The last month has been hectic. COVID. lead actor in a film. George Floyd. Protests. Wrote a poetry book. Self published my poetry book. Articles started to get written about my activism and my art.
One day I was out with a friend who happens to be a crew member of the film I’m in, and she introduced me to her friend by saying, “this is Matthew he just self published a poetry book and he’s the lead actor in the film I was telling you about.”
Alarms went off inside of me as if I was a bank that was being robbed. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. I wasn’t okay with being introduced like that. Why? Well, one reason is that I didn’t want people to look at me differently.
Recently, an article came out called, “5 emerging leaders in Madison” and I was 1 of the 5. When I read that article I thought to myself, “wow, THAT guy sounds awesome.” But…THAT guy didn’t feel like it was me. I said everything they said that I said, so how come I felt like an imposter? A fraud? “I’m not THAT big of a deal”, I’d tell myself, “I’m not really an emerging leader.”
How come I not only don’t like when other people see me for who I am? But I also feed myself a narrative that breeds imposter syndrome? Can’t I accept my own success as valid, and real? “You can’t be as bright as they say you are”, I tell myself. Even tho I know that since my youth I’ve rigorously pursued developing myself so that one day I could shine. This double consciousness- at once permissive and restrictive of my shine- wars within me.
Where I come from people aren’t encouraged to shine, it’s almost as if we believe there’s not enough sky for all of us to be stars. But, I want to be more than a star- I want to be a sun. Why must we let fear rob us of our bravery? Pillage us of the treasures inside- leaving most of us so barren we can’t even imagine thinking highly of ourselves? Most people don’t have articles written about them saying that their “voice is one that everyone should be listening to.” and so, I, more than most people in my life am confronted with this reality of other’s estimation of me. And it seems to be quite lofty. I know what they say, “don’t believe the hype.” But, rejecting the truth about yourself isn’t humility. It’s insecurity.
In writing my book, You Can Not Burn The Sun, SHINE is something I wanted to encourage myself to do. The sun IS bright. It IS seen most days. In fact, without it, none of us would be alive. I want to cultivate the kind of courage to allow myself to shine. To be able to say, and believe, “my contributions to this world are important.”
To that end, I’m learning to be like the sun. From now on, if people tell me I shine brightly, I’ll say, “i am who You say i am” because who better to tell you of your brightness than one who is warmed by your light?
I can not do in or through you
that which you are afraid to complete
And this is why I said,
“Not in fear, but in courage and belief.”
I realized that I’ve inhabited a space of fear when it comes to dwelling in my identity in Christ. My identity as a person of God.
I’ve been afraid to proclaim Him, His goodness, and His Kingdom, and so I silenced myself.
I’ve been afraid to attempt to glorify Him with outright action out of fear I’d be silenced by others.
And perfect love has no fear in it so I was confronted with the awareness that I needed to re-examine and revolutionize my motivation so that I could love more like Him.
Not in fear. But in courage. And belief. Because apparently, loving in any other way muzzles the Most High.
In essence I was paralyzed. And Father urged me into understanding with equal parts urgency as tenderness, saying “not in fear, but in courage and belief.”. He spoke to me of Luke 15, of 1 John, and of Sonship. This truth that as children of His we are called to be motivated by love, and not fear. Ratified by relationship. Love is eternal. And Fear will one day fade, as will our motivation if it is fueled, and left as fumes by fear.
The DRC was an exercise in being courageous, and walking in belief. Throughout my month in DRC I taught 2 four hour teachings in our 2 week seminar and preached every sunday at church, and God not only encouraged me to share my life stories- dispersing them throughout the teachings- but He freed me to share, by revealing more of His perspective on my life, and from this revelation conviction was birthed within me. I came to see more and more how much Christ has saved me, and not just saved, but transformed me. And if transformed, then empowered. Empowered to usher in His kingdom with just as much courage and belief as Christ.
