At certain stages of our lives each and every one of us experiences a period I shall call the Valley experience. Valleys come in different forms and shapes. One thing I know about the Valley experiences is that they leave us better than we were before if we choose to take what we encounter as lessons. We must take the Valley experience as a catalyst to bring out the hidden talents in us. The Valley I am writing about is the Valley which Prophet Isaiah spoke about in Chapter 43 verses 2 – 3. Sometimes in the journey of our lives we find ourselves wondering where we went wrong; we start thinking that even though we were looking ahead, checking our side and rear view mirrors, something bad still happened, something beyond our control. People will start telling you that it is a punishment from God for what you did or did not do. Sometimes we go into the Valley because we are good but the environment we are in is not good for us. We might have placed ourselves or been placed among life’s vultures. So God led us into the Valley to protect us from those vultures. With the collapse of our Zimbabwean economy post-2000, many business people found themselves in the Valley. No one had experienced limited money withdrawals from banks before, no one had watched their savings burning to nothing in banks before, so how could they have prevented it? It happened that some business people had ordered their stock the previous day to sell it at a profit so that their businesses could sustain themselves; little did they know that a man of authority was coming with price controls the following morning! A law was passed that prices were to be reduced. It did not matter you had ordered your stock at $1 an item, you were forced to sell it at 10 cents, converted to the Zimbabwean dollar at that time! Business people were forced by the law to sell their commodities at a loss and then pay all operational costs and salaries. If they failed the same Law took them to court and stripped them of everything they had invested, leaving them licking their cracked, bleeding lips. We live in a country governed by laws and we should abide by those laws to be law abiding citizens, isn’t it? I shall not dwell much on that. Those are some of the unexpected circumstances which lead people into Valleys!
Some people find themselves in the Valley after some kinds of accidents, deaths of loved ones, natural disasters and so forth. Not everybody has the same strengths and abilities to withstand life’s different pressures but those who survive them find the value in them, the value of the Valley experience. I feel sad when I remember some colleagues who could not stomach the suffering we went through as business people and decided to commit suicide. I will say that those who survive the Valley experience are people who see themselves as people with purpose-driven lives. They are great personalities; they survive the storms of life. They are pathfinders. They are people who don’t follow but lead. Those people who know who they are and what they want in life. I am not talking of takers who look for every opportunity to take and enrich themselves without working first. I mean people who are comfortable with being who they are anytime, anywhere.
People with purpose driven lives don’t cling to others for emotional, financial and spiritual support. I find that there is nothing which can stop people with purpose driven lives, no amount of discouragement, no slander, no humiliation; nobody can ever bring them down because they have deep emotional roots supporting them. They are strong and mature mentally and emotionally.
For you to know you are in the Valley a lot of unusually bad things happen to you. Your lifestyle can change within minutes. It happened to a lot of people. Some had the Deputy Sheriff knocking on their doors to attach everything they had acquired because of unpaid debts that had accumulated over time. Some sold the houses they had bought before independence to pay for debts they accumulated in a year only because of changes in the economy. Lifestyles changed in that instant. If you had many friends before your fall into the Valley, know that fake ones will disappear and you find yourself alone. In the Valley you are stripped of everything you had, only to remain with God. In the Valley you are shunned by your own relatives including your parents and siblings sometimes. In the Valley there will be no mothers, only those who will tell you how unwise you were or you are, those who will tell that if you had listened to them you would not be in such a situation. Most of those who say that would never even try to understand your situation. Most people who will criticise you will be those who had never employed anyone and had never paid Government tax. Once you find yourself with no friends, being accused by everyone for foolishness or stupidity, laughed at, a topic of these social networks, know that you are in the Valley.
Be happy and know that you are like a caterpillar hemmed in on all sides, ready to come out as a butterfly, bright, free and ready to lay many eggs. At that point who would think that the same caterpillar would come out looking bright yellow with white patches on it, or pink with purple on it, flying high and happy? You just stay there in the Valley. Observe and listen because God will be showing you who is in your life and if you know then pray for them. Yes. Pray, don’t curse.
Once you find yourself in the Valley do not believe or comment on what prophets of doom say; just look ahead and keep going. With time all the chattering will stop. Intelligent people ignore. Wait for your success results to show. You won’t have to say it; success speaks for itself. We should note that emotionally and mentally weak people are highly opinionated about other people’s problems, especially those they cannot handle their own. If you listen to them you will be sure to be derailed and you will fall into a pit where you will never rise, ever! Listen to God; only God can be trusted.
Take the Valley experience as a time provided by God to grow spiritually. There are no distractions, so take advantage. Since people have become so materialistic, they value people with money and other material possessions; they won’t talk to you, they won’t involve you in anything because you are of no use. Because you have no money, your suggestions don’t matter at all according to them. You won’t be invited to parties and weddings for obvious reasons. They will accuse you if you don’t turn up at funerals so they can show so and so that you are indeed walking on foot and you no longer have a car. Don’t worry. Those are emotionally weak and jealous people who have always envied you; now that you are in the Valley, they think that because you are down there below them and they are up there above you! Avoid them. They are toxic, and emotionally and mentally draining.
