Turning Love into Action: Cynthia Garrett & Paige VanZant
Cynthia Garrett: Turn your love into an action, into a verb, and do something—stand up when you need to stand up. You know, I also believe that as Christians, we cannot call ourselves Christians if we don’t really and truly seek to love our neighbor. And I know it’s a very difficult place to be, but I do think that there is hope.
Turning Love into Action: Cynthia Garrett & Paige VanZant – Episode #207
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Love has a very powerful effect in our world, and we know from the words of Jesus that we need to “love one another.” Our guests this week share what happens when love isn’t at the center of our interactions, and encourage us toward utilizing the most powerful word in the Bible—love—TV show host Cynthia Garrett and MMA Fighter Paige VanZant.
First up—Cynthia Garrett is the host of the TV show The Sessions with Cynthia Garrett on TBN. Cynthia first made her mark in television by being the first African American woman to host a late night television show on a major network in the nineties. Cynthia has experienced first hand the emptiness that occurs when love isn’t at the core of our relationships with others—and she lays out ways that we can learn to love others the way God loves us.
Cynthia Garrett: Hi, Jesus Calling family. My name is Cynthia Garrett and I am the founder of Cynthia Garrett Ministries.
And just to tell you a little bit about myself, I have worked in secular Hollywood television for more years than I really want to talk about. But my love and my passion for my faith in Jesus caused me to start the organization and to really focus on media that is about faith and faith-filled messages. I produce and I create programs, shows, films, TV series, and documentaries that really and truly share faith.
My TV show on TBN is called The Sessions with Cynthia Garrett, and it airs on TBN around the world. And you can find it in reruns on the Cynthia Garrett Ministries YouTube channel.
I’ve had so many talk shows on secular network television, and I’m the first African American woman to ever have her own network late night show. I used to come on after Leno and Conan. And one of the things that I always have felt made me really good and highly requested at my job is the fact that I’m a good listener, and then I ask questions. And I always felt like it was my job to care about someone if they sat down with me on my show to give me an interview.
How Can We Listen and Understand?
As the survivor of childhood sexual abuse and rape and cancer, a survivor of an abusive first marriage and divorce and single motherhood, I mean, I could probably be the poster child for any movement today. I’ve had a fair amount of things that the enemy has tried to use to create a victim’s narrative for my life. But through my faith and through the strength that God has given me, and knowing that He loves me and that He’s there for me, I have learned how to choose victory every day. And that is a daily choice.
You know, one of the things that I think that we can all do is to listen. We have to listen more. I think we are here because we stopped listening to each other. We listen to social media. We listen to the television. We listen to what celebrities tell us is cool. We listen to fashion. We listen to music. And we the people have stopped listening to each other. Listen to people. You know? Listen to people, because you’ll hear their heart.
“One of the things that I think that we can all do is to listen. We have to listen more.I think we are here because we stopped listening to each other.” – Cynthia Garrett
Learning to Pay Better Attention
We’re a nation that is distracted. You know, we’re distracted with all our things, with our jobs, we’re distracted with our friends, with our husbands, with our children, we’re distracted with social media. We’re distracted with all those things I mentioned before, fashion and music and just silliness. We’re just distracted. We’re a nation distracted. And so we don’t listen to anything except that which has our attention in a moment. And we need to disconnect from all that stuff out there, and we need to stop, and we need to be present more in front of the people or the persons that we share this planet with.
You know, there’s someone that you work with, there’s someone in your community, there’s someone that you go to school with, there’s someone you know [who] is a person of color. There’s someone you know who’s different from you, and the best way to have understanding and wisdom is to ask them questions about their experience in life and to listen, and then through listening, pray.
“There’s someone you know who’s different from you, and the best way to have understanding and wisdom is to ask them questions about their experience in life and to listen.” – Cynthia Garrett
If we can emerge from this dialoguing with each other and [being] more sensitive to each other and caring, really caring enough to ask questions of those who are different from us, then we’ll arrive at a better place. And so I do believe there is hope.
