Elizabeth Uduehi

Was I not worthy?

 

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I was raised in a loving and traditional Nigerian-home.  As the classic middle child, I was always trying to be different. Now by most American standards I was probably perfect, but in my Nigerian household getting B’s and lacking the desire to do anything academically challenging was seen as a signal for a kid heading down the wrong path. Although, my parents held all of us to a very high standard, they also introduced me to my passion for traveling.

Every summer, I looked forward to our family vacations. Either in conjunction with my mom’s nursing conferences to Washington D.C. or some Performing Arts Competition my sister and I also participated in, took us to places like Austin and Colorado. All five of us would pile in a car and my dad would just drive through the day and night to get us to our destination. I loved those summers. Luckily, my birthday was always a week before school so I always could celebrate my birthday out-of-state in a new city…this would become the foundation to my Birthday-zilla personality of always wanting to do something big and different for my birthday.

As I grew into adolescence, the desire to want to fit in became more and more important to me. Being the only student of color in my classes, I encountered the hard reality that my hair never twisted in the popular styles of the early 2000’s or my skin wasn’t as light as most of the guys I liked preferred it to be. Often, I found myself in the friend zone while my other friends got to experience their first boyfriends, first kiss, and first loves.

Although, I was often a bystander to budding relationships all around me, I knew that my feelings were there but in the strict Nigerian home where God, family, and education were the unholy trinity, there wasn’t any place for discussion about relationships and typical attraction to boys. My mom didn’t have the birds and the bees talk outside of, “Don’t do it, because the Bible says so.” Luckily, my sister and I were very close in age, so I often picked her brain about guys and dating. 

Never having the exposure to dating, I often used the representations of dating from TV and Seventeen magazine to dictate how relationships truly operated. This would serve as the foundation for the beginning of my dating life in college. Along that journey, the constant rejection from guys that I liked, began to create a fallacy in my head that I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, or interesting. I somehow figured that if I was only a little lighter or my hair could just stay straight in the humidity, I could win their affection.

In 2008, I entered my first year in college. I really had no idea what to expect. My parents’ collegiate experience was far different than the traditional American college experience, so their advice was: Go to class. Eat. Go to your room and study. Repeat until you graduate.  Within those 4 years, I met a guy that would become my first love. We met freshman year and due to immaturity, lack of experience and unwise counsel, I began chasing after his affection for 3 years. The initial rejection I felt became this unquenchable high that I sought after and tried to find validation in. When senior year ended, I had to face the hard truth that he did not feel the same and would never feel that same as I did. The day before my friend and I would leave for a month long post-graduation trip to Europe, I found out that he began a relationship with someone else, and my heart was completely broken. It was like I entered a time-traveling machine and went back to my adolescence that was soaked in rejection by guys I sought the affection of.

What was wrong with me? Was I truly not as valuable as I thought? Was I not worthy?

Because my relationship with God was a Sunday-only exclusive, I turned to more unhealthy relationships with guys to validate the emptiness I felt. I reasoned that if some guy, any guy could finally tell me that I was worth his affection I would finally be whole. Every new relationship, however, also dug out pieces of my heart and slowly, brick by brick, built walls made of distrust, resentment, and feelings of worthlessness. I entered each new relationship hoping that it would be the thing I needed to feel whole, but they only served to confirm the lies that I already believed about myself.

In July 2014, I finally fulfilled my plan to move to Dallas. I came with high hopes of reinventing myself and living some Sex in the City lifestyle in my downtown, skyline-view apartment. Instead, I lived with my aunt in the suburbs for a year, where my whole life changed for the best. I arrived in Dallas on a Tuesday, and I was in the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship pews by Sunday. A few months later, I began membership classes, and was baptized and obtained the Right Hand of Fellowship on October 5th. I remember leaving the service feeling like I should have tingly fingers or some fuzzy feeling now that I was a “new person”. But all I felt was pressure…now I actually have to live my life different. What will everyone think?

God had already started a good work in me (Phil.1:6), and he was going to see it to completion. For the first time ever in my life, I was starting to understand the Word of God. Common verses that I remember reciting as a little girl came to life. I began to understand who God was. I started to read my bible independently. I actually looked forward to my quiet time with God to see what would be revealed in his Word. As I became more involved in my church, I participated in different groups that began to challenge the lies I was still believing.