Believe me, the Valley period is the time to develop yourself. Go and don’t stop. Do things you have never done before, spend time with nature, it heals. Volunteer at an orphanage, at a crèche, an old people’s home. Grow your own vegetables if you can. Do something different. Discover new talents in you and also do not let your skills rot; that is where your rise will begin. Maya Angelou said in her famous poem, ‘Still I rise’:
You may write me down in history
With your bitter twisted lies
You may tread me in the very dirt
Rising after falling also depends heavily on your attitude. If we chose to talk about what we had been and the kind of lives we had before, then chances that we rise are slim. We must forgive too; forgiving is the attitude of the strong. There is always so much to do in our communities with our hands, things that do not require money. Once you want to help, God will provide what you need. Talk to God, He will lead you to everything you need. Trust me, I have been in the Valley and I find it as a gift from God because He elevated me in ways I had never imagined. When I look back and think of what could have possibly happened to me if my business had remained doing well with all those fake people around me, I feel frightened and want to cling to God forever. There are treasures of life which can be found in the Valley which money cannot buy. In the Valley you learn good manners, morals, respect, character, love, patience, common sense and integrity which you may have lacked before. I forgot to say valuable as they are, the Valley school lessons are for free and you learn from experience if you observe and listen enough. Thank God if you find yourself in the Valley. God cannot let into the Valley anyone He knows would not survive it. He knows His strongest soldiers. I am not yet His strongest soldier but I wish to be one day. He is faithful all the time. Because we don’t understand, when we find ourselves in the Valley we think God has forgotten and forsaken us, yet He still loves us and protects us from what our naked eyes cannot see. Those with opinions will tell you that you are being punished by God for not paying tithes and seeding, what with the churches which have sprouted like mushrooms after the collapse of the economy, with prophets and prophetesses!
I felt so grateful for the Valley experience when I discovered that those people who used to be so close to me were all pretending; they wanted what I had, and not only that, but to milk, suck me dry and eventually leave me for dead! I only knew about it after I had decided to shut down. If God had not encouraged me to shut down, their plans would have succeeded. You see, not all that appears to be a problem to us is a problem to God. God is love. God is always good. We fail to hear Him speak to us because we are not patient. We are always busy and tense, always in a hurry. There is need for Him to let those He has chosen to do his work into the Valley first so they can be humble, learn to depend on Him, spend time with Him and calm down. God speaks to calm spirits and worried hearts. You will see in the coming chapters how I encountered God because I had calmed down and allowed myself to be alone with Him. God does not only chose family for us, He does chose friends and spouses for us, but because of our daily hurried lifestyles we do not realise this. When those we chose for ourselves fail us, we come back blaming Him, our God! We want to spend time with people who will tell us what to do and not with those who encourage us to do what we know.
In the first weeks or months in the Valley, I often got angry and when I got angry I got sick. I then decided I would never let negative emotions ruin my life. It seems impossible as human beings to let go of things we are passionate about. I was very much passionate about my Garden Produce Project which I had built with all my heart for my family and community at large. Every time I thought that it was no longer functioning my head became hot, I would lose appetite. In such instances, I taught myself to stop and affirm that,
‘I am full of confidence in the goodness of God. I know that He watches over me at all times. I will let go of every negative thought. I am sober, serene, and calm. I know that it is God in action in all phases of my life, and divine law and order reigning supreme. I shall think, speak and act from the standpoint of wisdom, truth, beauty and love.’
With those words, I managed to let go and let God. I suppose the evil one had seen that the project brought so much satisfaction and happiness to me. He had seen that it kept me going even in the darkest hours and sent what I would call an evil and wild demon to disturb and destroy its operations. That devastated me, I must say. But with those affirmations, I started telling myself that the evil one was a liar; he had failed to block me from doing it, it was there already in my thoughts and actions, and it will come back to life in God’s time. When I thought of the women singing and doing their chores in their homesteads I would then smile instead of crying. When I thought of school dropouts playing football and netball, happy as they always were, I would get revived. The project eventually came back to life and ran smoothly and easily than before!
I have a friend who studied for her Doctorate Degree when she was in the Valley. She was sick and could not work; she had developed some disease which caused a huge lump to grow in her stomach. Tests were done and in the end, some doctors diagnosed cancer while others disputed that it wasn’t. It went on and on like that until it was agreed that she should be operated on to get that lump out. On the day that she was to be operated on, the doctors turned her back claiming they could not see where the lump was beginning and ending. She says she knew she was going to die but she would not just die without finishing her Doctorate Degree; it would be good for her if it was conferred to her posthumously. In her sickness, she continued studying and sending her papers to be marked. Above all, she prayed. She said she wanted to die a satisfied woman. The strange disease kept her at home for two years. She sent her final thesis and prayed and fasted. When she could not do anything she slept and waited. She said she was so ready to die that she gave away all her clothes and other material possessions before she went to hospital again for an operation to remove the thing in her stomach. Doctors said there was only 50% chance of surviving the operation. A week before she went for her operation, a man who was referred to her by a colleague came to pray for her. The thing in her stomach disappeared completely and she felt no pain. Her Doctorate studies results came and she had passed unconditionally. She graduated with her Doctorate and was offered jobs by five different Universities from around the world. She went to the University she had only dreamt of working at. A year later she was married and had a baby girl.
I want to tell you that what brought me out of the Valley was my quest to help others. Those who knew that I read the bible meditatively and prayed every day came to pray with me. As I did that, my own problems solved themselves in the middle of an impossible economy. Remember God opens ways in the wilderness and streams in the desert; truly He did that for me. He did that when those highly opinionated were out of sight, probably busy trying to pull others down. There is a time I felt like I was carrying the whole of Africa on my head but I could still listen to someone for an hour without interrupting them. I listen with my eyes too, observing the actions and aligning them with what someone is saying. In most cases, I discovered that what people said was not in line with their body language, so now I listen to both so I can understand. It is important. I learnt all these powers in the Valley and now I can help others! To God be the Glory!