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The Journey Begins

This new journey began with a slow start. Yet I had a strong foundation of spiritual teachings and prayer on which to build a new life. I just had to redefine this foundation and use it in a way that made sense in my life.

Two things hindered me for a while: I was mad at God and I was afraid of God. I was angry because my mother was dead, my father was not available, and my family was poor. I was also afraid—afraid that God was going to punish me for things I had done.
As my journey continued, however, I was relieved of that anger and fear. I began to understand that God loves me—unconditionally—and that I could have a personal relationship with God.

This understanding was awakened in me when I read the book The Dynamic Laws of Prayer by Catherine Ponder. It reintroduced me to spiritual principles and how they work when they are applied in daily living. I also read my Daily Word.

As a single mom of three, I used spiritual principles and prayed my way through law school. After earning my degree and practicing law for three years, I learned a great lesson: Power is not in what you do, but in who you are. So I decided the legal profession was not for me.

I said, “Okay, God, what do You really want me to do, because obviously it is not this!” The answer came in the form of opportunities to share information about my own journey with others.

I began teaching workshops to women who were on public assistance. Most of the women I taught came from dysfunctional homes. I shared spiritual principles with them by talking to them about faith and about trust in God—God within them. I talked to them about the power in telling the truth and the strength derived from loving yourself and other people—giving and serving not because of the rewards, but because you love it and it feels good.

It was important for me to believe this too, because I wasn’t earning enough to support my children and myself. All my bills were overdue. One morning as I was coming down the stairs at home, I was praying and asking God, “Maybe this is what You want me to do, but how can I do it if I’m not earning a living?”

The radio was on in the living room, and just as I stepped off the bottom step, I heard Barry White, a popular singer who was being interviewed, say: “You gotta have faith. You gotta be willing to do it for free. You have to take the ups and the downs, but if you have faith and the ability, you are going to make it.”

Keep On Keeping On
I knew in that moment that it was a message from God to keep doing what I was doing. I told the bill collectors, “Okay, cut the phone off; cut the lights off.” Ultimately, I was evicted from my home, but my youngest daughter and I moved in with a friend. My oldest daughter had received a full four-year scholarship to college and my oldest son had enlisted in the Navy. My girlfriends and I pooled our money to buy our meals.

Life wasn’t easy, but I think that when challenges growl at us, we need to check to see if they have teeth, not just run away from them. And sometimes we have to be willing to get bitten.

Shortly after I was evicted, things started turning around. The organization where I was doing the workshops offered me a full-time job. I had written a workbook for those classes—a compilation of what my grandmother had taught me and what I had learned about my own personal, spiritual connection to God. Eventually, that compilation became my first book, Tapping the Power Within.

Then, with the encouragement of a friend, I started writing and doing a series of one-minute radio spots—just to get people started on a positive note in the morning. Those scripts grew into another book, titled Acts of Faith. When this book was published, I realized that writing—telling my story—was what God intended for me to do.

God always says yes to our prayers. We must, however, be conscious of what we are praying for. Since every thought, every word, and every action is a prayer, we want to be conscious of everything we think, say, and do, because God will always say yes.

My work now is rejoicing. My life is rejoicing. I am rejoicing. That doesn’t mean that I never have challenges or that I have nothing to learn. What it means is that I am learning and growing and rejoicing because I have the tools I need: I have faith, and I trust God implicitly. My faith and trust in God have made my life a joyful experience—and life doesn’t get much better than this.

Iyanla Vanzant is an ordained minister, an internationally recognized spiritual teacher, and a best-selling author. As chief executive officer of Inner Visions Worldwide at the Spiritual Life Maintenance Center in Maryland, she conducts workshops and gives over 100 public lectures annually. Iyanla also heads a nationwide correspondence prison ministry with more than 1500 members. She lives near Annapolis, Maryland, with her husband Adeyemi.