By Deneen Ray
The 2017-2019 ministry focus of American Baptist Women’s Ministries is “Feel/Siente.” Information about the theme, based on Luke 8:43-49, Acts 17:27-28 (NLT), and 1 Samuel 2:1-11 (The Voice), may be found at www.abwministries.org/theme. This post is part of a series of “Herstories” from American Baptist women around this theme.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
A young lady full of dreams and great at strategically planning her life was side-swiped the day she found out her best friend, someone she called her “twin” or her “older brother,” had passed away. Life, in that moment, had ended for her as well.
Ja Niecy (known as Niecy to those close to her) started an amazing week on a, American Baptist Churches of Los Angeles Regional Ministry trip to Arizona with other youth, a close church friend, her sister and, of course, me, her godmother. The trip included camping in the Grand Canyon, hiking, s’mores, and hosting an afternoon carnival for the children on an Indian reservation. Through this week, she met many new people who became not only friends but family.
So. you can imagine, coming home with all that excitement to share with her parents and grandparents, only to walk in the door to tragic news: Terrance had died.
Ja Niecy and Terrance had plans to take over the world. They were so alike, in every way you could imagine. It was like they could’ve been twins, had they been born at the same time. I would hear story after story of what they were going to do after she graduated from high school, and how life was about to be “lit” (as the teenagers say).
Niecy was hurt, angry, and confused. She had many questions such as, “Why God? Why now? Why him?” I know her feelings because her questions were all directed at me. Talk about needing an instant God-intervention moment. Honestly, in that moment, I said nothing. As parents, godparents, and youth leaders, we love our children and want to protect them, never wanting to see them in pain or heartbreak and, yet, also never wanting to lie to them. I truly had no answer.
I do know Niecy is a “processor” (like me), so there are times when she is vocalizing a question or concern but she’s really not asking for answers. It’s not because she doesn’t want to know, or that wants you to solve the problem. She has a strong foundation in her faith and what she believes to be true. So, when asking questions such as those, I truly believe she wanted to see if I was going to sugar-coat things and stay in protection mode, or if I would truly help her process her grief, keeping all things “real.”
After a short period of silence, I asked her the following questions:
- Do you believe in the God you talk about?
- Do you trust the God you talk about?
- Is God not the same yesterday, today, and in those days to come? Do you believe this?
- Does God tell you the “why? in everything?
- Do you believe God loves you and sees your pain, loss, and tears?
I is my belief that God does not ask, need, or wait for our approval. God does, however, allow or sets things in motion. But, God will love us unconditionally and carry us through.
Didn’t God do it for Ruth (God sent her Boaz, after her loss), Esther Queen (she didn’t have the luxury of being raised by her parents), Sarah and Elizabeth (bearing children as senior citizens) and allowing Mary Magdalene her walk and service in his presence, with her not-so-upstanding past?
The absence of the joy that Terrance brought to Niecy’s life comes and goes, but the understanding and acceptance of the situation, and Niecy’s understanding of who God is, has been reassessed and strengthened through her experience of grief.
Niecy will have graduated from Northern Arizona State. She has also served as BSU Fundraising Chair, BSU Treasurer and BSU President her senior year, facilitated a campus Women’s Leadership panel, and has been accepted into the Walt Disney College program in Orlando. Niecy may not have had her big brother here to see her dreams manifest, but God held her tightly in his arms throughout.
So, when you think you are alone and can’t see the road ahead, remember that you are never walking alone. Trust, activate, and watch God show up and show out.