Have Mercy: The Wayward Daughter On Religion

The last almost two years have involved monumental change for me. What I thought would kill me, made me stronger. I got the opportunity to practice self-care by walking away from things and people that were no longer good for me. A door opened to allow me the chance to get paid doing what I love. I gained the older sister I always wanted but never had. Best of all, I experienced a spiritual awakening that I needed but never knew I did.

I’m like many people. I grew up being taken to worship services every week. I went through the rituals and practices by rote. I didn’t choose it. It was chosen for me from the cradle. Many of the other people knew me before I knew myself. They also knew my parents before my parents knew that I was on the way. It was tradition. It was formulaic. It was choreographed almost perfectly. I knew exactly when to stand, sit, and bow my head. I knew what to do if I messed up. Even the prayers, what was supposed to be intimate communication with the Creator of the universe, were mechanical.

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But, this new season required a new perspective on how I tended to my spirit. I told you that my previous spiritual practice was like many people. Now, I’m going to do what many of that many do not do – tell the truth. After decades, I found that I really got nothing out of it. There were lots of platitudes and control by fear. But there was never the connection that I needed. On top of that, as someone with anxiety, telling me that “God” could say “yes, no, or wait” was never a sufficient explanation for unanswered prayer.

I was blessed, however, in that my soul sister really did open me up to that which has fed my soul. She is a santera in the Lukumi tradition. It is the practice of honoring and communing with one’s ancestors as well as reverencing the Orishas, African deities. It’s been less than 6 months but in those 6 months, I’ve learned a lot. Even more important, I’ve encountered what I was told I was supposed to experience for decades in the belief system I was “born into.” Here are the first five experiences so far in my journey.

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1. New found confidence. One of the hallmarks of my day is communing with my ancestors; called eggun. These aren’t just the ancestors that I know, but those going all the way back to the beginning of the bloodline from which I came. I’ve experienced a different level of confidence knowing that even though they no longer live in this realm, they yet live and are acting as guides and protectors. They have my back, which is something you can hardly get from the people you see every day. Further, having recently lost very close relatives (2015 and 2017, respectively), knowing that the love they had for me did not die with their physical bodies but is still being showered upon me every day is a comfort like none other.

2. Freedom from guilt. Instead of what many call “being convicted,” I receive guidance. I no longer walk around thinking about if what I did or said was wrong. I don’t have to wonder if something happened as divine retribution for something I did, said, or thought three days, months, or years prior. I don’t feel guilty when I experience real and valid feelings about people or situations. There is no scolding; just redirection.

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3. Validation of my intuition. To piggyback off of #2, I’ve received much validation of my gift of intuition. My intuition took a beating during my rough patches. I stopped being able to trust the dreams and intuition that I had been experiencing since I was a young child. As it has recovered, one of the things that is happening in the natural world is that I’m constantly receiving signs that I was not crazy. I was not wrong. Those people that I haven’t particularly liked and people said it was wrong to feel that way? I’ve received proof that I was right to distance myself from those persons. Those opportunities that I turned down or walked away from that people said I shouldn’t have? My eggun is allowing me to see where I was indeed right to leave. Those people who were malicious, or who I suspected were jealous, or envious or had some other bad intention for me? Their ability to hide is now impossible. The best part of this is that there is no finger wagging about how I’m supposed to love everybody because God does. There is no inner pressure to forgive those who are not worthy of it lest God not forgive me. There is no admonition to put on a phony smile. There is complete validation of who I am and who and what is best for me and my spirit.

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4. Answers. I don’t just mean answered prayer. I mean real-time answers to real questions. I’m no longer sitting around wondering if what’s in my head is the real answer or if, in fact, I’m going to play the “Yes, No, Wait” game again. This has saved me literally hours of futile searching, kvetching, and worrying in reference to the most pressings things in my life. My eggun haven’t been wrong yet and something tells me they never will be. There has not yet been a need for me to convince myself that my confusion or curiosity is a part of the “mysterious ways” of the Creator.

