Tuesday (10/16) was an old friends birthday. When I got up and started to write this morning, I had no idea what I was going to talk about or whether I should at all. My last few blogs have all been “catheters” that have been supportive of me releasing years upon years of “buildup” and for the last couple of days, I figured that I may need a little rest. I was actually just going to write a poem or insert one of my quotes from my last book as a “Today’s -see” but as I started writing, I saw the date and remembered that his birthday had past and well, there IS something that I need to talk about.
A GOD to MY “liking”.
I am very specific and anal about certain things. Some people call me picky and finicky and even conceited. Others have called me ignorant and selfish and rebellious. I’ve also been tagged stupid, irresponsible, careless, and just down right obnoxious for the way and means by which I operated in action along parts of the years of my life. I admit, with a heavy acknowledgement towards understanding the perception and reality of my causing, they were right. I was. I did. That was me.
When I was young, probably like 9 or 10, it was discovered that I had a “gift”. Before this time I had been announced as “special” via my demeanor and disposition relative to how I interacted with life and the individuals in it. They said I had special qualities about me that should and could warrant me success in growing up. I had these outrageous ambitions and dreams that were consistent. I spoke optimistically about EVERYTHING. I loved to draw and care about people. I loved to sing and interact with others. I loved to inspire and perform. I loved an audience but I had this ability to be in a crowd of people yet almost nonchalantly appear attentive to each and every person individually. I gave eye contact and I had this smile, I was just downright AMAZING! (This is my story, I can say amazing!)
Around 9 or 10 years of age I also began to write. I would write poems and stories and being that we were being raised, force fed actually, in the church, it was natural that my mother would ensure that I channeled all of these “gifts” into the guarded and guided instruction of the church. And we went to church RELIGIOUSLY, like clockwork. Every Sunday for Sunday school and worship service and evening program, if any, every Tuesday for choir practice, every Wednesday for bible class, and every opportunity for church sponsored or involved events that were held any other day in the week. To be honest, I thought that I hated it and I used to swear off church in my future abilities to make decisions. I would declare, “I ain’t going to church when I grow up. I won’t make my kids go to church.”
But WE went. My mother was on the nurses board, worship committee, and fellowship staff. I think she was an usher or liaison to the ushers as well. She “loved” church. When I look back at our lives and analyze, from my perspective, the situation, I think that my mother found in church a sort of distractive measure that substituted her engaging in lifestyle and activity that was adverse to responsibility. My mother liked to gamble and she drank socially and she cussed like a sailor at points in her life. I watched her faith in GOD “deliver” her from those things, to a point. I saw church occupy her time away from those “distractions” and give her replacement in the form of an identity in the church. Church gave her new friends and different conversations. Church gave her hope and regulations that aided her in raising her three children. Church was a refuge and respite from some of the difficulties and struggles that were “life”.
And like I say, we went to church.
And I performed for the church. Every play or concert or program that I can remember, I was made available. I say “made available” because my mother MADE me AVAILABLE. I enjoyed the attention though. I knew that one day I was going to do that (speaking and performing) or something like it. Most people spoke over and into my life that I was “supposed” to be a preacher but I didn’t much agree with that. But I loved getting up and performing. I really loved sharing my words with others and being received as I was, special. Over time I began to realize myself that I had “something” and I began to realize just how “amazing” that something was. I also celebrated the fact that my foundation was in GOD and I spoke the LIFE that was made available through GOD. I have gained an audience over the years that accepted and expected of me a perspective that is very akin to that of a minister or pastor for the most part. One of the things that I have been told very consistently over these years is that my “message” is amazing in that you can take it ANYWHERE! And I have been many, many places with it. To date I have done radio, film, and theater, I have published 3 books, had a line of t-shirts, had my work featured on all kinds of products, been featured on an internationally released cd, recorded a spoken word album, traveled and performed across the country, been written about in the Wall street Journal, USATODAY, Entertainment Weekly, to name a few publications, and I have met and spent time in the company of some spectacular individuals as a result of “my gift”. It and I have done some wonderful things, and I think that we are just getting started.
In all of those things that I have been able to do and be apart of I found a kind of struggle within myself that caused a great deal of concern for myself from myself and others have identified as well. There is something about my story that wasn’t “real”.