When you love your neighbor, racism does not exist. And if you feel a struggle with that, then I would just challenge you to really and truly open your Bible to 1 Corinthians 13 and really look at love. You can teach love. I don’t think enough people really understand that there is a biblical definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13. And I find that talking about love, especially with unbelievers, is powerful because they can’t really hear about Jesus until they feel like you love them. You know, they can’t hear about Jesus until they feel as if you’re willing to invest in their lives, that you’re willing to invest time in their lives. So that’s a very powerful action that you can take to actually do something and make a difference—invest in people’s lives.
“When you love your neighbor, racism does not exist.” – Cynthia Garrett
Don’t ask questions only of your friend group, because a lot of us have friend groups that mirror the way that we think, the way that we live. And I have been trying to go out of my comfort zone and ask questions of people that maybe don’t have faith even, but they’re different. I’ve asked questions of a lot of different people to try to understand, and I’ve tried to ask questions of young people. I would encourage you to ask questions from young people. There’s a lot we can learn from them. And there’s a lot that they can learn from us. But again, they won’t listen to us unless they feel that we’ll listen to them.
What Can God’s People Do?
And what do we do as Christians? Well, we put on the armor of God, and we know that our breastplate of righteousness covers our heart. And so if we examine our hearts and seek righteousness in our hearts, we can make a difference.
“If we examine our hearts and seek righteousness in our hearts, we can make a difference.” – Cynthia Garrett
So I would encourage you to just pray, pray for people, pray for African Americans right now. You know, pray for them. Pray for an understanding of the unique road that a person of color walks in this nation and what it may mean to feel afraid.
My prayer for the future is really simple. You know, I have been praying a lot, asking that God would bring about His will in our nation and that any in doing so, He would take care of all of His children and provide for all of His children and give us wisdom and insight so that if the answer to our prayers doesn’t look like we hoped it would, it’s still the answer to our prayers. Because, you know, that often happens, right? I ask God to work something out in my life, and then He puts me through a trial. And then I realize when I get through the trial that He’s actually worked out the thing in my life that He wanted me to work out. So, yeah, my prayer is that God’s will would be done and that He would give me the wisdom and the insight to understand that He’s actually answering my prayers if the answer and the process to answering my prayers doesn’t look like I want it to look.
And here’s a passage from Jesus Always [June 14th] that I hope will encourage you.
LOVE IS PATIENT. Notice that the very first adjective the apostle Paul uses to describe love is “patient.” I treasure this quality in My followers, even though it is not highly visible in most twenty-first-century depictions of love. Patient people can stay calm while enduring lengthy waits or dealing with difficult people and problems. I encourage you to examine your own life: to see how you respond to waiting and difficulties. This will give you a good measure of how patient–how loving–you are. “Patience” is listed fourth in the fruit of the Spirit. My Spirit will help you grow in this important character trait, especially as you ask Him. Some Christians are afraid to pray for patience. They fear that I’ll answer their prayer by subjecting them to severe suffering and trials. However, suffering serves an important purpose in My kingdom, and trials are not optional. They come so that your faith may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor to Me!
You know, I often say that love is an action. It’s a verb. It’s a very powerful verb. Love does. What do I mean by that? Love is messy, but love gets involved with other people. Love stands up for right. Because love knows that “the only thing necessary for the spread of evil is for good men and women to do and say nothing.” Love stands up when others are knocked down. Love will give up its seat. You know, love will help. Love wakes up in the middle of the night. Love doesn’t ever sleep. Love answers the phone at two o’clock in the morning because someone needs help and you really don’t want to answer the phone. Love is an action. Love is messy. Love is inconvenient. But love is also the most powerful word in the Bible. It is the most powerful lesson that we learned from Christ, and it is the most powerful thing that we can walk in. And it’s the most powerful command that we’re given, because Jesus said that all the law and all the commandments are summed up in one one simple word: Love. Love your neighbor. It’s really, really that simple. And it’s that challenging and it’s that difficult and it is that necessary. And it can change things in our nation.
“Love is an action. Love is messy. Love is inconvenient. But love is also the most powerful word in the Bible.” – Cynthia Garrett
Narrator: To find out more about Cynthia and when her program, The Sessions with Cynthia Garrett airs, please visit CynthiaGarrett.org.
Stay tuned for Paige VanZant’s story after this brief message about the great work happening at the Gary Sinise Foundation.
The Gary Sinise Foundation works to keep our defenders and their families strong each and every day. Join us as we show the pride and gratitude of our nation to all of its heroes. While we can never do enough for our defenders, veterans, first responders and the loved ones who sacrificed right alongside them, we can always do a little more. To make a donation, visit GarySiniseFoundation.org.
