“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Hebrews 12:1
Y’all, I saw Oprah at the Essence Fest, and it was epic.
Anyone who knows me knows about my devotion to Oprah. I have been reading her magazine for years, I love watching free episodes of Super Soul Sunday on her website, and once I even took off work and traveled to Atlanta for Oprah’s “The Life You Want” weekend. And yes, it lived up to the hype.
It was announced a few days before the festival that Oprah would be making her Essence Fest debut at a free speaking event called the Essence Empowerment Expo. I was pumped!
So what did she talk about? So many life-giving things! It was awesome. And though I had heard her speak on many of the same stories and messages before, I loved hearing it again. Like all great stories, Oprah’s stories can take on new meaning depending on where I am in life and what’s going on with me right now. And hearing the stories in a room filled with joyous Oprah lovers and women saying “Amen” and “Yeah, that’s right” added an electrifying level to the story-hearing experience.
Here’s what I heard, y’all. Oprah’s core message was: “God has a dream for you.” I’m going to repeat that because I think it needs to be heard several times before it really sinks in. God has a dream for YOU.
Oprah gave a powerful testimony of her own experience when she dreamed about being a part of the movie version of The Color Purple. As Oprah talked about her experience, I realized this whole dream business is rife with responsibility. First, you have to figure out what God’s dream is for you. Oprah says we have to ask God repeatedly, “What is your dream for me?” Then, when you start to discern the dream, you have to pursue it or “lean into the dream” in Oprah’s words. Finally, when the way is totally unclear and you have doubts about whether you were right about the dream in the first place, you have to “surrender all to the dream.” You have to let go of the dream and trust God.
It took me over two weeks to write this post because I was focused on the steps I just described. But as I was writing and re-writing, I felt something was missing. Yes, you have to ask what the dream is. Yes, you have to pursue the dream. Yes, you have to trust even when you don’t see a way. But you can’t do any of those things if you don’t do something else first. And that something else goes back to Oprah’s core message. You have to believe, I mean truly believe at the deepest level of your being, that God has a dream for you. You have to believe that you are worthy of a dream. You have to believe that you were put on this Earth and there is breath in your lungs for a reason.
I struggle with this. Does God really have a dream for me? How do I know that I’m here for a specific purpose? What if the things I am pursuing don’t lead to anything? Do my choices matter? Do I matter?
How do I overcome this black hole of unworthiness that threatens to suck the joy and the light right out of life?
One thing I’ve learned to do when I’m stumbling around in the dark is to trust not in my own feelings in the moment but in the experiences of others. I’ve learned to return again and again to stories of regular people trusting that there is a purpose for their life that is greater than themselves.
I often return to Hebrews 11. This passage is sometimes called the “Hall of Faith” because the author reminds us of the great faith of our ancestors, of Abraham and Sarah, of Isaac and Jacob, of Moses and many others who followed God down difficult paths and trusted even though they had no idea the difference they would make. Hebrews 12:1 calls these people a “cloud of witnesses.” There are quite a few people I’ve known personally or who have shared their life publicly who are among my cloud of witnesses: Joann Wisecarver, Kirsten Schwartz, Louis Zamperini, Lynette Lewis, Martin Luther King, Jr. and, of course, Oprah Winfrey. All of these and many, many more have boldly believed that their lives serve a purpose. And that sense of purpose has made a difference in their lives and in the lives of others lucky enough to witness.
God has a dream for you. God has a dream for you. If you don’t believe that yet, this is where you need to start. And when you get there, I can’t wait to add you to my cloud of witnesses!
Who is in your cloud of witnesses? What’s something you can take from one of their stories today? I would love it if you shared your comments below.
Also, if you want to hear Oprah’s full, spectacular message at Essence, you can find it here.