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By Jamela Hoveni

Two years ago she started on an incredible journey. She was 23 kilograms heavier back then just after giving birth to her son. She was emotionally and mentally drained, yet encouraged because everything at that time spoke to her about new beginnings and wanting more for herself. For her baby. So she started making some changes. She started running. Initially just to get fit again, but it became so much more; running away from him to run towards Him.

At about this time she also started to write again, initially just private poems to her baby, but eventually writing the way she used to. It was about four years since her book Misaveni. She had been stuck in a rut of writer’s block since then, terrified to write. Yet, something began to change around the time that she started to write. The critical and condemning voices began to fade and suddenly she had the energy, motivation and inspiration.

It was about the time she started to pray to God. Yeah, I know, pray! This was no small matter; you see, she did not know how to pray. This was not, however, for lack of trying, or due to ignorance, or due to not being saved. She knew about Jesus, and had been saved a couple of times. Once at her confirmation when she was a baby, and again at University when she had an encounter with the Jesus boys. Yes, she knew about the Lord and she was one of those people who sat in church and looked at people in praise and worship with a mixture of admiration and contempt. Admiring their freedom and surrender while knowing that she could not do that. She would instead listen to the ease with which they prayed, while personally struggling to put a simple phrase like, ‘Lord, I need you’ together.

That was until the encounter she had when she started to pray on her knees. She was petrified. What could she possibly say to the Almighty? And why would He care? You see, she had not done a good job of caring for herself. She was ashamed. She contemplated this, presenting her unclean acts which left her feeling unworthy. She stood at the edge of a great void, not knowing what was waiting for her ahead. One thing she was sure of; anything would be better than the last few years with the nightmares and the voices. So, she began a simple prayer that went like this: “God, help me. I think I’m in trouble. I have been stuck here for a while, uninspired, afraid. I feel like I’m not going anywhere. Please step in. Please help me. I’m scared.”

And she waited. Hanging her hopes on this simple prayer, she wanted something to believe in. Everyday she would check in: “God…how are we doing with that prayer request?” She soon found out, however, that her simple prayer was a calling to great responsibility. Once she started on that journey, He took a hold of her and never let go. While she thought it was just about her and her selfish desires, she soon discovered that the Almighty had big plans. Her spirit was in need of a saviour and not for the reasons initially thought, but for a bigger purpose.

God said: “It’s not about you, because it was never about you! It is about my kingdom and your purpose begins and ends with that. I care about your desires to become a better person, to write again, to become effective in your job, but what is pleasing to my eye is to see you come into the fullness of the glory that I have prepared for you.” And so she learned about a principle that many people go through their lives never appreciating. The art of joy. The joy that comes from pursuing God wholeheartedly. The joy that can only be attained when serving God by serving other people. Understanding that everything else pales in comparison to the joy of knowing God and finding rest and affirmation in this identity of being a child of God.

And so, all these years later, a journey that started with lofty body goals has become more about her spiritual maturity. It is about discipline; it is about hard work; it is about self-awareness; it is about self-worth; it is about self-love; it is about God.

It is all about you, God.

Originally from Tzaneen, Limpopo province, Jamela Hoveni is an academic based at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. She is passionate about students and her work. She enjoys reading, writing, poetry and the outdoors.