This past Sunday, I preached on “Love in the Tough Places,” out of John 13:31-35. It’s the section of text where Jesus gives the Disciples the new commandment to love — even in the tough places.
I opened the sermon with a reference to Beyoncé’s new visual album, “Lemonade,” a dynamic ode to heartbreak, restoration, and what it means to love someone in a tough place. Don’t you just love when pop culture helps bring to life the biblical text? #LEMONADE
I recently discussed the significance and meaning behind the number 30, so there’s no need to go into that any further. Today, just for a moment, I’ll reflect back on the last decade of my life.
In the last ten years, I’ve been and become so many things. In retrospect, I feel like I was more bad than good. From age 20 until 26, my life was riddled with so much self-imposed mess. I contemplated suicide, loved men I had no business loving, gave my body away to people who were undeserving. I searched to fill age-old voids in people, places, and things that were toxic and hurtful and downright excessive. I served a short stint as someone’s mistress and an even shorter stint in jail.
Here’s the photo to prove it. (When I’m famous, TMZ won’t have anything on me. You got it here first. I swear the people who take your picture in jail intentionally tussles your hair to make you look insane.)
Loving the wrong person (and not loving myself enough) got me in jail. It took me 9 months to beat those charges (they were eventually dropped), something I could have never done without my family and God. I’ll tell that entire story another day, though. (New York Times Best Sellers book, maybe?)
I remember being six months pregnant (I think I was 22 years old) and being chased out my apartment by a knife wielding lover. I was in my night gown. Neighbors heard the ruckus and called the cops. By the time they arrived, I was back in the apartment accepting profuse apologies. The cop never knocked on the door and I wasn’t brave enough to run out to him to be rescued. These were the moments of my twenties.
Most people would have never known these things happened unless they read the book I wrote in 2010, Pieces: Finding the Missing Piece is Easier than You Think. I was 27 years old. It was the first time in my life I felt okay with being freakishly transparent. I spent so many years hiding my flaws and idiosyncrasies that writing that book and being transparent was one of the most liberating, freeing, and probably one of the most impactful things I’d done so far in my life.
And I became addicted to it.
I promised God that every time I had an opportunity to write, I’d let two things happen: say whatever He wanted to say and be brave enough to let my dirt show. Although I agreed to this, I asked, “Why do I have to be so transparent? Why do I have to let everyone know my ‘business’?” He gently replied, “The uncovering of “dirt” isn’t for you, it’s for them. People are looking, searching for transparency. I’ll give you the ability and courage to be it.”
As I got closer to ending my twenties, proverbial light bulbs began to go off; I started to actually walk the talk, dig into why I was put on this earth, and focus my energy into people, places, and things that were in line with that purpose. If you follow me on Twitter or if we’re friends on Facebook, you know what the last couple of years have looked like for me. God’s grace and favor has shown itself in ways unimaginable.
Now that I’m 30 years old, the year of “the right moment” and “dedication”, I’m thankful for every moment in my twenties, good and bad. I’m thankful for the growth, the hurt, the joys, the successes, and epic failures. I’m thankful for a patient family and a gracious God. Lord knows I don’t deserve either.
Today is the first day of the best decade of my life… so far.
Thank you for being apart of it, near or far, intentionally or by accident, by divine appointment or random occurrence.
Today we’re talking about love. Check out a post by a good friend who finds that the “lights” in her life keeps her love life at the intercection of hope and a prayer.
All of the Lights
When you’re driving, there are two signals that are clear-cut: green means “GO”, red indicates “STOP”. Then there’s that pesky yellow light. Some of us speed up, trying to hurry through the intersection. Some slow down, knowing that there’s a chance we might not make it. I’m an aggressive driver, always pushing the limits, switching lanes when the flow of traffic isn’t suiting my needs, even backing up down a one-way instead of going around the block. In love, I’m the same way, whatever it takes to make our way through the winding highways of the heart, mind and soul until…I come upon a yellow light.
I only know what to do with green and red; yellow confuses me, builds internal anxiety and makes my reaction time quite delayed. When I’m not sure on where I stand it’s hard for me to grip the clutch, get a handle on how to proceed and put my foot on the pedal. I’m not saying I expect to speed to every destination in love but yellow lights make me miss important information given by my GPS [heart and mind] because my focus is on whether or not it’s safe to advance with my intentions. Instead of moving forward with no fear of “reading into” actions I find myself playing chicken at a junction of “what ifs”.
The yellow light is unfair in that it doesn’t allow for me to show what I’m made of behind the wheel… or does it? I wonder if the plan is for me to boldly barrel through or come to a complete stop, look both ways and wait for further direction. Either way I can say that no one will ever know what I’m capable of on the road of true love until I have a clear signal. Call me cowardly, but not many people can say they want to leave their most tender affections tied to a railroad track at the mercy of a traffic signal.
All the “lights” of our lives dictate what we do and how we do it. I simply want the opportunity to cruise through with green lights a-go. I don’t have it all figured out but my heart’s at a standstill until I know what to make of All of the Lights.
