I have heard about God my whole life. My first experiences with the Omnipotent were from my great aunt(Gladys) who played Shirley Caesar incessantly on the weekends. According to family lore, she never went to church because she had a thing about the crosses with Jesus nailed to them that most churches have in the sanctuary. My brother and I owned large King James version bibles. Gladys put our names in them but for the most part they went unused. There was a Bible in the back of the apartment my great aunt used as a daycare facility. The kids took naps in there. I spent the majority of my time getting locked in there until dinner for some juvenile indiscretion I had committed.
One day, I looked at the Bible on the table and picked it up. I was an avid reader by then so of course I was curious about the most serious of books. It was the heaviest book I ever held,which made it intimidating. I started from the beginning getting confused right after Cain killed Abel. Satan, to me then, was powerful. He talked someone who had the literal definition of “heaven on Earth” into doing something that damned her forever. Wow.
Miss Gladys was having none of that when I presented my thoughts on Satan. She explained (read:damned me to Hell) that Satan was bad,not powerful. She also said she wasnt surprised I had a rebellious streak “seeing how your mother is” she said. I didnt understand:According to the Bible(Ezekiel 28:12-19) Satan was the most cherished of God’s angels. Surely God has given him great power. But, as a child, I let it go. After, I moved in with my mother’s sister at six years old,God took on a different meaning.My aunt(now my adoptive mother) grew up in a family where her grandmother and a grandfather owned a church. They attended church all the time but as adults she( as well as her 4 other siblings) stopped attending church and went to gospel shows.
Gospel shows are concerts with different gospel artists and groups performing their hits and new music(which is sold outside the venue). The first one I went to was so much fun. The music was loud, everyone looked Sunday morning sharp, and there was a beautiful feeling of camaraderie. People shouted or cried, depending on how the Spirit or music moved them to do so. I was hooked on gospel shows as was my mom. She had a book filled with professional shots of her favorite groups or artists. After the shows, while the artists mingled with the audience, my mom went around collecting autographs and taking pictures. I would follow her around excited to meet people I viewed as celebrities. I even saw the gospel artist standard of past generations, Shirley Caesar,in person. I was awestruck to see my dearly departed great aunt’s idol a few feet in front of me. I was dumbfounded when she sat IN my mom’s lap. My mom was sitting next to me,Ms. Caesar serenades my mom,puts her arm around my mom’s shoulder and sits in her lap never once missing a note. Great memories. Did I mention we never went to church unless there was a gospel show there. Oh, and the 2 Easters…3,once I was baptized at 17.
As my brother and I became teenagers my mom worked a lot more and we were left to our own devices. The gospel shows stopped mostly because the NY promoters went down south and took the talent with them . We were left in the care of a pretty capable special needs aunt that lived with us while Mom worked overnight shifts as a home health aide. My brothers and I were never too much trouble and made our own fun. We had no social activities,though I tried desperately to be more involved in some only to be curbed by my mom’s overprotective nature. So, I settled for books and being an invisible nerd. When I was 17,my mom finds God again. She impulsively takes my brother and I down to a church that she’s been obsessed with for years and decides we are to be baptized. Everything in me screamed that I wasn’t ready and I didn’t want to do it but to say that would incur my mothers wrath until I left for college. So I was baptized on July 6,2006.
My life changed quite a bit after that. My mother became super religious and immersed in the culture of church. She would pray for hours,constantly speaking in tongues. I admired her fervor for God. I became closer to her in a way when I received the gift of the Holy Ghost. I felt peaceful and happy. My friends were supportive and everything was good. But I noticed that my mom started thinking that every opposition against her was to be ignored and blamed on the Devil.It got so I couldn’t talk to her mother to daughter. All her wrong doings against us were somehow forgiven under a twisted interpretation of the Word. We spent every evening for months in church coming home late,grades failing for homework not getting done. And when I would approach mom about it,it was dismissed with a “nothing else matters but church” and “Stop letting the Devil use you”. I was starting to resent church…and God.
I noticed how there seemed to be a hierarchy among parishioners. There were two sisters in particular who judged the hem length of every woman who walked into the sanctuary. Talking about side eye! Can’t nobody side eye like a church sister. The bishop openly condemned men in the church with long hair. That message seemed so opposite of “Come as you are”, but ok Bishop.
Between the gossipy judgemental church folk and my mother abandoning everything else for church, I was turned off. I started hanging around my daughter’s father while still attending church here and there. Soon I became pregnant. I stopped going to church all together and barely graduated high school. I knew God was punishing me for going astray because I was getting verbally abused, almost daily, by an aunt I moved in with. (My mom and I had had a particularly nasty fight and it was decided we should be apart for awhile). The abuse happened during and after the birth of my child. But I deserved it for lying, getting pregnant, fornicating,etc…
But God is MERCIFUL and 3 months after Amani was born, my mom and I were reunited,we settled some things, and I even went back to church with both her and my newborn.
I received the chilliest reception when I walked in the church when I walked in the church with a baby in my arms. The sister who had helped me seek the Holy Ghost pretended not to notice me when my mother pointed me out to her. Instead she greeted my brother whom she affectionately call her “pot of gold”. The teenagers from my youth group never spoke to me and when I cornered one og them outside he looked like he would drop dead if anyone caught us talking. I felt like a complete disappointment. I couldn’t wait to get out of there but my mom was so happy to show everyone that we had reconciled. But I just thought the shunning was more punishment. I faked the funk and when service was over, I never went back. I vowed I never would.
That was ten years ago. Today, I am seeking a change in my life. This is the year of change and for me it starts with a change in perception and spirit. The last 40 days have forced me to dig up the ugliness of the past sins and hurts and take from them the lessons that were intended to be learned. The truth of the matter is this,I have an issue with intimacy. Not sex, intimacy. My family was never affectionate or talked about feelings and I was starved of it then so I crave it now. The enemy knows this and has, for many years amd in many ways given me illusions of it. But now I have intimacy and closeness in God.
He blessed me with a small community of people to lean on and gain support from solving my intimacy issue. He gave me two beautiful cats to cuddle and kiss and hold,solving my affection issue. He gave me Amani, a child that he has entrusted to me to guide to Him. A child who He’s already given a thirst for Him to.
All of the worry that I weigh myself down with has disappeared. Yes, I still panic a little when things fall apart. There is still a momentary lapse in my breathing when my plans go wrong,but then I breathe easier when I remember that God has something better for me, I must be mature enough to receive it and for that I must be tested. I think my story of adoption and teen parenthood is going to serve many others. As a matter of fact, I think the very church that rejected me will be asking me to serve the young women of the church. Or maybe writing the newsletter. Whatever He has for me,big or small,forefront or behind the scenes, I am ready to walk and serve in my purpose.