And so here I sit, an empowered individual in Christ, reconciled to truth, seeking to establish His Kingdom, making known His glorious goodness, with equal parts urgency as tenderness, in courage and belief.
During our month in DRC there was an elder man named Raphael (The cover pic of this post is him and I) who captured my heart. Obviously aged a bit, but this Pastor had a fire within him. One day after a morning of teaching the seminar I was at our house talking with a teammate and Raphael came to our house. He spoke Lingala, the tribal language so I had to call Mana (our translator) over so that we could communicate.
Raphael asked me to pray for him because he felt that in his old age he had lost some of the boldness of his youth. And I was touched because God had been speaking to me of boldness, courage and belief, and the crux of what He said was that boldness stems from conviction, and conviction from belief. So I ministered to Raphael, telling him what He had first told me and I then prayed for him.
Afterward Raphael left our house with a smile and inspiration to grow.
One week later it was the weekend, and in order to graduate from a BELT seminar you have to do local outreach, so our YWAM team split up onto different local outreach teams with the Congolese people. Ashley and I traveled with the group that had Raphael and they taught about the Greatness of God (His nature, qualities of His which just are). On that team Raphael taught, and granted we had no translator so I couldn’t understand a single word he said ( 4 hours of not understanding what was happening around me haha) I saw the fire with which he spoke, the conviction, the belief. The time that we had met up in prayer yielded a harvest of boldness for Raphael and I praise God for that. When we debriefed the local outreach, many of the seminar participants reported back that the people they had ministered to said they had never heard the Gospel taught in such a way, and that if more teachings like ours were brought to them, they would want to give their lives to Christ.
And I began to see a picture of multiplication.
Of spiritual empowerment. We came, we taught, and they learned. And now they have the teachings so that they can go, they can teach, and those they teach can learn. And the cycle can continue in ever generative cycles creating more and more understanding of God.
Being able to be a part of this Congo outreach was indelible to my spiritual foundations and many more things happened that I don’t have space to write about here. Ask me bout em.
Our Congo Team! Minus Noah. [Left to Right: Emily, Jake, Me, Kelly, Ashley]
Bush Plane Selfie! Flying to Buta ft Kelly, Jake, Emily, and Ashley
Views from the window. DRC is so beautiful!
WC. Water Closet. Aka Squatty Potty
Nathan (in tanzania) demonstrating Squatty Potty stance for your viewing pleasure
Mana (our translator, to my left) and I teaching outside
Ashley, Mana, Jake, and Emily teaching the children
Kelly and Ashley with some of the women that served us
Going for a walk in Buta
poem coming below about this. . .
Emily in the evening playing with the village kids
Group pic with mostly ladies and Mana
Every time I go to Africa I come back wanting to have a daughter..do you see why?
Me teaching the destructiveness of sin. Our teachings interact with the posters behind Mana (our translator) and I. But you cant see my poster cause we in front of it.
Some of the participants looking over the posters, desiring to embed truth into their lives.
Our local outreach team! I’m behind the camera… smile!
Local Outreach in action..Im a terrible photographer
But sometimes I take pretentious photos of bridges in attempts to be artsy. LOOK AT ME ALL CREATIVE AND STUFF.
I’m happier than I look, I promise
We went to the market and preached the Gospel of Jesus. It was lit.
Leaving the market in a Congo line. . .
70 people graduated from our seminar! Woooo!!
Raphael and I, one of the graduates, an elder who warmed my heart.
Sometimes ya gotta make goofy faces
And sometimes you pray over sick babies
And sometimes you take pictures at graduation because the villagers are so persistent and they won’t let you not do it haha
And sometimes you meet elders who earnestly seek Yahweh and His truth and a life centered on it
And sometimes you leave a nation that has captured your heart and you’re happy for all that God has accomplished in and through you and your team, but the locals are sad and dont smile for the picture.
But they don’t smile becaues Congolese people dont ever smile for pictures not because they are sad haha.
A post on Tanzania will be coming soon. . .
Share this with your friends, your church, and your mama!