Aunt Gigi, That Annoying Bible Verse And Other Things That Kept Me Alive
When I was about 12, my Aunt Gigi - a second mother and my pastor - told me that Psalm 47:4 was my personal Bible verse and that I should memorize it because if she asked me about it I better be ready to recite it.
Boy, was I annoyed. To say I had no interest in the Bible at that point would be an understatement. The verse was only one line, so I thanked heaven for that. Every now and then from the time I was 12 until she passed away in 2012 she would get next to me and say, "AJ, what's your scripture?" and I would recite it out of habit/duty.
"He will choose our inheritance for us, the excellence of Jacob whom He loved."
I didn't get it. I didn't really care to. I just prayed that I didn't forget that one sentence no matter how confusing it was to my pre-teen brain so uninterested in anything church-related. Auntie didn't play. She would yoke me up.
It's funny how desperately you search for all the little precious things someone has given you when they pass away. You mourn the things you discarded. You turn your home upside down to find that photograph or letter or card. You struggle to remember the details of experiences you had with them that seemed insignificant then but are the only bits of glue holding you together now as you struggle to adjust to their absence.
Aunt Gigi passed away on December 29, 2011 around 11 pm. For the first few months I was in a daze. I didn't cry much. And then, one morning I was driving home from dropping my mother off at work and I imploded when I pulled into my driveway. I sobbed for what felt like hours but was only about ten minutes. I sobbed because she wasn't here anymore but more specifically because she wasn't here anymore to be a part of all the great things that were sure to happen in my life. I needed her to be around for when I got my first big job. I wanted her to see me walk down the aisle (whenever the Good Lord let *that* miracle happen). I needed her to just... be. I found every card she sent me while I was away at school that I hadn't misplaced and the turtle pin she had given me one Sunday morning before church. And I recited Psalm 47:4 like my life depended on it.
I had been battling an eating disorder for years. Aunt Gigi would call me periodically when I was still in grad school and tell me, "AJ, you gotta get up and go eat. Even if you don't feel like it. Even if it's just one mouthful at a time. No matter how long it takes." I hadn't told her I wasn't eating. In fact, I hadn't called to talk to her in weeks because I didn't want her to question me. I was ashamed and confused and depressed and and...
One day after I completed grad school and had come home, I drove over to her house and she and I were sitting, talking in her bedroom as we did on many early Saturday mornings. My college struggles came up and she said, "You didn't have to tell me. God showed me and I walked with you."
I wasn't prepared for that. All I could do was hang my head and nod. That was God. That had to be God. He had to be real because... Like. What?!
With that level of spiritual connection, I couldn't process her not being here anymore. On top of that, I was battling depression due to long-term unemployment, the funny (but not funny when you're in it) "quarter-life crisis" and just an overwhelming feeling of failure. I had gone to school for seven years. I had gotten decent grades and participated in this organization and that volunteer experience. I had come out of my shell and mastered public speaking. I had found my passion and calling. I did what everybody told me to do. Two degrees. I was "good" for the most part... and I graduated to no job when everyone told me surely I would have be employed within six months. I couldn't get a single interview and the people I looked to for help gave me the coldest of shoulders.
So, I quit trying. I woke up crying and spent the better part of every single day in bed, watching Netflix and only moving to get a little something to eat when I felt faint. Aunt Gigi wasn't here. I was a failure. And if I vanished from the face of the earth, it would be just as well.
"He will choose our inheritance for us, the excellence of Jacob, whom He loved."
The third week of September 2013, I walked into the classroom to teach a room of about 20 freshman how to write at college level. This was the path I had avoided at all costs. People always asked if I wanted to be a schoolteacher like my mother and my answer was always a vehement "No!" I couldn't possibly teach anybody's kids anything. What if I failed? What if they tried to walk all over me? I look like a high school junior my doggone self. And college students? AbsoLUtely not. But this was the job I applied for on a desperate/leap of faith whim and received a response THAT night. The day after I applied, I interviewed. Ten minutes after meeting my supervisor, I was headed to HR for paperwork. Two days later I was in the classroom.
As seamless as that.
For two semesters I had the privilege of helping some of the most promising college students to release their anxiety and just...write. I didn't choose that path willingly. I feared it most terribly. But it was chosen for me and it enlightened and built me. It breathed new life into me.
It seems like ever since my aunt passed, my life has been showing me how absolutely fluid I must be in order to walk in Purpose. When people ask me about my 5 year plan or my 10 year plan, I can only tell them what passion is in my heart but I can't give a road map. I don't want to. It'll happen if I just stay connected and show up, ready to do the work and TRUST. To some, I get it - this all sounds like one gigantic cop-out from having to take any responsibility for my life. In reality, it's just the opposite.
The blessings that have consecutively found me me in just these past few months alone have given Psalm 47:4 every bit of meaning I couldn't find in it when I was a child and more besides. I've agonized over every tragedy, downfall, failure, sickness I've experienced and wondered, "Why is this happening to me?" quite a lot.
It wasn't until I decided to switch the frame that things started to change, that the road map of my life started to unfold. When I began asking, "What am I supposed to learn from this?" The picture itself wasn't going to change but how I framed it, how I chose to see it made all of the difference. That's when the inheritance that was chosen for me long before I ever cared about destiny or Purpose or God or a scripture my aunt told me to memorize began to reveal itself.
Sometimes we think we're just floating through life with no real value, worthless, just trying to make it when it reality God has already chosen to give us an inheritance beyond our wildest dreams. It doesn't happen the way we decided it should so we think it isn't possible. We limit God in ridiculous ways. Then, He turns around and shows us why little to nothing went according to our plans. He is obliterating obstacles and making miracles and designing a destiny for us that we couldn't have orchestrated any better if we tried. And He does it all, simply because He loves us.
My aunt isn't here physically to see my awakening but I feel her every now and then, getting me together from Paradise. And all I can say is, "Ok, Auntie, I hear you."
I didn't get it then but God knows I understand now. Thank you for letting God use you. Thank you for walking with me. Thank you for planting the seed.