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5. Kinship. This is arguably the most important part. Anyone who has studied the Bible will know the anecdote of when a pregnant Mary met up with the pregnant Elisheba (Elizabeth), mother of John The Baptist; the man who would grow to baptize Jesus. In this story, when the two pregnant women met up, Elisheba’s womb leapt. The meaning of the anecdote, or so it has been taught, is to note that even before birth, Jesus and John The Baptist knew that they would have a special relationship. I can relate. When I am communing with my eggun, my spirit bears witness. When I am petitioning Oshun, I feel it. The other night when it stormed and I was awakened and immediately began to petition Oya, I knew it wasn’t in vain. I said to my sister today that I feel that your spiritual beliefs should be as habituated to your spirit as your ear is to your mother’s voice. You don’t have to see your mother to know it’s her speaking. You know your mother.

AsheI’m not preaching and I don’t need anybody to preach to me. I can only relay what I’ve experienced and I can say that I feel freer now than I ever have before.

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I’m Tired: My Thoughts on Child Suicide

When I was in 5th grade, there was a girl named Lacretia. She was rough around the edges. Well, as rough as a 5th grader can be. She made fun of people. She talked back to the teacher. She was academically lacking. She came from a dysfunctional family. She physically intimidated people she thought were weak. She was your classic bully.

One day, before Language Arts class, we were in the restroom. This was the day Lacretia decided to set her sights on me. I was in the stall handling my business and when I was done, I went to try to leave the stall and couldn’t open the door. Lacretia had put all her weight on the door and laughed as I kept trying to get out. What she didn’t know was that by 5th grade, I had been swimming competitively for two years and being a naturally broad-shouldered girl, and at that point, angry at her bullshit, I was able to move her and the door. That’s what I did. With all my might, I pushed the stall door and Lacretia went flying up against the tiled wall. The onlookers were in awe. I washed my hands and went on to class without uttering a word.

Lacretia never bothered me again. In fact, the next year, she matured and we even ended up friends.

Today, while scrolling FB, I came across this article. This little boy committed suicide because he was being bullied due to his weight. This is about the third report this week that I’ve seen about children resorting to suicide to escape constant bullying by their classmates and other peers. Then, there’s this report about how the number of children being admitted to the hospital due to suicide attempts has increased.

It is exhausting for me to think about the fact that there are people who are walking this earth and have developed feelings of such hopelessness before they even hit puberty. As adults, we know that life, while beautiful, comes with mountains of shit upon shit that we have to deal with on a regular basis. We know that everybody isn’t nice and won’t like us. And while I’m not opposed to children learning some of the harsher realities of life, I am crushed at the fact that any child has had such exposure to these mountains of shit and “not nice” souls that they feel that the only way out is to take their own life.

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I read these articles and the comments and they are filled with adults posting “RIP,” and “that’s so sad”, and “something needs to be done.” I wonder if they realize that it’s us, adults, who are the ones who must do “something.” Childhood is supposed to be mostly carefree besides fractions and dodge ball day. The reason that it’s becoming less and less so is because of us.

It’s not just the parents of the bullies who are messing up. It’s all adults who are failing to pick a side.

What do I mean?

Not only are we fostering environments where children grow to be callous to one another before they even know how to spell the word, but we’re also fostering environments where children feel they only have two options: bully or martyr.

This, in my humble opinion, is a problem. We know that children who are bullies weren’t just born that way and that behind their behavior is an adult who is probably bullying them. We know that children are not born hopeless and defeated, but that behind the scenes, there are adults who aren’t engaging with them in a way that exhorts them and affirms who they are. Interestingly, this is the case for both the bullies and the martyrs.

The side that adults are failing to pick is the side of the children.

We are failing to view children as whole individuals. We forget that children have egos, and souls, and spirits; and that they are filled with emotions, and thoughts, and worries just like we are. We forget that they have needs that go beyond clothing and shelter, and that, just like we want those in our life who claim to love us to nurture and protect those parts of us, children want the same thing.

Telling children to ignore hateful comments or that “sticks and stones may break [their] bones, but words will never hurt [them]” is irresponsible. Further, it’s a lie. There are words that will hurt 1,000 times worse than any stick ever could. The fracture of one’s spirit is the harshest break of all.

*shrug* I don’t have all the answers. But, I do know I’m tired.

The thing is, 10 year-olds shouldn’t be.