Narrator: Paige VanZant is a fighter—in more than one sense of the word. Paige survived a horrific bullying experience in high school that forced her to move to a new state for a fresh start. Eventually Paige found her way to a mixed martial arts studio and was immediately captivated by the sport, turning pro at just age 18. Paige encourages us to remember that while we’re in the fight, we can know that someone who loves us is fighting for us every step of the way—God.
Paige VanZant: My name is Paige VanZant, and I’m a freshman all-fighter for the UFC, as well as a published author.
Faith has definitely been extremely important in my life, and especially in my career. It’s something I was born into—I was born into a Christian household—but it’s something that I really developed for myself later in life. I was baptized with my mom when I was eighteen, I think. And it was a really, really important time for my life. My faith has definitely guided my career, because I know I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs throughout the roller coaster. I know that I can stay positive because it’s all in God’s plan.
“I know that I can stay positive because it’s all in God’s plan.” – Paige VanZant
Finding the Fight Within
So I found MMA when I was fifteen years old and I was going through a really rough time. I was extremely bullied in high school, I actually dropped out of high school really young. I definitely lost my confidence as a kid. I was very depressed. I went through some sort of suicidal phases in my life and, you know, being fifteen, sixteen years old—we did move out of Oregon to Nevada. But the biggest reason is because I needed to leave the state because I was that bullied.
During that time, I found MMA, my dad had taken me to an MMA class just to try it. And then I ended up just completely falling in love with it. And from fifteen to eighteen, I had three boxing matches, and then I went pro MMA immediately when I turned eighteen. And then by the time I was nineteen, I was signed to the UFC. So it was something that just kind of fell into my lap. I never knew I wanted to do MMA. It was never something I could ever see myself doing, and I didn’t think it would be my career either. It was just something I loved to do and I really wanted to be good at it. So I just kept training as hard as I could. And now being twenty-six, it’s my full time job, and it has been since I was nineteen.
I think it’s extremely important to push yourself to try new things. I’ve kind of just been a go-getter my entire life. I’ve always wanted to be really good at anything and try to kind of say yes to any opportunity that comes my way. I think it’s important, though, because God’s given you all these talents. Why waste them?
“God’s given you all these talents. Why waste them?” – Paige VanZant
Reframing Your Experiences
Somehow, every negative thing I’ve gone through, God’s worked it out to be something extremely positive. So I think it’s just waiting for God’s time to be perfectly right and trusting that process. It’s extremely hard to look at a negative experience you’re going through and think that it could ever be something positive during that moment. It was definitely a learning process for me to be able to look back at my past and be like, Wow, okay, I was meant to go through that. That experience led me to something greater.
That’s the only reason I found fighting. And if I wouldn’t have gone through that experience, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t be as successful as I am today. And I think it says, “Do not be afraid,” 365 times in the Bible. So that means every single day you need to be reminded, don’t be afraid, and just trust God’s timing and the purpose for your life, because there’s purpose behind every single trauma or turmoil or trial that you go through. And once you know that, I feel like you can live a little bit more at peace with the frustrating things that can go on in your life.
“I think it says, “Do not be afraid,” 365 times in the Bible. So that means every single day you need to be reminded, don’t be afraid.” – Paige VanZant
I do feel like God gave me fighting because it not only taught me how to fight back physically, but like emotionally and mentally, and [it gave] me my confidence back and made me realize that all those terrible things I went through were for a purpose. And it wasn’t just a pointless, terrible trauma that I had to go through. It actually helped create me as a person and I helped direct my life so I could impact other people as well.
Until you really know someone’s backstory, you don’t know the trauma and then turmoil they went through to become who they are as a person. And especially when you take any professional fighter, they’re a fighter for a reason. And there’s a reason that they’re fighting and moving forward and doing this career. It’s definitely not an easy career to live in. Of course, it’s my passion, but I do feel like everything I’ve gone through, my past experiences have formed me to be a professional fighter.
