By: Okema T. Moore (May 2010)

Often times we feel that as a Christian, we are obligated to be perfect.  That some how, once we utter the “sinners prayer” in whatever version our respective places of Worship gives us, we are this magically perfect being with halo and wings to match.  Now don’t get me wrong, the words in Romans 10:9-10 are true, once you receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and confess that with your mouth, you are indeed saved, there is a place in Heaven for you. But the sanctification part is not immediate, nor is it automatic and that is related to life here on Earth.  The word says that you have become a new creature and old things are passed away, but please know that the corns you had on your pinky toe before you spoke those words are still there! Your spirit is new but your body is the same and your soul is still in need of renewal and restoration (Romans 12:2).

I don’t know about you, but once I realized this, I was crushed.  You mean to tell me I raised the courage to walk up that looooooooong isle at church, stand in front of all of these people who I know were judging me (in my head anyway) and admitted that I’m a mess; and now even after I said this prayer I still have work to do????  

Well folks, it’s true!  The real work is not the admittance; it’s changing once you’ve done so.  In earnest we are all “WORKS IN PROGRESS” when it comes to our Christianity, or at least we should be.  What differentiates us is where we are, who has found that peace in full and committed obedience, who is not at that level but is still progressing and who just stays stagnant.  Now stagnation can be due to a number of different things.  You can be stagnant because you don’t know any better and feel your mere confession was enough, you can be stagnant because you just choose to stay there using God’s constant forgiveness as a “license” to continually sin or you could be like me at one point–one foot in the world and one foot in the word, which is the ALL OF THE ABOVE answer. 

Though I have studied and presently study under amazing Pastors, I was not exposed to understanding of the Word until later in life.  I am not a PK (Preacher’s Kid), I did not grow up singing in the choir even though I am a singer.  My Grandmother, whom I spent my formative years with, was a card carrying member of “Bedside Baptist” with Dr. Price leading service every Sunday (highlight Bible and all).  So I didn’t really attend church often and I didn’t grow up really caring much about church, obedience or the word.  I would say the perfunctory grace before meals (along the lines of Rub-a-Dub-Dub thanks for the grub, YAY God) and kissing things up to God if they fell somewhere not so dirty.  It wasn’t until an extremely ugly situation happened to me that I was led to the Lord at the age of 22.  I was embarrassed, ashamed and felt like I had no where else to go.  He knew right then was when I needed Him the most and could only attribute my survival to Him.  So He led me to this small church in Delaware and that place saved my life…literally! 

Once I got settled there I was truly on fire for Christ.  I was hyped about it all.  So much so I began cutting off friends that were not saved, vowing my celibacy, saying God was my husband.  I refrained from my usual four letter rants when things didn’t go my way, showed less skin and stayed out of the clubs.  I stopped singing R&B, stopped listening to the regular radio, had a few saved friends, got a Minister of Music as my boyfriend and everything.  I went to great lengths to prove I was so holy and perfect.  I even got a bit snooty about it and looked down upon those that were not striving for spiritual perfection like I was. 

I became the Praise & Worship Leader, I taught Sunday School for the children, led the Youth Choir and spent every spare moment I had at the church.  I spoke in tongues, tithed from almost every penny I received (though I was pretty broke in those days and sometimes I struggled with that) and I prayed a lot.  What I did not do was study my Word.  You couldn’t get me to sit alone and read the Word for anything.  So in that, I was missing a lot of understanding about balance.  But I did regularly attend Bible study on Tuesdays and was at service EVERY Sunday.  We even got a small lesson in before Praise & Worship rehearsal on Wednesdays.  Not to mention the mandatory attendance for leadership at the various workshops, meetings and pow-wows Pastor and his wife often had. 

But even through all of this…I missed my old life.  I missed sex, I missed fun, I missed great music!  At that time there really wasn’t a whole lot of “urban gospel” or dope gospel rappers and I couldn’t stand choir music or corny gospel rap AT ALL!  I grew up with Eric B & Rakim and Biggie, so the cornball that thought because it was gospel it was hot, with his wack and weak flow, did nothing for me.  I missed shaking it in something sexy in the club, sipping on a yummy drink, getting buzzed and cursing out the idiot who stepped on my new expensive pumps (that I probably bought with what could have been my tithe).  I missed dudes with game and swagger, not Charlie Church-boy with his Steve Harvey suits and pointy shoes.

