You are a story. Do not become a word.

Dr. Elizabeth Ríos
4 min readApr 7, 2022

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Yesterday, in the church planter training program I lead at Passion2Plant, our session was being led by faculty member Jose Humphreys. He shared powerful nuggets that made most of us pause and reflect throughout the session. But it was a quote towards the end of the session that seemed like an arrow to my heart. I felt like I stopped breathing for a few seconds as the words scattered through my head in slow motion.

YOU ARE A STORY. DO NOT BECOME A WORD. — Nayyirah Waheed

My eyes got a little moist. Perhaps it was that I have been carrying so much inside for so long. I have two recent years of scares and tears with my special boy, Daniel Jeremiah and even though I keep showing up for the things in my world, I felt tattered. (If you know my story, you know that he’s had 30 surgeries in his 22 years of life…but that is his story).

Perhaps it was that in that moment my life kind of flashed before me and I remembered all the struggles in my 50+ years of living simply because I was a Brown girl who dreamed things that were not and attempted to make them so.

I remembered in this dominant culture all the people who said, I couldn’t.

I remembered all the obstacles that were in my way simply because others judged me based on living in a hood of have nots (materially).

I remembered the “situational friends” who stopped being friends when the situation changed.

I remembered the church that lifted me up and the church that almost killed me.

You may have heard words that hurt on the journey.

You may have believed the labels given to you.

You may have shut down when others told you your light was shining too brightly.

I did for a while. But then, slowly, as hours turned to days, as days turned to weeks, weeks to months and months to years, something happened inside of me. I realized la Espiritu Santa was whispering into my spirit, tu eres una brava mijita! That every scar I bear, every tear I’ve cried, every label I’ve carried was part of the story God was making of me, with me, about me.

And here are a few facts that I’ve learned in my half a century plus of living that I want to share with you.

-There will always be people who want to shut you down.

-There will always be people who want your shine to burn less brightly.

-There will always be people who won’t celebrate what God is doing in your life.

But the world doesn’t consist of just ‘those’ people. Can we do a praise dance right here?

-There will be people who want to lift you up and open doors for you.

-There will be people who will serve as such big supporters that they will hand out sunglasses to the people around you who can’t handle your shine.

-There will be people who not only celebrate you in front of you but will also celebrate you in closed door rooms when you don’t even know your name is on their lips.

Remember, where you are is not who you are. Circumstances change. Doors open. Some people care. You will be seen…eventually.

On my birthday, I want to remind YOU, that everything in your life if you let it, can be a testimonio to the greatness and goodness of God. Yes, even when life is a little dark and you feel like you might drown from the tears you shed. One day it will get better. That’s my testimonio. That’s my story. And all the folks who wanted to reduce me to simply a word, didn’t. I am here, thriving even in the midst of struggle. Seeing beauty even when surrounded by pain.

How could I do that? Because when I think of the long journey I’ve had with this Papa Dios of mine, I know I [insert music] never would have made it without Him.

We always say TELL your story but what we might not have realized is that our life is TELLING THE STORY FOR US.

By all means, let us use our voices to our tell our stories that only we can tell. But never forget that how you live your life, every crisis you rise from, every praise you give to God when you could have cursed Him, every fire you come out of even if you smell like smoke, is telling a story. A spiritual gangster story of someone the world has tried to knock down, and for some of us, tried to kill. BUT HERE WE STILL ARE.

Here I still am! A whole book of testimonios about a Barrio girl and her God. Yes, indeed, I’m celebrating another trip around the sun with my family intact and at home. Thank you Lord!

I am, yo soy Elizabeth Delgado Rios, born on Wednesday, April 7, 1965 under a Democratic President (Lyndon B. Johnson) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to Puerto Rican parents when the top song on the charts was Stop! In the Name of Love by the Supremes. I have 20,805 days of “Let me tell you about MY GOD” chapters. There is no way I could ever be reduced to a word! Your life, my life is a sacred journey. Let’s live it to the fullest. I intend to!

So my friends, amigos/as don’t let anyone reduce you to a word when God has given you so many things that have made YOU a story!

Oh and happy birthday to me!

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Dr. Elizabeth Ríos

NY Diasporican thinker/writer, former pastor, church planter educator and Jesus & justice advocate. Wife and Mom to two boys (one in heaven).