Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Excerpt From a Book I May Write One Day

Dear Lovelies,

I was feeling poetic the other day and started writing stream of consciousness style. I did not write a poem. I wrote two paragraphs, the beginning of something that could maybe, potentially, turn into a short story or book somewhere down the road. Check it out and let me know what you think of it. I wrote this in second-person POV, which is new for me, as I’ve always tried to write in third-person, but that’s what writing is about: exploring new things, getting out of your comfort zone, deleting everything and starting all over again… One disclaimer: I AM NOT SUICIDAL; I’M JUST A WRITER. Sorry. Didn’t mean to yell at you guys but it needed to be said. Anyway, let me know in the comments, or email me, what you think of it. Happy reading!

~

The Guilt of Being

Sometimes, there’s no answer to the question “Why do you want to die?” in the midst of flashbacks that act like your own personal time machine, whisking you away, back to the place of horror, fear, abuse, and panic attacks in a church bathroom that leave you wondering if it’s actually possible for your heart to beat out of your chest cavity and onto the cold marble floor, or if your stomach could vomit up the nothingness you feel inside. You are plagued by guilt of various degrees. First, the guilt, and fear that always accompanies it, of sitting on the hard floor of a megachurch bathroom stall, leaving a semi-silent memoir of pain as you sit sniffling and, with your hands covering your mouth in a weak attempt of muffling your weeping, so as not to be detected by others trying to relieve themselves, lest they ask what troubles you. Second, the guilt that rises in your inner being because you feel like a spiritual failure. Here you are, in a bathroom stall, instead of out there being part of a congregation worshipping and praising the God who saved you from the pit and redeemed your soul for His name sake. You feel like an anomaly, a broken unworthy mess, for succumbing to your trauma-induced anxiety and having a panic attack instead of having faith in God to save you. Are you even a Christian if you have mental health problems? You’re weak. You should be ashamed of your lack of faith. You don’t belong here. You know they’re lies but they sound like truth, so you bury your face in your hands and scream a muffled, painful woe. When you think you’re all cried out, you venture out of hiding and head towards the sink to wash your face… and a stranger’s kindness forces you back into the bathroom stall to sit and weep again. You don’t belong here.

Out of desperation, or maybe a need to connect and get out of your own head, you text a friend in a different part of church, knowing she’s focused and listening to some young dude teach about God, and your chest tightens up, as you are the cause of momentary distraction, though she’ll say otherwise. You venture out of the stall—for real this time—and head to where your friend is. You step onto the elevator, mentally admonishing yourself for being so weak and when the doors open, you turn ever so slightly and see the kitchen down below, a whole two floors beneath you. A passive thought of death brushes pass but you pay it no mind, too engrossed in your current pain to contemplate future plans. Once you find your friend, she assesses the situation, asking therapist-like questions that make you squirm but it’s okay because she cares. You know she cares. She assures you that you’re not a burden and for the first time, you believe her. All is well, until later.

Because of different stressors you are currently facing—the hardest of all being Complex PTSD—you fantasize about death and suicide a lot. Like way more than you should. As you and your friend are moments away from boarding the elevator to join the mass of hungry, loquacious, and contemplative congregations down on the first floor, you look over the rail and the thought comes into your head: Jump! but you don’t, not yet. There are too many people in the room and someone might stop you. No, this must wait for the opportune moment. This needs to be foolproof, perfect.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Observations on 1 John 1

I was going to write a post about how the Gospel is supposed to be offensive, how it’s purpose is to change us (that’s kinda why Jesus came in the first place), and while I was doing research for that, I stumbled upon 1 John. (I tried not to interpret the text but to just write down the observations I saw.) I admit, it’s not the first book I would have chosen if I were doing devotional reading, but in just reading the first chapter, there are a myriad of gems within that I think are needed to live out the Gospel, both in our individaul lives and collectively within the body of Christ.

