I felt embarrassed, disposable, belittled. He blew me off as if he was shooing away a fly.
Our small group leader had sent us on a search and discovery mission. He asked us to go, and in prayer, ask God what our small group mission should be. He reassured us that when we asked, God would faithfully answer. I wholeheartedly agreed with him. You see, I am one of those people who is gifted to audibly hear and tangibly feel Spirit. People from my church background refer to this particular gift as ‘discernment,’ or ‘a gift of prophecy.’ So for me, the small group leader’s instructions didn’t feel impossible or like anything out of the ordinary. As a matter of fact, before we’d even left the group meeting, I had already asked God about our small group mission and had postured my heart to hear.
Days later, true to God’s faithfulness, I clearly heard an answer. And as usual — for me, at least — I didn’t hear the answer while deep in prayer or silent meditation. The answer came as I was cooking dinner for my family.
“Racial healing,” I heard clearly. I responded by throwing a tantrum. I slammed pots and pans. I was furious! (This was years before the term ‘racial healing’ became a clarion call.)
“God!” I cried. “I am not going to tell that to the small group! Why are you setting me up for rejection? NOPE! I’m not going to do it!” I wrestled uncomfortably. Our family was new to this group which happened to be made up of all White families. I suspected that they would think I was sharing my own agenda, not God’s. I did not want to be at the receiving end of anyone’s fears associated with race conversations. My desire to be liked pushed back against God.
But God’s words were weightier, more significant than my desire to be liked. So I proposed a deal. I told God, “If someone else opens the door, I will go through it.” Meaning that if someone else mentioned something about racial healing, then I’d share what God told me. As a person who has lived with this gift all my life, I knew that I would not be the only person who heard. And sure enough, following a week of asking and listening, as the small group gathered, the leader shared that as he slept, God had given him dreams of building bridges! My heartbeat sped up as I sat up to prepare myself to affirm his dream with the words I had heard. I spoke carefully, slowly, nervously.
Every eye was on me, bewildered, questioning, uneasy. Then our small group leader responded, “NOPE! That’s not it!” He proceeded to ask others what they had heard from God. No one else had anything to say.
Is this how a fly feels? I thought as I felt my words shooed from the air where they lingered. The rejection was like a Mike Tyson Total Knock Out. I wanted to disappear. I was mad at God for setting me up for this painfully dehumanizing experience.
As the leader began re-interpreting his ‘bridge building’ dream into a vision for building wheelchair ramps and bird houses, Amy, one of the women in the group, attempted to redirect the group back to what I had shared. She had questions and wanted to lean-in for answers. But the leader was determined to stay far away from any references to ‘racial healing.’ No judgment from me. I was also uncomfortable and intimidated by God’s vision.
I chose to move forward in the ‘racial healing’ mission without the small group. But one person from the small group also chose to accept God’s invitation – Amy. Over the course of several years, Amy leaned in as we expanded our understanding. She persisted and as a result, led her family to levels of liberation in Christ that they didn’t know existed. She eventually volunteered to help me grow an organization that has helped tens of thousands of families in churches, communities, and schools take foundational steps toward racial healing!
For years, I carried the pain of feeling belittled by the small group, until someone who was impacted by Amy’s growth journey helped me see the past more clearly: when God asked me to share the mission for racial healing with the small group, God was inviting Amy to an abundance of healing — an abundance that overflowed into her family and into masses beyond her home. It had nothing to do with the group’s reception or rejection. It wasn’t about me or the group at all! It was about Amy! She is a living testament to how God’s ways (and math) are beyond my understanding!
God told Isaiah, the 8th-century BC Israelite prophet:
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
The rain and snow come down from the heavens
and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
producing seed for the farmer
and bread for the hungry.
It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
Isaiah 55:9-11 (NLT)
I have accepted the fact that I can not and will never fully understand God’s ways. While I grasp for explanations, God already knows the ‘why.’ While I live and think within a frame of time, God knows the end from the beginning. While I am finite, God is infinite. But, even in wonder and bewilderment, I can trust God who strengthens and directs my path (Proverbs 3:5-6). I can embrace the mystery of God’s ways and let go of resentment and pain. My sorrow can turn to celebration.