Since the beginning I AM was there, clothed in garments of light with no darkness in Him. He is the creative architect behind the design for the heavens and the earth. Being the God of universal creation, everything He made was good, perfect, and full of light. He created with love and purpose, reflecting His glory.
Angels are God’s created beings, designed to carry out His desires. There was a time in heaven when one of God’s angels exercised his will against God. Pride and rebellion rose up in his heart, consuming him with Gollum-like intensity. He began to despise God; to dream of replacing God; of being glorified above God; and even having God bow down to worship him.
Corrupted wisdom distorted the mind of the Angel Lucifer. He convened a band of rogue angels to follow him, and there was no turning back. The same held true for the loyal angels; there was no turning back, their loyalty steadfast to God. And there was civil war in heaven.
The Angel Lucifer and the rogue angels fought long and hard against the Archangel Michael and the loyal forces. The rebel angels were not strong enough to defeat God’s loyal forces, and they lost their place in heaven. The Angel Lucifer was hurled down to earth — becoming an ancient serpent, and his rebel angels, cast down with him, became demons. And the earth was formless and void with darkness upon its face; yet the Spirit of God the Creator prevailed.
The darkness remained until the Creator began to speak words of life. He worked like a potter at the wheel, His words molding earthen clay into beautiful vessels. He molded the vastness of the universe, saying “Let there be light.” Light slashed the darkness, bursting forth in glorious streaks, distinguishing darkness from light. The Creator continued unleashing His power, separating the waters from the firmament, adorning the universe with heaven, earth, and seas. Upon the face of the universe there came the sun, the moon, and the stars. Upon the face of the earth there came grass, herbs, trees, and plants. Living creatures began to move upon the land, fly in the air, and swim in the seas. He commanded that all things be fruitful and multiply, each seed bringing forth its own kind, each crop yielding its own fruit continuously and abundantly.
God looked upon all that was created, seeing that it was good. He convened the Trinity for the next step in His design. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, to serve on earth as our representatives.” Man was shaped from earthen clay, and they breathed into this vessel the breath of life, bringing forth a living being of mind, body, and spirit. In the image of Himself, God created them; male and female, progenitors of Humanity.
Humanity was placed in God’s Garden of Eden — the epicenter of life, provision, and abundance. A river of living water flowed from Eden to nourish the Garden soil — fertile black soil that provided just what was needed to nurture and grow relationships for generations to come.
As God’s earthly representatives, Humanity was charged with being the steward over all the earth, fruitfully multiplying life under God’s instruction. Humanity was to walk in divine relationship with God first, then with one another throughout eternity.
Alas, the serpent was also in the Garden. The serpent had become the complete antithesis of God, believing Humanity should bow down and worship him alone. This belief burned into his thoughts and desires as he waited patiently in the Garden for just the right moment to stage the ultimate coup d’état; an insurrection separating Humanity from God and ruling over them once and for all.
The serpent watched intently, waiting for the right moment to strike. The serpent cunningly devised his plot to plant doubt in the mind of Humanity. Lies began to form in the heart and mind of the serpent. When the moment came the serpent spoke, immediately questioning the word of God.
Did God really say not to touch or eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? You most certainly will not die. Perhaps eating the fruit will open your eyes to see that you are equal to Him. Perhaps He just wants to control you, to withhold provision and abundance, to keep you from getting what rightfully belongs to you. Follow me and I will share my wealth of wisdom with you for all eternity.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was in the midst of the Garden alongside the Tree of Life. Both trees were pleasing to the sight and the succulent fruit from the Tree of Life was very pleasing to the taste. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was the only one God deemed dangerous and off limits. Humanity was well aware of the presence of this tree but had no desire to eat its fruit. Up until the moment the serpent spoke, Humanity hadn’t even considered the fruit from this tree. Somehow this time it looked different, pleasing to the eye, and a means to gain wisdom equal to God. Humanity dropped its spiritual guard, ate the forbidden fruit, believing in their own supremacy.
Instantly there came a profound shift in the mind, body, and spirit of Humanity. Eyes were opened to perceive darkness and the vessel fell into a state of brokenness, shame and nakedness. They wanted to hide their brokenness and shame. They tried to deal with this newly-discovered nakedness by covering themselves. They could no longer feel God’s presence. They knew of his presence only when they heard Him walking in the Garden in the cool of the day. Humanity sought to hide themselves from God, who simply asked, “Where are you?”
God felt the separation, a shift in the divine relationship. The brilliance of light and color in the Garden became muted with dark undertones. The mind, body, and spirit of Humanity was now tainted with the lies and deceptive teachings of the serpent, ushering in dire consequences for generations to come.
