A few years ago I attended a church conference, and since this was my first time, I didn't know what to expect. I was apprehensive and already wondering how long I was going to be able to keep my mind from wandering.
At exactly 8:30 am the keynote speaker began his talk. A couple of the things that the speaker challenged the group to consider during the conference were two questions: "Who am I?" and "What breaks my heart?"
To my ears, the two questions sounded a lot like the process of discerning a life's calling. It didn't take me long to answer these questions since this has been a burning passion deep within me for as long as I can remember.
I remember when I was in kindergarten participating in Show and Tell. Like most games during childhood, running underneath all of the rules and designs is the basic need for children to be seen, heard, and find a place to belong. I was no different. Many of the kindergartners drew pictures of geometric shapes to depict their homes, stick figures of various sizes to represent their families, and without hesitation, a smiling sun with lines extending from its center to suggest sunrays.
After each kindergartner presented his or her picture, there was loud applause. One by one, each picture a slightly different representation of the same scene, gained approval with applause. When it came my turn something happened: there was no applause, but mocking laughter. This hurt. I took my picture of the Great Gazoo, the green floating alien from The Flintstones animated television show, and cried.
Looking back, I now see how this experience broke my heart. I wasn't seen or heard, and I felt like I didn't belong. I saw the world in 3-dimensional color and desperately wanted acceptance, even if it meant having other people laugh at me.
I believe that God sees us in 3-D: a mixture of wounds and birth marks, halos and horns, successes and mistakes, bright and dark spots, all reflecting God's image. At least, this is how I experience people, especially as I sit in Starbucks. While working, I watching others and hear their conversations that sound to me more like "threshold" moments than the occasional girl-talk, complaining about work, blaming referees for a bad call, worrying about the health of parents, and lamenting over a broken relationship.
My unique calling is infused with a mixture of my history, talents, gifts, including my short attention span, and my kindergarten experience of holding up a different kind of picture. It's not easy to have your heart broken, but when we are able to allow God to use the thing that breaks our hearts, we can use our brokenness to help heal others who desperately need to be seen, accepted, and understood. The call that God puts on our lives hints at a divine purpose of meaning, love, peace, forgiveness and grace.
To repeat the question: "Who are you?" and "What breaks your heart?"
Storyteller, writer, comic book enthusiast, and passionate about understanding what makes people tick, Dr. Quincy D. Brown is the Executive Pastor at Peachtree City UMC.