This content is from recent Minnehaha graduate Danyelle's baccalaureate speech. Danyelle is second from last, pictured with friends on graduation night.
For the past couple of weeks, I have been trying to figure out what to say for this evening. I began to write about my upbringing, family and friends, the schools I used to attend, including this one, and how all of that has played into my faith. Although, during the last couple of weeks, my mind has been scattered and honestly, my heart hurts. I would be doing a disservice to the black community if I failed to mention the current injustices in our world today.
I was asked to speak about my faith journey; and that was difficult to try and figure out what that meant for me. As I was writing this, I realized that my faith is rooted in my relationship with Christ and the words I say. I believe I was called to speak and to advocate, and to share the love of God with His people. So on account of the health and civil pandemics that have harshly affected the human race in the last four months, I will reflect on my past, while paying attention to my present; and not to mention, my future.
Trusting in God's Purpose
The year of 2020 has brought a series of unfortunate events, to say the least. No one could have ever predicted the death of basketball star, Kobe Bryant, a global health pandemic that causes significant fatality rates and alters “normal” life, or nationwide protests and riots as a result of not just one incident of police brutality on an innocent black man, but the thousands of others prior.
When bad things happen in my life and in others’ lives, I tend to try to justify why God allows those things to happen. Is it for growth? Did I or someone else do something wrong? Or am I just at the point in my journey where my faith is being tested?
I don’t know, but what I do know is that God always has a purpose. And most of the time we don’t know what that is or looks like. Proverbs 16: 1-4 says, “To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue. All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. The Lord works out everything to its proper end—even the wicked for a day of disaster”.
I think we get caught up in the media and the chaos so much that we forget that our God is simultaneously doing a wonderful thing behind the scenes. And we may not always be able to see that or even appreciate it.
We, as people, like to assume that we know what’s best for us. That we know what to do when life gets difficult. But that simply just isn’t the case; we weren’t created to go through this alone. We need to look for guidance in times like this. So our job, is to start opening our eyes, start listening and paying attention to what the Lord has to offer.
I believe that once we do that, we’ll begin to gain clarity on our purpose here in the world and what actions we have to take next to achieve justice and peace. And not just with the current state of crisis, but with everything in general, from now moving forward.
Clarity on My Own Purpose: My Voice
Growing up, my faith in God was, and still is, steadfast. I was born into a loving, Christian home, with a pastor for a dad. Shoutout to all the PKs (that stands for ‘pastor’s kids’, for anyone confused). My six siblings, our parents, and I, religiously (pun intended), went to church every Sunday. We would also have bible studies and devotions throughout the week, just to make sure we had that daily dose of Jesus’ love.
As I grew up, I began to use that strong faith foundation that was implemented in my childhood and apply it to my craft. I share my faith through my music, poems, story-telling, acting, and speaking. Junior year, I applied to be a Chapel intern, and I also joined Praise Band for Thursday chapels. I always knew that I was called to share my faith and all of the wonderful gifts the Lord has blessed me with. I had such an amazing experience being able to serve my fellow peers and teachers and I am grateful for every second of it.
So far, this year, I have been given the most opportunities to share my voice and speak my mind, mainly about current issues. As mentioned before, we don't always know what God’s purpose is for us in everyday life or in difficult times. But I feel like God gave me my voice for this exact purpose. And hopefully over the years, my words have inspired a few people here and there.
Faith in Walking Out God's Purpose for Our Lives
Recently, I looked back on the speech I gave to the freshmen my first year here and one bible verse that I had included was, “And let not your behavior be like that of this world, but be changed and made new in mind, so that by experience you may have knowledge of the good and pleasing and complete purpose of God”. This verse speaks volumes in all aspects of our lives right now. I think this is just a reminder that ultimately we are made new in Christ and the more we have faith in that fact, the more our purpose here on Earth will become clear.
All that to say, I am beyond grateful to have been given the opportunities to be a voice for my peers and to express and share my faith with my community and world. Thank you.