This past year has been one of the most challenging and painful years in my life. I felt like I was in a fierce storm being thrashed around like a little rag doll. For what seemed like eternity, all I could focus on was trying to survive one moment at a time. I felt deep betrayal, grief, fear, and panic when the community I built and loved for over a decade was at risk of being torn apart. My prayers were a daily cry for God to come rescue me. I begged Him to make the storm stop because I felt I had no fight left in me.
A good metaphor for me during this time was the bodybuilding training I started a couple years ago. In order for our muscles to grow bigger and stronger, they have to rip and tear so they can heal back together tougher than before. The only thing is, that tearing-down process is not fun! I noticed that the more I watched the clock and contemplated how I could get out of the exercises, the more my workout felt impossible. When I shifted my perspective and embraced the pain with tenacity, I started enjoying the workouts and not just the results I was working towards.
God has been teaching me to shift my prayers from “Please rescue me” to “Help me stay peaceful in the middle of this storm.” I’ve asked that God enable me to embrace what He wants to heal, change, and grow in me through these circumstances. If I wait for circumstances to be perfect in order to feel peaceful and happy, then I will spend most of my life stressed out and miserable. So, my goal now is to be like an oak tree with roots that go deep into the One who gives peace beyond understanding. That is such an amazing gift that God has made available to us—the promise that we can have peace in the middle of ALL our circumstances, when it doesn’t make sense in the natural realm!
Because God stayed with me like a trainer, pushing me past what I thought I could endure, I know how it feels to stay steady when an impossible situation is in front of me.
It’s the best feeling in the world and now I want more! I want to live in that place of peace through all circumstances as my new normal. I’m trying to practice the posture of a child who is confident that her Papa will handle and take care of anything that threatens her because he is like Superman to her. Well, our Father in heaven is stronger, wealthier, and more protective than all the Superheroes put together, and His love covers all of our mistakes on top of that!
Several years ago, I also experienced a season of intense grief when I experienced great loss in my family. The emotional pain was more excruciating than the physical tearing my muscles experienced during my training. During that time, my sister encouraged me to not give up and sent me an excerpt from a book by TD Jakes. A few words spoke to me so strongly that I put them in a painting and hung it in my bathroom so I could read them every day.
This has now become my mantra:
Endurance cannot be rushed. Endurance is rarely easy or fun, but it will develop character and strength in you that fun is not designed to accomplish. When you are faced with a situation to endure, ease is not your goal. Your aim is to keep putting one foot in front of the other as you walk through the winds of adversity, even as they howl around you and threaten to knock you down.
The seasons of your life that require you to endure and refuse to quit are the times when wisdom, courage, fortitude and faith are nourished in your soul. Without them you cannot fulfill the big dreams that are in your heart or accomplish the great plans God has for your life. These seasons will not last forever, so learn everything that you can from them while they do. If you do not learn to endure, you will only know how to give up. – TD Jakes
So, am I done yet? Ha, not even close! I am not done learning, failing, and growing, and I’m finally embracing the journey, not just the destination. God didn’t rescue me. Instead, He stayed with me, believed in me, and helped me walk through it, knowing I’d gain strength every step I took. I needed to learn how to persevere and trust God so that I didn’t give up creating Old Skool Café, which is hardest thing I’ve ever done and has required all of me. The ragged and torn parts of my body and spirit are now healing stronger.
Teresa Goines is the founder and CEO of Old Skool Café – a supper club run by at-risk youth in San Francisco, which provides training, jobs and a second chance at life for youth coming out of incarceration and foster care. Teresa’s experience working with gang-affiliated youth as a juvenile correction officer changed her forever. Her mission is to permanently break the cycle of incarceration by giving young people hope, economic opportunities, and training in a supportive environment where they can grow emotionally, physically, and spiritually. From this passion, the concept of Old Skool Cafe was born in 2005. Ms. Goines has received several awards and recognition for her work with Old Skool Cafe and the Bayview Community: 2013 CNN Hero Award, 2012 Wells Fargo Community Spirit Award, 2011 Bank of America – Neighborhood Excellence Local Hero Award, among many others.