I have heard for years about “how far” I should have been by now. People always, while measuring my progress, compare me to entertainers or speakers or celebrities and attempt to impress upon me that I am “behind” in some fashion for the fact that although I have done these “many” things, I am relatively “unknown”, I am definitely not “wealthy”, and I’m in more debt and deficiency than should be the case with such a “talent”. And although I’m not much for the comparing my life to others, I do believe that I could have been “better off” than this (my current state) financially, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, and spiritually had I “known better” or been shown the SPECIFIC areas in which I lacked the proper channels to thrive and been conducted towards that direction. I would venture to say that I am behind because I didn’t “know better” and everything before now was really the “process” to which I had to engage in order to get “where I am SUPPOSED to be”. (“Supposed” is a dangerous word to use in a sense like this, sometimes it threatens that you are not “right” where you are and that gives you the impression that you are not “doing enough” or not measuring up per say. It is a very unhealthy concept in bringing others into alignment with “assignments” because it is astronomical pressure and undue influence and it will block many from “going” anywhere.)
My mothers’ GOD.
To be honest, I don’t think that I really believed in GOD for the first 25 or so years of my life. I said His name and I had been baptized and I went to church and I was familiar with the bible and I knew all the “right things” to say when I engaged audiences that held faith in GOD but I don’t think I really “knew” Him. There have been miracles that have happened in my life, UNEXPLAINABLE to or by mankind, that have happened to and for me that I have definitely given “GOD” responsibility for but somehow I wasn’t 100% convicted nor convinced. I had “issues” with GOD that I couldn’t quite put my finger on but they were ever present and quite the albatross in the way of an authentic relationship with GOD for me.
That friend I was mentioning.
About 4 or 5 years ago I met this guy in the barbershop. At the time I was living in Atlanta and going about the “motions” as it were and just not quite focused on pretty much anything. I had recently left Chicago AGAIN and was “out” from my family AGAIN and just living in the wind AGAIN and I had decided to go back to cutting hair AGAIN. I was just “there” if I may use that term loosely because I didn’t really have anywhere else, in my opinion, to be. So again here I was, hiding in plain sight.
The guy came into the barbershop and asked, “Can anyone cut this type of hair?”… He was a white man and had walked into a “black” barbershop so of course it was natural for him to inquire as such. I responded, “I can do everything but make it grow!”, he smiled and sat in my chair. Over the next couple of months – he only got a cut maybe once every three weeks or so- we struck up conversations and the premise for a friendship. There was something about this dude that just really impressed me. When I first met him I had no idea what he did, who he was, or where he had come from. He liked the haircuts enough to come back though. I was really impressed by everything about him. Everything that he talked about intrigued me and really because of his energy and enthusiasm for the life he has. When he talked about his wife or his career, his boat, his daughter, his hobbies, his interest, his loves or dislikes, or anything regarding the University of Tennessee (where he attended school and is a BIG supporter of UT anything) there was so much passion and commitment. When he talked about his friends or his church his eyes just lit up like with everything else that he shared. About the third or fourth time that he came in I couldn’t hold it in anymore and so I asked,…
“Describe “your” GOD to me.”
Mike -that’s his name- and I haven’t spoken in quite awhile. I accept responsibility for that fact. I didn’t hold up to my end of our friendship. I didn’t do the requirements necessary to ensure that he could be confident in any hope that I ever would live up to the expectations we had for me or any I had for myself. I was not committed to my word and that forced him into positions that endangered and somewhat jeopardized the opportunities that were possible for us. I had no idea how to communicate most of the issues that I had and definitely no strength or courage to learn. So I just existed. I squandered the resource that he was to me and I voided the transaction of our friendship by being “bankrupt”, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
But the first question that I had asked was, “Describe your GOD to me.”
When I look back at it now, our “season” makes perfect sense. Losing that friendship and a few other relationships that I forfeited in the time surrounding it forced me into the seclusion and alienation that started the process that I undertook that began to “show me the way” out. Mike taught me some things that have broadened my understanding and perspective and have given me great qualities that are the reason, or at least part of the reason I can expose myself as such I am. The really wonderful part about it is something very small that happened around the time I met him that had a minor impact then but a major one later on.
I was quite hesitant to trust ANYONE for a very, very long time. My trust issues are severe. Even now as I write this and as I am being delivered out of the captivity that has been the prison of my mind, I have to be honest and say that I still have a long way to go. I’m still fond of some of the habits and reflexes that enabled the perpetuation of what pain my “issues” caused/cause. I’m honest about this. It would be easy to say that I’m over it or that I’m prepared for change or even that I’ve made up my mind to do differently but the reality is that “old habits die hard” and what is familiar to you is very difficult to un-remember. I’m dealing with these facts and truths HONESTLY and I expect change, so I am confident that CHANGE WILL COME!
But back to the subject…
So one day around the time that Mike and I met I had this feeling that he was “GOD-sent” into my life. Before and after I met Mike, pretty much all of my life, my trust issues had frustrated any clear thinking about people so I had come to rely on this “instinct” in order to at least gauge a sense of purpose and identity with others when they “appeared”. Often I get a “word” in my spirit that either confirms or denies access to my heart and so I looked for that feeling when I met him. One night I was on my way home from the barbershop and he had called me just to check up on me. When he got off the phone I said to myself, “If he is for real, he’s going to give me a book to read.” THE VERY NEXT DAY MIKE CALLED AND SAID, “Hey SEE, I got a book that I read recently and I think that you may need to check it out.”
