When God Shows Up
By Rae Lewis-Thornton
January 27, 2014
This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.
A woman came up to me after the MLK Prayer breakfast in Atlanta and said, "You know, Rev. Lewis-Thornton, by making yourself so vulnerable, you attract people who feel they can be vulnerable with you."
I know this to be true. My transparency either makes people love me or hate me. I remember after one blog post, where I admitted to dating a married man, a woman unfollowed me on Twitter because, as she put it, "I can't believe that you would admit to such a thing." I told her, "Don't make me lie or hide from my truths because you don't want to face yours head on." I speak truth to empower and be a tool for healing.
Outside of my review of products, which are not often, my blog posts are what God has laid in my spirit, typically rooted out of my journey from past to present. I'm just crazy enough to be obedient. Obviously, I'm so past the shame of it all. My life is a lesson learned for me, and for you and so I'm transparent, no matter what people think of me.
My transparency also makes people latch on to me. Over the years I've been a magnet for people who need something from me. I remember a friend that I met the month that I was on the cover of Essence magazine. She tracked me down and I opened my heart and ears to her story. She was a young doctor who had just finished her residency, was ready to practice medicine, had a six figure job offer and instead of making the welcome reception she was rushed into the hospital, diagnosed thereafter with AIDS. Her world was shattered. She had given up hope, she told me, "She didn't want to live." Her husband, who was not infected, came home one day and put Essence magazine on the table.
Then came me. After months of sowing into her she slowly started to tackle the world. Eventually, she took her medical boards and went looking for a job. I remember us having a conversation about her other friends and how they kept asking questions about how she actually knew me. You have to remember this was at the height of my popularity. Over time, she became better and better ... and the better she became, the more she withdrew, until calls just stopped.
I have so many of these situations that I could write a book on the topic. I have helped people get to a better place and to get stronger, from HIV/AIDS to issues of childhood sexual abuse. I remember one day a woman just sent me a direct message on Twitter and explained that she was at her desk crying. She started to explain that she was an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse. She told me her story in countless messages because you know Twitter only allows you 140 characters. When she had told me her story, her last message said, "You don't have to answer me back I just knew that you were a safe place to tell my story."
Whew! There are more and more of these stories from emails, Twitter and Facebook to side conversations after I get through speaking.
For sure I believe my transparency has shaped my ministry, which has shaped my life over these years. And while I'm humbled that God has gifted me and I use this gift tirelessly and unselfishly, it sometimes leaves me empty.
I remember a few years back a suitor asked, "Rae you take of everybody, who takes care of you?" My answer was, "me and God." I give unconditionally because I don't know any other way to be.
Over the weekend I had some stuff occur that made me come to understand more and more ... and left me with very opposing emotions. On the one hand, I had an overwhelming sadness, one rooted in aloneness but then on the other hand, an overwhelming peace. A peace that says, "This is your life, girly, the one that God has designed just for you out of your painful journey. And while it has been painful, it has been blessed."
How awesome is that, but then just because you know that God is doing an awesome thing does not always elevate the low points in your life, especially the aloneness I sometimes feel. Then I received this wonderful message from Rachel who frequents my blog. It was as if God was speaking to my low point right at that moment.
I got it, God will never forsake me, no matter what human form comes or goes. No matter what goes my way or not. Just keep doing what God has called you to do and continue to be the person that you are gifted to be.
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Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks
Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.
Rae is an active user of social media -- read "Long-Term HIV Survivor Discovers the Power of Twitter," an article on TheBody.com about Rae's social media activities.
Speaking engagements: Inquire about booking Rae to speak at your organization or event!
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May 22, 2015 - Reflecting on 53! A Blog Entry by Rae Lewis-Thornton
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