Revival and Reformation

By His Spirit

Michelle Odinma, MDiv, is a singer-songwriter and the associate pastor at Church of the Advent Hope in Manhattan, New York, United States.

Every summer, I said the same thing: “This is my last year.” But every summer, I found myself strapping on a two-toned canvassing bag, loading up Christian books, and trying to clip a walkie-talkie to my pocketless, knee-length skirt. This was my routine for six summers, selling Christian literature from house to house.

Although I dreaded the long summers of discomfort, canvassing was a great ministry, perfect for learning essential life lessons. In fact, it was a blessing. The relationships I developed and the spiritual growth I experienced were all worth it. Not to mention, I was pretty good at it. I prided myself in using my persuasion skills to convince people that the Word carried in the books was worth knowing. That was, until my third summer.

A big booker

This time I had returned as a “big booker”—meaning now I was taking on the challenge to sell larger, pricier books instead of the smaller books I used to offer. I knew it was the space God wanted me in. God had proved Himself; with two summers under my belt, I figured offering the more expensive literature would be no different. Was I ever wrong.

Things started out promising, but I was disheartened, tired, and lacking confidence by week five. I had not sold a single set all month. What was wrong with me? I was good at this, right? I did my Michelle routine that typically worked like a charm: smile, be friendly, laugh, ask good questions, and share insightful information about the books and life. People seemed receptive, but I left empty-handed every time.

It was the middle of the fifth week when it happened. I sluggishly rolled off my air mattress, said my prayers, had a quiet breakfast, and packed a pitiful lunch. I dragged my feet outside to the driveway where my brown 2001 Chevy Malibu sat. Slowly, I turned the key in the ignition and then headed to my location. After several empty homes and three rejections, I was tired, beat up, and defeated. I parked my car next to a field of tall corn, pulled out my pitiful lunch, gave thanks, and took a bite. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich—yuck.

“Father, I’m sorry. I can’t do this without You; I’m ashamed for even thinking that I could. I give up; please help me.”

Not about you

I laid my head back and closed my eyes, but not before a tear managed to escape. I sat in silence. My thoughts were confused and pessimistic. What am I doing wrong? I honestly don’t know what else to do. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a thought came to me. Maybe it’s not about you, Michelle. Ouch.

I had spent the last five weeks relying on my human skills to do very spiritual work. I knew the right words to say, I knew the right books to pull out, but I did not realize that success did not depend on my skills. It depended on the Spirit of God. The whole time my confidence had been misplaced. I was too confident in myself, not in God.

I finished my lunch, cried some more, and said a final prayer. Father, I’m sorry. I can’t do this without You; I’m ashamed for even thinking that I could. I give up; please help me.

The day ended better than I could have imagined. I did my same Michelle routine. But this time was different. I knew that my speech was not what convinced people. I knew it was God. The evening finished in a whirlwind, with my first four sets of books going out.

I look back and no longer have questions about why I went back to this ministry and did it for six summers. I returned because life lessons like these, taught by the hand of God, are priceless. Whenever I am tempted to forget, the Lord reminds me that success in His work is “ ‘ “not by might nor by power, but by [His] Spirit” ’ ” (Zech. 4:6, NKJV).


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Michelle Odinma, MDiv, is a singer-songwriter and the associate pastor at Church of the Advent Hope in Manhattan, New York, United States.

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