1 John 1:1-4

To make this easier for both of us, I’m breaking this chapter into two sections. For reference, the first passage of Scripture says this:

1What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—2and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—3what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.”(NASB)

My Observations on Verses 1-4

The “Word of Life” was:

  • in the beginning
  • heard, seen, touched, and experienced by other people (a public display)
  • also called “the eternal life”
  • with the Father
  • manifested in the flesh (i.e. “with us”)
  • the writer of 1 John is writing so that others “may have fellowship” with him and other believers
  • fellowship is with both the Father and Jesus Christ
  • the writer writes so that his joy may be “complete” (lacking nothing/filled to the top)

1 John 1:5-10

Here’s the rest of the chapter:

5This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”

My Observations on Verses 5-10

  •  The writer of 1 John received his message directly from God Himself
  • God is Light
  • God has (possesses) no darkness within Him
    Verses 6 and 7: There seems to be a choice in between them, an active decision to be made on our part
  • We can say one thing but do another
  • Walk, as seen in verses 6 and 7, is an action verb. You have to do something (i.e. move your legs)
  • The truth must be practiced (another action verb)
  • If we lie and do not practice truth, we walk in darkness.
  • If we walk in Light (with God) we have fellowship with one another (outside of church?) and He is faithful to forgive our sins.
  • Our sins, no matter what they are, can be forgiven if we walk in Light
  • There’s a change of direction from verse 6 (walking in darkness) to verse 7 (walking in Light)
  • The blood of Jesus is sufficient to cleanse us “from all sin.”
  • Deceiving ourselves is possible (“I have no sin!”- verse 8)
  • To procleaim sinlessness is to make yourself, and God, a liar and is proof that you do not have truth/the Word in you. You can’t be a true princess/prince of the King and His Word not be in you.
  • Confessing our sin is possible (I know this may seem obvious but for those who would rather run away from the Jesus rather than towards Him, this needed to be said.)
  • If we confess, Jesus is faithful to forgive our sin and cleanse us of our unrighteousness
  • The forgiveness of our sin and cleansing of our unrighteousness isn’t predicated on our asking/confessing of our sin, but on God’s faithfulness and righteousness.
Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

The Great Divorce

No, this post isn’t a commentary on the story by C.S. Lewis (just getting that out of the way first). This post is altogether something different. For my readers who have been following my journey from the beginning, this may surprise you (or maybe not, I don’t know). For those of you who just stumbled on this page because you were intrigued by the title, you may have questions. Don’t worry. I’m about to answer them for you. The main thing you need to know about me, that I recently discovered myself, is that I’m a fraud.

The Main I’m a Reason a Fraud? Unbelief

The main contributor that made me aware that I am, indeed, a fraud was this: earlier this week, I realized truly that I don’t actually believe God’s truth with my heart, only with my head. I don’t actually believe God loves me. This is the reason why I can write on this blog about the Gospel, Christian faith, and theology and none of it make a difference in my life.

There are several reasons for this but the main reason is that there is a great divorce between my heart and my mind. Almost like a separate state between the two that I can move in and out of at will. This does not a good Christian make. I’ll be the first to admit that I have no idea what I’m doing and too often am paralyzed by fear in this Christian walk. Fear of not being perfect. Fear of being too honest with people and having them walk away from me. Fear of being controlled by sin…. and the list goes on.

The Irony of Unbelief (When the Heart and Mind Split)

As I have gotten older, I find that it is easier for me to wrestle with God intellectually rather than to get in the mud with Him and just go at it like Jacob and the angel. And I find that I am a hypocrite. I encourage others to be vulnerable with God, to open up their dark closets to let His light illuminate the deep crevices and secrets they hold dear, yet I still have panic attacks sometimes when I pray. I don’t want to be vulnerable, especially not with a Being I can’t experience with my five senses, a God powerful enough to hold the planets in place while simultaneously not letting my body’s respiratory system collapse.

Ironically, the fact that the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 139:12a that “even the darkness is not dark to You” should fill me with hope, but it doesn’t. It fills me with anxiety. Not necessarily because of any one particular sin in my life, but more so because I am deeply and keenly aware of the fact that I don’t deserve His grace and I wish I did. I wish I could somehow, some way, prove myself worthy of His love. In my head, I know that’s stupid and impossible. Intellectually, I know that there’s nothing I can do to earn His love, as it is a gift and freely given, but my heart says otherwise, and the fact that I can’t do anything to tip the scale and make Him love or bless me more frustrates me in my inner being. Hence, the great divorce.

