November 14, 2011
Washington Post picture of me.
Some people live a lifetime and never really know their purpose in life, while others second guess themselves every step of the way. Others know in their hearts that their life should take one direction, but the fear of failure or of what people might say stops them in their tracks.
I've never been one of those people. From the very beginning things seemed to fit into place. Early in my life, I knew social justice work was what I was supposed to do. I had a well laid out plan and the overachiever in me didn't miss one beat, or so I thought. But when I made a transition to AIDS almost 20 years ago, the bottom fell out of my world as I knew it.
I saw my career as a national political organizer slip away from me and there was nothing I could do. The type of high-powered political work I did required 10-, 12- and even 14-hour days, but AIDS was not having it. The fatigue that I experienced was all consuming and most days, it took everything I had to wash my body and my work became sub-standard.
I went into a deep depression and mourning for all I had known since I was 19 years old. But God always has a plan. The Bible says, "Man Plans, Then God Plans." I know this to be true in my life and I also believe it's true for every single person on the planet. Everyone has a purpose! EVERYONE!!
The problem is, we either don't believe or we are too afraid to step out there. I remember my journey like it was yesterday. I got a call from a person who wanted me to go speak at a high school and I told him, "NO!" Not really taking no for an answer, he convinced me to call the teacher and at least hear her out. I also told her, "NO!" Stand before young people and tell them I have AIDS, "They must be crazy I thought." I had just started telling my friends. But this teacher would not take no for an answer and before I hung up, I was scheduled to speak at her school for two days.
Those two days were magical; And at the end of the second day, a young girl came up to me and said, "Ms. Lewis, I know you said you're not a public speaker, but you shouldn't stop, because the Lord is using you." Now y'all know I looked at that child like she was crazy. In my head I said, "What the hell this baby know about the Lord using somebody."
But after that day, I just couldn't shake it. I thought about those young people every single day for about three weeks. Often times we hear God speaking to us, even sometimes in small ways but we ignore it. Yep! But I couldn't shake this from my spirit and honestly, talking about it was the only joy I had in months. My sad face lit up every time I talked about those two days. I knew in my heart that God was trying to tell me something.
I became still in that space where God speaks to us. For you it could be in the shower, but for me it's in the early morning. And one morning it was as if God had sat at my bed side and spoken to me in the flesh. Tell your story, my daughter there is healing in your story. And I promise you, I called my boss before I dressed and asked for a meeting.
I was working for a mayoral candidate at the time. I was second in charge and very well paid. But if the truth be told, I was barely hanging in. Some mornings I could barely get out of bed from the fatigue.
That day, I quit my well-paying job, with no new speaking engagements, no brochure and truthfully no direction on how to even get another gig. Some of you would have asked God to show you another sign. Stepping out on faith is scary.
Of course people thought that I had lost my mind and said so. Even my boyfriend at the time didn't approve. I thought for sure he would be on board and support me. I mean, he was a principal and was always looking for ways to empower young people. I was sure that he would be my main resource, connecting me to his colleagues. But instead, he said you me, "Why would you want to tell young people all of your business?" And when that didn't deter me, he said, "You know, young people are mean. You couldn't pay me enough to do that. They will not be nice to you Rae."
Damn! I was so shattered. That's why you have to be careful who you tell your dreams to. People will bust your bubble, out of a whole host of reasons, from jealousy to even fear that somehow your new life will meet up with theirs. That was his issue. What he really meant was, "Why would you tell my business?" Speaking publicly about having AIDS would mean that everyone would finally know that he had been dating a woman with AIDS for the last four years. But I didn't let him stop me. And as I ventured into this new thing, I started to clean house from the things on my desk to the people in my life.
Remember this, everyone can't be on that journey with you. NOPE! Some people you have to leave right where you found them. While everything ain't meant for everybody, I wouldn't let anybody stop me from that thing that God has for me. Everyone has a purpose, but you are the one that must put God's purpose into action. This I know for sure: As long as you sit still, so will your purpose. There is Joy in Fulfilling One's Purpose. It is God's reward for your action.