Two days ago, I received bad news. My story did not make the list. I am not a stranger to rejections or sending in submissions that go unanswered, but this one really, really stung. You know that pain when you stub your little toe on the edge of your bed or on the door sill? Yeah, that's how it felt.
I had been waiting for months (months!) to hear the result of the competition. And y'all, I had put in so much work into my entry: reading and re-reading, staying up late to make sure I met the deadline, to make sure that I was putting my best foot forward. This was, literally and figuratively, my best. Yet it was not good enough. I did not even make the list of "notable contenders."
As soon as I saw that my name was not on the list, the Holy Spirit went straight into Comfort Mode.
"The Lord has a plan," He whispered. "Everything works out together for your good," He assured me. "I'm right here, Ronke. Right here."
I was hearing it all, but it wasn't sticking. My mind was already in overdrive. Doubt, fear and insecurity fell over me like a wet, heavy blanket.
"Maybe this writing thing is not for me," I reasoned.
My brain latched onto that thought, the devil fanning the flames. I thought about my recent writer's block on a book I am working on. I thought about the mediocre performance of my self-published book. And then I took it to another level, one we are all familiar with: comparing.
I compared myself to Chimamanda (laughable really, as if we are even remotely on the same level). Then, I thought of Tomi Adeyemi and her huge success with the Children of Blood and Bone series.
The Lord did not let up, though. He kept reminding me that He was there, that He was still God, that He had a plan, that I should trust Him to always be on my side. I heard it all, but it was hard to listen, even harder to trust when the list before me said otherwise.
An hour or two later, I had calmed down, but only a little. I didn't feel it, but years of sermons and Sunday school taught me to say, "I don't understand, Lord, but thank You that it happened."
My heart, though, was screaming: "I feel like a failure."
As I always do when I am feeling too much, I picked up my laptop to write.
However, for the first time in a really long time, my fingers hovered over the keyboard in doubt, fear, and anxiety.
"What's the point?" I thought to myself, "It's not like it's good enough to be published anyway. My writing is rubbish."
Just then, at the exact right time, the Lord retorted, "Those are My words you are talking about. It's not rubbish."
It was exactly what I needed to hear. It's true my story was rejected, yet I am not a failure because I have a gift inside me.
These words in my head, these words I write are a gift - a talent - from the Word Himself and they will "achieve the purpose for which He sent it." (Isaiah 55:11)
So, dear reader, you're not a failure. Whatever your talents are, they came from God. And because God doesn't fail, you are not a failure. What you have inside of you, Who you have inside of you, is strong and real and greater than what people say (1 John 4:4). And I promise, you will succeed.
Just keep trusting and listening, even when you don't understand.
It was that time of the year when the semester is winding down to a close and students don't go to campus unless there is a final exam or an emergency, or an emergency final exam.
I was only going to submit grades to the professor I was working with at the time, so I kinda, sorta, looked like crap. Okay, let me clarify: I was in an old pair of jean shorts and my favorite worn-out T-shirt (see picture above). I was going for comfy over cute, okay?
Anyway, I finished my errand at school and headed back home to continue obsessing over my final papers. I had just gotten off my highway exit when I realized my car needed gas. Like the need-to-do-it-now-or-else-I-will-obsess-about-it person that I am, I dutifully turned into the gas station.
As soon as I got to the pump and climbed out of my car, he was the first thing I saw. He had a white luxury sedan (I have always been a sucker for white cars).
His car was parked at the pump in front of me, facing my car. And I immediately thought to myself: He's cute. Too bad he's already married or taken.
I didn't see a ring on his hand. Heck, I didn't even see his hand, but in my experience, guys that looked like him were decidedly not on the market. So, I decided to mind my business: I slid my card into the point of sale and lifted the fuel nozzle from the pump.
Out of "curiosity," I snuck a glance at his general direction and he was looking right at me.
Y'all. Y'all, y'all, my heart thudded. Honestly, it felt like my heart slammed against my rib cage for a second. I quickly put the nozzle in my fuel tank and ran back inside my car because I'm a coward.
I sat there for a full ten seconds, my eyes lowered because I'm a coward. I finally dared to look up and he seemed to be cleaning his car? Maybe I'm just conceited, but it seemed to me like he was finding reasons to stay at the gas station.
The next time I looked up, he was looking at me again and I smiled (If I was too much of a coward to walk up to him, the least I could do was to encourage him). But honestly, I don't know if it looked like an encouraging smile. Dude, I could barely feel my face by this point.
Just then, the fuel nozzle notified me that my tank was full, so I came out of my car to replace the nozzle. Just as I was about to get into the driver's seat and drive away, he said "hey," and began to walk over.
If I could scream in that moment without him or anyone else hearing, I would have. In that moment, I was dying. I was alive. I was sweating, but I was also shivering.
He asked me my name; I said "Ronke." I think he asked me to repeat it, but he didn't do that weird thing with his face that white people do when they hear a name that they can't pronounce.
I think we had a little banter about the city where we live or something, but I'm not sure. I was too busy trying to remember if I used deodorant that morning. I wasn't wearing makeup, but "please," I mentally begged myself, "tell me you at least used body spray."
What I do remember, though, was that he said I was cute and that he would like my number. Of course I gave it to him, I'm not stupid. Then he went in for a hug and I froze for a millisecond:
What if I smelled of sweat? Florida humidity don't play.
I still hugged him though. A few seconds later, he walked back to his car and it was over. I put my car in Drive and sped out of the gas station. As soon as I was sure he couldn't see me, I let out the squeal I had been holding back the entire time.
I immediately called my sister and two of my closest girlfriends. I kept screaming the entire time: "I just had my first meetcute!"
I'm sure they were annoyed by my squealing, but it's not every day that a girl meets a cute guy at a gas station. It's not every day that a girl who kinda, sorta, looks like crap has a cute guy tell her that she is cute.
Plus he saw my T-shirt read, "TEAM JESUS," so there was no need to wonder if he loved the Lord. He wouldn't have walked up to me if he wasn't also on Team Jesus, right?
We need to learn to talk about things.
As much as we wish it, the world doesn't stop at the church doors.
Worldly, horrible acts seep into the crevices of the church: from incest to rape to sexual assault to embezzlement to domestic violence.
And yes, even racism and prejudice.
We've become so concerned with not offending people that we don't even wonder if we are offending the Lord as a result.
Seriously, we've gotten so good at not talking about it.
Yet, just because your church sponsors missions to black and brown countries doesn't exempt you from these conversations.
Just because you love the Lord does not mean that you are not prejudiced. Neither does it mean you have not unwittingly hurt someone with your privilege.
David loved the Lord, yet he murdered a man and stole his wife.
Y'all, we are supposed to be better than this. We are supposed to be the light of the world.
We should be at the forefront of the fight of all things darkness: racism, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault, and so on.
Instead, for far too long, we have hidden the sins in the church, posturing ourselves as perfect while our light grows dimmer and dimmer.
But no more.
We have an opportunity here. We have a chance to do better.
To make Jesus proud. To do what He would.
To talk with those hurt by the unspoken racism and prejudice of the world.
To repent of our own prejudices.
And to heal together with the love that Jesus died to prove.
Y'all, we have a choice. To make black lives matter. The way the Lord created them to.
Quick note: RAD playlist content changes every week.