Apr 3 • 34M

I Am Will Smith

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I Am Will Smith

For better of for worse, today, I am Will Smith. Remember the “I am Tiger Woods” add from back in the day?

Honestly, I saw it immediately.

First of all, I’d like to say that I don’t condone violence of any kind except in direct response to a threat that looks to harm you or your loved ones. Try to read this newsletter or listen to this podcast with an open mind. This isn’t for you if you are standing on a Bible preaching down to the situation or have your mind fully made up about what did/should/could have happened. Stay open, with me, for at least, the time it takes to consume this letter.

I’m not a proponent of violence, however, I’ve definitely slapped a few people in my day. I mean… in the hood it’s the ultimate sign of disrespect or disdain. An act that says, “I don’t even respect you enough to close my fist and punch you”. Standing at the bus stop and hearing that sound of a good ‘smack’ is something that sticks with you. Everyone remembers. Everyone talks about it.

See, like this week. Oscar night one man slapped another and it’s all we’ve talked about since. Matter of fact, it has saturated everything. I was watching a gamers’ live stream earlier and they had to have mentioned it 20 times. Memes, gifs, jokes… it’ll be talked about on award stages for the next year. I guarantee it.

10s of thousands of memes and gifs and the video is everywhere and all I can think about, since night is that I AM Will Smith.

Instantly. I watched the slap. Then I watched the acceptance speech. Back to back. I’m positive that you’ve seen the slap and probably even heard Will telling Chris to keep his wife’s name out of his (bleeping) mouth. But if you haven’t seen the acceptance speech you can click HERE. Both, are pertinent and relevant to my perspective.

I see both videos and seconds later, my BFF texts me. Now… he and I don’t get to talk as often as we used to, but yet and still, probably 97% of our conversations are “truthful jest”. We don’t adhere to “politically correctness” but more to honesty. It’s not unlike us to make light of a situation in order for it to stay funny(ish) and not depress us. He starts texting me and I’ve not had too much time to process it and I start engaging in my usual “joking about it” manner. It took me a bit to realize that he was serious about his position. Without getting too much into the conversation, it made him deeply sad at the state of the world and the state of mental health in the world today. He’s right.

The first time I made the correlation to myself was in that conversation when I said “that’s some shit I’d probably do (meaning the slap).” You guys don’t know me like this BFF does… he’s actually seen me go nuts and start fights before. Once when we were in college, someone had threatened us with a gun, so the next time I saw him at the club, I went and beat his butt. No questions asked. My friend tried to grab me and hold me back but I was raised where we don’t talk about guns. I needed to teach him to keep that word out of his mouth. (Again guys… I’m not condoning this or taking it lightly, but it’s important for the context). I was more upset that he threatened my friends than I was concerned that he threatened me. I was also was struggling with my mental health for YEARS and I didn’t know it. I also had the fingerprints of a physically and emotionally abusive father on my life… and I didn’t know it, know how to process it… I didn’t know how traumatic it had been. All I knew was the raw and rudimentary instincts to protect, attack and defend.

Would Joel, today, act that same way? No. Would I slap someone for insulting Hannah if she had an auto immune disease that made her feel self conscious? I mean… probably not… more than likely not… but if I looked over and saw that she was devastated by the comment… uh… I mean… best I can do is pray that I never have to make that decision.

Did Will make the right decision? No… but I’ve made really bad decisions like that, too. Like. A lot of em. So have YOU. No matter how good and righteous you are… so have you. I don’t care who you are. So have you.

In that moment Will reminded me of me because I’m a person who experiences pain and battles with mental health issues… and I feel overwhelmed … and I can make rash decisions. Even in the name of “love and/or honor” I know that I’ve been so close to the edge that it would only take a nudge to push me over it. I’ve been there… I’ve seen that.

After watching the acceptance speech… I KNEW I was Will Smith.

This man has always had a light about him. He’s dedicated his life to creating good and wholesome content to make people laugh. I mean… y’all forget that this is almost literally the only rapper ever to go platinum without cussing on an album? You forget the charisma that literally jumps out of his skin while he made you laugh as the Fresh Prince? Oh, you thought he played that role? A kid from the hood who was having a hard/yet funny transition into a privileged life… you thought that was an act? He’s said it before… he played HIMSELF. That’s why he was so good at it.

You could see that God had His hand of favor on his life. Will never claimed God or spoke about his purpose or calling, though. Which was fine. But I noticed it because I’ve been compared to having a personality like Will Smith. So my curiosity has always wondered what made him tick? Where does he get his energy from? Does he even know that he’s a blessed person and his gifts are from God?

Until his acceptance speech that night. Moments after slapping the shit out if someone, he’s emotionally delivering an acceptance speech for his first Oscar. Tears are streaming down his face as he talks about shining light into the world and beginning to walk in his purpose from God. He even quotes Denzel Washington as saying that “At your highest moment, that when the devil comes for you”. And we had JUST witnessed that moments before.

Satan tried to steal the show.

The devil might steal the show but GOD will save the story!!

I’m not saying any weird “the devil made him do it” crap…. All I’m saying is that for a person struggling and in pain and overwhelmed and shamed… it’s a lot harder to think and do the right thing. A lot harder. Mental health struggles are REAL.

