Lenten Safari: 40 Days/WEEKS 2 Blissful Authenticity

Truth-Speaking, Storytelling & Sacred Purpose


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425449_343878465654422_1776949090_n-e1508553490792.jpgThere is a proverb in the Bible, which states that your gifts will make room for you.  I would add that your gifts will make room for you–even when you don’t understand  them or haven’t fully embraced them.  These gifts will give you access to people, places, and platforms that you never imagined, and could not have predicted.

As your gifts make room for you, they will also serve as breadcrumbs, a compass, your personal GPS to direct you to sacred purpose.  Well, that is, if you choose surrender over self-righteousness, patience over pride, ego over essence. 

You see, everyone has gifts and a sacred purpose, but we don’t all operate in both of them.   Sacred purpose requires soul work to bring our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical energy centers into life-giving coherence that creates synergy to actualize our sacred purpose instead of separation that perverts it.

I am reminded of my first experience of serving as a keynote speaker at a women’s retreat in Florida.  A woman I had met and befriended through my work at Florida A&M University recommended me, even though she had never actually heard me speak.

In fact, I had moved away from Florida several months before the retreat was to take place, and there were some rumblings among the powers that be about whether I should still speak.  In the midst of controversy, the woman who had recommended me (and never heard me speak), even successfully advocated for me to be the keynote as scheduled.  Talk about your gifts making room for you!

The little Gullah-Geechee girl from Charleston, South Carolina had grown up into a woman whose gifts had made room for her to address an audience of over 600 women in Florida–of whom 99% were White.  On the path to sacred purpose, my gifts of truth-speaking, storytelling, poetry, creativity, and presence offered some bread crumbs and gave me access to people, places, and a platform.

Over three days, my love of stories served as the basis for me to extract practical wisdom from biblical stories and my personal journey by putting those stories and my own into context.  As part of my story, I was planning to share a very personal poem that puts me, a descendant of Africans enslaved in America, into context.  Given my predominantly white audience, I had some concerns about sharing the poem entitled “I Am She” on the second night, but I felt compelled to do so.

For shrinking away from the reality of my context does not make it any less true, but it would certainly make me less authentic.  After all, our stories are not all joy and laughter, fun and games all the time.  The truth of our stories and our history is often inconvenient, uncomfortable, and even incomprehensible, but in honestly sharing our stories and telling our history, we create space for awakening, liberation, and transformation in ourselves and in others. 

I will never forget speaking with an elderly White woman at the end of the weekend who was just overjoyed that I had been the speaker.  As we spoke, I soon discovered why.  She shared that when she was a young woman she felt compelled to go to segregated parts of Florida to teach Black children, and for doing so, she was rejected and hated by White people.  And here I was…an example of what she must have hoped and dreamed might be possible, but could and would not be possible without courageous acts that disrupt the norm.

Beyond our stories, our personal and collective awakenings to sacred purpose may be inconvenient and uncomfortable.  They may even ruffle some feathers, repudiate some expectations, and disrupt the status quo–resulting in external pressures that might try to coerce us into conforming.  However, when we awaken to what’s true internally–although “all hell is breaking loose” externally–we feel at home with ourselves and we yearn to live from that place of blissful authenticity.  

So, interestingly, as I brought my story to the foreground with the American mythology of exceptionalism in the background, it was bound to be disorienting–especially for those who benefit from the systematic oppression unconsciously and consciously.  It had to be downright disturbing to those whose sense of identity was built on the myth of whiteness.  This mythology is so pervasive that most White people–even the most liberal and the most Christian–are not aware of how much it defines them and confines others.

The morning after I shared my poem, I had a brief conversation with the woman who recommended me.  She mentioned how it was interesting that I was speaking on that particular weekend, because there were also retreat weekends that were predominantly Black.  Then as she started a thought about what she had realized the night before, I finished her sentence with “that I’m Black.”

Now, of course, she knows that I am Black, because this skin I’m in could never ever pass.  But  in a world where whiteness is the norm, she did not know what it means to be Black.  Like most White people, I imagine, she has probably never been in spaces where she was the minority, where she was completely erased from the narrative, where her voice was often muted.  Most Black people, on the other hand, are in those spaces all the time.

So, the gifts that made room for me, illuminated a sacred purpose beyond engaging the crowd.  It is not just about telling a good story or sharing some poetry, but for me, it is about co-laboring with the divine to heal racial trauma.  For your gifts will make room for you, but sacred purpose expands your capacity to make room for others.

 

When we operate in sacred purpose, our gifts are activated to release our divine potential, power, and possibility to transform the trajectory of our individual and collective lives.  It represents a shift from personal achievement to meaningful work, from mindless consumption to conscious community co-creation, from “power over” leadership to “power with” leadership.

 

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