As a bestselling author, life coach and spiritualist Iyanla Vanzant is a household name for black women. She proved herself to be on August 22 when she packed out the Touhill Performing Arts Center to celebrate the 25th anniversary of her book, “Acts of Faith.”
“We’ve been together a long time,” Vanzant told the followers who filled the Touhill for the “Acts of Faith: Remix Tour.” “Some people ought to stay married as long as we’ve been together.”
She wrote three books before “Acts of Faith.” But the daily devotional that features wise words from thought leaders, spiritual gurus, musicians and historical figures became an urban culture sensation. Each page starts with a quote that Vanzant expounds upon to reveal a powerful lesson in faith.
She grabbed the attention of Oprah Winfrey, who often featured Vanzant on her talk show to help her viewing audiences “live their best life.” She is currently the host of “Iyanla Fix My Life” on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
“This has been an incredible journey. You see, it was 25 years ago that I started doing this work publicly,” Vanzant to the audience. “It was then that I wrote a little book called ‘Acts of Faith.’ That book took on a life all its own. I want to bring some of the wisdom of ‘Acts of Faith’ from the page to the stage.”
There were only a few passages over the course of her talk that referenced the book, but the entire transparent presentation highlighted the power of faith.
“Faith will allow you to take this magnificent gift called life and use it to its maximum capacity,” Vanzant said. “Faith will take you from one dream to another; from one victory to another. It doesn’t matter what anybody has to say. It only matters where you put your faith.”
Her own life story is a testament to the power of faith. Her mother died from breast cancer when Vanzant, then known as Rhonda Harris, was a toddler. Vanzant’s mother was her father’s mistress. She was shifted from household to household until she was forced to become the head of her own when she became a teenage mother.
She would become the mother of three before her 21st birthday. Despite the obstacles and challenges, she was able to work full-time and put herself through law school and become a successful lawyer, only to discover that she hated practicing law.
Vanzant immersed herself in faith-based readings and teachings from around the world as she sought purpose and attempted to start over.
“We get so turned around and turned off by the lessons that we face,” Vanzant said. “These things don’t come to break you. They come to stretch you and grow you. But if you’ve got a closet control freak – and because you can’t control the outcome – you think that these things are happening to you rather than for you.”
Her journey to wholeness through the reading and studying of religions and faith teachings planted the seeds for “Acts of Faith,” the 19 other books she’s written in over the past 28 years – and the life work that grew out of them. Since the release of “Acts of Faith,” Vanzant has been on a mission to get others to activate their own faith.
“When you have a burning desire to do a thing – know that it is not coming from you. It is coming from God,” Vanzant said. “When you can see it and feel it, when you want it and want to do it – you have to do it, because that’s how you demonstrate your faith.”
Her talk was a lesson in faith, with self-love and trust mixed in.
“Faith is an inner knowing that dares your soul to go beyond what your eyes can see and what your mind can comprehend,” Vanzant said.
She talked about “faith killers,” which included inauthenticity and worry.
“Don’t worry, be happy,” Vanzant said, quoting the title from Bobby McFerrin’s hit song, which served as her “Acts of Faith” devotion for February 13.
“Worry is the vampire that drains life from its force. Worry stagnates the mind, creates an imbalance in the immune system,” Vanzant said, quoting herself. “We worry about the things we cannot control – the past and the future. We worry about the things we do not have, cannot get and have already lost. Worry creates confusion, disorder and helplessness.”
According to Vanzant, worry is a culprit of lost faith – and so are trust issues.
“One of the reasons we lose faith is because we disrespect faith’s mother. Faith’s mother is trust,” Vanzant said. “It’s not that we don’t trust; it’s just that sometimes we put our trust in the wrong things – and our faith is violated. If you have [the right kind of trust] trust, faith is a natural outcome.”
She discussed the caterpillar’s metamorphosis as evidence of the power of trust and having faith in the process.
“It surrenders to the moment and what happens is something comes out – and not what went in – but something totally different and beautiful,” Vanzant said. “That means if you want to change, you have to be willing to crawl out to the ledge and eat [expletive]. It’s your [expletive]. It’s nobody else’s, because there is nobody in there with you.”