Updated: Apr 2
: the action or process of investing money for profit or material result
: a thing that is worth buying because it may be profitable or useful in the future
: an act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result
“This is my year of self-investment!”she titled it.
Yes, the “she” was me. Loud, proud, and in color, I proclaimed 2018 as the year focused on investing in me and my personal endeavors. After all of what 2017 took me through, I was sure 2018 would result in a more colorful self-portrait. Instead of a canvas filled with dark strokes of pain with depressing stains, I envisioned life’s paintbrush dipped several times in vibrancy, prosperity, assuredness, accomplishments, and a peace of mind… simply put, I envisioned a brighter picture for my experienced realities.
Now, do not be misled, 2018 was a good year for the most part. I had more highs than lows. It was like sitting in a paint and sip class instructed by my Lord and Savior. He gave me the final picture for 2018 on a pencil sketched canvas and I sipped wine emblematic of passed time. Trying my hardest to stay within His lines, stroke by stroke, I painted my own self-portrait. After all, 2018 was about investing in me, right? His Word even offered encouragement. My themed scripture for 2018 was 3 John 1:2 NKJV and it reads:
“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”
I believed investing in me would bring forth spiritual, physical, relational, financial, mental, emotional, and intellectual prosperity because His Word encouraged it. After listening to a sermon on this very scripture by one of my favorite preachers, Bishop T. D. Jakes, my confidence in this belief heightened. However, as Bishop’s daughter, Sarah Jakes Roberts, jocosely says, “chiillleeee…” I was out of line.
So, what picture am I trying to paint for you? It is one of many blessings coated in a spectrum of paint colors displaying different lessons. The 2018 portrait of my life has dried and now hangs in an envisioned and reflective museum of my life. However, the former portrait title of “this is my year of self-investment!" has since changed to “chiillleeee… let me teach you [financial] lessons on what true self-investment is about!”
So, let’s get to it. Here are short depictions of some cherished lessons:
Self-investment Lesson #1 – Go Bankrupt
At just 29 years old, after toying with the idea of going bankrupt for a couple of years, I sat in bankruptcy court humiliated, fearful, and regretful of the amount of debt I accumulated during my early 20’s. I no longer could bear the burden of my mistakes so I took steps to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy. To file, I had to collect all my debts and debtors’ information, present my case to a judge, and plea for him or her to remove my responsibilities of paying back all that I owed. Although I was terrified and embarrassed throughout the entire process, there was so much freedom gained once the judge and my bankruptcy lawyer confirmed that many of my debts were erased. Finally, I was able to let go of the worries surrounding how I was going to become debt free on my own.
Hence the first lesson learned in self-investment is the power of letting go. I have learned we must let go of everything that can deter us from the picture God wants to paint for our lives. This daily and continual exercise includes letting go of past mistakes, experiences, hurts, and even ill practices and behaviors. It also includes letting go of all fears, worries, anxieties, humiliations, regrets… and any and everything that will influence us to draw outside of those lines not a part of God’s painting for our lives. Yes, that also includes the picture we already drew in our minds that we believe to be perfect in our sight.
Remember, God is the Master painter who knew us before we knew us. He already has the perfect combination of life strokes for us to be everything He called each of us to be. Relinquish control and take the introspective steps necessary to let it all go immediately. Do not delay. Doing so will only cause more harm than good. He waits for us to let it all go in exchange for the receipt of His canvas, which gives us the freedom to never have to worry about how we will make it on our own.
Self-investment Lesson #2 – Budget Before Each Transaction
When was the last time you counted the costs of your decisions and obligations (transactions) before making or meeting them? When did you last ask yourself what are all the possible outcomes of this decision or that obligation before the decision is made or the obligation occurs? When was the last time you outlined your God-given gifts, efforts and resources based on what you know you possess, how much you can afford to expend (budget), and how each of your transactions may or may not benefit (cost) you?
It all began September of 2018 for me. Part of the reason I accumulated so much debt was because I never budgeted what monies I had before spending them. I was never taught how to properly manage my finances and anything with numbers gives me anxiety. Therefore, I stayed away from budgeting thinking God would meet me where I am and paint a pretty little financial picture for my life anyway. God will indeed meet us where we are but we must not forget that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead [James 2:17 NIV].”
