It took until my 47th birthday and the deepest cut of them all for me to finally realize that my biggest enemy was me. For nearly three decades, ever since I became an adult, I have been trusting everyone by default and opening my heart and home to friends and strangers alike only to end up getting hurt for my troubles. I never understood why, I assumed that if you do kind things for people the last thing they would do is pay you back with unkindness.
A tsunami of woes over the past three months changed everything. The details I have given to God because there are some battles that only lead to more pains the more you fight them even if the truth is on your side. However, despite the abiding pain of loss that echoes throughout my home, I found a silver lining through the crucible. I came to realize that my overly giving was not a virtue but a sin; feeding others while starving oneself is no different than stealing food from others to feed yourself.
Iyesus said “love your neighbors as you love yourself”, he did not advise us to love our neighbors above ourselves. Except that is precisely what I have been doing for way too long only to end up flat on my back at every turn wondering “why me”. These words I write for the launch of Guzo to Healing will go over like a lead pipe for some and will touch a nerve for those who have been trapped by the same prison of people-pleasing and boundaryless living that I’ve been ensnared since I was a teenager in growing up in Woodbridge, Virginia.
The greatest educator in the world is Professor Tribulation, when her class is in session you have only two options. You can pass with flying colors by going within to find out what is it that you have done that led you down the path of being wronged or you can fail by falling into the abyss of complaining and being stuck in the rut of victimization. Over and over again, I have traveled down the road of blaming others only to wound up in the dead-ends of depression and anxiety.
This time, during this hour of my greatest adversity where I haven’t held or seen my greatest treasure in 51 days, I turned to Igzihabier (God), looked within and chose accountability over “woe is me”. This required me to measure my faults and take steps to address the traumas that keep enticing me to lower myself for the sake of other people’s comforts only to be trampled upon in ways that feel like a herd of elephants is tap dancing on my heart.
In his mysterious ways, Igzihabier stripped away everything in order to make me focus on myself. Almost two months of solitary living left me no choice but to quickly turn my hand back to Him. Initially furious and wanting retribution for the injustices that were committed against me, my mood shifted from rage to calm the more I leaned on God instead of depending on my ego as I have for all of my life. I started praying each day I wake up, doing segdet (getting on my knees and rising up), cleaned up my diet, started working out and began taking cold showers in the mornings.
All of a sudden, I felt a profound and unbelievable transformation in ways I can’t really explain. Shutting down the Ghion Journal and launching Guzo to Healing is a byproduct of this metamorphosis; I arrived at the realization that if I want to see a change in the world, I have to be that change first. If I want love to rule the day, I first must love myself. This missing piece is what has been preventing me from realizing all of my aspirations and why one too many people have seen it fit to bite my hand after I fed them gourmet food as I was eating Raman noodles when no one was around.
This leads me to my new approach, the feature picture above is a dinner that I had last night. Instead of eating on a paper plate or plopping down in front of the couch to watch TV while grubbing on pizza, I treated myself like I treat guests. This newfound outlook started to have a cascading effect, the more I treated myself like I treated others, the more I started to value myself. My impulse to be with people at all times bled away as I started to appreciate being alone with myself.
Here is what I have found out in the past two months. Yeast is discouraged by the Bible to the same extent, if not even more so, than pork is. For good reason too, yeast is toxic to the body and has a way of bloating our bodies. The proliferation of diabetes, high blood pressure and even cancer can be traced back to our love affair with yeast. This was a hard pill to swallow but once I cut out bread, injera and other foodstuffs that have yeast in it, I lost 17 pounds in three weeks all while working out in moderation.
The good news is that I was able to find injera with zero yeast in it, made with only teff and water, at an Ethiopian market called Azieb Market off George Mason Dr. in Falls Church, VA yesterday. I busted out with an AMEN and a hallelujah when I made the discovery, me without injera is like Harold Melvin without the Blue Notes. This newfound determination to lead an Orthodox life will not be easy, my restaurant options will be limited and I have to start reading labels like I’m looking for Waldo but in the end, it is I am worth the effort.
Convenience is a gateway to death even as we are alive, dedication and discipline ensure a long life of health and happiness.
I also discovered that the day of the Sabbath, what we call Sinbet in Ethiopia, is not Sunday but Saturday. Susenyos II, the king of Ethiopia in the 1600s, converted to Catholicism and ended up co-opting the Ethiopian “Orthodox” Church in the process. Once I realized that our church had been appropriated by the Vatican, I began to understand why I never felt comfortable even as a child going to Mariam “Orthodox” Church only to see them trading money in His Father’s house in ways that Iyesus expressly forbid and had pictures of a “white Jesus” that is actually the portrait of a Roman plutocrat by the name of Cesar Borgia.
Now I realize why, a church that doesn’t keep the Sabbath and trades money is not Orthodox at all. I don’t say this to bash but to point out facts, my aim is not to throw stones but to inform. After all, I just found out about the true and only Sabbath being on Saturdays a month and a half ago, it would be the height of arrogance to compel others to arrive at this same destination based on my time. God gives us all free will for a reason, we learn as we grow and anyone who tries to inhibit that guzo is not a saint but a sinner trying to play God in people’s lives.
The old me would have tried to “save people” by getting on a soapbox and lecturing them about not eating yeast and keeping the Sabbath on Saturday and working on Sundays only to earn scorn and stones for my efforts. No more, now I’m just going to do my part not through words but through action. I found a church that keeps the Sabbath on Saturday called Mekane Kidusan Abune Gebre Menfes Kidus EOTC which worships at Annandale UMC off Columbia Pike in Alexandria, Virginia. I will be among believers to pray and worship God on Saturdays and then go to various churches on Sunday not to rest but to work by cleaning Our Father’s house.
As for the yeast, no need to preach to others, before I stopped eating yeast I was 305 pounds. I now weigh 288 pounds three weeks into my “Leviticus diet”, when people see the results, they will ask and then I will tell them. No one listens to a man or a woman who is not applying their preachings to themselves. After all, I would not pay a trainer to train me if he was obese and neither would I keep a doctor who looked sickly, in the same way, I finally understand that the reason people were not listening to me all along is because I was not taking care of myself.
I always prided myself on being smart, finally, at the age of 47, I have a touch of wisdom to pair with the information I’ve accumulated over the years. My father Fikremariam Million, may he rest in peace, tried for nearly 27 years to get me to find my center instead of flailing from place to place trying to find acceptance from others. My dad is smiling in heaven because I finally figured it out! My guzo to healing started with tears and loneliness, I have all the faith that the next leg will lead to a hug from my son::
“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
Teddy Fikre is the founder of Guzo to Healing, formerly the co-founder and editor of the Ghion Journal, he launched Guzo to Healing on his on guzo (journey) of healing from past wounds in order to liberate himself from the prisons of regret and guilt. The greatest journey we take is that which we travel to heal ourselves and by extension help others who struggle.
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