The year before last, I stood before more than 10,000 women at T.D. Jake’s “Woman, Thou Art Loosed” conference held at The Potter’s House in Dallas, TX. Bishop Jakes had invited me to give my personal testimony about depression and to discuss my book, Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting, which he had previously endorsed. Telling a room full of women of God that adding a therapist to the mix may be an answer to addressing some past or current trauma was a bit intimidating. Thank God for Bishop and First Lady Jakes who understand that God works through people, and that faith and therapy are not mutually exclusive.
I, myself, did not know this until I was laid low by the disease of depression. It was only then that I fully began to understand the power of God and his ability to not only place angels in our lives (like my therapist), but to bless our giving ten-fold, and to help us identify and embrace our true mission.
It was the largest crowd I had ever spoken before and it was a transformative moment in my life. I was also a long way from being the little girl whose feet had swung precipitously from a pew at Macedonia Baptist in Mt. Vernon, NY years earlier. Speaking at The Potter’s House showed me that the foundation for my ongoing healing began there in that pew. It has served me well all these years, and led to success in many areas. Most importantly, the overwhelming and positive responses, and stories by letter and email that I received following the Potter’s House presentation, validated the fact that my work as a servant of my true mission — working as a mental health activist, particularly on behalf of the African-American community — is a blessed one.
We often get caught up in the fun activities of life as the weather breaks this time of year. It might be finding the perfect Easter dress, a night on the town with friends, or a well-deserved vacation. These are good, healing things. However, they pale in comparison to what we must do — fully remember Jesus’ resurrection, and to identify and follow his vision for our lives with high enthusiasm, gratitude, and action. His living mission and his death are our reward. We owe it to ourselves and our communities to use this time of year to re-commit ourselves to doing God’s work, daily. We must leave our own tombs of mundane activities, doubt, and fear. We must know that we can be restored and rise above what’s not working and be transformed into a force for good. It is a time to recommit and practice the presence of spirit in our lives. We must at all times know that everything works according to God’s plan.
I am so blessed that my faith grows stronger every day. My journey to-date has allowed me to know these four things for sure:
1. Identifying your mission is what will free your life, and from which all blessings will flow. We are all given a gift, a true mission for our lives. Finding it, embracing it, and using it for good is the only thing that will truly bless our sojourn with God.
2. Talking to God helps and how you pray matters. Now, I talk to God out loud in my car, in the elevator at work, in the bathroom. I was embarrassed about that before, but not anymore. It works. l also go to a prayer service every Tuesday and I am always inspired by what people are praying for and why. These are teachable and learning moments, and help me speak in a way that I know my true prayers are being heard. You have to keep it real and honest with God if you want prayer to work.
3. Charity, in all its forms, comes back ten-fold. No matter how small — a mere smile, a word, a gift — a kind gesture can transform another person’s spirit. There are eight million stories in just New York alone, and so many of us are without love, joy, friends, or family. When you do something for someone else, it is a renewal for them and for you. You will be amazed at how the blessings flow; and finally,
4. God sends angels and surrogates to help through this journey. My mother was my first, followed by a hosts of aunts, sister friends, co-workers and strangers, pastors, and, yes, therapists.
My mother is 80-years-old now and in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Though I know she has lived a fruitful, God-fearing and giving life, it is heartbreaking. This Sunday, we will spend another Easter together. I will, at times, have to remind her of the many wonderful things about her journey, as I continue to reflect anew about my own.
May God bless and keep you all.
Terrie M. Williams is a mental health advocate, author of ‘Black Pain: It Just Looks like we’re Not Hurting,’ and the co-founder of The Stay Strong Foundation. You can follow her on Twitter at @terriewilliams.