What stares back at you in the mirror?

This blog is more about me and my life than about Jamaican culture.  Although the strong religious influence here has made me stop and pause and reflect on much of my past.  In the past decade there have been many cases of sexual abuse by Catholic Priests, there have been money scams done by devout Christians, and rampant denial of basic rights to anyone who is different from the mainstream.   What if I told you none of this matters?  What if I told you I do not actually believe in God?  What if I told you that I tried to find God for many years and somehow I failed miserably?

For years I was a Pentecostal raised in the Blood Christian.  So when people tell me how Christian they are I often scrutinize.  Why?   Because I know what I know about the Bible, and it is a ton of stuff.   I can tell you that polygamy existed, that sacrifices happened, and that God tends to be a downright bastard at times.  Why would you ask someone to kill their son?  Or turn a woman into salt for simply turning around to see her home one last time?  I for one never liked the vengeful God that causes preachers to scream at the people in church.  To cause children to fear God, why would God want us to fear him?  Hold onto you hats people!  I have a huge revelation for you!   The Bible is written in metaphors and it is written by man and interpreted by man.  Sooooo this means that all that flailing and crying and wailing that happens when you feel the spirit, well it could be real but mostly I think it is a show of fear.

You see I prayed hard for most of my life.  I prayed for people to accept me and for my marriage to work, for my children’s health and for a decent life.  I never wanted to be rich or have wonderful things, what I wanted was a way to find contentment.  Instead all I ever found was strife.  When I talk about finding real true peace, I actually mean it.  I hate war, I hate lies and I hate having to struggle daily to feed my family.  In the last 20 years I have learned so much more about myself once I gave up this idea of God coming to my rescue.  I have found an inner strength that cannot be destroyed.  I have found that I actually like myself and I truly dislike the people who do not accept me for me.

fallow land
fallow land

I find more peace daily by simply living.  I enjoy a cup of coffee and a nice breakfast in the morning.  I enjoy the silence or the soft music as I sip my daily coffee. Once I realized that conforming to anyone else’s idea of who I should be was never going to find me inner peace, only depression and despair.  When I stripped my beliefs down to what I truly believe and what I was taught, I began to understand myself even more.  And I was left with hurt, resentment and anger.  I was left with these due to those who were supposed to help me grow as a child of God but instead nearly killed my soul.  So I now ask you, what stares back at you in the mirror?  Is it an empty soul or a fulfilled one?  Is it a sad child that never really found their place or is it a strong adult who learned from the pain of growing up?

My mother was a super-Jesus-freak when I was growing up.  My dad lived with us but he didn’t live with us.  He was not religious and there was always tension in the house.  I grew up wearing dresses on Sundays going to church Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday nights.  I even had to go for week-long revivals when those events happened.  I would get on my knees for altar call and I would seek God.  Any kind of touch would have been nice, but all I ever found was blackness.

Light in the darkness
Light in the darkness

In high school we got this wonderful energetic young pastor and his family at our church.  They worked to re-energize the youth group and I happily attended.  We went on skating trips, inner tube down the snowy mountain trips, and even to a CARMEN concert.  Sadly even in a church youth group there are the cool kids and the not so cool kids.  I was a not so cool kid.  I grew up thinking I must be ugly because this was a continual problem for me.  I just wanted to be accepted, no special treatment, just to be accepted, but I was always that fringe kid.  If I had not been so far out in the sticks I might have found my place much sooner.

There is one incident that always stand out for me.  I was a sophomore, 1986 New Year’s Eve to be exact.  There was a party held at the parsonage (pastor’s house).   I went and hung out for a while.  The cool kids were all drinking in the street. The church kids, the ones that were cool were attending this church party and drinking in the street.  I met a new kid at the party.  He lived across the street, moved there over the Christmas break.  He was younger than me by several years, but he was a nice kid.  I remember talking for a very long time with him.  I mentioned the park and was telling him the different things around the town.  He did not know there was a park 2 blocks away.  I decided to show him.  I told my best friend where we were going and then stepped out the door.  I even waved to the pastor and walked down the road.  I was gone for about 30 minutes and returned back.  As soon as I took my jacket off the pastor’s wife grabbed me and shoved me into the back room.  She proceeded to yell at me and informed me that if I left again she was going to call my mom and tell her what a whore I was!  Her exact words, I will never forget them.  I already struggled daily with sexual harassment and this woman who is supposed to be my role model tells this young girl who is a virgin what a whore she is.  That day I broke on the inside.

That demon that my mother feared was in me came out that day.  I had my first sexual encounter that night because I was going to get beat for it anyway.  That day the fragile girl who was always quiet in the corner became a raging beast.  I gave up on hoping to ever belong.  I gave up on trying to fit in and became a fighter.  I lost all respect for authority and started speaking up for myself.  I fought the boys, I fought the system and I hated everyone and everything.  If this is what Godly people do, I want no part of it.

When I was pregnant I tried to go back to the church because I wanted to give my children a good moral start.  I was not treated quite like that ever again, but my pain was very real.  I tried to connect in the church but I just could not.  I tried several churches and I sought God but just never found him.

Beauty in darkness
Beauty in darkness

Do not mourn my loss of faith, it was never mine anyway.  Do not pray for my soul, it does not need saving.  Just remember the words you say cut like a knife.  Remember young girls are actually listening and your words will mean the difference between sexual promiscuity and a faithful partner.  I have never forgotten those words, and frankly I have never forgiven her for her cruelty.  I keep that little piece of anger inside me at all times.  When people say things about me I call up that flame and protect myself.  The old saying sticks and stones break bones but words can never hurt me?  It is a lie!  Words do the most damage, because the healing never happens, the damage is invisible and often goes unnoticed.

I am a buddhist now. I practice yoga and meditation and being a good and kind person, I have no desire to inflict the damage that was done to me in the name of God on anyone else ever.  So there now you know why when I am invited to church I struggle.  I have a physical reaction to the idea.  I get sick to my stomach and my head begins to hurt.  My soul cries No do not do this to me again, so I am sorry if I offend you by not going, but I simply just can’t!

The person I see in the mirror is someone I admire. I see a survivor. I see the scars of a life well lived.  I see the pain in the eyes that swears to never inflict pain on others.  I see a happiness that has replaced years of sadness and despair.  I see someone who I respect and love and for me that is everything.  Living many years hating yourself gives you a greater joy when you can love yourself, so no I do not go to church and I really do not know if there is a God, but I know who I am and that is enough.


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