“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. “
Chronicles of a church girl
I remember it like yesterday
How it all started and how it almost ended
The moments I wish would continue
The moments I tried to forget
It was October 2000
A yellow and white dress, black shoes and a white hat
The markers of that day
Mr. Brackett asked are you sure I said yes
I went under the water one way came up another
The excitement overwhelmed me
I was unsure, unsure if the change could be or should be so soon
At twelve who knows
It rocked my world until my aunt set me straight
“Why yu tie up yu head so miss?” she asked
I pulled the thing off in one big whoop. “Mi nuh know ma’am.”
Truthfully I had no idea, with everyone else ‘covered’ it made sense.
That’s how it all started I found myself home.
Why was it home you ask?
Because all the people in my world were there.
Now after having a conversation with a certain youth pastor, who rocked my world and tore down the curtains that hid the hurt. When she asked, why don’t you tell them how you feel? How they hurt you and what you feel now that you have decided to start again.
I secretly wondered if she was crazy, she’s never met said people so she can say anything. So I decided to handle the way I knew how. I’d write about it, let it all lose the leave it out there.
I grow up there. In that church on the corner.
My mom said, you’re too young, you are not ready.
I said it’s my life and I choose to be ready.
Sunday school teacher, prayer band member, choir member, key keeper, youth secretary, and evangelist in the making they said.
Being all these things were a joy for me, I loved doing it because I believed, I believed in everything I was told. No questions asked.
I cleaned the church, I opened, I started, I prepared, because I was called as a servant so I serve.
It became time to finish high school and my mom said, you need to study. I didn’t listen because church came first and I had to do what was expected of me.
I never lived the life of a child, I never acted like a child, because I was afraid to sin. Then when I messed up I felt like I was on my way to hell and there was no way back.
I never lived up to what was expected though, that for sure. I asked too many question, and how dear me, question people who had it locked since 1953? The name Bad Brown was the outcome.
Proud of the fact that I finished high school in one piece I was ready to celebrate. But then I felt a sweep of disappointment I didn’t know how to handle as I saw only two people from church there at my graduation. Was it because I refused to accept that a God I considered to be limitless, had more to offer me than nurse, doctor or teacher? Was it because I had big dreams and believed God would get me my dreams?
I still held firm because doubt is a weed. If you let it spring up it will, in no time, take over the field.
I held strong, I had to, and this was my family. I loved them.
My absentee father suddenly started calling, wanting to know me, to be a part of my life. I was so excited. Then I went to get prayer, because prayer makes it all right, right?
But then, I listened to a prayer that weakened my resolve, my Bishop, my confidant, I didn’t know how to handle it. My father and I still have no relationship.
Every Tuesday was fasting day for me which was a bit of heaven for me, seeing as I had the keys to the church I could open the door, lay at the altar and get lost without interruption. It was me fighting an uphill battle I wasn’t sure I would win. But I had to fight, couldn’t give up.
Then it happened. One Sunday. No white dress. Not sure why not (Probably some phase young people goes through), but I felt overwhelmed. Didn’t want to deal with what I was feeling up on a choir in front of everyone else. So I sat at the back where I could deal privately.
Then church ended and I waiting, I waited for someone to come to my rescue. I waited to be found, to be told that someone else had experienced this once and to be given words of wisdom on how to overcome.
Instead while I shook hands in greeting I listened to my evangelist explain that I was a backslider and the others were not to greet me. My weakened defence crumbled beneath me. What? Me? Really is that what’s happening to me? It can’t be?
It was like I got stabbed with a knife, the way my heart hurt.
How could you? WE are a family, I love you, and how could you do that to me. You know me, I grew up right before your eyes. I am your sister, damn it!
I went home and I asked myself. Why do you even bother?
Then I remembered that feeling after I came out of the water that Sunday evening. I remember how I prayed at the altar until something I couldn’t explain happened to me. I remembered how when I stood up and someone asked how do you feel, I said I felt free. I remembered how my little sister came to church one Sunday wanting something from God and she never left that alter until He gave her psalms two. I remembered the sermon Mr Humphrey preached about a machete that touched my heart. I remembered how I’d lose myself, I would be like a stranger in my body as it moved with someone else in control. I remembered all those Tuesdays alone at the altar.
