Those Who Sow in Tears
By Denise Ann Goosby
“I can’t do this, Lord,” she wailed silently to herself, erasing the equation on her paper.
The tears started falling. Slowly at first—but quickened as panic set in. She glanced at her classmates around her, roughly scraping a fresh stream of moisture from her face. She looked at the professor as she alternated between writing on the whiteboard and explaining the accounting problems on the worksheet.
She should have known.
Getting into college wouldn’t be the hard part. Filling out applications…submitting essays and transcripts were tedious. She’d done that 30 years ago before starting her career as a teacher. She’d even taken a couple of online graduate courses a few years ago.
But that was before dad died. Before she had moved from her home. Before everything she knew had been upended. Before the calling to lead had come…
“I’m a word person, not a business person. Why am I sitting here in an accounting class?” She sighed resignedly.
She already knew the answer.
Who else would make her do something so crazy, so unexpected—so out of her comfort zone. She should have been okay with being uncomfortable. At 53, she just buried the dad she loved and was caretaker for, sold her home in Compton, and moved into an apartment in Torrance. Her mother and younger sister passed years before. With the exception of an infirmed uncle and a few relatives scattered across the country, she was alone. The cousins closest to her didn’t handle death very well. She hadn’t seen them since before her dad’s funeral.
But God shepherded her through the grief and solitude. He brought people into her life—gave her new experiences to enjoy. One night a former neighbor Annie invited her to a Bible study called “Journey of Purpose.” Every Tuesday night at 7 p.m. for seven weeks, a group of young and middle-aged women met in a church dining hall to eat, worship, and talk about how to use their gifts and talents for the kingdom of God. The ache of losing her dad and being alone was replaced with hope. God had not forgotten her—nor the dreams to sing and travel and help others she had as a younger woman.
“You know, ministries have come out of this study,” a woman spoke encouraging to her before the teaching began that first night.
Half way through the study, God spoke to her during her morning devotions. He wanted her to start a nonprofit called Healing Song Ministries. It would be a music therapy ministry that catered to seniors, veterans, and those who were hurting. God kept confirming this calling through His Word, circumstances, and others. By the time the study ended, Healing Song Ministries had a logo, a legal filing, and a growing support team. A “house concert” in her apartment’s community room served as the organization’s debut.
God wasn’t finished. She kept hearing on the Christian radio station she listened to about a new nonprofit management degree that Biola University started the previous year. Smiling to herself, she couldn’t deny God’s timing—or His sense of humor. A few weeks later found her sitting in an informational meeting. And, a month later, she read her acceptance letter. God had provided. The sell of her house meant she had money to go to school and fund her nonprofit.
Yes, she could do this…
Those tears in accounting class were not wasted. She got through that class and the several others that followed. As she moved deeper into her studies and calling, God worked deeper in her. He reminded her that she didn’t have to prove herself to Him. She didn’t have to be perfect. She didn’t have to fear God would abandon her or reject her if she failed. “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Nor did she have to get As in every class. That was a hard one. She always took pride in being a good student. But, her identity could no longer be in what she accomplished. It had to be in God. In being His child and vessel of service. (see 2 Corinthians 4:7) What mattered was what He could do through her. God saw her potential. Her competence was in Him. (2 Corinthians 3”5).
Through the prayers, practices, and assignments in her classes, she learned that the first job of being a leader was to lead yourself. To know the personality traits and giftings God gave you. And, to know how to use them to lead and work with others who have their own unique backgrounds and experiences.
John Maxwell in his book, “How Successful People Lead,” noted leading is “a process not a position.” It is a continuous learning about self and others. A position or title doesn’t make you a leader. It is, however, an opportunity to shape what kind of leader you want to be. It is a means of connecting with mentors who can speak into your leadership journey. It is a way to transfer what you learn to others so they can be leaders.
Though God’s holy and perfect Son, Jesus “grew in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2”52). He learned what to do by being obedient to His earthly parents, knowing God’s Word, and spending quiet times with His Heavenly Father. He did nothing outside of His Father’s will. Even before Jesus chose His disciples, He asked Father God first. Then Jesus modeled life in God’s kingdom by teaching and serving others. Jesus showed that being a leader was not a solitary job. It was a work of community…
“You are too dumb to be in this group,” her sixth-grade teacher once told her and her classmates derisively.
Forty -five years later, those words still pierced. So unfair. So hurtful and limiting. So untrue. Those words could have defined her. She could have been like Gideon who saw himself as the least in his family. She could have been like Moses, who complained to God that he was slow of speech. She could have been like Esther who feared the king’s anger. She could have seen herself as “a word person.” She still does. But that’s okay. Like Gideon, Moses, and Esther she persevered and did the only thing God truly calls us to do: believe and be faithful. Her nonprofit, Healing Song Ministries, has served hundreds of people since its inception. And, in May 8, 2020 she graduated from Biola University.
That woman was me.