Am I truly forgiven of my past? How will I ever be whole? Is that even possible? Am I valued? Does God really love me, and why?

Slowly God began wrapping me in his truth, and I no longer felt as burdened by the lies of my past. I could find specific truths in the Word that allowed me to put down unforgiveness, anger, revenge, impatience, jealousy, and distrust. I realized that I no longer was a slave to sin, but to Christ. All this time I was walking around looking for people or specially men who would justify me, not realizing that I was already justified through faith in a Man far greater. Not to say that I don’t ever HAVE feelings of anger, jealousy, distrust, etc., but I could be comforted by my current life verse:

 2 Corinthians 12:9: “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Living my life according to the freedom that truth gave me, I realized that it was okay that I wasn’t perfect in the sight of other people. Through Christ I have been given an amazing opportunity to take up a new identity, and even when I feel weak in my confidence in who I am, Christ’s power to overcome all that negativity is made even more perfect. One of the biggest veils I had to remove was soaked in the delusion that I can or had to live this life perfectly with my own wisdom and talent. When I realized that as a daughter of God, that it is through God’s grace alone that I can truly overcome…life became a little easier to navigate without my veil.

-Elizabeth Uduehi

Brie Lightfoot Smith

"This is not the end of your story"

Meet Brie.

I was raised in the church with a full awareness of the presence of God but a sole reliance on the relationship my parents had with Him instead of a relationship of my own. I had a tight knit family and was never too far removed from the truth of how much I was loved. But as I grew older and started to develop friendships and relationships, all the affirmations I received from family didn’t seem to hold as much weight.

Due to a poor choice in friends, I found myself questioning my value and over time started to develop low self-esteem. In high school, this low self-esteem led to frequent thoughts of suicide as I seriously contemplated the belief that the world would be better off or at least indifferent without me. Of course I never shared the depth of these thoughts with anybody. But my mom could see a difference in my personality and whenever I felt at my lowest, she would always tell me “This is not the end of your story.”

Fast forward to college and while I no longer had thoughts of suicide, I still had not fully reclaimed my worth and value in the King. This was evident in the guys who were attracted to me. Prior to meeting my husband, I seemed to be a magnet for ones who weren’t ready to settle down but could see some sort of benefit to having me around. I remember telling one guy that I could see him being my husband and he laughed. That should have been the red flag, but out of disbelief that he could spend so much time with me and still not want to be with me I kept him in my company.

Then one day he called to ask me how he should ask another girl to go out with him. I realized then that I had been accepting all kinds of trash up until that moment and as I sat in the dark, in my room at my parents’ house that Christmas break, I declared to God that I was done feeling second rate. I wanted to find my value in Him because I knew His opinion was the most important and it stretched from everlasting to everlasting. I wanted to be someone’s first choice and I knew that I deserved to be.

Over the next six months, God worked on restoring me. He helped me see myself through His eyes and realize that I was a part of His family – that the fickleness of others should not so drastically impact my self-esteem because at the end of the day they were people just like me. He showed me that as long as I kept my mind stayed on Him – negative thoughts would lose their power to consume me. The semester following my restoration process is when my husband started to pursue me and I realized that prior to him I was attracting the wrong people because something was still broken within me. But once God mended it, I attracted people who were not like the person I had been but instead were people like which I aspired to be.

Though my time in high school and early years of college were tough spiritually, God has revealed to me that my story wasn’t just for me. I’ve been able to minister to young ladies in my church’s teen ministry and even got to write my first book called The Black Girl’s Guide to Living on Purpose.

My hope is that if I can connect girls to God earlier and depict the importance of knowing Him for themselves as soon as possible, then the rates of suicide and the amount of teens with low self-esteem can drastically decrease. Primarily because instead of looking around for their value, worth and purpose – they’ll look up.

If I could share one piece of encouragement – it would be the words from Philippians 4:8 Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.


Brie Lightfoot Smith was born and raised in Texas. She loves helping girls discover their God given purpose. She is also the author of "The Black Girls Guide to Purpose" // For more information check out her website @ http://blackgirlswithpurpose.org