Simply His

I recently read the introduction to a book, and the authors gave me this brilliant idea! They said that when they first starting talking about the concept of their book, they brought to mind a particular person they were writing to – not an audience, but one specific person. Who is that person? What are they like? What are they struggling with? What is the message for them? 

I thought this was a brilliant idea, and may help me as I walk through this process of finding my voice on this medium. Blogging may not be where I end up; but it’s where I’m starting. And as I get more serious about writing, I want be clear to whom I am writing – and what message I have for her. 

Who?


Yes, my “who” is a woman, although men could listen in if they wish. But the person I have in my mind’s eye is a woman; I am going to name her Sophia.

Sophia has led a particularly “good” life. There have been no major tragedies in her life or her family; just the normal stuff that happens to every family. Grandparents dying; people getting sick. She does not come from a divorced family; her parents love one another and have modeled a strong marriage example to her. No addictions have plagued her or any close friends or family.

Bottom line for Sophia: When she considers all that could have happened in her life, she realizes that God has been gracious to her. She looks at the lives of others around her and feels so ill-equipped to be of any tangible help because she compares her struggles to their and finds no match.

Sophia is in her mid-40s and has never been married. She has always wanted to be married, but it just has not happened for her. She has had some pretty negative experiences with romantic relationships, and is slightly jaded by that.

Sophia has always felt slightly out of place in any environment. She doesn’t have a sense of true belonging in any setting, and always feels like she’s 10 steps behind everyone around her. She hasn’t quite gotten beyond that “awkward” stage in her mind. She is perpetually awkward. She has endured rejection from peers from the time she was a child, and has become a bit of a loner as a result. Laying down roots is hard for her. She is what she would term “bicultural” – of one ethnicity, but identifying with another. There are elements of her ethnic background that she resonates with; others, not so much. She lives on what she terms “the fringe”, straddling a fence between two cultural worlds, but not feeling fully a part of either.

There is a lingering guilt that hangs over her because of this aspect of her personality and life. She feels defective somehow. And even in the church, the requirement to choose is baffling and discouraging to her. She doesn’t like being in a homogenous environment either way. And because of the current cultural climate in the church around the issue of race, she feels like she has to pick a side, which is against her nature. There is no side except Christ. If we are all in Christ, we see the travails of one brother or sister as our travails.

Sophia also struggles with the idea of Biblical womanhood and what it means to be a woman. Sophia cannot have children. This has challenged her self-perception of what is means to be a woman. How does she define that when she can’t do the one thing women were designed to do? How does she navigate a world as a single woman when her only desire was to be married and have a family? How does she stay motivated in work settings when her heart still longs for something that has proven so elusive to her?

She is not what she envisions when she thinks of biblical womanhood. She is not what she reads about on websites like Revive our Hearts, or even Proverbs 31 Ministries. She’s a theology geek; she loves to reading 1000+ page books by dead theologians and thinking about the different interpretations of terms like predestination and election. She labors over the decision of whether she is Calvinist or Arminian, and wonders about a third way. She is also a politics junky. She loves watching political analysis, is liberal leaning in a conservative Evangelical world, and wonders why people can’t see beyond the arbitrary labels to get to the truth of the matter.

Sophia wants to find peace and contentment in her life and circumstances. She wants to stop thinking so much about what she’s doing right or wrong, and lean into being. Being in Christ. Loving in Christ, living in Christ.

What?

What is my message to Sophia?

You don’t have  to do the “big thing” to be okay with God.

You don’t have to try to change the world.

You don’t have to prove your worthiness before the Lord.

The only bandwagon to jump on is the Lord’s.

He has given you a select set of skills, gifts and passions and wants you to be in the world through those things. You are not expected to be equally passionate about everything. It’s not humanly possible. No one has the right to pass judgment on your love for God and neighbor based on their skills, gifts and passions. We are all needed to fulfill our role. To stay in our lane and do our thing. All for the good of the Church. We are not meant to be clones of each other.

Social media does not define you.

The Woke crowd does not define you.

The “badass” women who want to overthrow the patriarchy do not define you.

The stereotyped Susie-homemaker biblical womanhood “godly men only want debt-free, non-tattooed virgins” crusaders do not define you.

God defines you.

So, in a nutshell, I’m writing to me – and you. And every woman who has ever felt confused about who they are and how they are supposed to be in this world. Most of us are a mixed bag – a set of contradictions with a dash of weird. None of us fit into nice, neat categories or marketing demographics. Human nature is complex. 

