I lost my mom at an incredibly youthful age. As I never dealt with the pain and trauma, I acted troublesome in my teenage years and was labeled a “problem child.” At one point, I cut all my hair and was mistaken for a family member’s house cleaner. Despite all my degrees and achievements, this is the one thing this person still constantly reminds me of. A picture is taken out as a reminder. An indication that even your relatives may feel challenged by your achievements.
As a result of my troublesome youth, I followed in my mother and sisters’ footsteps and started working in a clothing factory at a youthful age. This was demanding work for truly little money. It makes me wonder if slavery is abolished.
I am glad that when the opportunity came, I went back to school. I enjoyed being back at school and I yearned for knowledge and wisdom. At this point, I accepted Christ as my Lord and Saviour. This was the beginning of craving God’s wisdom. However, being a newborn-again Christian, my desire was also fueled by my ambition to be admired, recognized, and acknowledged. Now that I think of it, it had more to do with me seeking approval. Dangerously bordering on the periphery of a “people pleasing.”
I went to university with this thirst driving me. In hindsight it was a good thing because the climb was insanely tough. The intended consequence of an apartheid system. Entrenched inequalities make it difficult for the “have nots” to get out. I eventually turned my back on God’s ways and chose a path of my own. I selfishly took what I wanted to build a life I thought I desired, irrespective of the consequences towards others.
It all eventually came crashing down. On more than one occasion. Through these humbling experiences, I have learned that God remains constant, unmovable, and faithful. As my priorities shifted towards my own needs, it was I who moved away from God.
I have experienced painfully that one cannot a build a house without a firm foundation. The house representing my life. And so, I returned to Christ and follow his ways and now I build my life on the Rock which is a firm foundation. This Rock is Christ (Matthew 7:24-27).
What does building my life look like now? Firstly, it means my life is no longer mine (John 15:13). Daily, I choose to not follow my selfish ways but God’s ways. This means that personal and professional decisions are led by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God through prayer and meditation. This is so as we have been made for a specific purpose and for God to show the world His good works (Ephesians 2:10). I therefore see myself now as God’s vessel (2 Timothy 2:21).
In putting together an opinion editorial or article, I pray and seek wisdom from the Holy Spirit. When implementing significant projects, I usually ask the Holy Spirit for a word. A word is phrase linked to a specific scripture that aims to prophesy over the project.
To hear the Holy Spirit, it is important to me to be still and quiet.
This is the new life or way of living now and with it comes the God-wisdom that I so craved and desired in my youth.
This wisdom is further forged and sharpened through metaphorical valleys, deserts, and wildernesses. The aim being to lose my old self and become this new Christlike creation (Matthew 16:25). In my experience, losing the old life or self is painful and deserts, wildernesses and valleys are scary places. But I know I am not alone (Isaiah 43:2). I also know that before Jesus started his ministry, he was led into the desert by the Holy Spirit. He fasted for 40 days and nights before the devil tempted him (Luke 4:1-13). Faith and my relationship with the Holy Spirit are matured during these times.
My deserts, valleys and wildernesses have usually been foreshadowed by a dream. Some time ago, I recall, I was praying the night before and asked, or more demanded that God tell me what was going to happen to me and the business I started. I dreamt that evening or morning, that I was encouraged and cheered on by one of my favorite politicians. As I was driving away, I was whisked up into the air. I was flying because I could see the clouds below me. However, someone was holding me. I believe this person to be the Holy Spirit, who dropped me in the park in front of my present home. At the time, I thought, a move backwards could not be from God. But, in response to my many questions, I repeatedly dreamt I was coming home. And now, I am home, and I would not change it for anything.
I do believe that I am not as afraid of the wilderness, desert, and valley experiences as I was before. In a more recent dream, I dreamt I was standing on high. Looking through a telescope, I saw a package in the wilderness. I do not what is in the package, but I know that I wanted it. I hurried to the wilderness. However, when I came to where the road ends and the wilderness starts, I was afraid to cross. I woke up and immediately prayed for the strength to go through the wilderness.
I love this new way of living and the newfound God-wisdom that the Holy Spirit breathes into me. I love laying down my life and pouring it out to God as a fragrant offering because this is what I was meant to do and I believe the glory of this present house, will be greater than the latter house (Haggai 2:9). Amen
Zelna Jansen is the Executive Director of Zelna Jansen Consultancy, a lobbying and advocacy firm with the aim of bringing people together to find solutions and helping people to have a more effective conversation with their law- and policy-makers.
She is an admitted attorney of the High Court, with an especially keen interest in public policy, trade law and constitutional law. She has a Bachelor of Arts (prelaw), a Bachelor of Laws and a Masters of Commerce degree specialising in trade law and policy. Through her volunteerism in leading roles in several organisations she actively engages the community and social spirit necessary to continue to uplift many in South Africa today. This includes: educational workshops with community organisations and schools as to how government works, how to participate and how to hold political office bearers accountable. She is actively involved in law and policy reform on GBV and assisted community organisations with submissions on the recent GBV bills before Parliament.