I grew up in Portsmouth, Virginia, but I am more of a southerner at heart. I’m not saying that Virginia isn’t the South, but I was meant to be a small town southerner. That is where I found myself in 1998 – in rural North Carolina. What a culture shock at first! I had not found myself there.
I honestly didn’t begin finding myself until 2002 in a church in Hartsville, South Carolina. It was a primarily older congregation that gave me the liberty to mess up, learn as I went, and they loved me where I was. For the first time, I didn’t feel like how well I was loved was based on my performance. It was nice!
I went into another season of suppression after I left there. I had no freedom to carry out what God had put within me. I decided to use that as a time to prepare myself for a day when I would again have that joy of liberty in ministry. God gave that to me in 2009 when I returned to South Carolina. I once again found myself in a church that loved me where I was, followed my leadership, and was given the freedom to be me. I found that I could truly be who God called me to be and not apologize for it. I did not have to conform, and I have grown in that freedom since then.
I could not help but identify with the movie “Cars”. Lightning McQueen was a hotshot race car who landed in a “redneck” town called Radiator Springs. He despised the town and its cars, but the experience changed his life. He ended up longing for a slower pace in a place where others felt like family. He ended restoring hope to a town that was almost non-existent.
I feel like Lightning McQueen to some degree. I thought I knew who I was and wanted to be until I was exposed to something else. Part of that journey almost tore my life apart. I did not feel that I would survive, but God taught me my greatest lessons.
You can make your plans and set your goals, but life may take you some places and through some experiences that you would not choose but will make you better. You will discover that this is when you find yourself.