Now for those of you reading this going OMGoodness…that is soooo ME!!!!  I am so there!!!  Know I hear you, know I feel you and have been you.   

Let me clarify that there is absolutely nothing wrong with all of the things I did once I got saved.  Those steps are not wrong in any way.  However for me, I was an extremist.  I thought that I had to be all the way at the HOLY end of the spectrum and count out fun, friends and good times, not realizing those things exist in Christ as well.  And more so, I was ashamed to include my old friends in my new life at that point because I didn’t want to face or deal with them not allowing me to be a new me…not judge or see me as the old me PLAYING a new me.

Often times when you are trying to do better, and be better many will not allow you that luxury.  The enemy will use people to remind you that you are not quote/end quote “THERE.”  Folks will re-hash all the dirt under your nails to tear and break you down.  You will hear that voice in your head that says ‘who are you to give advice on living holy and being the “righteousness of God in Christ Jesus the Anointed One and all of His Anointing.”  But none of that is true.  Mary Mary has a song called ‘Dirt’ and the lyrics say that every flower needs a little dirt to grow.  How accurate!  How beautifully, wonderfully and blessedly true!  Without all of that “dirt” how could you have grown into the wonderful work in progress you are?  How could you with all sincerity cry out God is Good and mean it, knowing from whence you came and where you presently stand?  Without that “dirt” how could you acknowledge your steps in the right direction?  The old folks say there could be no testimony without the test and your “dirt” was part of that test.  The question is, do you allow your dirt to bury you alive, or do you allow it to fertilize your future for your flower of life to grow into its best bloom yet? 

Often my legs swing as I sit on the fence, not knowing if I can be happy and content with a holy life while still maintaining fun and what I feel is living.  As an actress, songwriter, novelist and singer, I do portray a variety of characters (some of them unsavory) and I sometimes write about things that a lot of the old church would deem reprehensible such as making love and partying.  And to be honest I still fall into both at times.  I don’t get drunk and I don’t get high nor am I out there sleeping with the world, but I am not the poster child for obedience either.  However, I do strive for the heart of God.  I don’t make excuses for my shortcomings and know that on my day of judgment I will have to answer for them all.  I can only work hard to get it together before my time to meet Jesus face to face comes.  I pray that my name will be in the Lamb’s book of life.  In spite of that all though, I do what a lot of devout Christians these days do not. I pray and I serve with a willing heart. I pray not just for me, but I pray for my friends.  I give to those that I know are in need, be it money, time or a Word from God. I am a willing vessel and when He instructs me to do something, I often do not question it or Him.  Upon doing it, I am blessed by knowing I blessed someone else.  I serve when and where I can; from aiding the community via various organizations and outreach to helping friends by bolstering their vision.  I give of my time and my gifts.  I am no better than anyone, but I am also no worse. I am a true work in progress.  I struggle daily to stay on the right side of the Word but chasing God’s heart is not a struggle any longer, it’s become second nature and natural. So no longer am I stagnant, I’m in motion and my movement is FORWARD!

On my journey, I have encountered many people that continue to teach me how to be better, how to really “count it all joy when [I] fall into diverse temptation.”  It is at those times, I know I’m on my way.  It is at those times that I sit and cry out to God or fall on my face to Him thanking Him for the blessings that I received that I wasn’t deserving of; that I know I’m getting “there.” And even as you may be in one set of circumstances or another that may not be of God, know that you can always get out. 

This article is not an episode of “The Cosby Show.”  I will not have the problem solved or answered by the end…I am merely bringing to light your own need to evaluate, examine and adjust for the betterment of not just your own world, but the Kingdom.  Amen and God Bless to those that may read this and feel they are beyond this point.  My prayers for an open mind and heart to those that feel my writing this has been an abomination to the progress of the Kingdom. But I cry with those and for those that read this and see there are answers to be sought and personal progress to be made.  I applaud all of you works in progress that are seeking your pastors, elders, parents, spiritual role models, books, evangelists and even this publication to enlighten, direct and grow you.  Kudos and cheers (Shirley Temples of course…mostly) to you!

Keep WORKING TO PROGRESS MY SISTERS AND BROTHERS!