This weekend was the opening of Tyler Perry’s film adaptation of the critically acclaimed For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange. There was much buzz around Perry, a Black male, taking on such a resounding chorus for Black women all over the world. We wondered, “is he capable?” “is he going to feature Madea as one of the ‘colors?'” “who the hell told him that he could tell our story?”
Even I was on the you-are-not-the-right-one-to-tell-this-story bandwagon early on. Guilty as charged. I always thought that Tyler Perry left his viewers hanging with unresolved plot lines and rushed character development and, for someone who has gone from slap-stick comedy in his stage plays to million dollar movies, I just didn’t correlate the Tyler Perry I see in my head (who looks and talks like Madea) to such a important piece of text like For Colored Girls.
Many of my friends and college classmates gave varying degrees of opinion. From the “my-feminism-will-not-allow-me-to-agree-with-anything-a-man-does-even-if-it-is-good-makes-sense-and-I-can-relate-to-it” to a resounding cyber-applause for Tyler Perry, the movie, and the realness of the characters.
I took all of these thoughts, feelings, and opinions into the theater tonight and realized that this movie isn’t about Tyler Perry and his previous cinematic efforts. It’s much, much more.
It’s about the bravery of the women who portrayed a differenct facet of Black womaness, many times, a side of our Black womaness that we want to keep hidden in the shadows and foggy mist of our imaginations.
We don’t want people to know that we are broken, abused, hurt, forced on our knees to serve as the trodden path of those who “rule” over us.
We don’t want people to know that we mistakenly love the wrong ones and let go of the right ones.
We don’t want people to know that the facade we put on as Super Black Woman (fly your cape!) is many times just that: a fake.
We don’t want people to know that beyond our academia and righteousness that we genuinely just want to love as hard as we can, without letting go, with out apologies.
We don’t want people to know that sometimes we make mistakes and our most valuable selves, including our children, suffer at the hands of our refusal to let go of love.
We don’t want people to know that the men we love sometimes do not love us back. Not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t.
We don’t want people to know that those same men who do not love us are worthy of forgiveness and we spend every waking hour trying to help them receive that same forgiveness.
We don’t want people to know that despite the front we put on, we want to be fucked. Yes, fucked. Without rhyme or reason.
We don’t want people to know that we have the desire to be fucked because our daddy’s fucked us first.
We don’t want people to know that there are tons of pieces that have been left behind, scattered across the Diaspora and without them we’re a mess.
But with them, we are resilient, brilliant, and worthy of every thing we secretly desire when no one is watching.
We are everything Shange and Perry expressed in that film. No matter how far you try to remove yourself from it, that’s you. That’s me.
Dirty bitch. Glorious woman. His whore. His wife. Their mother. Their aborter. A thief. A giver. Afraid. Brave. Killers. Life givers. Jealous. Selfless.
We are. And that’s okay.
Who are we to shy away and be afraid of our pain? Our joy? Our failures? Our triumphs?
Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with a male suitor about the state of our “relationship”. (If you can call it that).
After a few hit and misses (more misses than hits) and a seemingly roller coaster type experience over the last few months, we both got revelation on something.
We were both continuing to deal with each other out of fear.
Fear? What? Ain’t nobody afraid of nothing!
Oh, yes we are.
We realized that the insurmountable fear of being alone, not having another potential come around in the timing we would like was too great for us to just cut ties and go our separate ways, even after we both verbalized our discontent in the current situation.
Oh, ladies, you know how it goes: He doesn’t call when he’s supposed to. He doesn’t show up on time. You catch him lying. He has piss poor character. You know, those types of things.
We’ll overlook them, however, to fill the basic need that all women have: to have an emotional connection with someone.
Mid conversation, he told me about how earlier that day he stopped to help a young lady change a tire. She was struggling with getting the car jacked up and figured he would stop to help her.
In a matter of minutes, he changed the tire, she thanked him, and as he proceeded to walk to his car, here came a young guy walking across the street to them.
“Thanks for changing my girls tire, man.”
He stood there in shock.
The girl’s boyfriend was standing across the street while his girlfriend was changing the tire. Yes. You read correctly.
Disgusted, my guy friend left. He mentioned that as he was changing the tire, the girl told him that she was working on her MBA and recently bought a house.
But, you’re dating a dude who wouldn’t change your tire for you.
My friend was confused. “How could she date a dude like that considering all the good things she has going for her?”
I told him, “she won’t leave. She’s afraid.”
“Why?” he asked.
“He fills a void in her life that every woman needs: he’s that warm spot in the bed, holds her hand, tell her that she’s cute, he’s there to listen to her… and for many, that’s enough. It matters not about character or the type of things he brings to the table. The basic emotional need has been met. It won’t be until she relinquishes the fear of being alone that she’ll have a ‘light bulb’ moment and leave the relationship.”
He and I sat there and silence.
We realized something: we were guilty of the very same thing.
