What would life be like if every person understood his or her purpose, which is to glorify God? What if every person understood his or her mission to make disciples (Matthew 28:19)? When you understand your purpose and mission, it
becomes easier to recognize God working in your situations. I would not be who I am without my past difficulties and current realities.
However, our difficulties and realities can feel like mountains when we endure them. Sometimes we let the mountains of our problems block the view of our purpose and mission as Christians.
I have climbed my share of mountains that cast a shadow over my purpose and mission. Eventually, I allowed these mountains to completely block my view.
My first mountain climb started at a young age, yet I believe God was preparing me for today before I even knew it.
I jokingly refer to myself as a one-woman walking United Nations. I am black. My parents are immigrants from Panama. I was raised in a home with Spanish-speaking parents and Latin foods, music and culture. We lived in a predominately white and Asian neighborhood. I experienced world culture by waking up in the morning.
Prior to second grade, kids would say, “Hey, I want to play with that little girl.” Soon children learned to say, “I don’t want to play with that black girl.” My skin was referred to as dirty, my parents were looked down upon because of their accents, and I was judged for my hair’s different texture.
My first mountain was the mountain of self-identity. By the third grade, I was hospitalized for ulcers. I was confused, introverted and never necessarily felt like I quite fit in anywhere.
But God wastes nothing. Mountain climbs are painful, but they strengthen us.
Pain can become a gift, but it took years for me to understand this. I tucked the identity issue away instead of giving it to God.
I grew up timid and shy. I could not speak publicly above a whisper outside of close friends and family.
My second mountain climb came in college.
I moved across the country to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C. I thought the accolade of being accepted to a prestigious, historically black university would resolve my identity issues.
I exchanged my purpose to glorify God with the purpose of self-satisfaction. I began drinking and attending parties. As a 19-year-old sophomore, I was raped in a dorm bathroom during a party. I tucked away the hurt and burden of rape. I refused to surrender my pain even though this mountain was much harder to climb. Another mountain climb occurred in my mid-20s.
I ended up in a toxic and codependent relationship with a man almost a decade older. Fancy parties and expensive dinners turned into a free fall of drugs and then an abortion.
As a Christian, I felt choked by the weight of my choices and sin. I eventually surrendered. I cried out to God and reached for my parents. My father uttered the kindest words of love and grace that only represent an iota of what Jesus feels for me.
I was rescued by love.
Traumas have not defined me. After an amazing career in radio, television and film, God still planned to use my past to bring light to the future of others.
God led me to the Free Methodist Church — a denomination that recognizes our identity is in Christ, believes all races and ethnicities are free to live and worship
together, and believes women and men are free to be treated equally as spiritual leaders. Free Methodists believe grace is free. The grace that God showed me after having an abortion is the grace I learned to use to forgive my rapist because I understood he had his own brokenness.
Our church reaches broken people whose hurts I can recognize. Because I know my purpose is to glorify God with my life and to make disciples, I can use my past hurts and current realities to reach people for Christ. God is not just going to help us climb the mountains. He is going to move them!
Through our experiences and the transparency with which we share our stories, we are able to connect with the pain in others and lead them toward the redeeming love of Jesus Christ.
1. Why is it hard to understand God’s plans while climbing life’s mountains?
2. Do we define ourselves by our traumas or by our identity in Christ?
KRISTY HINDS — a staff pastor at Light & Life Christian Fellowship North in Long Beach, California — oversees women’s and small group ministries for the multicampus church. This article is condensed from the devotional message she shared at General Conference 2015.6