From Alicia Keys’ 2009 Billboard-topping hit single ‘Empire State of Mind’, to the New York Times’ 2009 reference to President Barack Obama’s lifelong exposure to American “city life” – practically highlighting this as an early indication of a potentially successful presidency – an unsuspecting expat could very easily be drawn in by the idea of the “Big City Life” as a guaranteed gateway or pre-condition to success.
Here’s the deal: It is not half as much about the city and the reputation that precedes it, as it is about one’s desire and conscious efforts to discover one’s personal intersection of opportunity, inspiration, and determination.
So last Saturday, as I ventured into what was for me a fairly unfamiliar section of Manhattan’s Lower West Side, south of the famed Tribeca area, I was eager to see what surprises awaited me around every corner. You see, this city has a charming way of flirting with my curiosity, that I simply cannot get enough of.
I love New York. Everything about this “Concrete Jungle” intrigues me… well perhaps not everything, but there is a lot that fascinates me here.
Thankfully, I have gotten past the childlike phase of constantly looking up at the imposing structures that line the city’s famous streets and avenues – from Broadway to Wall Street, Lexington Avenue to Park Avenue. These days, I focus more on the stories that unravel on the streets of this melting pot – where races, cultures, beliefs, ideas and gifts converge.
New York has thus far offered me so much more than I would have initially bargained for – and I am not even referring to the material pleasures of life that big cities are typically perceived to offer.
Click here to learn more about exactly what brought me to this city.
The first draft of today’s blog was actually prepared over lunch at one of my favorite sandwich shops in Lower Manhattan last Saturday – the inspiration for which came after a week of reflection, prayer, and spiritual reconditioning.
It was a week in which I learnt that God in His sovereignty, is not obligated to turn our situations around in ways that we can conceive, hope for, or expect. Instead, He may simply choose to give us peace – which is precisely what He has been doing in my life over the past week.
So mark the date on today’s blog. If someone were to approach me right now – this very moment – and ask, “How are you doing today?”, my honest response will be: I have not felt this incredible in a very long time.
I deliberately chose not publish any blogs last Tuesday or Thursday, for the very simple reason that I was just so fatigued by all the work that I had been putting into this and a few other projects that I have been working on for the last couple weeks. But having essentially pushed aside all that work for just a few days, and taken some time to pray and reflect on everything that has been happening within and around my life, Matthew 6:33 now has a whole new meaning to me.
We all face personal, professional, and spiritual challenges. So in the instance that you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, or just in need of clarity on a major decision, I will not hesitate to recommend a timeout for prayer and reflection.
It has been just over two years since leaving the United Nations, and I am absolutely grateful for every professional opportunity that I have been afforded since then. I however cannot help believing that the best is yet to come, and that God’s plan for my life is so much greater than my intellect can conceive.
The reality is that God’s timing is not based on the human conception of hours, days and years. So for the last two years, I did everything within my power to secure what I considered the ideal professional opportunity. But a few weeks ago, I started praying for revelation – for God to show me those things that I simply could not conceive about my life and present situation.
I had been fighting so hard to make something happen for myself. But last Thursday, I was reminded of the scripture that says, “[It’s] not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit.”
For over two years, I was trying to do what only God could have done in my life. You see, for years, I embraced the idea that everything I have ever dreamt of could only be achieved through hard work and sacrifice. Pretty soon, “hard work and sacrifice” became my default position when seeking new opportunities.
Invariably, it become less about God, and more about what my inner determination could afford me. But after two years of consistent rejection and disappointment in my quest to find that perfect opportunity, my perspective changed in an instant.
I knew without a doubt, that it was time to stop fighting, and time to start trusting God for the answers – answers that I clearly did not have.
A few weeks earlier, I received a message from someone via LinkedIn, that had me thinking deeply. It was one of those questions that I simply could not answer: “Why do you think that someone as qualified as yourself has not gotten a job as yet?”
At first glance, it seemed a bit offensive – and slightly judgmental perhaps – considering there were no prior personal or professional interactions between this individual and myself. But my decision to respond in humility, allowed me to consider the merits of the question.
I eventually concluded that it was something worth reflecting on. But having placed this entire situation into God’s hands, I could no longer find myself asking “Why?” – as the message clearly suggested. Instead, I started asking God for revelation, and He has indeed been answering that prayer.
True Freedom is Found in Letting Go
During my morning devotion last Thursday, I made a commitment to let it all go. It was time to let God take full control of a situation that I never truly had any control over. I thought I did, and spent many hours each day, scouring the internet and reaching out to folks that I thought I could depend on to put in a good word on my behalf. Needless I say, to no avail; but no love lost.
I would imagine that many of us grew up being taught the importance of faith and trusting God – through it all. But never in my life have I experienced the power of letting go, and allowing God to take full control, as I have been experiencing over the last several days. To know that such freedom is possible, is absolute bliss, and I pray that you too will find this freedom that I have found in Christ alone.
You see, God knows exactly how to get our attention; and we need not question His plan. For a micro manager like myself, letting go is always reserved as a last resort. But in this case, it was clear that I had lost all control over the challenges in my life a long time ago, and that they could only be resolved through God’s divine intervention, and His perfect timing. Indeed, when God is in control, all is assured to be well.
So if by chance you see me smiling or just having a good ole time somewhere in New York, or wherever this adventure takes me, it is not because I have no cares or concerns in the world – no, that is very far from the truth. It is rather because I have decided to place them all into the hands of the One who has all the solutions to life’s most perplexing scenarios – God, and God alone.