The Mending of The Great Divorce

Earlier this week, on my birthday in fact, I was talking to my professor-friend Paul Copan about some of these issues, along with more pressing matters, and he offered me not just a listening ear, but wisdom from the great theologian Martin Luther. I told Paul that I felt guilty, confused, fearful and frustrated because I had been praying for months for God to move on my behalf, to see some resemblance of light in the midst of dark shadows, and He remained silent. I went on further to describe to him why I felt unworthy to come before God and his throne of grace. Paul paused for a moment and, in his typical way of doing things, asked if I knew what Martin Luther’s response was to Satan when accused of sin? I told him I had not the slightest idea. He responded,

“It is well-known that in his writings in table conversation Luther would often refer to visits from the Devil, how the Devil would come to him and whisper in his ear, accusing him of all manner of filthy sin: “Martin, you are a liar, greedy, lecherous, a blasphemer, a hypocrite. You cannot stand before God.”

To which Luther would respond: “Well, yes, I am. And, indeed, Satan, you do not know the half of it. I have done much worse than that and if you care to give me your full list, I can no doubt add to it and help make it more complete. But you know what? My Savior has died for all my sins – those you mention, those I could add and, indeed, those I have committed but am so wicked that I am unaware of having done so. It does not change the fact that Christ has died for all of them; his blood is sufficient; and on the Day of Judgment I shall be exonerated because he has taken all my sins on himself and clothed me in his own perfect righteousness.”

I feel like, in quoting Luther, Paul was essentially telling me “Take your eyes off yourself and your sin, and put your eyes back on God with all of you—both heart and mind.” I then confessed to him why I was scared to open my Bible (it was because of a fear that I would come to the Word of God as just a book, a collection of words on pages, as opposed to God’s love letter toward His creation). He disagreed with my reasoning, as I knew he would, telling me that to see the Bible through both intellectual and passionate lenses was what was best, choosing neither one over the other, but both together. My hope and prayer is that I’ll be able to look at God as both an intellectual, inquisitive being who has an insatiable thirst for knowledge and as a beloved princess of the Most High. After all, hasn’t He commanded us to love Him “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all our strength and with all your mind”?

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

When the White Girl Says “Amen!” in a Black Church (My Beef with Black Christians in America)

A Different Kind of Introduction

I do not apologize, this time, for what’s written on the page. Fair warning: This post did not intend to be a rant, but that’s what it turned into. The kind of rant I hope will start a conversation, one that won’t end up fading into whispers in the back of church congregations over the clash of cymbals and the daggers of drumsticks. This is my beef with the Church, the Black Church specifically.

Racial Division in the Church: The Role Tradition Plays

As the song in most Black churches goes, “Let the Church say amen. Let the Church say amen. God has spoken, let the Church say amen.”

That seems to be the general consensus around Black churches: Let the church say amen and stand in agreement to what the pastor is saying or when the Holy Spirit moves. After all, we are known, as a people, for being loud and expressive in church, if nowhere else. (Can I get an Amen, somebody?)

But what happens when the White girl says “Amen!” in the midst of a Holy Spirit-filled, pastor preaching Hell down, congregates speaking in tongues kind of service? Will her voice be silenced with even louder shouts from voices that secretly wish she was absent? Will her praise be judged because she’s not speaking in tongues with the rest of the congregation or not getting slain in the Spirit? Will looks of “Gurl, who she think she is coming up in here like that?” be thrown her way just because of the lack of melanin in her pigmentation?

There is, in the Black church, a lot of traditional happenings that occur. Don’t sit in the front row of the church, that’s for the deacons and elders. Don’t sit down during praise and worship (even if it does last an hour and a half—don’t do it!). Don’t play “white people music” aka Christian contemporary music (unless it’s been covered and Gospelified by a Black artist, then it’s fine). And this, the unforgivable sin on a Sunday morning: Do not, under any circumstances, wear jeans on a Sunday! (Unless you want to be seen as a “heathen” or accused of not “giving God your best”.)

Just because you have been doing things a certain way for an extended time, does not mean that it is right or even conducive to growth.

Us Versus Them

It is my opinion that part of the reason why the Church is more divided on Sunday than any other day of the week is because of tradition—even in the Black church. Worship styles are different between Black and White Christian brothers and sisters, and what is different is, most often, rejected. Or at the very least, questioned.

