In the late 1990s I felt God calling me into becoming something new.

The way this new stage of my life unfolded was through becoming a faith leader in the United Methodist Church. At the time, I was married with a young daughter – only in the 1st grade. I was also a vice president and director of interactive media at an amazing advertising agency (GodwinGroup!) in Jackson, Mississippi.

Following this prompting wasn’t without difficulties.

I was the breadwinner in our home. Financial security at the time meant that I could pay our mortgage, provide health insurance – the basics in life. To follow a new way of living meant that I had to give up certain things to do new things.

I went back to college to complete the degree that I began in my teens before I could go on to get a masters of divinity degree – what would be required within the church for ordination. Going to night classes and working fulltime proved to be too taxing on the role I prized the most – being a mom to my daughter Marissa. The church hired me as a mission intern so I could find more balance, still being able to provide the basics financially.

Nearing the completion of that degree, we began planning the move to Nashville, Tennessee so I could attend Vanderbilt Divinity School. My husband was struggling with treatment for bipolar disorder and I began to question my path. Should I get on another path that would be easier on him and our family? Should I take divinity school off my list?

The night before I met with the director of a local program that would allow us to stay in Mississippi, I had a deep dream – one that remains with me today.

In the dream, a woman had been murdered – stabbed to death with words written in her blood on the walls. This woman was sooo loved. She was a free spirit who people loved dearly. Somehow, I was invited to rewind her life to see who murdered her. To identify the killer.

I remember that it wasn’t just me following her – I was with a group of people. A gray room with a door facing me to the left revealed a hallway and when I heard someone coming, I said, “Everybody get down!” I knew that this was the moment of the attack. When I got down, I saw the knife and thought if I got rid of it, I could save her life. I picked it up and threw it over my shoulder only to realize that she was behind me and I had struck her with the knife. In an effort to protect her, I killed her.

This dream was strong in my spirit as I sat listening to Rev. Bert Gary describe what I would need to do to stay in Mississippi and become what was to me a smaller form of what God was really calling me to be. At the end of our session, I embarrassingly shared that I had a dream I wanted to tell him about.

After describing the dream to him, he looked at me pensively. He asked, “So, do you want to give me back all that (the info he had given me) before you kill her?”

My whole body sank into the chair. Yes, in an effort to protect myself from the hardship of following my call, I was about to kill who I really am and who I’m meant to be.

Today, I remember this dream and the hard path I recommitted to following that meeting.

What are you avoiding today? Going through it rather than around it may bring the greatest joy to you and the world. Be courageous and brave. The real you awaits.

About N. Neelley Hicks

A social innovator in communication strategies & technologies for global development, Neelley is the founder of Harper Hill Global. Check out her game-changing work:
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