I was recently reading a book by the author Parker Palmer called The Courage to Teach. In the opening chapters, he discusses the kinds of insidious fears teachers have that hinder their ability to teach effectively. To “avoid a live encounter,” as Palmer calls it, is to only deal objectively with people, places, and things as to not to have to either 1. reveal inadequacies about ourselves or 2. to alienate ourselves through carefully crafted fears so that we never have to truly dig deep into the the human experience — with others or even ourselves. Continue reading
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:
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.
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,
It’s been a minute since I’ve sat down to write a blog; with the busyness of Seminary, motherhood, reading, writing, and [no arithmetic], I’ve had little time to do anything else. I’ve also been waiting for the new things I’ve learned about God and the bible to settle in a bit before I hit you guys with anything. Bear with me!
However, today is a day to write.
I was going through Instagram today and I saw a photo posted by one of my most favorite people, Myleik Teele. If you don’t know her, she’s the brain child behind CurlBox. Yes, she’s that woman. Anyway, she posted a picture of her dainty, well manicured hands on the steering wheel of a Porsche. The caption said:
Last July, my mentor/sister @tremedia handed me the keys to her car and said, “Drive it. Stop living in fear.”
The post went on to say: “I was always afraid to have more because I didn’t feel like I needed/deserved it. She’d always tell me: ‘Myleik… you are a phenomenal woman. You deserve everything and more.’ I fooled around and believed her.”
Fear is paralyzing. It keeps you stagnant. Fear puts your feet into cement blocks so you cannot move. It renders you helpless to help yourself and will drive you to pull away from the very purpose for which you are called.
Fear will cause you to believe that what you have been destined to do/have/be is only reserved for someone not as [insert flaw/short coming here]. Fear will cause you to shy away from opportunities to grow, stretch, and shape yourself into the person you see in your head. It is, my friends, the ultimate paralyzer.
The verb “paralyze” means to “cause a person or part of the body to become partly or wholly incapable of movement.” It also means, “to render someone unable to think or act normally, especially through panic or fear.”
Wow. So, paralyzing fear not only can keep your physical body from moving forward, but it can cause you to be unable think or act normally. (I read normal to = what you were created to do/have/be).
This means that what you are trying to accomplish right now — in any capacity — is and should be normal for you. It was why you were created. A telephone is not afraid of being a telephone. It makes and receives calls because that’s what it was created to do. It does not shut down, run away, or hide it’s capabilities because of the fear of being itself. It simply does what it was created to do. No fear.
What I’ve come to realize is that my fear is deeply rooted in what Myleik’s fear was: that I am not deserving or do not need what it is I desire. There are more deserving people. There are greater causes for which I could rally to help others achieve their dreams. I am too this, or too that, or not enough. We tell ourselves these lies for so long until they become ingrained in everything we do and say. Sometimes, we need a shake, a wake up call to let us know that we deserve everything and more… and be foolish enough to believe it.
What do you have to lose? How often are we afraid of failure when we’ve done nothing to even approach the thing of which we are afraid of failing.
I don’t know who this is for or who it will help, however, I challenge all of us to look deeply into the reasons behind our fears; conjure them up, stare them in the face (because you may be the very thing that you’re afraid of!) Acknowledge them. Then, do something totally opposite of what you’re afraid of. It can be something small; take baby steps.
Get free of fear. It is nothing but a dirty liar.
On the fearless chase,
Variables + Constants
Tonight, I spent some time talking to a good friend about how God was dealing with her regarding moving forward with a very important creative project. In years past, she tried to make moves towards completing the assignment, but different things (and people) kept getting in the way.
Needless to say, the Holy Spirit got her right together and she’s moving forward, but our conversation lead to a discussion on a mathematical topic: variables and constants. Continue reading
Fear Factor, Follow After.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to talk to a good guy friend of mine about how often he sees women asking God for a “God-fearing man.”
We’re all guilty of that, I know a “God-fearing man (GFM) is on my list of wants in a future husband. My friend, let’s call him Richie, said that women should be on the lookout for a “God following man.”
Of course, I wanted to know the difference. Here’s what he said: Continue reading
The Battle Royale: Your Will vs. His
For the last few days, the Holy Spirit has been dealing with me about some decisions and opportunities that have come my way.
Ooh! Yeah! I should be excited, right?
Yeah, not so much.
Why you may ask? Because it doesn’t look like the opportunity that I was believing God for. Honest to God truth. It doesn’t look, smell, taste, feel like that perfect opportunity that I enumerated in my journal as the “perfect” ideal opportunity and I’ve turned my head and heart to “no” on the matter. Continue reading