Posted in Christian Life & Theology

Anticipating the Promise

In years past, Christmas brought about many feelings including love, excitement, and wonder but a stronger one in particular: anticipation. The giddiness of hoping that what was beneath the green and red wrapping paper was, in fact, a beloved book I’d been begging for months instead of clothes which, while a necessity, were not high on my list of childhood priorities.

Over time, as the years passed, Christmas became less and less about what I could receive and instead became centered on what I could give to others. Scripture tells us that “it is better to give than to receive” and I felt that to be truer in my adult years than in times prior. A pair of earrings for my mother, clothes for my stepdad; these acts of giving made me feel more connected to God than anything else.

This year feels different though. 2020 has brought with it a deadly virus, job loss, death, and much division and uncertainty. In these times, it is all too easy for depression and despair to hold us captive, but let us not forget that God stepped down into this dark, dismal world and gave us the greatest gift ever: Himself wrapped in human flesh.

He did not come with chariots or horns, nor in a time of peace. He came in a little town of Bethlehem when the world silently held its bated breath, anxious for salvation and a deliverer. As they held fast to the promise they were given by the prophets, so we too must remember what God has promised, especially now. Amidst the fear and pain that 2020 has brought about so far, let us continue to anticipate the promise of an ever-faithful God to bring hope through the fears and years to come.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

When Divinity Interrupts Humanity

Dear Lovelies,

It’s been over a month since I last posted and that was deliberate. I wanted to give myself time to see if coming back to Christ would actually make a difference in my life. Needless to say, God definitely took me up on that challenge! When I want to be, I’m a private person hiding all of my insecurities, vulnerabilities, and hangups from those around me in an attempt to present the best version of myself. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. In truth, it’s because I don’t want to be hurt or hurt/burden anyone else.

God is keenly aware of this. He knows I wish to hide the bad parts of myself from others, and especially Him, yet this is the area where He chooses to challenge me the most. I was resting yesterday afternoon, when Holy Spirit told me, “Give me your pain completely raw. It’s okay. I can take it.” I had a slight moment’s hesitation before I said yes, because I’ve recently been hiding more and more things from my friends and family, too afraid to tell them the truth of how I’ve been feeling concerning my mental health and the effects of past trauma because I don’t want them to worry or become angry with me for feeling the way I do. I’m carrying a lot of guilt over my emotional state. Nonetheless, God wants my pain and that’s a hard thing for me to wrap my heart around. He wants to disrupt my trauma narrative by stepping in my pain to love me, heal me, comfort me.

In the midst of a routine where I wake up disoriented with a brain playing flashbacks and memories like a silent horror film with no ending scene, and an impaired fight/flight/freeze mode that doesn’t know the difference between danger and safety, the very thought of calming peace from a loving God is a little hard to accept. It sounds too good to be true. Maybe that’s the point of mercy and grace-to disrupt everything for something better.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Something Like Love (The Birth of a Flame)

It started or, depending on your view of things, ended Tuesday night. Watching ancient paper documents from long ago employments, along with other things like wood and paper plates, burn in a fire pit in the backyard of my group leader’s house was, for lack of a better word, magical. There’s something intriguing about seeing something decompose right in front of you. You throw a meaningless piece of paper into the fire, waiting for the flame to lick the edges, and soon, it becomes one with the other mass of flammable objects.  Your eyes grow big with wonder and amazement (well, at least mine did) as you stare at nature, seeing the paper transform from a crisp, white thing to a mini cauldron of charred blackness, never to revert again to its original state. It was mesmerizing.

Throughout the night of food and fellowship (and revenge via multiple games of Brazilian Uno), I spent a lot of time by the fire and the one word that would not leave my mind was “altar.” It shouldn’t surprise me that, at this time, I still continued to feel God pursuing me, despite me wanting him to stop. His pursuit of me seemed to increase over this month, though I do not know why.

~

Twelve days ago, in the wee hours of the morning, around 2:35am, something happened. I felt something that I’ve not felt in some time: a prick in my soul that indicated to me that maybe something was wrong with the direction my life’s going, as far as spirituality and purpose are concerned. Call it God touching my heart or conviction, but it felt like someone pinching a sore spot in the middle of my chest. It started with a conversation with my best friend who called to gloat about Taylor Swift’s latest album (she’s convinced she’ll turn me into a Swiftie but that’s never happening). During that conversation, we talked about guys, our parents, and reminisced about our college days. Eventually, the topic turned to Christianity, and Jesus specifically. I asked her how could she still believe in Jesus/God after everything she’s gone through? (Like me, she too has had traumatic and painful experiences in her life.) Her answer surprised me. She said that without God, she would be literally dead and that she would not exist anymore. Also, she explained that one particular experience in her life would not make logical sense if not for spiritual means.

