Sitting in the Margins: A Year in Review

This week kicks off a brand new year for the students at the Candler School of Theology and I really can’t believe that this time last year, I was a first year student, bright eyed, bushy tailed (read: haired!) and eager to start on a new journey.

I remember posting this status on the first day of orientation:

August 22 Facebook Post

Then, I didn’t know how all of my experiences had lead me there, but I knew that the pull from God to go that direction was the right thing to do. It didn’t always make sense, but I was sure that I was on the right track.

Throughout the course of the year, my ideology about God and people would change drastically. The embedded theologies that have been with me for decades began to shift as I read and searched the history and context of familiar texts finding new meaning in them.

Ideas I had about “certain people” and varying “ideas” were dropping, shifting, molding, and taking new shape.

Some folks told me I was “losing my Jesus.”

I just laughed. If the only knew that what was happening behind the Tweets, Facebook posts, public worship, and every day life was drawing me closer to Him.

In the last year, I’ve been broken, depressed, lonely, fearful, afraid. I’ve been displaced and, for a moment, I was living out of my car. Months later, that same car was repossessed. Relationships were  broken and my pride and ego was crushed to pieces. For a very serious moment, I considered dropping out of school and thought that I had made a horrible mistake trying to pursue God in such a “grandiose” way.

How could a path so certain be filled with so much brokenness and figurative (and literal) death?

The answer was right in front of me: God was desperate for me to experience something much more than a change in theology or continual exercises in critical thinking. He wanted me to experience what it truly meant to be a part of the marginalized.

I am a marginalized person; I am a Black woman and a single mother who uses public assistance to keep things afloat. My position in the margins have always been there. My marginalized seat as a Black single mother who is on public assistance is well worn, but the experiences in the last year have introduced me to what it is like for families to scramble to find emergency housing and what the working poor face as they have limited transportation and must rely on the kindness of others and public transit to travel around the city for work and school.

As I found residence in a new section of “The Margins”, parts of my elitist, privileged views were revealed. They were ugly. I became one of those whom I once turned my nose up at, who I had no patience or compassion for. My degrees didn’t matter, neither did all the blessings that I was afforded over the years. God leveled the playing field. He made me see things the way He sees things.

Once God restored me with a place to call my own and a little cash car I was able to buy with a whole bunch of favor (and unexpected funds), I realized that everything I had experienced, as brief as it had been, was enough for me to have a newfound compassion and understanding of what the heart of God is. It taught me that this life we have, these things we possess are nothing — they have no weight — and they are never to become a place of comfort for us.

God kept me when I wanted to quit — when nothing was making sense but I was still required to keep moving forward.

During the most desperate of times, God ensured that my pride (that I held soooo tightly) wouldn’t hinder me from being able to receive from people He brought to me to help me.

All of the furniture I own, every dish, bed, and pot, was given to me — for free. (Remember this? Yeah, good seeds come back.)

A number of other things have happened that have blown my mind — all kinds of opportunities — that have made the last year’s pain just a distant memory. Weeping may endure for a night… (y’all know the rest!)

There are so many things I could name that has changed in the last year, but the thing that I can say that has changed the most is this:

I treat people differently.

I try not to use my “Christian privilege” to make people feel inadequate or less than. I try not to take scripture out of context to appease my own fears and insecurities about my misunderstandings of others.

What I’ve learned in the first year was simply how to treat people better: the estranged, the outsider, even myself.

I could attribute a shift in theology for that. I really could. But, as we know, there’s no greater teacher than experience, right?

As I begin year two in this journey, I am desperately seeking vocation. I am trying to understand what God wants me to do with my life’s experiences — and show me how to shape them into purpose.

I know things won’t be easy this year and year two will present its own set of problems. But I am thankful for where I am in this moment.

I’m also very thankful to the friends, family, classmates, professors, staff members, and even strangers who kept me moving forward when my feet felt stuck in the cement.

Thank you.

Here’s to year two, y’all!

Keep an eye on this blog for conversations about what I’m learning this year — and tell a friend!

On the Chase,

Alisha L.

Easter: Get Outta My Seat Day!

Hey guys.

Every year around this time, we gear up to remember the greatest moment in history: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We take off work, get our hair done (or did, depending on where you’re from), get our best clothes and food prepped for “the big day”.

