We dreamers have our ways of facing stormy days and somehow we survive. We keep the feelings warm, protect them from the storm, until our time arrives. Then one day the sun appears, And we come shining through those lonely years.
Thus sang Barry Manilow in his 1980 hit, I Made it Through the Rain.
May I share that this song came to mind as I reflected on Acts 16:9-15, one of the readings for the sixth Sunday of Easter? In the reading, Paul has a vision of a man calling him to the region of Macedonia and this determines his next destination. It would be part of his second of three missionary journeys. The reading for this Sunday ends with an encouraging exchange with Lydia, a worshipper of God, whose heart was opened by God to receive the message of salvation. Following this, Lydia and her household were baptised. I return to Barry who continues in the chorus:
I made it through the rain, I kept myself protected. I made it through the rain. I kept my point of view. I made it through the rain, and found myself respected by the others who got rained on too and made it through.
I won’t dedicate much more of this space to the lyrics of the song. I encourage you, however, to study the lyrics yourself. It is inspirational. In many ways, this second missionary journey of Paul foreshadows this song, noting that included in this second journey is a period of imprisonment for Paul and Silas. Notwithstanding the ‘setback’ of the imprisonment, it provided an opportunity for Paul to declare, ‘I made it through the rain.’
On your purpose journey, you too might receive a call that determines your next mission. As you set about to respond to that call, there will be many stops – some intended, some not. As you set about to respond to the call, you will experience delays. I assure you, you too will experience rewarding and fulfilling moments as I’m sure the encounter with Lydia was for Paul, moments that allow you like Barry Manilow to sing, ‘I made it through the rain!’ These are the moments we look forward to, for, as refreshing as the rain can be, it can also be quite drenching, chilling and dreary.
I digress now to share with you a conversation I had with an erstwhile colleague. I remember a number of years ago, sharing with the colleague that I was so spurred on by the song, ‘Baba Oh!’ sung by Sonnie Badu. In the song, Badu pleads with God as follows, ‘Open the floodgates in abundance and cause your rain to fall on me’. I remember wishing out loud to my colleague, ‘Oh, how I wish that rain would fall on me.’ The colleague responded, in wisdom now that I look back, ‘Sometimes the repeated and persistent rain can eat away at you, breaking down your defences.’ I recoiled at the thought for that certainly wasn’t where my mind was at when I shared what I had. With that caution, my colleague heralded what was to be my entrenchment in the most bitter wilderness that I was ever to experience. As such, when Barry sings, ‘I made it through the rain’, those words penetrate my entire being.
Returning now to the focus of this week’s HEWing message, there is a hint of melancholy in the song sung by Manilow. The account in Acts, however, is less so, even though the experiences paint a similar picture. The experiences in Acts paint a picture of perseverance, grit, courage under fire and victory in the face of the most gruelling trials. The experiences are shared not with undertones of sorrow, but with notes of triumph. Friends, I share these accounts with you, hoping that I might encourage you along your own journey. I share this ray of hope with you so that you too might offer another similarly comforting words.
Let me cast a retrospective glance now. In the narrative that I have built over the past 20 months on this platform, you observe that not once have I tried to tell you your purpose and that it is deliberate. You see, at the risk of disappointing you, my purpose is not to tell you what your purpose is. No. On the contrary, it is only the One who designed you for the purpose that He has assigned you who can reveal to you what your purpose is. As I’ve hinted before, my purpose is to assist you, to offer you a roadmap, as it were, that guides you to the identification of your purpose. Let me outline for you my purpose:
- My first bidding is to reassure you that it’s painful but it is necessary for you to allay your fears as you embark on, and as you continue on the purpose journey. Allaying your fears is the gas that keeps you, the vehicle, running all throughout the journey. You see, the purpose journey is also a journey of faith. Faith and fear are diametrically opposed. Therefore, faith cannot thrive in the one who holds on to fear. Fear impedes faith. And, it is well known that it is impossible to please God without faith.
- My second mission is to guide you so that you learn the practice of being still. In a world where busyness is celebrated (as I heard a wise lady say recently, busyness is the yoke of Satan), being still has been mislabelled as ‘wasting time’. We have dug our own pits of over-commitment, hyper-exhaustion and a resulting incapacity towards stillness which is where God speaks. My mission is to take hold of you by the shoulders, just as you would who is frantic to help that person compose him/herself, and to encourage you to be still.
- My third mission is to guide you to a place where you can concentrate. It is not possible to concentrate if you cannot be still and, you cannot be still if you are fearful of what you must let go of in the process or what you will lose in the process.
Your mission, for having undergone the three-step process just described, is to discern your purpose, as well as how that purpose will be fulfilled. When you have discerned your purpose, you too, like Barry, will declare, ‘I made it through the rain’, for on the path to purpose, you shall endure many storms, showers and drizzles. And, along that journey, you will learn to help others as Paul did Lydia and then you will know that your living will not have been in vain.
As I close, and as I always do, I bid you