When a friend told me that her son had deployed to Kuwait, I told her that he was already on my prayer list. She responded, “You’re doing that again, huh? I remember how you used to pray for young men.” I had forgotten about that time in my life and was surprised that she remembered. At her words, I had a flashback to my daily ride on the Jeffrey Express, looking out of the window and praying fervently in my heart for every black man that I saw, infant to grandfather, periodically looking up to see who was boarding to make sure I didn’t miss anyone.
I didn’t remember sharing my ‘mission’ with her. I think that’s because I didn’t choose the mission. The mission chose me. The vision of myself on the bus took me further back, to the day my pastor’s wife handed me a book with the words, “God’s going to use you in this way.” I read the book, pondered, wondered, and tucked it away. I really didn’t understand, but my spirit did. That’s where the original prayer assignment came from. And now I’m at it again.
A few weeks after talking with my friend about her son, I attended a women’s empowerment meeting that featured a panel of women who, given their backgrounds, should not be where they are. All of them are powerful, influential, successful women, having overcome tremendous odds to rise to such heights. Wherever I go, my ear is primed to receive the one nugget of wisdom that is mine, all mine. It’s easy to gorge yourself in a rich environment, but I’ve trained my spirit to know when I’ve gotten what I came for. It only takes one morsel to move you forward.
I drove home in stunned silence when I realized that the nugget was this: it is time to help our men. One had stepped up to chair the board of a private school for black boys, vowing to recover its financial health and keep it open. Another had established three substantial college scholarships exclusively for black men and had written an anthem to encourage them, including it in her latest album. Here we were at a women’s event talking about leveraging our power on behalf of our men. It wasn’t an overarching theme, but rather a thread of life being woven from speaker to speaker to every woman in the audience who would receive it.
Speaking of receiving, as I drove I recalled a sermon my pastor’s wife preached a decade ago, the upshot of which is that women will compass (surround, encircle, encompass) their men. I don’t have to tell you that she set that women’s meeting on its ear. Almost every woman in the house was up in arms because, well, “haven’t I been helping him? What, you want me to take some more mess off of him?” Not many were able to receive her message.
But her message had nothing to do with enabling, but rather empowering. One makes weak, the other makes strong. One binds to you, the other frees to destiny and purpose. One is all about your address; the other is about community and posterity. When we encompass someone with the intention of empowering them, the first thing we do is hone in on who they are at heart and what the real need is. From there we understand what to give, what to withhold, and how to stay focused on the goal, no matter how they act…out.
The names on my prayer list are mostly young men with diverse talents and troubles; I have recently begun to add the names of their fathers, if I know them. I pray daily that these black men will arrive at their destiny/purpose sound in their minds, stable in their emotions and strong in their bodies. For now my only assignment is to pray for them. Perhaps the day will come when I can personally offer something more that will get them on their way. Or out of their rut. Maybe even save their life.
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