We send out the inspirational quotes and Christian memes are retweeted at an all time high.

We prepare for this moment like Fat Tuesday: beads, bells, whistles, even a titillating [praise] dance to show the world we’re Christians and we know it! Continue reading

George Zimmerman’s Sunday School Lesson

Yesterday, George Zimmerman, the accused killer of Treyvon Martin, spoke exclusively to Sean Hannity about the series of events that surrounded the murder of the teenager.

I didn’t see the entire interview, but upon waking up this morning, everyone was talking about this statement Zimmerman made about that night being a part of “God’s plan.” I, like many people, stared at my computer screen trying to understand how he could make such a statement with a straight face.

Let’s make one thing clear: I am not here to get into a theological debate about God’s will, free will, or any other topic that many who don’t believe in God try to argue to discredit Him. As I always say: if I’m wrong, I’ll die, turn back into dust and that’ll be it. Nothing to it. If you’re wrong, well… let’s just say it’s not a risk I’m willing to take.

What I will do is give Georgie a Sunday School lesson. Some basic bible principles that he may have missed while sleeping in church.

Sunday School Lesson #2,125: Matthew 5:20-26 and Romans 12:17-21
Teacher: now children, listen to what Jesus has to say about murder. Georgie? Georgie! Wake up — this is important.

Georgie: “Ah fooey, lady. Wake me up when we get to the good part.”

Zimmerman stated that he didn’t regret anything that happened on that fateful night he killed Trayvon Martin and that everything that happened was, in fact, a part of God’s plan.

“I feel that it was all God’s plan, and for me to second guess it or judge it,” he said, trailing off.

Asked, “Is there anything you might do differently?” Zimmerman said, “No, sir.”
[taken from]

Here’s the issue, Georgie. You can’t say that killing Trayvon Martin was divine providence when your actions went against one of the core teachings of Christianity. In Exodus 20 verse 13, we were given the sixth commandment which states: thou shalt not murder.

God ain’t confused. He meant what He said on top of Mount Sinai. You can’t murder someone and say, “Oh, the Lawd made me do it!”

We test the spirit by the spirit (1 John 4:1) and those things God has providentially called us to do is in line with His spirit.

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.

The greatest issue I have with your public display of ignorance about the God you reference is that you have done a disservice to the Christian faith by validating your actions based on this version of a God who gives us the free will to murder as we see fit.

Too often people claim to be Christians but have no idea what it truly means to follow Christ. Had you paid a little more attention in Sunday School, you would have known that John 10:10 clearly tells us that it is Satan that comes to KILL, STEAL, and DESTROY, not God. Jesus came to give us life and to have it to the full.

You would have been better off saying that Beelzebub gave you the okay to pull the trigger. We would have looked at you like you were crazy (again), but at least it would have been the truth.

You should know, Georgie, that 2 Peter 2:2 says that “many shall follow false teachers (which is what you became when you brought God into the picture for your defense on national TV) and their destructive ways. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered.”

If for one second you think that killing someone was a part of “God’s greater plan”, you have been fooled.

You stated that you “wished that there was something — anything I could have done — that wouldn’t have put me in the position where I had to take his life,” alluding to the same idea that your encounter with Trayvon was fate, divine, and all a part of God’s plan… to do what, exactly?

I’ll wait.

Listen, Georgie: God did not make you kill Trayvon. This was not a part of God’s plan for your life or Trayvon’s. The enemy has tricked you into thinking that this was the right thing to do and you fell for it.

Sadly, you’ve been hoodwinked and bamboozled into thinking that only bits and pieces of God’s word is true — forget the “reap what you sow” and the “weeping, moaning, and gnashing of teeth” stuff.  Swerve.

Not applicable to guys to like you, huh?

But you want a big ol’ piece of that forgiveness pie, right?

I’ll leave you with this last bible lesson, Georgie. Romans 12:17-21 is the most gracious and, in my opinion, most appropriate scripture to sum this entire experience up for you. It wasn’t a divine moment in time, George. Sorry. It was, however, a moment for you to use the Word of God in context and with discretion.

17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the Lord.

20 Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”

21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Got it? Class dismissed.

On the Chase,

Alisha L.