I kinda of went in an entire tangent in our family WhatsApp the morning after the event. If you follow me on social, you will rarely see me react to anything. I’m not really a reactive person, in general. I’m a contemplative person.

“But then Joel, how are you Will Smith?! You saw what he did… not cool!!”

“But Jada ________________ and she _____________.”

Look… not my business, not my conversation, not my connection to this scene. Not my point. All I’m doing is identifying what my spirit sees as ME. I’m looking at MY faults… my opportunities to improve… my passions… my traumas unfolding.

Empathetically.

That’s it.

That same exact vibe I felt that night when I saw the slap and the acceptance is the same vibe I feel today. I’m not making a single excuse for him and I’m also not judging as if I haven’t made the same mistakes. I’m not dismissing anything that he and his wife have done and that’s also none of my business. Does it add context and/or complicate the story? His story? Their story? The full dynamic of the situation? Absolutely.

Does it negate the fact that this dude is struggling AND being called to use his fame and fortune for the good and recognition of others? No. No it doesn’t. Not anymore than it does with you. You’ve never heard me stand on one side or the other. It doesn’t matter that I’m seeking the truth or seeking the wisdom of God… when it comes to humanity I’ve ONLY ever talked about how BOTH with truly are. The humanness and the grace of God are BOTH present. The broken and the being called to more. At the same time. A sinner and a saint. At the same time.

I don’t believe in using the Bible as a weapon. Yes, Christians I know that the Bible actually calls the Bible a weapon. (Hebrew’s 4:12 calls the Bible a double edged sword but I can write a whole sermon on how it cuts with one edge and heals with the other… but that’s for another day). And this weapon is formed against the forces of evil. Aka. The devil. Not humans. And YES the Bible should and will convict us but it’s not to be used against us. How can a God that’s FOR you be against you too… again. Another sermon for another day… but today, I want to share with you the only story that keeps coming up in my spirit this week.

To some, this is going to be a familiar story. My hope is that maybe a lot of people reading this haven’t heard this story. Ultimately though, my prayer for all of us is that it teaches us something today.

It’s from John Chapter 8. Starting in verse 2.

“Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.”

First lesson. Jesus was just chillin. Minding his own business. He had a purpose and was literally busy fulfilling it. He was chillin… teaching people about God.

“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?””

‭‭John‬ ‭8:3-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Imagine. Going and getting drama and bringing someone else’s drama and bringing it into the public as if you have the authority and/or you have the righteousness to comment. Imagine. Crazy…

But wait for it…

“This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.”

‭‭John‬ ‭8:6‬ ‭ESV

Listen. The people with the real wisdom… are minding their own damn business writing in the dirt with their index fingers. They are unbothered by public opinion and are only really trying to listen and understand. That’s it. And the ones with true authority, only speak when it’s time…

“And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”” “And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.”

‭‭John‬ ‭8:7‬&8 ESV‬‬

Yooooo …. He stood up. He said “all y’all on twitter and IG and Facebook who have never done anything wrong or suffered or battled mental illness or made a mistake, y’all can keep going with the judgements and opinions” and then he knelt back down and kept drawing in the dirt. The amount of power He has is literally displayed in His posture. But He’d stand up one last time… to deliver one more message of freedom from human judgement and condemnation.

“But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

‭‭John‬ ‭8:9-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I bet you didn’t know you were going to church in this newsletter… neither did I. But let me tell you something… THE POWER in this posture. The power of forced empathy… Oh you missed that? Jesus MADE them look at themselves FIRST before they could act on their righteousness to persecute. He MADE them empathetic. They had to put themselves in HER shoes by way of FIRST looking at themselves. They had to first evaluate all of the ways that they’ve fallen short… FIRST. And when they did, they dropped their stones. The old heads got it first… lol… the older we get, the more times we know about that we’ve made mistakes. And one by one… they all left.

And the only one left standing there…. Next to her…. Next to Will…. Next to me… The only one standing. STANDING… in authority and love and empathy …. Was Jesus.

IS Jesus.

When everyone else is gone. When everyone else has stones and has had the opportunity to throw them, and has had to drop them… the only one left, is Jesus.

I am Will Smith.

Nothing else matter to God. He’s not looking at your past … he’s not looking at your wife or your husband… he’s looking at you. He’s standing UP to give you the biggest hug of your LIFE when the whole world has judged you. When you are broken by the world. When the whole world has turned their back on you… He’s still there. He never left…

I am Will Smith.

I am broken.

I am called.

I am blessed.

I am fighting.

I am chosen.

I am loved.

I am healed.

I am human.

I am Will Smith.

I don’t want to do anything else in the world with my life than this…. To take the Word of God to break the lies that it’s been used to tell… to TEACH PEOPLE HOW GOOD GOD IS … how loving God is. How accepting of YOU that God is. There is nothing else…

The Posture of Jesus was to physically lower himself to a seated posture when He taught and when He was minding His own business. When He delivered truth, He stood…. When He acknowledged a convicted sinner, He stood. When he SAW her… he stood… to see her. I am that sinner. I don’t even WANNA be a saint. I have no interest in it.

I decided this week that I don’t want to be called a Man of God… I just wanna be a man that God is using. I think there’s a really big difference there.

I will say it again for the saints in the back. I do not want to be called man of God. I ONLY want to be called a man that God is using.

I am Will Smith.

I think he’s a man that God is using, too. I just say, wait for it.


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