When Faith and Ego Collide: A Note of Surrender


When I resigned from my international development job in 2013 to pursue a life-long academic dream, I found myself having a serious spirituality crisis. After praying for months, I knew (absolutely knew) that it was God’s will for me to leave my job and walk this new path. I listened to God, and I felt brave in my decision to leave; however, in the following months, my self-esteem plummeted, and I stumbled gracelessly down the path ahead.

The stress of preparing for a standardized test and moving home seemed to be too much. I struggled to get out of bed, my mood swings became uncontrollable and soon, I could not remember why I had left my city-girl life.  I prayed so hard for months for God to show me the way, and when God did, I couldn’t understand why I felt this constant battle to keep proving myself. I had to prove that I had made the right decision. I had to prove God was right. I had to prove that I could succeed while swimming against the current of professional mobility. I had to prove… I had to… had to… didn’t I?

“The key to any spiritual process is your mind. You must be willing to surrender your ego to a higher spiritual force.” – Iyanla Vanzant

I read this and thought, “Well that’s obvious, of course you have to let go of your ego.”  And then I tried it myself and realized the gravity of what sister-friend Iyanla shared. Letting go of your ego in a country that has built its reputation on it? Is it possible to grow or even prosper in a society where ego is our new currency?

How great are you? Sell it to me and you can get hired. How sexy/pensive/happy/ethereal can you look to get as many likes on InstaFaceTweet? Are you the baddest chick/dude in this room? Prove it to me and maybe we can date.

Ego, it appears, gets some people where they want to go, but what if where you want to go is with God? How do you rewire your thinking and actions after all the social conditioning? I ask, is it possible to live in this world at this day and age with our egos pumped for survival and have an honest spiritual process?

One morning, I got down on my knees and prayed to hear God confirm my path. I realized in the weeks that followed that it wasn’t the voice of God I was listening to, but my ego.  I hadn’t surrendered my ego at all through this process. I had let it drive me – as the MapQuest of spiritual guidance would – straight into a dead end. When I made the decision to leave my job, I did it as a servant of God, knowing that God had greater work for me to do. I knew I couldn’t do it from where I sat having boozy brunches and impulse shopping in Georgetown. When I stepped away from the discomfort of the unknown and uncertainty – I had relied not on my faith in God, but in what I knew of myself. As I continued to struggle with my ego, I tried to remember my ultimate goal – serving God. I went back to the Bible and found 1 Corinthians 2:5, “…that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” I realized then that I had left God in that moment when I made the decision to leave my job. I had sought God’s Will in making my decision, and then listened only to my ego as I navigated the following steps – hence the graceless stumbling. In that moment, I surrendered my ego.

In the weeks that followed, I felt my steps stabilize and my footing along the chosen path became more secure. The mood swings ebbed, and I woke each morning feeling calm. I realize now that it’s impossible to find God when the ego navigates, for the ego will always lead you back to itself – telling you that you need no one and nothing else. You need faith, and you need God. I finally gave myself over to my spiritual process. To do that, I made mindful decisions and actions. I prayed daily, simply sharing my fears with God. I spoke aloud about my struggle to friends, family, and to people who knew me well enough to understand where my securities stemmed from, and I finally gave my mind back to God.

I still struggle with the ego, but in those moments, I step back and I ask, “What is leading me? Is it my mind and ego or God?” Then I surrender all over again.

Noma Ndlovu is a freelance writer and first-year law student. She spent three years working on international democracy and governance programs in Washington, D.C. Noma holds a Masters degree in African Studies from Yale University.