I was at a loss for words.
The book that he recommended was “The Shack” by William P. Young. Great book! PHENOMENAL READ! I could write 3 novels on the subject matter (I probably will).
If nothing else that Mikes’ presence in my life is honored for, it is the perspective that I achieved subsequent to the end of that season. The book is an awesome book in regards to giving you a different way of “looking” at GOD and the relationship that can be achieved with GOD. I shared the book with a lot of people and many of them were greatly affected and appreciative of it. I read it 3 times; In the beginning of Mike and I’s friendship, during its height and soon after I hadn’t spoken to him for a while. The book represented how important and viable Mike was to me. Soon after I had read it for the 3rd time I was sitting around just reminiscing and reflecting, damn near depressed about my “results” in life, and contemplating something that Mike had once said to me about being “practical”, I came up with something that I felt passionately curious about yet I have not been able to write or “right” until now.
I only “knew” my mothers GOD. I was familiar with GOD through the reference of her relationship and regulation. I measured GOD on the standard of her past and her predicaments. To be honest, she had become the GOD of sorts in my life and I martyred her death in an observance according to that belief.
I recognized “GOD” when he reflected things that made me remember her and vice-versa. I made her “word of GOD” the barometer and gauging method by which I tried to comprehend “the” Word of GOD (bible) and I walked in this vain. I operated under the guise of these notions because it protected my mothers memory from being tainted by the revelations that I became aware of after her death that were totally contradictory to how I perceived that she had lived her life. The real conundrum here was that I am very intelligent and had to really “dumb down” to function this way. I knew better. My conscious held confrontation with my subconscious daily on this fact. But this was a “safe” place. I felt comfortable in the mediocrity of this place because it maintained a level of order that did not disrupt the only remnants of relationship that I had left. Or so I thought. I kept up this facade through defense mechanisms that I created in an effort to shield me from having to be vulnerable to the “elements” of the situation.
(Writing that caused me to pause.)
In a previous blog post I wrote about how my mother had taught me, or rather I had learned from her, secrets. I had been shown privacy. I had been given an example that, when I registered it into the school of my thinking, was not equipped to deal with what was really going on or necessary for me to “move on”. I modeled more of the “bad” things externally because they were the visuals that were more obvious and familiar to me. Certainly my mother instilled in me good, GREAT, qualities and traits that are and will always be of great benefit to my life and I am not ashamed of my mom or anything about my mom BUT I have come to realize and recognize that I took on certain attitudes and beliefs based on what and how I saw things. A lot of the means by which I functioned in the past were unhealthy. But I held onto these things because they kept me familiar with a period of time that I wanted to hold onto.
My relationship with GOD and how I perceived Him fell prey and victim to this in a way that really had stagnated my growth in certain areas. What I had learned from “The Shack” was just how “off” we can be in our perceptions of GOD and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. That book aided me, as has the last few years, in “waking up” from the slumber of such seasons that hibernated me from wholeness. I had no REAL relationship with GOD. GOD meant secrets and lies just as much as He meant truth and transparency, just as much as He meant Love, just as much as He meant confusion, just as much as He meant pride and joy, just as much as He meant murder (my mother), just as much as He meant birth (my son). So I communicated this hypocrisy in my actions, and probably some of my words. I had a very turbulent relationship with “church” after my moms murder and have fought with that for the 18 years it has been since. I developed an ignorance and reluctance to trust ANYONE because of this and other factors that were the only things I “knew” of or how to deal from. Because I had so dangerously attached my mother to GOD in my mind, I gave her no chance to be human and God no chance to forgive. This was my “great sadness” (If you ever read the book, you will understand that somewhat more) and it blocked, from flowing in me or through me, life.
How I dealt with people and the way I sabotaged relationships is probably the biggest regret of my life. I’ve really hurt some people and the opportunities that they gave me because of the way I handled their presence. My lack of communication has often been cited as why things didn’t work and I know why I lacked it. I was hurt. I felt betrayed. I was confused and the thing that I spoke that was supposed to be clarity was entrenched in confusion. The GOD that I “liked” was the GOD that was my moms and I had no idea of what their relationship really was. I don’t know the conversations that she had with him nor the depth to which she understood him. But I made a really big mistake by holding her “humanness” responsible for the reasons that GOD seemed to be ineffective for me. I held her to a higher standard and GOD to low expectations. Devastating. I attached to GOD the “things”, mistakes, and lacks of what I perceived were detrimental in me being able to heal or help my mothers memory, to GOD. So He was an imperfect GOD. He was a selfish, maniacal, deceitful, manipulative, unconcerned deity with power and options that always seemed to take advantage of me. I saw my mom as perfect but troubled because of Him. This train of thought only gained speed as I moved about and around. From place to place and person to person, this motion gained momentum and traction and carried me far. And then I hit a pothole. It was more like a sinkhole but nevertheless, I fell, the train stopped, I had to realize the damage.