Where raised hands can be seen and loud praises of “Hallelujah!” and “Thank you, Father!” can be heard from the parking lot of the Black church, (with a mix of speaking in tongues to prove that you are, indeed, holy), the Spirit-filled Christians with lighter complexions worship in a different, less flamboyant way (often, but not always). Neither is wrong, and both are valid, but I can’t help but wonder if, instead of separation and a sense of “otherness”, we can worship, grow, and learn together?

This is my personal opinion, so take it with a grain of salt: I think there’s a major problem here. Contemporary Christianity, in both songs and sermons, seem to talk more about the love and grace of God than anything else. Whereas, Gospel-flinging preachers preach from the heavens, with raspy voices that sound more like an asthma attack than a move of the Holy Spirit, about God’s wrath, justice, and the dire consequences of sin. Both are important separately, but taught and practiced together? They are essential to a correct view of God.

A Lack of Logic and Apologetics

Where many Black churches lack in teaching on apologetics and why Christianity is a solid, logical worldview to actively engage in and hold dear, they make up for with passionate public and private worship displays, quieting the emerging, wondering minds of their youth, and resting comfortably in the realm of blind faith. A faith that says “Trust God because the Bible says so and should you have any questions, open the Bible, have faith, and rebuke the devil.” This is important to note because this is the opposite of what I have found being taught and practiced in other non-Black churches, in my experience.

It makes me wonder, why are Black Christians so opposed (or is it afraid?) to actually obey 1 Peter 3:15, especially when the questions are coming from within the church? Or give resources that could potentially help that aren’t the Bible (i.e. books like Desiring God by John Piper or The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer)? I think part of the reason why is because we still have this tendency to “stick to our own”, believing that no one else (that is, no one different from us) is qualified to help us because nobody knows us like our own group/clique/hood does.

Learning From Each Other

One of my favorite Christian bands is Shane & Shane, a duo based in Texas for their contemporary worship. I am not the first, nor the last, to say that I hate most Christian music—and yes, that includes Gospel music. I have my reasons but that’s another post for another day. Both Shane and Shane are white. They are also full of the Holy Spirit and believe in the same Jesus I do. Their music is a reminder of the grace and love of God, the depravity of human nature, and a testament that God saves. All that to say, there is much we can learn from each other.

Galatians 3:26-28 sums this up perfectly. In his letter, Paul writes:

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you all are one in Christ Jesus. (HCBS)

Personally, I find it interesting that most of my spiritual advisors, and longtime friends, are less pigmented and ivory-skinned males of varying ages and backgrounds. Two are college professors, one is a pastor, and another is an undergraduate student. There are others as well, both Black and White males and females.

We discuss our lives, but more importantly, we discuss the reasons why we believe what we believe, and disagree with each other sometimes. We pray together, and I notice our different ways of addressing God, and we worship together, some with hands raised, some laying prostrate on the floor in quiet tears. And that is beautiful. If the Church as a whole is going to grow, then we would be wise to cling to the God that connects us, rather than let tradition and other nonsense separate us.

 

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

An Honest Conversation about Suicide

I did not want to write this, but it needed to be said. This is hard for me. Please give me grace.

An Honest and Vulnerable Prayer

God, please, if You are, at all, merciful like they say You are, like I know You to be, please kill me. Please. I will never ask for anything ever again. Just…please? I can not do this anymore. I just wanna be with You. Is suicide so bad if it means I get to be with You?

This I prayed in hushed whispers between crying and screaming sessions with my tear-stained pillow, off and on for two and a half hours, early Monday morning before the sun made its debut. God did not respond, at least, not like I thought He should, so I sat in silence for a few minutes before continuing.

They say You have a plan, a purpose for every creation You breathe life into. What about me? I can’t find any direction. I’m not needed. I’m just a burden to my family and friends, just a parasite taking up space and resources. Are the PTSD and depression enjoyable to You? Why won’t You just be kind and kill me?

Like Job’s friends should have done for the duration of his suffering, God sat with me in utter silence as I wept and wiped tears on my pillow. Under normal circumstances, having someone sit beside me in silence and understanding, if not empathy, would be comforting, even welcoming. But for God to do it? Somehow, it seemed wrong and cruel, especially since I was, in an albeit roundabout, twisted, and wrong way, searching for peace and an end to my pain.