As we talked, I interjected at times with reasons why I felt I couldn’t come back. “I can’t pray,” I told her. “Every time I try, I have a panic attack.” She asked me why would I be afraid of God when he loves me? “Simple,” I responded. “Trying to converse with a divine Being who has the power and ability to snatch the breath out of my body at any given moment is kinda panic-inducing. Just sayin.” She was silent but I could almost hear her eyes rolling in the back of her head as she pondered what I’m sure she thought was a stupid statement. She made me get out of my cozy bed and grab my Bible which was, and still is, on my computer desk. I obliged, not because I saw it as an opportunity to engage God, but merely because she asked and because she is my best friend. Low motivation, but it worked. Every defense I had, she countered with Scripture. I was more than annoyed, but I continued nonetheless. To my surprise, and despite my annoyance, she directed me to various passages of Scripture through what I now know as guidance from Holy Spirit. I know this because there’s no way she would have been able to duplicate that process on her own if I asked her the next morning. There is one passage in particular in Job that stopped me in my tracks and made me so angry I considered ripping my Bible to shreds. I cannot remember the chapter or verses, only my immediate response. I was pissed. I was infuriated, but in my anger, I realized the next morning that I engaged with Scripture, which was her point all along (Mission accomplished, dear friend!).

~

I’ll be honest, I don’t know what’s  going to happen now. I’m still the same analytical, inquisitive person I was before so I doubt I’ll stop being curious and asking questions regarding theology, God, Christianity,  etc. The main emotion I felt Tuesday night while staring at the fire was tiredness. I was tired of feeling empty, miserable, and purposeless. I was tired of consciously engaging in suicidal ideation. I was tired of running away from God, especially with the knowledge that He wasn’t going to stop pursuing me just because I wanted Him to. I did end up having a panic attack though in the middle of worship because, as previously stated, He’s a divine being who could snatch the breath out of my body at any given moment. The trigger was either that or the spiritual abuse I’ve dealt with from other Christians throughout my lifetime. Regardless, after I calmed down and went back outside, I said a silent prayer, in the midst of watching the fire wildly dance through the night, that was basically, “Okay, okay. I hear you, God. I wanna stop running. Can we just start over?” To that prayer, I’d like to add, “You keep telling me to trust you but I don’t know how. You say you love me, but I struggle to believe it. Can you be patient with me while I learn to let you love me?”

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

When Forgiveness Doesn’t Eradicate PTSD

As a Christian, I’m supposed to forgive everyone so that God can forgive me of my sins. I was once an enemy of the Most High, so who am I not to forgive someone who wrongs me when God forgave me of all my junk? Easy, right? No, not really. After spending the entire fall semester of my junior year of college hating Voldemort (the name I refer to the man who assaulted me as) while repressing the affect sexual assault was having over my life and education, the first time someone presented me with the option of forgiveness, I laughed and then tried to justify, quite angrily and defensively, my reasons for refusing him forgiveness. But that defense could only last so long…

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22)

The first time I read this I was pissed off. True story. I yelled at God as if He had gone both blind and deaf to my suffering. At that time, I was experiencing horrible insomnia and, when I did sleep, terrifying nightmares that caused panic attacks in my sleep. I was either walking out of or skipping classes because I couldn’t concentrate because of flashbacks. It was horrendous. Nonetheless, after my temper tantrum, I prayed hard for God to help me forgive Voldemort for sexual assaulting me. Then I repented for withholding forgiveness and for the first time in a very long time, I was hopeful that these traumatic experiences were behind me for good. That belief came crashing down the very next day as I had to fight a panic attack in class because of a trigger.

As a Christian who is also a proud African-American, the reality that triggers and intrusive memories caused random crying spells in the wee hours of the morning despite the fact that I had forgiven my abuser was a hard pill to swallow. I was supposed to be strong and unbreakable! Fast forward 2.5 years and this is what I’ve learned:

  1. Forgiveness, even or especially repeatedly, will not, in and of itself, stop the symptoms of PTSD (neither will prayer, positive thinking, or Scripture reading alone).
  2. Despite what my culture tells me of how a Black woman is supposed to act when faced with trying or difficult situations, sometimes I have mental breakdowns. I still cry at night, don’t you?
  3. God has created us as complex beings. We are mind, body, and spirit. To treat trauma, which changes the brain, as only a spiritual issue is to ignore the intricate nature of ourselves and God.
  4. PTSD (and every other mental illness) does not have its origins in demonic activity, though spiritual warfare is common in this battle for recovery.
  5. God still loves me even with PTSD.