There was a whole lot of damage.
Today I am a very different person than I was back then. I’m very different from the me that was 3 years ago. I am growing and learning at an accelerated clip and the awareness that I can appreciate in me right now is profound to say the least. I understand my mother differently now. I realize that we all have issues and struggles and the best thing that we can do is the best we can do. We can’t make others believe for us what we want to believe nor can we hold against them how they believe because they believe or act differently. We shouldn’t hold against people the “way” they believe in the sense that we have to be considerate and recognize that we are all human. I struggled with my faith and belief in GOD because I hadn’t sought for myself the fullness and fellowship with Him that would allow me to enter into authentic relationship with Him. That was further delayed because I hadn’t been true to myself. I hadn’t been true to myself attempting to be “real” in an effort to keep up an idea. The idea wasn’t even real.
So I decided to meet GOD on my terms. I threw away most of the things and methods by which I habitually sought after him and started to “find” myself first. One of the first things that I discovered was that I had been “using” GOD as an escape from acknowledging what was real. As long as the GOD that I sought disappointed me I was going keep up the nonsense. GOD was a troubling issue to me and so everything that happened “to me” became acceptable because I almost EXPECTED the nonsense and drama. You know where the bible says, “As a man thinketh so is he…”, well guess what, IT IS TRUE. And boy did I “think” some stuff.
Liking where I am.
Yesterday one of my clients came into the barbershop. He sat in my chair and we were just talking about the day and his plans for the evening and the usual rigamarole that accompanies most haircuts. This client has been a client of mine for about 8 or 9 years off and on, because I have moved, stopped cutting, relocated, and now back in a shop I was at many years ago. He’s about 10 years younger than I am and so some of my purpose in his life was that of a mentor. I used to do a weekly announcement at his grade school over the intercom when I was doing a lot of the community work that I was involved in back then. He admired and actually found it cool that the guy doing the poetry on Fridays over the intercom was his barber. Over the years I’ve watched him grow into a young man that wants more and strives and just like many of us struggles with “life” and EVERYTHING that comes with “living”. And we have had A WHOLE LOT OF CONVERSATIONS about “life”.
About two weeks ago we had a conversation and I just started talking about how GOD has become “accessible” to me based on me making certain changes in my approach to Him. I was talking about how I stopped going to church a couple of years ago. I told him about me not pressuring myself to live up to unrealistic standards as I had for so many years. I talked about a bunch of things and just how “I” had finally begun to make peace with who GOD is and how AWESOME it is to know him.
I didn’t know to what extent my client was listening.
While we were talking yesterday, he looks up at me and says, “Hey Bro, I wanted to tell you,… Because of our last conversation a couple of weeks ago, I gave my life to Christ.”
In all of the years that I have been “speaking”, “ministering” in churches, and “performing” out in the streets or in barbershops or through my talents and “gifts”, I’ve never once had someone tell me that as a result of me speaking into their life, that they decided to give their life to GOD. Never. I’ve wanted to be able to make that impression. I’ve heard that my words inspire and motivate that impression but I’ve never seen it or heard it verbalized. More importantly is who it came from, someone who has watched me grow. This young man, who I believe in, I have spoken into his life for years that he materialize and manifest the abundance of life that is healthy and well and whole. He looks up to me. We talk, honestly, about everything. I have tried for all of those 8+ years to input into him what I see is possible to come out of him.
But I was trying for most of that time to give him my perception of what I had hoped was best and not ever being authentic in my transparency because I was mired in the frustration as I have spoken of. I didn’t “know” better myself but I offered to him “better” all the time. I ADMIT, many of our talks over the years was an attempt by me to get him “in line” with what I thought that I saw GOD wanted from him. Expectation, Pressure, Obstacle. (That’s what I was really giving him.)
But this time, our conversation, from my perspective, was not an invitation to Christ. It was me being real. It was me being honest. It was me giving someone else the truth that is my life and just speaking my journey. It was comfortable, it was not pressuring, it was not overwhelming, it was not condemning or obnoxious or “preachery”. It was natural. It was everything that I remember about Mike talking to me. It was selfless. It was pure. It had light. I had hope. It had meaning.
It was to my liking.
©2012 Cornelious M. Flowers III