A Time to Die!
You can go ahead and release the tension in your chest, as this is not a piece where I'm focused on last wills and testaments. Well, I suppose it'll depend on which lens you view the information through.
Honestly, before we can even get to whether one hears, "Well done or depart from me, I never knew you," we'll have experienced several other instances that might feel worse than death. But like death, these situations may be sudden, or at other times you may battle the proverbial death bed to-do. Either way, rest assured, it's always only a matter of when.
To die (not by Webster's description) signifies time has expired or that 'a thing' has met its expected end. Basically, if you've ever had to grieve anything, you've probably had a brush with death.
I'm sure you can think of a laundry list of things you've experienced that have ended, whether by chance or premeditated. This process, of course, looks different for most of us. For some, it's a process of pruning, where you may lose friends, family or things you hold dear. For others, it's more personal, whereas their health declines or a wee error in judgement places them in an "Oh, how the mighty have fallen!" category.
For me, I've had many symbolic burials. There's been dearly departed relationships, possessions, and at a few junctures, even my reputation. But I want to hone in on the versions of me that, even now, when reawoken, I have to drag back to its final resting place—rather forcefully. Thankfully that ordeal is not nearly as frequent. 'Cause at one point, I swore I was a cat. #ninelives #purrr I mean, those less desirable characteristics were relentless.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I liked the older versions of myself. It was where I was comfortable—messy and all, I functioned (or so I thought) in the organized chaos that was me.
Most people may opine that shifting through all those variations of myself was giving unstable. But in the grand scheme of things, experiencing myself in all those forms clarifies the notion of "I once was blind, but now I see!" #lookwhereGodhasbroughtus
One of my more memorable moments of 'dying to self' began in 2007. I'd left the comforts of my sunny clime for the dreary west coast at a healthy 210lbs. Only to return two years later at a noticeable 145lbs. I'm sure you're thinking, "Ah, sis, I don't see a problem." Yeah, I hear you, but the thing is, all I ever knew was chunky. All I'd ever seen looking back at me was rosy cheeks, no clavicle in sight, and I walked to the soundtrack of 'swish, swish, swish.' #maincharacterenergy
I had mastered dressing that body. I knew how to pick my size from a rack with consistent accuracy, never having to try on a thing. I knew the exact bandwidth of that body and how it functioned in any setting. It was like going from a full-body SUV to riding in a Fiat (small compact car). The math for me was no longer mathing.
Still, when I looked back at old photos, I hadn't, until that juncture, realized how round I was—in all the wrong places. And on several occasions, I grumbled how no one cued me in on the abundant circumference of my anatomy. #pleasantlyplumpmyfoot
While everyone was raving about the weight loss and asking for the secret sauce, the scary truth is, I was now lost. 'Fluffy Raquel’ was familiar and safe. It was the adjective used to identify me. "Man, you know Raquel—the heavyset one!" I felt more confident since I'd wrapped my mind around 'pudgy' being the genetic profile God Himself had willed for me. #coolbeans
I knew how to defend that girl against the snickers. No one could rattle her with their snide remarks. Double chin and all, I perfected how to accentuate the positive and work it to my benefit. But this new size 6 was the smallest I'd been for most of my life, and it threw me for a loop. So, while I'd smile and nod politely at the backhanded compliments, deep in the recesses of my soul, I felt out of place.
I've heard scores of people who've had drastic weight loss success talk about how good they felt afterward—this was not my testimony, and until now, I've never said any of this out loud. To be clear, I didn't embark on a weight loss journey; it was a by-product of a change in environment and unintended adjustment in daily habits. It was as simple as eating less and moving more. #thecollegestruggle #iykyk
Fast-forward a few short years; an already small frame got smaller, and the once self-sufficient leading lady grew weaker. Not only was I feeling uneasy in this new skin, but now the awkwardness was hidden in plain sight.
It was gradual, but it happened; I died all over again. Like a Rose Bowl Parade, my most distressing flaw went on display. A defect that I couldn't so easily conceal with make-up and bright hair dye or tuck behind a fake smile. There was no deflecting from this with matching shoes and purses. It felt like I was forced into being vulnerable in front of people who weren't necessarily 'my people.'
I'll tell ya; it was quite an experience watching the workplace go from cordial to cruel, as the blatant disregard for my feelings seemed never to be a forethought. In my need for deliberate avoidance, I retreated to a corner at the back of the room, where the once confident, bubbly girl died just a little bit more.
Post diagnosis, after many prescriptions filled, followed by much prayer and supplication, I began to look but not necessarily feel better. Most days, I was so heavily medicated that I doubt I could feel my feelings, even if I wanted to. Medication, which by the way, caused me to now regain all the weight I'd lost and then some. #cantwinforlosing
At this point, I packed on the pounds like a piece of Bahamian luggage returning home from Miami. And to my misfortune, it did nothing but bring about new speculations. (sigh) Just when I thought I was on the road back to life, these unfounded rumours meant I died a little bit more—again.
