I don’t argue about God. I might go back and forth with God (in my mind, in my spirit, in my self-talk) because oftentimes I’m not clear on what I’m doing and sometimes feel like God “allows” me to spin my wheels without going anywhere, unnecessarily. But it’s always turned out good and to my benefit from the perspective that I have consistently and constantly found myself to be guided by the presence of God in my life. I’m okay with that. This is my life.
I’m not getting into God-arguments though. Not anymore. God doesn’t need me to defend God. God doesn’t need me to justify, prove, persuade, convince, or argue that or why I believe God to be. God doesn’t need me as a spokesperson for God. This is God I’m speaking of! God- responsible for the creation and maintenance of existence- does not need me to validate that God is. And I won’t spend another second doing that. Not when I know what God is for me. With or without religion, in or out of a church, up or down in my feelings, God is. That’s where I’m at with it.
I’m not confused about it either. I’m not trying to figure out what and which text is the best one or one I should most-loosely adhere to. I’m not confused by which part or paragraph is to be taken verbatim versus which should be analyzed and ascribed to analogy or anecdote. I don’t believe I’m supposed to figure that out. I’m not going to try to.
I believe that I am here to be here. To be present and aware in the NOW of however long of a moment that I have in this realm. I know that I am here. I believe that while I am here it is my responsibility to connect and exhibit compassion, to show consideration, to acknowledge consistency, to conclude that grace and understanding are the best means and measures by which to accept and address humanity. I’m not here to be perfect. I’m here to participate. To experience pain and passion just the same. With eagerness to learn from the opportunity to exist.
I’m not here to be God.
I believe that I am very much so a particle of God. I believe that all the things that I consider good, God created. I believe that all the things that I consider not so good, God created. Because I believe that God is THE creator. Of ALL.
I know that there are a great number of things that I don’t know.
I know that I can suppose and assume and suggest and surmise a great deal about what I think God desires or demands. I know that I can get as lost as I choose to in the vortex of theological rhetoric in an effort to study for the sake of showing “thyself approved”. But, for what?
I’d much rather, not.
I am by no means “perfect”. I am by all means “participating”. My intention and my institution is to be good. I do far more good than I do the contrary. I help far more than I hurt. I give way more than I take. I love far deeper than I loathe. I consider quicker than I criticize. And as it relates to healing- which has been my personal albatross for a great period of time in life- I have finally arrived at this philosophy: It is imperative that I forget more than I remember.
I trust that God has all the stuff that I spent so many years trying to figure out, figured out. I believed- for most of those years- that to be my job, call, purpose, mission: to know what God intends. And I spent so much energy and time and all I possessed in an effort to get that clarity, that closure, that comfort.
And when I didn’t, I felt- especially because I listened to everyone else but me- guilty and ashamed by the disappointment of not getting the understanding or specific clarity that satisfied my questions. That made life extremely difficult. Feeling like I was a failure because I was confused. Because I didn’t get absolute and defined understanding.
Meanwhile, God and I have this relationship that has allowed me to see another side of things. But I felt guilty about it. Because that relationship didn’t fit me into the spaces of what I was told my purpose to be. The relationship that I have with God doesn’t have me in church or “ministry” like I was always told I should be. The relationship that I have with God doesn’t have me pressured to live restricted and removed like the guilt and shame of being a “sinner” had me feeling I should be. The relationship that I have with God doesn’t suffer me the frustration and fear that I once encapsulated while attempting to register how I feel about so many things. I have a relationship with God. No one else gets to or has to answer for me. I am confident that I can stand by my choices and decisions regarding the relationship that I have with God. I have no doubts there.
I’m not arguing about God.
I’ll argue about humans though. I will definitely argue about human behavior and human words and human feelings. There are some human problems and issues that exist that I believe I can help with. I believe we all can help one another. But what I’ve seen and experienced, far too often, is that religion and the establishments of religion- propagating under the guise of God’s word- perpetually prevent the people from problem solving. Because of power and control. Because of guilt and shame. Because of greed and jealousy. Because of envy and hatred. Because of system and tradition and race and money.
Because “that’s the way it’s been”.
We can’t afford to keep doing things the way they’ve been done. We have to change. We need to change.
I haven’t been a more productive part of that change because I was afraid to tell y’all that I don’t agree with y’all about God. (That’s a blanket statement). More specifically, I didn’t want to face the disappointment and disdain that I’ve seen and experienced when one doesn’t subscribe to the fold. I’ve lost relationships, friendships, and acquaintanceships because I don’t believe what some of my people feel that I should believe. I’ve experienced the alienation and abandonment that comes with not cooperating with a certain community. I’ve observed this in my own village most of my life.
No matter how “good” of a person I could have been. When I started voicing my concerns and questions I was seen as anything but good. It was like I’d done or said something absolutely monstrous. I was treated as such. That triggered a trauma response and so I shut down more of myself in order to stay in some fashion of committee with people.
