I want to share a story. It’s not meant to be depressing. Once upon a time, I was a church going christian.
Like her, and her and him!
Maybe not him.
The sort of christian that went to service every Sunday, and during the week, and to youth meeting as well. I was the guy that put on performances, arranged programs, taught children’s church and Sunday school. I wonder if my friends would ever guess that I was once a minister. Could they tell that the guy who like shots and get a double Bacardi have preached the word of our lord and savior.
I grew up in the church. My mom was always an active member, and as the head of the family, so were we. Everyone in my family, every aunt, uncle and cousin went to church. The church is an essential part of the black community. This carries to the black immigrant community, where the church functioned as one of the few places where you met other people like you, from your country. It was the only place where your accent was the defacto language. It was a refuge from US cultural supremacy. The sort that you continuously felt on your job or in school. It was a necessary social institution, like all churches. My friends were mostly all from church. It was essentially my social life for almost a decade in the states.
After my mother died, everything changed. At first the change was within myself. I had a hard time dealing with the reality surrounding her death and the uncertainty of home-life, school and immigration status after her death. I began to withdraw from the church. I cherry-picked what I wanted to go to and when. The urgency and passion that I used to have for God, sort of dried up. I stopped wearing church clothes and started wearing regular clothes. In a black church there is a difference.
It all started to feel like a lie. Like I was lying to myself. How do you rectify losing a loved one, who prayed for deliverance with their ultimate death. My mother was the most churchly person that I knew. There were so many people who came to pray for her and with her about her condition. And still, nothing. Worst yet, she was leaving me behind, in a foreign country, undocumented. She was my entire covering. All of it. It just seemed really odd that I was expected to praise and pray to a God that would take someone so necessary. And leave so many people thrown into turmoil.
I had been taught that God ultimately cared about you. I was taught to trust in him and he would help you figure out your path. For most of my life I did. It provided guidance and a moral compass. There was always a fixed placed to focus. I miss that most of all.
Our pastor was like a mother to me. She genuinely cared about me, us. She was also thrown by my mother’s death and that connection made me feel less alone after that great death. I felt connected to my pastor, and she was patient with me, because she understood how devastating my mother’s death was for me. A death that I still have never fully addressed.
My pastor was also hurting over my mother’s death. I knew that it weighed on her, though her faith was steadfast. Her feelings towards me was less of pity and more of a shared hurt. I know that we were both hurting. In ways that only a few people were hurting over the death. Sometimes, I knew the messages coming from the pew were about me. Still, I went through the motions when I wanted to.
And then 4 months later she died. And I went to a funeral. I only sorta went, it was too much to actually go. In that, I was there but my head was still sort of in the clouds. It all was happening too fast. The death, the processional. The burial.
I wrote a poem that I recited at the funeral. I walked pass the casket, and glanced at the body. There was someone at the casket, that I had never seen, who was inconsolable. I barely said anything to anyone. In the processional car to the burial ground, I looked out the window. It was sunny. The kind of sun that shines in the summertime, stopped by the chilly spring air. At the cemetery, I stood on a dirt mount, and began to weep as the body was lowered into the ground. There was an impromptu but terrible rendition of an old hymn. And yet it seemed fitting. It’s always strange that with millions of people in NYC, you happen to be the only party burying the dead on a specific day.
And then the church moved on. Things changed, as they usually do. In time, a few people remember the dead, but most will wipe their tears and go about their lives. The memories are left with a few people to carry on.
There is a verse in the bible that says, “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” (Zechariah 13:7). Zechariah knew his stuff.
The Sunday, a few days before she died, pastor had said to me, “You have to keep fighting, you can’t ever give up. Look at me and the position I’m in. I am scared but I am fighting”. I believed her. As a natural cynic, I don’t believe many other people. I probably don’t believe most people. But I believed her. I still believe her.
I miss those days because I feel more lost than ever before. The world is an easier place when you believe in something bigger than you. It takes a lot to live in a world that is chaotic without meaning. Things were so much simpler when I would cast my cares on Jesus. Now, It feels like I’m in an empty place fighting to find purpose. Lately, I find myself going back to TD Jakes and gospel music. It soothes my soul. Does that make me a simple person? I’m not sure. The intellectual in me is saying that much of it is unbelievable (#loavesandfishes). However, I am not going to pretend that it doesn’t give me a type of peace when I think about being more a conqueror, a soldier in the Lord’s army, or a child of the King. How can I not relish in the feeling that a powerful God is looking out for and taking care of me? The peace that it provides. Whenever I am having a major panic attack or hypochondriac episode, I listen to Pastor TD Jakes. Is it therapy or God? Or is it my own mind? I wish I could go back to church. Sometimes, I want to sing and clap, shout amen and hear a good sermon. I don’t see myself doing that right now. Being around other Christians ruined Christianity. #RIP Pastor
May the grace of God and the sweet fellowship of the holy spirit rest and abide with you. Amen.