We all search for something beyond ourselves, even if  we deny it. Our actions betray us. The only One beyond us is God – the God of the manger in Bethlehem and the cross at Calvary. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He defines us; He saves us; He remakes us. If we are in Christ, you belong to Him. You are His child. You are His beloved. You are simply His.

I am (not) my hair…

In 2006, Soul artist India.Arie released a song called “I Am Not My Hair”. I. LOVE. THIS. SONG. Check out some of the lyrics:

“I am not my hair,
I am not this skin.
I am not your expectations, no…
I am not my hair,
I am not this skin.
I am the soul that lives within.”

There were times when I felt the need to sing this song at the top of my lungs, to remind myself that I am more than what you see when you see me. My hair, my skin…they mean something, many things that I have never asked for them to mean. But beyond and beneath the exterior package is a real person who defies the simple definitions and stereotypes given to me. And so, this refrain is my soul song, proclaiming that “God don’t make no junk”. I am not an accident, and who and what I am is absolutely okay.

Hair – oh yes. The Black woman and her hair. That relationship is special. I had what was termed “good hair” – which basically means my hair was relatively easy to straighten. Or code for, “your hair is almost as good as White hair”. This, combined with my fair complexion was the bane of my existence. “A shy, nerdy Black chick with fair skin and “good hair” must be stuck up, must think she’s better than everyone else. And she ‘talks White’ too? Uh-huh, she think she White…”.

No, I think I’m just who God created me to be. No better, no worse. Just – me. But back then, I didn’t see it that way, couldn’t see it that way. Shame dwelled where contentment should have lived. And so, when this song hit the airwaves, it struck a chord in me (pardon the pun) that still rings in my heart. It gave voice to something I could feel but not articulate. And it made it okay for me to be confident in everything about who I am.

‘Fro Chronicles
Fast forward 10 years to the summer of 2016. That was the point at which I had reached the end of my patience with my hair. For most of my life, I had straightened my hair. Some of my earliest memories are of me sitting in front of a stove on a little wooden stool, while my mom worked through my hair with a pressing comb. As I got older, she transitioned to chemicals to straighten my hair. The natural coils were forced into submission by these chemicals. This was just the thing to do. Most of the Black girls and women I knew were either pressing or “relaxing” their hair.

But years of such abuse left my hair a hot mess. My hair was thinning, breaking off, and looking dry and lifeless. Something had to give. After years of debating back and forth, I decided to take the plunge. I went to my friend Valena’s home and let her do the “big chop”. All the processed hair fell to the floor and I was left with a little baby fro (picture on the left above) to start my journey. A journey into loving my hair just the way it was meant to be.

Loving My ‘Fro
I love my ‘fro! It is fantastic! My hair loves it too – I have not put heat or chemicals on my hair in two years, and my hair is thanking me for it. Breakage and thinning are no longer a problem, and it is growing like crazy! It has taken me most of these two years to really get to know my hair and how to treat it properly. I’ve learned that I have at least two different hair textures, which makes the curl pattern tighter in the back than in the front. I’ve spent crazy amounts of money trying to find the right mix of products that keep my hair and scalp healthy and keep my curls poppin’.

I have also developed a renewed and deepened respect for my mom and the drama and travail she went through taking care of this stuff when I was young. She should be sainted.

I’ve been asked a number of times if my decision to rock the natural is a political statement. It’s kind of sad to me that my hairstyle preferences must carry so much weight and meaning. It’s just hair! But it is a big deal. Back in the day, natural hair was looked down upon. Even with my so-called “good” hair, the idea of keeping my hair natural bothered my grandma so much she went behind my mother’s back and straightened my hair when I was two. Proper young ladies didn’t wear their hair like that, she said. She was the product of her generation, and many generations before her being told that what was intrinsic to our African heritage was ugly or wrong. Practically uncivilized.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the fro was a sign of Black pride. The image burned in my brain of Angela Davis with her beautiful coily crown and raised fist makes me stand a little taller. Yes, I do believe that ‘fro made a statement – I will not bow down to European standards of beauty or femininity. No doubt a political statement. No doubt a statement of identity, in a kind of pride in identity that makes no apologies for it.

My initial desires were not political in the least. They were practical – I didn’t want to be bald-headed! But as I have journeyed through this process, it has morphed into something more for me. Not a political statement so much as a spiritual one. Yes, a spiritual one.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God knit me in my mother’s womb. He gave me my physical features, my skin, my hair. Yes, even my hair. He knows how many hairs are on my head. And He knows how He created my hair. It’s no mistake. It’s not a defect. It is what it is. In all its glory. For His glory.

