I spend a lot of time checked out in my own world doing my own thing.
Then I check back in and wonder why I bothered.
It’s been a wild couple of weeks. Wild in the kind of way that makes you almost sad or disappointed that they either misread or found another Mayan calendar, and the end is not so near.
After Friday will come Saturday, but we could have used the fresh start.
Things are so crazy. What to do? What can even be done?
When we were kids we alternated between our two grandmothers’ churches. DadMom’s church was typical southern Baptist, MomMom’s church was AME. (African Methodist Episcopalian) but there wasn’t much difference between the two, or really, any other black church I’ve ever visited through the years.
Both churches were in very old, very large buildings that smelled like Comet cleanser and dust, and on holidays, sweet potatoes.
Both had rooms and spaces we weren’t allowed to go in and rooms and spaces we discovered, explored and wished we hadn’t.
Both had the older lady who wore too much perfume and make up who insisted on hugging you and sending you home smelling weird and with a dress stained by heavy foundation and lipstick.
And that lady was probably also the same one who always took your gum and gave you a old, stale, mint instead.
She sang louder than everyone else and as off key as she could manage. She spent five minutes at the beginning and end of every service talking to the morbidly obese guy that was always in the very last pew closest to the door.
During service she rocked so hard you thought she was going to fall off her seat. And you wondered if she was really just dodging the spit droplets of the over animated preacher. He would spit, and hack and sweat so much that you were sure he wouldn’t live to deliver the end of his sermon.
The sights, and sounds, and overload of emotion: I imagine these are some of the contributing factors to my anxiety about church. I still have it.
The defining moment for me was almost assuredly at 4 years old, seated next to my father when the woman in front of me popped up with the Holy Ghost.
I’m four, remember, so I have no clue what’s going on. I only see this woman’s body contorting in ways that don’t seem so holy, and screaming like nothing I’ve ever heard. Her hair was cornrowed and she had beads on the end. Wooden beads clacking out of sync with the horde of bracelets she was wearing.
I remember my dad’s extra large hand locked around one of her extra small wrists and one of the nurses holding on to the other as she fanned her.
That image has never left my mind. The sounds are still with me. The smells, and the feeling I felt inside.
As I got older I went to church more out of obligation before I eventually stopped going altogether.
Whenever my parents would suggest prayer or turning to God for help with something I would remember that lady and the fear I felt in the moment and wonder if they were talking about the same God.
He didn’t exactly strike me as the approachable type. His house was haunted and the people coming in and out of there were escapees from a freak show.
As near as I could tell God was evil and did weird things to scare people. Even to hurt them.
Of course, I can’t confirm this. This is just what it feels like. Here and everywhere.
Or it’s not God (or whatever is out there), it’s us.
Where evil lurks, we debate it, find ways to lame blame on something we don’t know anything about, pretend we’re going to change it and maybe it will change, but who's to say that the change will end up being for better or for worse.
After Saturday comes Sunday and there’s nothing very new under the sun.
So I guess that makes us crazier and scarier than God.
It’s just as well I suppose. If I don’t understand one then why should I understand the other?
But lack of understanding, whether it’s not understanding others or feeling misunderstood, is never an excuse to attack someone else.
No one explained to me what was happening to that lady in the church that day. When it was over, my dad sat back down next to me and re-opened his bible like nothing had happened. The lady sat quietly in front of me with her head bent, sniffing as she composed herself.
Maybe the lesson in that was supposed to be that in life there will always be random unexplained moments of horror. And you might not understand in the moment, because if you are patient, it might come to you later.
And if it never comes to you it’s okay because sometimes there is no answer to “why?” Maybe the trick is to find peace however you can safely do so, and be brave enough to hold on long enough to find out for sure.
The Voice - Hallelujah
Wonderful use of the beautiful Chaka Khan song...
DJ Jazzy Jeff f/ Ayah – Be Alright
Donny Hathaway – Someday We’ll All Be Free