Let’s just say I should have counted the costs required for every stroke of my life and then budgeted for each stroke a long time ago. There are so many positive benefits to exploring potential outcomes of our spiritual, physical, relational, financial, mental, emotional, and/or intellectual decisions and obligations. This routine practice should always be followed by allocating reasonable amounts of our God-given gifts, efforts and/or resources to certain aspects of life based on its anticipated costs before each of life’s transactions take place.
Seek help when necessary no matter the type of assistance needed. Every canvas has a master painter – whether it is you, God Himself, or God via someone He appoints and anoints to assist us. For our finances, there are financial coaches and planners… for our spirituality, there are pastors and ministers… for our mental and emotional wellbeing, there are licensed therapists and counselors… and the list goes on. Additionally, we must exercise discipline. During one of my first financial coaching sessions, I found myself satisfied with the early successes of my newfound personal financial management journey. In the midst of its newfound glory, my financial coach, Mrs. Wanda, quickly brought me back to reality as she exclaimed, “Lauryn, your habits have changed but your discipline is not strong enough… Follow the plan!” So, let us be advised once more to exercise discipline in this routine practice of budgeting so our works plus God’s favor create sustainable picture-perfect experiences throughout our entire lifespan.
Self-investment Lesson #3 – Invest with Whole Life Insurance
Let’s rewind to the beginning of year 2018 when the year of self-investment seemed so promising. I set quarterly goals. I listed each quarterly goal under each letter of the word “INVESTED” affixed to a dry erase board. 8 different goals were going to change each quarter of the year as I assumed it would be a piece of cake accomplishing each of them. For the first quarter of the year, items such as finalizing my bankruptcy, earning a certain amount of money in business revenue, reading 2-3 books, traveling, losing weight and 3 other ones I cannot recall were listed. Was it a beautiful, ambitious image hung on my office wall? Yes. Did it depict easily attainable goals? Absolutely not. By April of 2018, I had not achieved any of these goals except finalizing my bankruptcy. These goals unmet left me broken, disappointed and discouraged, and I lost all interest in pursuing my self-investment goals moving forward.
Where did I go wrong? Did I ask God for guidance on establishing my goals? Yes. Did I consult with my Father and receive His portrait (vision) of my life specifically for 2018? Yes. Did I act in obedience and begin to fill in the sketched lines of His portrait of me for 2018? Yes. So, again, where did I go wrong? I wish I knew then what I know now. I attempted to fill in the lines of a sketched portrait that was already painted, dried, and hung in His envisioned and my reflective life museum, exhibit 2018. You see, God reminded me that the portrait for every year of my life (past, present, and future) has already dried and been hung in His envisioned and my reflective life museum.
Investing in God’s best portrait for our life is not about our own desires nor is seeking Him to give us step by step guidance on how to apply life’s paint strokes within the lines of the picture we often draw in our own minds. It is the complete opposite; it is an investment, remember? Investment is about surrendering! When making an investment we buy into our life’s portrait, already hung and dried in His envisioned and our individual reflective life museums, by surrendering everything that is due to God. Surrendering everything literally means everything because He already paid the cost for it via His life, death and resurrection. Then we ought to move through life with the expectancy of an unimaginable return on our investment that far exceeds the desires of our hearts.
Psalm 37:4b NIV says, “and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Do not be remiss and neglect to take into account that the very next verse says, “commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this… [Psalm 37:5].” True investment is making a commitment to God by devoting our whole life (our time, efforts, and energy) to Him and His way. This act insures the results of our investments will be worthwhile. It is what I like to call investing with whole life insurance because we surrender our whole life to Christ, commit to His will and ways, while marrying His desires with our desires thereby producing a benefit that pleases both us and God.
Whew! I know what you may be thinking: “That was a lot to digest in one blog post!” Yeah, I know – it literally took me HALF OF A YEAR or more to release this message in written form.
I encourage you to read this defining moments blog post and re-read it again until God inspires you to (re-)invest in the best days of your life through Him and His ways. God’s best portrait of your life is waiting for your true investment!