So I think it’s amazing that I was able to share my story, because a lot of fans realize I am a real person. I’ve gone through some crazy things, but it’s also given me the opportunity to help other people and connect with other people who have gone through similar situations, because I have had a lot of people reach out and say, “Hey, I’ve gone through this, too,” and I’ve actually gotten a lot of guidance from my fans. A lot of people were able to share their story with me and kind of help me stay positive. And then vice versa, I’ve been able to connect to some people and tell them to keep fighting.
There’s this girl I actually connected with who lives in New York, and we’ve been able to stay friends for, I guess, the past four years. We’ve communicated, and every time I go to New York, we meet up with her. And it’s just really neat to hear their point of view, but then also their parents point of view of how you’re helping this person live their life and pull through an emotional trauma. And I’m still working every day to try to use my platform to connect to people and help people grow and help people through these emotional times. Because I feel like I do have this voice and I can use it to connect with people.
“I’m still working every day to try to use my platform to connect to people and help people grow and help people through these emotional times.” – Paige VanZant
God’s By Your Side in Your Fight
I had first heard of the Jesus Calling book from my mom. Years ago [she] had, of course, bought it for me, and my mom sends me books like once a month. So I have a stockpile of devotionals, and I think it’s really important to have one of those everyday devotionals.
So my mom sends me books like once a month, different devotionals that she wants me to read, because she’s a very devoted Christian and definitely wants to impact my life. She sent me the Jesus Calling devotional, gosh, a few years ago. And I think it’s just really important to have something that you can go to every single day. And being a Christian, it is very easy to say, like, “Yeah, I have this positive outlook on life and my life has purpose and all the negative is for positive.” But those negative views are still going to get into your head, like, we’re human and we’re still going to feel down and we’re still going to have negative thoughts. So having a devotion at night, you can go to every day and just have a little, short thing you read and it really can just put you at ease and calm your heart and calm your mind. So you can remember that, yes, there are going to be negative times, but they are for a purpose.
Narrator: As we wrap up our time with Paige, she reads the August 18th entry of Jesus Calling to remind us that even when we encounter struggles in our lives, God is there right beside us, waiting to help.
Expect to encounter adversity in your life, remembering that you live in a deeply fallen world. Stop trying to find a way that circumvents difficulties. The main problem with an easy life is that it masks your need for Me. When you became a Christian, I infused My very Life into you, empowering you to live on a supernatural plane by depending on Me.
Anticipate coming face to face with impossibilities: situations totally beyond your ability to handle. This awareness of your inadequacy is not something you should try to evade. It is precisely where I want you—the best place to encounter Me in My Glory and Power. When you see armies of problems marching toward you, cry out to Me! Allow Me to fight for you. Watch Me working on your behalf, as you rest in the shadow of My Almighty Presence.
I feel like this passage definitely speaks to my purpose and platform, because I expect to encounter adversity in life and remembering that any time, adversity or anything negative like these negative situations are coming your way, that you do need to remember who you’re fighting for and know that someone is fighting for you. And that’s God. In every fight I go through, both in the cage and outside of the cage, I know that there is somebody who is on my side and is fighting with me the entire time, and that’s God.
“In every fight I go through, both in the cage and outside of the cage, I know that there is somebody who is on my side and is fighting with me the entire time, and that’s God.” – Paige VanZant
Narrator: You can learn more about Paige’s story in her book Rise: Surviving the Fight of My Life, found wherever books are sold.
If you’d like to hear more stories about love in action, check out our interview with radio show host Delilah.
Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we speak with Christian music artist Jaci Velasquez. Jaci’s been in ministry since she was a young girl, and when she was pregnant with her son Zeland, she knew he was going to do great things for God. But when Zeland was diagnosed with autism, Jaci felt hurt and betrayed by her heavenly father.
Jaci Velasquez: I was very, very angry with God. I yelled at Him. I screamed at Him. I said, “How could you? Why me?” I had to change my posture. And I started asking, “Why not me?” That’s when He kind of started talking to me again. “You’ve been angry long enough. It’s time to get up. And it’s time to fight.”
Narrator: Want to hear more inspirational stories of people who have been changed by a closer walk with God? Then subscribe today to the Jesus Calling Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. And please be sure to leave a review, which helps us reach and inspire others with these stories. Plus, if you like seeing our guests as well as hearing them, you can find video interviews available on our Youtube channel at youtube.com/jesuscallingbook, on Facebook, and on the Jesus Calling Instagram page.