We both knew the timing between us wasn’t right and we were in two different places, but because there was a quiet fear that if we let go of this one that another one may not come along, we tagged along to each other. (anybody been there?)
I tell this story for one reason: fear is real. Fear is paralyzing. Fear will cause you to spend entirely too much time in situations (jobs, relationships, church families, etc.) simply because you’re afraid of not having enough or another chance at that thing you’re losing.
Essentially, fear is the common denominator for mediocre lives and experiences.
Many of you, however, are still very afraid. Afraid of being alone, not having another chance, or if you do have another chance, it will take soooo long to return, you’ll grow weary waiting.
Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9
Choose to let go of the fear. And when you think you’re standing alone, remember that you are not.
“…be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” Hebrews 13:5
This is the end.
The last of the last.
The last time I will ever write. In this decade, that is.
The last few days I’ve mulled over what to write about in my last blog for 2009 and this decade. Should I give some inspirational tale to motivate individuals to be their best in 2010? Should I come up with some preacher-esque rhyme? (You’ll do it again in 2010!) Should I give a run down of all of the good, bad, and ugly of the last 10 years to bore readers with?
Transparency, I find is the best route.
As I sit in my Brooklyn, New York hotel, the 9th floor, watching the fluffy white snow fall, I can’t help but be eternally grateful for where God has brought me in the last 365 days. This time last year (New Years 2008), I was such in a broken state: heart-broken, financially broken, emotionally broken. Suicidal thoughts plagued my last days of 2008 and as I entered 2009, alone, broken, and fearful, I felt that my life, in no way, could improve beyond my current station in life.
Only a few people know this story, but on New Years Eve 2008, I had an encounter with God. Not one of those Baptist fit encounters, where I’m screaming, hollering, acting like I’m having a seizure, but a real encounter. As I fought with all kinds of demonic attacks on my mind as the clock struck 12 and we entered 2009, I wept. I wailed. I cried out for God to step in now, for if he didn’t, I would do what Satan had been trying to get me to do all week-long. Take my life.
As I cried out for God, a deep, internal cry like never before, a cool, rushing wind entered my apartment. I immediately stopped crying. Confused as to why suddenly there was wind blowing in my apartment, the voice of God clearly spoke to me: cover yourself for I am the God who covers thee. I mustered the strength to grab a nearby blanket and covered myself as I laid on the floor. For the next eternity (or as it seemed, it was only two hours) the spirit of God spoke to me, audibly, about past hurts, past mistakes, provided answers to an entire decade worth of pain, self-inflicted and otherwise, and how to fix each and every one.
I spent two hours under a heavy, wool blanket (even my head was covered) but the air in the blanket didn’t grow stale or stuffy. The air, cool, and flowing sustained as God did spiritual surgery on my heart and mind. When he was done, I came from under the blanket and was amazed. Everything in my apartment had a glow to it. The white walls reverberated with light. The Christmas tree lights blinked brighter; everything I could see was illuminated. As I sat on my couch trying to get my natural mind to wrap around what had happened, the only thing I could think to do was to go to sleep. So I did.
I tell you that story because as of January 1, 2009, God took me on a journey that I never thought was possible. I made immediate efforts to be a better daughter to my dad (and I’m still working on that), be more open with my mom, to let go of past pains from a sudden and unexpected breakup, to truly, truly forgive my daughter’s father for not being there for her…and as I made real efforts to make improvements, God took two steps ahead of me setting me up for opportunity after opportunity to make things right.
By March of 2009, I began my manuscript, Pieces, that many of you know I’ve been attempting to get representation by a literary agent. While that is still an ongoing process, God has moved mightily, allowing me to gain wisdom and insight that no man, book, or institution could provide. He’s been the inspiration behind every blog, every piece of writing that I’ve produced this year. He’s allowed that one night stand with him *wink* in the first two hours of 2009 matter. He refused to let me sit back idly and wait for a moment to be better. He’s held my hand all year-long, restoring me, restoring relationships.
So today, like every day of 2009, I choose to move forward. I choose to be happy. I choose to not be no punk for satan and his antics. He don’t run nothing. 2009 was an amazing year of growth for me. I’m not perfect, I still have sooooo far to go, but to know that I can enter 2010 with a whole heart, whole mind, whole spirit, nothing missing, nothing broken; that is something worth celebrating.
So, now my friends, you know why Alisha is always crunk, always happy, always saying, “it’s just not that serious…” because I’m free! Nothing in this world can steal my joy. Nothing. I’m a kingdom kid. Jesus is my big brother. I don’t have to fight for anything that is rightfully mine. And in that, I keeps it moving. Moving forward.
2010 is here. Superficiality will not take you higher in God. Putting on a facade for others will not heal you. An encounter with Him is awaiting if you’re ready to move forward. Are you ready?
There’s something I’d like to share with you. Simple song called “Moving Forward” by Ricardo Sanchez feat. Hezekiah Walker. You make all things new, and I will follow you…Forward. Listen carefully.