I call most soul food dinners “plantation plates”. I call it that because most of the traditional soul food that I am accustomed to and know about is writhed with a history that developed around a specific time period. When I hear stories of the Black Sunday dinner I almost always envision scenes from a time period that I don’t want to recall. But I know the history. I know that “soul food”, or the idea of, comes from the southern plantation dinner practices where enslaved black people were given limited rations of food from the white slave masters and they made due. They were given the scraps and scrapings but they prepared masterpieces! Some of our staple dishes come off of those menus: barbecued ribs, catfish, chitterlings, cornbread, and more.
Over time, even as we got free from that version of slavery, we’ve held onto that menu. Truth being told, 3 of my favorite foods are soul foods: Macaroni, Dressing, and Candied Yams. I’d eat them everyday without any problem. I like them just that much.
But I know they are not healthy choices. Macaroni is filled with butter and cheese, sodium, and fat. Dressing is high in calories, fat, sodium, and refined carbohydrates. Candied yams have entirely too much sugar. Yet I love them.
As a culture we love the plantation plate. Most of our homes serve these very dishes at least one day of the week. And every holiday consists of a spread that showcases the full farm of this traditional treachery.
Even as we suffer from diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, glaucoma, gout, cancer, stroke, heart attacks, death and more, disproportionately to other groups.
I often joke with “chitlin” eaters, “… You don’t have to eat that. We are free!” but to no remedy. They don’t want to hear that. They don’t care. They want what they want. Even if dit is ACTUALLY killing them.
But I know why. I believe that black folks know how unhealthy most of what we consume (as it relates to traditional soul food) is. That’s not why they eat it, or why it’s difficult to give up.
It’s hard to give up because these dishes and recipes were prepared for us by someone we love. Momma macaroni. Granny dressing. Aunty potato salad. Uncle ribs. Daddy pork chops. Great-Granny banana pudding. Big Momma neck bones and rice. And so on.
Giving up these dishes that are imprinted on our lives would mean disappointing and dismissing these people. Because Granny ain’t letting you leave her house without eating. Nor is Momma. Good luck walking out of most of our family’s homes and not breaking bread. Because these dishes mean something to us. To the individual that prepared them. To the history that passed them down. To the legacy that is shared through them.
These meals mean more to us than sustenance. They represent fellowship and community. They represent love and care. They represent concern and togetherness. They represent talent and time. They represent support and structure. They represent consistency and comfort. They represent some idea of success and celebration.
And that’s why it’s hard to give them up. Because of what they represent. What they mean to everyone. The who we attach them to. The where we attach them to. The when we attach them to. There are soul food dishes that mark specific occasion. These meals literally mean something.
We’re connected to them. We are not trying to let them go.
It’s the same with religion. The God that most of us serve was introduced to us with those meals and by those very important people. And just like those meals, we’ve passed down the sentimental attachment our traditions have served us.
And we’re attached.
Any attempt to disengage us from the hold that religion has on us is deemed an attack.
Even if/when we know that the intention is not to attack, we interpret it as such.
Because telling any of us that the God or the Jesus that we’ve known for so long is not who or what we have believed does not sound like that.
It sounds like you’re telling us that Grandma lied to us. Or momma lied to us. Or the church lies to us. And we care about those people. They love us. They wouldn’t lie to us.
Grandma’s midnight prayers to Jesus- we are told- saved our lives. Momma’s faith- in the God she knew- has kept us all this way. Our family has been in that church- the one preaching this very God- for 50 years. You’re not going to tell us that we’ve been doing any of this wrong. You’re not going to tell us that we’ve spent all this time and energy and thought into something that is not what we believed and had faith in it to be. You’re not going to tell us that we’ve come all this way to find out that this was the wrong way.
And because of the sentimental and generationally traditional habits of doing things the way we know, letting go is not going to be easy. For many it’s not even going to be possible.
It’s going to be more than an argument.
Faith too strong.
Spirit too stubborn.
Mind too made up.
I absolutely understand that.
Even if I can’t explain it as clearly as I might want to. Even if I don’t agree with it. I do understand it.
But I’m not finna argue ‘bout God.
Because we need to be DOING the “Lord’s” work.
With that, well, I WILL NOT be arguing about God. Never again.
While I’m arguing about God, some work is not getting done. And there is too much work to do. Work that I believe is in OUR hands to take care of. Because God- who controls the entire fvcking universe- has the power to change our “circumstances” at the thought of changing it if that was what God wanted to do! If God had other intentions it would not take time to be. This is God we are talking about!
Breathe, See. Breathe.
I’m not arguing about God anymore. It’s not a win. Ever. It’s a distraction. It’s a detour. It’s a business. It works too freaking well with the scheme to keep us fighting and fussing about something that we have no reason to fight and fuss about.
Because while we’re going at it about God, the world that God created is suffering. And after all this time I’m going to say that maybe “waiting on God” is not the answer to each and every problem.
The “US” that God wants to work TOGETHER to figure all of this out.
Instead of debating, dissing, demonizing, distracting, deflecting, or even deciding.
Too many are spending an entire lifetime DECIDING.
Because they’ve made up their mind what God’s people look or sound or act like.
And honesty, God can’t use you like that.
And I’m not going to argue about it.
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