My hair, my skin, my nose, my eyes, my forehead – my being carries the history of my family. There is beauty, toil, pain, joy, sorrow, violence, love, hate, bondage, and freedom written into the coils on my head and the hue of my skin. All that my ancestors lived and died for lives on in me. I am not ashamed of these things. That history combined with my experiences are knit together just as truly as my physical being and form the foundation of my life as “ministry”, my life as a witness and testimony to God’s infinite patience, grace, and love. I will not live out who I am supposed to be in my generation until I claim all that transpired in the generations before me.

So, I am (not) my hair. I am (not) my skin. The soul that lives in me is shaped by the way God made me. And I will not be ashamed of it anymore.

Please see me…

This is my food for thought for today. I’m trying to find the right words to say here, so bear with me…

I have been reading posts on my personal Facebook page from dear friends who wish that all this heavy talk would cease. The negativity is too much. And on one level, I agree wholeheartedly. There are moments when I, too, meet critical mass and have to step away and be silent. Or I post an impassioned treatise about why I will no longer post thus and so…only to post thus and so three days later!

I get it. We want to see pictures of cute babies and funny videos of puppies and kittens doing silly things. I love to share my photos of sunsets, or friends laughing and sharing memories. These things hold deep meaning. But they are not the sum total of life. Of my life.

I lament – loudly – for the state of this country, and more specifically, the state of the American church. The things I post are on my mind, in my heart, coursing through my veins. I cannot help speaking on them because they are part of who I am. Today’s post is about racial reconciliation in the church. It’s not fluffy, warm or fuzzy. But it is a part of my thoughts, my heart, my life. I do not have the luxury of turning it off or tuning it out. I can’t walk away from it; it is my experience in this country, and has been since the day I was born. I can no more “get over it” than I can stop being Black.

To see me is to see that I am a Black woman. I am not ashamed of that. I do not need to apologize for it. This is how God fashioned me. This is who He made me to be. He is not calling me to erase my ethnic heritage. He is calling me to live it out in a way that honors and brings glory to Him. The wholeness that I speak of on this page, the “shalom” that we want in our lives, can only come through openly engaging and fighting those things that work against that peace, and to reconsider our identities here on earth in light of our true identity in Christ.

If the first impulse is to suggest that I blind myself to ethnic reality or to the real concerns that live in my heart, I implore you in love to reconsider. To do so would be to forget myself. To not engage in the real problems that live in the American Church is not something I can do. This is the life I live, the only one I can share. Its good, its bad, its ugly.

And so, with that, I ask that you read and consider what this brother in Christ is sharing in this post. Some of it may be uncomfortable; but none of it is written – or shared – with malice.

The Lonely Path of Reconciliation for Minorities

Grace and peace…

Quick note…Aha!

Here’s a quick thought, which I’m sure I’ve said before, but think is so very important, if for no other reason than to remind myself of what I already know…

If you are a Christian, you have a new identity. The old has gone the new has come. You are a child of God, a co-heir with Christ, a member of Christ’s body, a living stone in the temple He is building, a temple for the Holy Spirit and a citizen of heaven. You are a new creation. 
Your identity is in Christ. You are hidden in Him; the life you live now is through Him. You are sealed with the Holy Spirit, awaiting the appearing of your Blessed Hope, Jesus. And when He appears, you will be like Him, for you will see Him as He really is. 
I might start shouting in a minute. This stuff is just too good…
But…and this is the “but” I have been working through and continue to do so…
In Christ, I do not cease being who I am. I don’t stop being a Black 40something single woman living in the Midwestern United States in the year 2015. These other identities don’t change – my relationship to them do. 
This is an aha moment, where things being to click and make a little bit of sense. I cannot erase my experiences, my identity or those things that make me who I am. I am these things because God determined the time, location and circumstances of my existence. In other words, none of these things are an accident. And God desires that I be them for His glory. 
So, the struggle in navigating how I live faithfully to God in the context of these things is a good thing, a healthy thing – as long as I keep my focus and foundation on the fact that my identity, worth and purpose are found in Christ, and nowhere else. This is where I stumble as I journey through. But I don’t know that I should expect to walk through this perfectly. As long as I keep walking, with my eyes fixed on Jesus, He catches me when I fall. 
Eureka!
I’m going to marinate on that for a bit…I’ll be back…