Humanity had the chance to own up to the disobedience, apologize, and ask for forgiveness. Instead, they began to weave their own deep-seated lies, pointing the finger of blame at one another, denying accountability and responsibility. Humanity was caught up in a web of deception beginning the moment they bowed down to a voice other than God’s.
Individual punishment was doled out according to each offense. The serpent was condemned to a lowly position, forever to grovel in the dust. Enmity between its offspring and the offspring of Humanity resulted in the crushing of heads and the striking of heels. Labor in childbearing became painfully severe. The ruling of one over the other inflicted division and disunity. The ground now required exhaustive physical toil just to eat. Life now had to be sacrificed in order to provide a covering for the nakedness of Humanity.
The most excruciating blow was banishment from the Garden. God declared that Humanity could not eat from the Tree of Life while bearing the knowledge of good and evil, lest they live forever tainted with darkness. A spiritual covering of flame and sword was placed to guard the way to the Tree of Life, preventing access until restoration — one person at a time.
Since the fall, the history of Humanity has been fraught with battles of the mind, body, and spirit. Eons flowed through an old testament of murder and banishment, a global flood, an exodus into the wilderness, a father of nations, feast and famine, kings and queens, prophets and poets. Eons flowed toward a new testament of the descension and ascension of the savior, the day of Pentacost the arrival of a comforter, discipleship, preaching and teaching, revelation and restoration, right up to Anita D Russell, a contemporary believer, born in 1957. That’s me.
In my own spiritual and mental wellness journey, I have learned that challenges across eons, beginning in the Garden, can be boiled down to six keys to nurture, grow, and empower your life built on a foundation of personal accountability and responsibility. This is what I call “Living On-PAR”, which correlates directly to the choices I make and the many questions I ask myself along the way.
From which banquet table do you choose to eat, wisdom or folly, truth or lies? Eating from the table of folly with a plate of lies, Humanity deviated from God’s blueprint. Likewise, I have often deviated from God’s blueprint with the goals and plans I have set for myself. I have gone through seasons and transitions where it was necessary to tear down and redesign my life to get back on track. Redesign requires a level of courage and boldness to look at myself with honesty and transparency, admitting mistakes. This is where accountability and responsibility enter the picture.
Accountability is empowerment. It is the willingness to accept the consequences of my words, actions, and behaviors as it relates to managing my gift of life. Accountability does not include denial, blame or finger-pointing. Mahatma Gandhi said it best: “It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts.”
Responsibility encompasses the actions I take to breathe life into my vision, mission, and purpose. It’s the individual tasks, steps, or requirements that must be completed to reach a milestone or achieve success or significance. John C. Maxwell, author of The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, puts it this way: “The greatest day of your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.”
This is where the six keys enter the picture, beginning with the inner personal — know yourself, nurture your life, and integrate your life.
Know Yourself. Self-image plays a key role in developing character and influence. Is your self-image positive? How does your inner self compare to what others see? When looking in the mirror, what do you see? Who is influencing you? Who are you influencing?
Nurture Your Life. Commit to making wise choices, building quality relationships, and cultivating change. Examine life choices to determine if you live to survive or live to thrive. To thrive is to grow and develop, to prosper and flourish. Or as Nick Vujicic says, “ Am I here just to live and die? No!”
Integrate Your Life. Living an integrated life means coordinating the domains of life to create a holistic picture based on fluidity and synergy. Make a promise to activate self-discipline to live a fully integrated life in personal, family, community, ministry, work, and other relevant domains.
The next three keys are interpersonal — connect with others, live intentionally, seize opportunity.
Connect with others. Connecting is all about others. Develop the skills to communicate and connect with others to increase your influence. How do you nurture connection as an investment in yourself as well as others? How do you build relationships that are mutually beneficial.
Live Intentionally. Living intentionally is to choose a life that matters; one that brings about positive change in the lives of others. Do you know the difference between success and significance? Do you use your personal success to add value to others?
Seize Opportunity. Seize the moment to make a difference. Imagine what your life would look like if you went into each day expecting to find opportunities. What if you went into each day with an abundance mindset, thinking win-win instead of zero-sum; not just for yourself but for others as well?
In my journey of ups and downs, twists and turns, I look to my inner personal life of thoughts, emotions, and beliefs to examine my interpersonal life of words, actions, and behaviors. I choose a higher anointing to nurture, grow and empower daily. I choose to cultivate a growth mindset through personal development, digging deep into the question: Who am I becoming?
In her memoir, Becoming, Michelle Obama puts it this way, “Becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self.” And beyond that forward motion lies the generational legacy you create. So, realize the journey is endless.