deep and unwavering Christian conviction. Chuks and Bitrus are leaders of our youth fellowship.

“Sadly, most people these days chase ephemeral goals and temporary fills. People are addicted, anxious and easily distracted, with only skin-deep beauty or a given number of pack abs. Yet, we lack true compassion and selflessness.” 🙁

He lets out a long sigh and lightly scratches his beard. “Anyway, I have hope. By the consistent work devoted by my buddy Truce,” he slaps Bitrus’ shoulder loudly, “and by reason of these kinds of meaningful conversations, I think better days are just ahead.”

“Amen!” “PreachIt!” “Yeap!” Everyone around the room nod their agreement. 

After a beat, Simi says, “What about your nice-to haves? After you’ve had your say, Judith will share hers and we will end with Truce.”

Chuks responds enthusiastically, “Let’s see… An intelligent woman! Neat – no mouth and body odour. Hardworking. It would be cool if she has long and beautiful hair. 👩🏾 BUT I won’t hold it against anyone who doesn’t, because well, she isn’t her own creator now, is she?”

I love my friends. And I love this space right here. I love that it is a safe space and that we can each express opinions or preferences without judgement. 💜💜

We all turn to Judith as it is her turn.

“What?? 🙄 You guys know that I am never getting married. I’ve told you that like a million times before.” Judith snaps at us. Then she seems to notice our sad eyes and backtracks, “However, if I decide to go hypothetical, my singular dealmaker for a marriage relationship would be integrity.” 😐

Her voice breaks at the end of the sentence as she sniffs and Simi walks across the room and to give her a warm hug. 👐🏽

Having all grown up together, we witnessed how Judith had to deal with having an absentee father most of her childhood. Her father provided Judith and her mom with the finer things in life including a large mansion in our town and a few sleek cars but sadly, he never lived with them. There were ugly rumours about his other family in the big city. To makes things worse, during her teenage years when Judith and her mom had grown to become a part of the church family here, they learned that her dad had been arrested for insider-trading and had been sentenced to prison. The news shattered them, to say the least. They lost most of their possession after her dad was convicted but thanks to her mom’s hard work and our loving community, they sure have come a long way. Judith did not attend school for a whole term hiding away at home. When she finally resumed, she became this resentful and bitter girl. She still tags along to church and hangs out with us but she told us categorically that she had lost her faith in God’s goodness. We do our best to be just the friends she needs and whenever she starts a conversation, we respond as best we can.

I watch her now as she sniffs again, subtly wiping her eyes and sipping her drink. I smile at her to say, “I understand. It’s going to get better. You are much stronger for it” and she nods in acknowledgement.

Everyone turns to Bitrus to tell us about his marriage requirements list but I peek at Judith for a couple more seconds because I saw something else that others probably missed.

You see, that is one of the perks of being a conscious introvert like myself. There is an adage that goes thus, “The raving eyes see the roaming legs.” In my quietness, I tend to perceive more about my environment than is evidently visible, but I have learned to keep such perceptions hidden within my heart while I bid time like Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus. 

Because I can almost bet you that in those seconds while Judith tells us about her hypothetical, singular dealmaker, she held my brother’s gaze with hope in her eyes.

I am not saying anything 😜 but if you ask me, perhaps MrTruce will be receiving a heavenly vision soon. Perhaps our friend will not stay single forever. 😍 Hopefully, God would heal her heart and join her heart with one of his son’s. 🙏🏽

Never say never, unless God says so!

ExcellerBlog

Bitrus clears his throat, “It’s my turn now, isn’t it?”

“Uh-huh,” Simi responds.

“Heads-up folks! firstly, I have a rather long list.” 😬

“Bring it on!” 💪🏽 Chuks says, good naturedly.

My twin pushes his spectacles further up his nose and starts rattling off with a smile.

“The woman I am trusting God to marry must be a child of God – born again. She must be a committed worker in church. I want someone with whom I can do God’s work like evangelism and mission visits. You know, someone who is interested in fruitful works. She must be reasonably intelligent – basic IQ level. She must be moderately fashion-conscious. She must be generous, even when she has just a little.”

“That’s a really tall list, Truce.” Simi points out.

“I know… 😩😩” Bitrus groans, pinching his nose again, “Which is why I need God to either break any idol that I have in my mind, or go back into His factory if such a human is nonexistent yet.” 🤦🏾‍♂️

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 19:21

 “I don’t think that those requirements are unrealistic or impossible.” Judith says meditatively, surprising us all. 😮😲

“Yea?” I ask.

“I mean, isn’t Truce’s favourite Bible quote, “All things that pertain to life and godliness?”

Now we are staring at her like she grew three heads overnight. 😮😲😱

“So, if God feels you need someone with those qualities for doing all He planned for your life, I bet He has already thought to provide it.” Judith finishes.

“Wow! If it isn’t from the mouth of babes and sucklings.” Before Chuks can complete the statement, Judith flings a throw-pillow squarely at his chest and he doubles over laughing hysterically. 😆😆

Bitrus jumps in to complete his part, “My good-to-haves! Equally juicy, I really hope for a curvy woman.”

“Carnal!” Chuks says under his breath but loud enough to be heard. We all laugh at Bitrus’ expense.

“What? Not all of us were designed to prefer beauty model figures like you do.” My twin brother defends his choice. Simi catches me rolling my eyes and punches my arm. 😃

Bitrus continues, “Now where was I? Nicely shaped and preferably dark-skinned. And I will like a spouse who is homely and caring. That’s it from me.” 

“So, a true African beauty.” Chuks concludes.

“Yea, man. That’s exactly it.” They do their signature fist-bump. 👊🏽

“What I am hearing from all of us is that basically, we mostly want a professing, practicing and spiritual Christian.”  Simi says thoughtfully. “Because, a practicing Christian would be respectful of others,” she points at Chuks and me, “They would have integrity,” she looks at Judith. “A spiritual Christian would have a heart for kingdom work, be generous and kind,” she briefly faces Bitrus, “and they would be mindful of the divine vision planted in their hearts by God.” Simi finishes pointing at herself.

“Basically, yea.” Chuks acquiesces.

“Hmm… I have another question.” I drawl.

“Not again, Ticg. You started all this in the first place. Now, I’m hungry. What wants pizza?” 

I know LORD, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course.

Jeremiah 10:23

Nota Bene: Thanks to Amaka, Brighto, Trisha, Oma, Mercy and Chiomy for sharing their marriage dealbreakers and dealmakers with me. With their permission, I have cooked those up in creating the above story about my favourite fictional characters, Ticg and her friends. I hope that this article blesses you so much, because their personal values are a great inspiration! ❤️