A Conversation Starter

Despite fleeting moments of happiness and distractions, I’ve been dealing with heavy bouts of suicidal thoughts all week. Don’t worry, I’m not actively suicidal. I’m not gonna kill myself at the end of this. Having an honest conversation about suicide is not easy. It is scary and uncomfortable for both parties, but oftentimes, it is necessary for lives to be changed and saved. More than once, my pastor-friend Michael Patton had to talk me down off the ledge. I truly believe that was God-ordained. He’s got his own family history with suicide, so he’s one of the few people I could trust with this.

The first time Michael had to talk me down, I told him, in no uncertain terms and after reading his post, “Suicidal Thoughts on Suicide,” exactly what I was thinking. I considered the outcome of such a drastic move.

Having an honest conversation about suicide is not easy. It is scary and uncomfortable for both parties, but oftentimes, it is necessary for lives to be changed and saved.

Being Honest about Suicidal Ideation

I told Michael that I didn’t want him or my family and friends to feel pain from my decision. He replied, in his typical fashion, “Well, of course, we would. Sheesh.” I continued to ruminate over possibilities. I gave him examples of what I thought people would say in regards to my death: “Trauma got her.”  “She was such a talented writer…so much potential. It’s a shame she wasted it.” Or my biggest fear: “Maybe she wasn’t a Christian after all.” He disagreed with me about the last one, as I knew he would. What he said next, left me silenced for several minutes.

He said to me, “I don’t know how most of us don’t do it. There are just five things holding us back:

  1. We know it is wrong and we don’t want to go against Him.
  2. Fear of death. No matter how strong we are in the faith, God has built in a healthy fear of death. It will always be there when we think about killing ourselves.
  3. Not wanting to let others down or hurt them.
  4. The slight hope that our sadness will end and we will still find purpose and relevance down the road.
  5. The love of life [love of writing he added later for me]. We are built to love life. It is ingrained in us. And when we think straight, we remember our basis of human instincts and experience (breathing, eating, sex, aesthetics, social interaction, laughter, etc.), no matter how short-lived, bring us pleasure.”

I smirked and told him that 4 and 5 didn’t apply to me because “hope is hard”. He responded in the typical-Michael Patton way: “Well, that’s three of five. It’s settled. You’re not doing it… Man, I should train people for the suicide prevention hotline!”

I could do nothing but laugh and shake my head at him. He had me.

During another conversation that same week, Michael said: “I am so sorry… God will give you the ticket when the time comes [that was a C.S. Lewis reference].” After telling him that I was, essentially, a basket case of stress and anxiety, he went on to say, “I’m sorry. I really don’t know what God’s plans are for you, so I don’t know if it will get better even though I think it will.”

I wholeheartedly appreciated the fact that Michael admitted he did not know if it was going to get better. Many Christians do not do that. Maybe because they are afraid to be weak or wrong in front of other people, I don’t know, but I appreciate Michael not holding his hair back when he threw up” by showing me that he does not know everything, nor does he have all the answers to every question I throw at him.

It is refreshing, but even more so, it gave me a better understanding of the nature of God. Specifically, that He is infinite, while I can, unfortunately, control nothing, not even my own death.

An Interesting Realization

So, by the end of these conversations, I realized one important thing: God did actually respond to my suffering, just not in the way I thought He would. I was expecting an overwhelming sense of peace or an audible voice booming down to me from above, but none of that happened. Instead, God chose to respond to my death wish by using an existing friendship to open my eyes a little wider to get me to see that maybe I’m not alone. Maybe I’m not a failure, maybe I have something to offer to somebody, and maybe, just maybe, He does love me.

Sometimes, or most often than not I think, God heals and speaks to us not by grand gestures in the sky, or with a loud voice, but in the quiet moments, and by the people we already know, love, and trust. He places His wisdom and care in the hearts of men who share His love to those who need it most.

It has been a hard week, and the prayer at the beginning of this post still crossed my mind and made its way past my lips at random intervals, but not as fervent as before. I’m starting to find hope

By God grace, it should be easier to handle as I continue to be have open, honest conversations with the godly people around me who love me and are praying for me.