Though I have died a few more times since then, I'll stop here to show why those moments were necessary, though lonely and painful. Those seasons of what I deemed my lowest shifted my character and gave me a missing building block of morality—empathy. The truth is, I was one of those people who didn't pay attention, but really, I didn't care to either. Seeing people at their point of need was for the missionaries, not me. My only mission was serving looks.
Listen, as long as my haircut was slain to the pixie gods, my wardrobe colour palette was popping, and I could have people fawning over my statement neckpieces, all was well with the world, and I was good.
Between being careless with my words or oblivious to how my undertones of sarcasm and unsolicited opinions may have affected anyone, I had created this unspoken superiority that I hadn't earned nor was I entitled to. #emotionaldamage
But then came the moments when I had no hair to mould to perfection and my hands unable to define my brows; it created something I'd never regarded before—time! I now had time—time to evaluate, time to think before I spoke, but mainly time to observe. I, Raquel, for the first time in my life, noticed something I'd effortlessly overlooked. I saw people.
As life caused me to move in slow motion, I could see things more clearly—like who was missing and when. Which prompted me to send little notes like, "Hey, I missed you at church today." Or, "I see you're not at work yet—is everything okay?" I was shooketh that something so small, which caused me zero dollars, made such an impact. I realized there are scores of people walking through life, feeling unseen. My heart sunk—exactly how self-absorbed was I never to take notice of all the wounded souls around me? Yet I was out here purporting to be Christ-like. #imposter
As I continued to observe, it was only natural to also listen. To my surprise, folks were taken aback when I would inquire about something they'd long since mentioned. The response was the same every time, (insert gasp) "OMG, you remembered that!?"
While unable to move at the pace of a New York minute, I became stationary longer. Long enough to have meaningful conversations with persons I would have not otherwise rated. Ironically, it was through those interactions that I forged friendships that I now realize were needed for my journey.
Dying to what I deem gross self-involvement made me appreciate why God's ideal of two should be the rule and not the exception. It made me see that servitude is nothing to turn up my nose at, but it is something so sacred that I should constantly aspire to.
Don't get me wrong; pity parties were on my rooster in heavy rotation. But during many of those 'ah-ha moments' when I was receptive enough to hear Him, God reminded me of a hard pill to swallow, "It's not about Me!" Crazy right? How could my life NOT be about me? #makeitmakesenseskydaddy
Like me, people walk around daily, adorned in all the bells and whistles; but guess what? They still feel invisible. How incredibly sad is that? Yet, we, the supposed "called," are so far up our own caboose we miss the things we should be able to discern.
We see these dynamics play out in the life of folks like David. A man who was overtly disregarded but still catapulted into greatness. Yet regardless of his many flaws, we get some of our most trusted, tried and true Psalms. The vast majority being written from his place of tragedy and sometimes his pit of self-imposed karma. And it's those ones we quote as if our personal pledge of allegiance. David's process of dying didn't kill him, but he's an example of how God uses every aspect of our lives for His Glory.
Seriously, could you imagine not having Pslam 23? Which, by the way, was written from a sheep's perspective. #mindblown How could he articulate that had he not remained a Shepard, even after being anointed, King? How could He know that God is a protector if the one he fought to defend didn't try to kill him? #saulyasalty
What reassurance we find in Psalm 91 when at our lowest. "Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling." (see Psalm 91:9-10 KJV) #thatcouldpreach
Let's be honest, who was more prolific and accurate than David in penning how we feel while in despair but simultaneously giving us hope that no matter how dark the night, God will deliver and He will restore? Are you selfless enough to be anyone's, David?
David's life is a classic blueprint of rags to riches, pit to palace, and an unmatched balance of ratchet and righteous. David went through then, so today, you and I can have an entire book of prayers that give us the right words to pray whether we want to express our adoration or go into full-on war and everything in between.
In those moments that I was dying, I didn't want to, but it was time—time to be rid of the person that was incapable of understanding the assignment. In order to become who I am today, I had to put an end to mindsets that did not allow me to see the big picture. Yet I needed those experiences to serve as a compass that would always lead me back to God.
I can finally appreciate why folks advise you not to desire platforms where your character can't sustain you. And why it is paramount that you prepare for that which you are praying. But in case no one has ever told you, preparation isn't pretty.
I've learned through my encounters that dying is not optional. As Solomon denotes, there is a time for it. Time, which by the way, you do not control. I know we want to drink water and mind our business, but if you love the Lord, then people are your business.
Secretly, we all wish people would treat us like humans, which I have since discovered is less important than actually being a decent human. For me, that premise highlights this harsh reality, 'no one cares until something drastic happens.' This begs the question, "Do you serve as someone's contingency plan rather than their preventative care?"
Regardless of whether you acknowledge it or not, death is inevitable. It's like Liam Nesson in Taken; it has skills and will find you. The gamble, though, is you can't pinpoint 'when.'
The demise of certain individuals could rock a nation; the passing of others would effect no change. But ask yourself this, "If you should die, be it to 'self' or in life, what would be the impact of your death?"