Monday Notes: Being Christ-like

When I was 16 years old, I asked my Grannie if she’d heard what the preacher said. Whatever it was had confused me because it was illogical. It made zero sense.

“Oh, Kathy,” she said matter-of-factly. “You’re not supposed to actually listen to what he says. You’re supposed to make your grocery list or think about the week, or something like that.”

And so, I learned that going to church is ritualistic. It’s a centuries old past down tradition for some, where going through the motions is sufficient. This is not a blanket statement, but I’ve noticed that this is how many operate.

Being Christ-like is least of some people’s concern.

That’s my earliest thought of how baffling religion seemed. My next memory is when my father became Deacon Gregory at Starlight Baptist Church, off 113th Street in Chicago. I was in my mid-20s. He was proud. His wife was proud. His stepdaughters were proud.

When my family and I visited, parishioners beamed with more pride.

“Your dad is such a great man! He’s such a good deacon! You must be proud!”

img_3080I smiled and shielded my thoughts. I haven’t seen this man in two years, and if I wasn’t here now, then no telling how many more years would pass. I let them hold on to their beloved deacon. He seemed to be doing more good for the church than with me.

Were his actions Christ-like? Perhaps with them, but not with me.

My wonderment with religion continued into my 30s where I found my own sense of purpose and meaning for life. It shifted into spirituality once I recognized the universality of all religions. There are certain principles inherent in each one.

But I couldn’t let go of how people just seemed to go through church motions.

For example, when I suggested to a friend that she stop judging another person, she responded as if I was crazy. She replied as if not judging was some nutso idea that I’d developed from the crevices of my brain.

“Do you mean stop judging in your head or do you mean stop judging out loud, like don’t say the words?” she asked.

I wondered if she’d ever asked her preacher to clarify what he meant when he said don’t judge.

Instead I replied, “I mean at all. What right do you have to judge someone else’s choices or decisions?”

She went on to describe her understanding of my suggestion. She’d stopped giving her opinion about her sister’s life because she realized it was her sister’s life and there was nothing she could do about it.

Exactly.

compassion+godly+woman+dailySimilarly, this thought crept back into my head when people began to judge Kanye West so harshly after his alleged breakdown. I wrote about this already, so I won’t re-hash. However, that post wasn’t about a so-called crazy rapper. It was about how once again self-proclaimed Christians are sometimes the first to be least compassionate. They are the first to call someone an asshole. They are the first to condemn someone to dark places.

They are the first to become defensive when I bring it to their attention.

Like the time when I asked this FB question: What’s the point of going to church if you treat someone like crap?

My question, as always was intended to promote thought and conversation. But I could tell that some people seemed offended. Wounded.

Answers ranged from “To grow stronger in Christ” to “We all fall short.”

It confused me. I thought if you were growing stronger in Christ then you might be doing things that are Christ-like. Christ cared for the poor. Christ hung out with prostitutes. Christ washed people’s feet and spread love.

Well, according to the Bible anyway.

Over 25 years later, I realize some people must have gotten the same advice my Grannie gave me. Maybe they’re all making their grocery lists.

 

 

Darlene from The Unhappy Wife book

unhappy-wifeDarlene, Darlene, Darlene…where do I begin with this story? First, I was happy to include this woman’s narrative because she was a preacher’s wife and I know that sometimes, we still place people like preachers and their families on pedestals. The reality is that preachers and their wives are people just like you and I. Part of my purpose was to show this through their experience.

Also, Darlene is another woman with whom I had a lengthy conversation. She told me about learning how to be a woman from Kain’s mother, fooling around with Kain’s brother, and ultimately marrying Kain. Similar to Miss Sharlene, I wasn’t sure if I needed to include all of these details, but ultimately I did to show her background and how she came to marry someone like Kain.

Concept: I didn’t know much about the Pentecostal church before writing this story, so Google was my best friend as I researched. The introduction where I describe Mother Williams showing Darlene how to be a woman in this type of church is the result. What I found out is Darlene’s experience is common. There is a lot of focus on women being mindful of how they represent themselves because, you know, men can’t control themselves if they see legs and cleavage. There is a lot of focus on women maintaining sexual purity and there are bible verses to support reasons why.

Quite honestly, I was in awe of these teachings. But I included them to show the reader how a woman could construct an idea about herself and what type of wife she’s supposed to be, no matter what.

The other aspect of this story I felt was important was Darlene’s gullibility. She admitted after going through this ordeal that she had no idea about what was cheap and what wasn’t. I fictionalized her examples for the book, but the way Kain dated her was similar. He had no money, but he passed it off as “frugal.” I’m not saying a man has to take you to an expensive restaurant; however, Kain’s financial traits transferred to the marriage and Darlene ended up assuming much of the costs.

The last part of this story that I wanted to drive home was how much we rely on other people to tell us what to do, even in a marriage. Darlene just wanted to be a faithful wife, who submitted to her husband, no matter what. Mother Williams encouraged her to do that. Her apostle friend encouraged her to continue by wearing a mask of happiness. Darlene honestly didn’t know what to do, unless someone gave her steps.

My commentary for this one is brief because I’m running out of words for my own count and also because the message is the same. Women have to learn to not only hear their inner voice, but also listen to it. Can you ask for advice from someone? Sure. But if your husband brings you an STD, works, but asks you for money every month, has sex with you four times a year, and doesn’t speak to you, unless it’s to save face in front of others, then you might want to consider that a sign.

unhappy-wifeWhat did you think about Darlene’s story? Did you catch my not-so subtle naming of her husband, Kain? What did you take from this story that I didn’t mention?

It’s never too late to order The Unhappy Wife and start reading because these blog posts will be up for a while. Next month I’ll provide a few insights about Crystal and how she chose to deal with her drug-addicted husband.