I held on to those memories hoping it would be enough, telling myself, tomorrow is another day.
I was rebuked before the entire church and sent to the third bench over personal feelings. Respect they said. I held on a little more to the memories. Held tight. Not long after, I was told I going to end up like my mother. If it was said to mean I’d acquire her strength and courage then ride on, but no. It was said in reference to the fact that my mother’s bad choices led to six children with four different men. Damn it, how much more do I have to take?
Holding tight, I push on. Until I was rebuked again for using nail hardener, to which I pushed through, I lifted my hand and I summoned up the strength of Pearla and “Thank you Jesus”. Because I had to keep strong. I had to hold on. I don’t want to be a bad influence on my peers. But my response made it worse, because I was accused of being disrespectful.
Why can’t I seem to catch a break, why is everything I do wrong???
It got to a point where I walked into church and no longer felt free. I looked up on the people before me, and they all seem to have a hand in tearing me to shreds and they were all happy going on to glory. But I was stuck, hurt, disappointed.
My faults were never-ending, I never wore hats, I never dressed right, I wasn’t sober enough, I didn’t clean the porch right, I didn’t do this, I never did that….
So I moved away and thought I could try to build my defences again some place that felt like home. Only to walk in and find the same people I wanted to get away from. So I gave up. Then I watched them pass me on the street, change direction when they see me and pretend I didn’t exist. Until of course I would walk into church and be invited to the altar “to be prayed for”.
Before all that I could never understand. How someone could grow up in church and then just leave. It baffled me until I was that person. Until I walked into the place that was once my reason for living only to find that it didn’t feel like that anymore.
Only to see smiles and welcomes that seemed so fake I wanted to slap someone. To look up and remember a time when one or more of the people before me, who I trusted, I believed in, hurt me, when they broke me, when they stepped over my heart and then went back to clapping and shouting as if it never happened.
I couldn’t fit in with them anymore, and every time I started to forgive I would remember or I would feel the scars. I never felt so lost. Everything I was, was invested in them. They were pillars in my foundation so what am I to do if my foundation is crumbling beneath me?
One Sunday morning I walked into a church, far away, where no one knew Brown. Where it didn’t seem to matter who I was. And I started to heal, slowly. I felt flashes of the joy. However I began to over think it. Because where I am from they don’t dress this way, they don’t worship that way. I was standing in my way because even though I wanted to move on I couldn’t. It’s like I’ve been brain washed to believe a certain thing so now I could accept anything else without questioning it.
I pushed and pushed because even though what I saw with my eyes didn’t match. When I closed my eyes and focus on why I was there. What I felt, was just right. I was so right I wanted to run and skip and cry. But it was a fight, because how does one overlook what’s perceived wrong for what they feel?
It was one hell of a fight. That was until I walked into a youth meeting one night, after which a youth pastor came to me. She said, “It’s been nice to have you, what’s your name?”
“It is nice to be here, thank you. My name is Alicia.” I replied.
Still holding my hand she said, “Well then Alicia, we are delighted to have you and welcome home.”
Looking at a lady who didn’t know me from Adam, and didn’t care. She didn’t know who I was, she just accepted me for me and all I could be.
That night I realised I didn’t want to run anymore. I realise the fear I usually felt every time I walked into a church was no longer profuse. I realised I wasn’t the same girl who left that little church on the corner. I have found new and different things about me, that that girl didn’t have. I realised that I wanted to let go, I wanted to forgive. I realised that I will always love those people with all the love in my soul.
I realise that they are family and even though now I don’t see them every day and we don’t catch up, when I do see them I again I want to be able to look at them without malice. I realise that I want to be able to be in the same room with them and not remember the bad.
So I had a heart to heart with my youth pastor, and as I heal, I let go. I am learning to be content in my state.
Many may never understand why all this affected me the way it did, and that was not even the half of it, but you know what? I am creating a new home for myself so this is a part of my yard sale so to speak. I am getting rid of the old and making space for the new. I am picking up the pieces of my life and the Potter is making me a new vessel.