Posted by: possumjones | March 5, 2009

Is God an American? A Journey Into the Spirit of Being Equally Yoked.


In the spirit of transparency, I am internally travelling and better defining my spirituality and, that is where everything begins. I am a God-fearing, extremely spiritual man at the core of everything. Early on, God talked to me about the ordainment of my life. From as far back as I can remember, I would receive edicts of behavior and windows of the future thru thoughts, dreams, experiences, and sometimes even people, which have all shaped my life and my relationship with God.

 

Growing Up With God

My background is Southern Baptist; as many of us in from the country are. The developmental years (0-11) were spent in intimate religious settings; small-town southern churches and “several” Atlanta-Area Baptist churches. I was fortunate to go through the religious discovery process with my mother and my father as they both sought more from their religion than was availed them in their upbringing and respective small towns.

My mother longed for simple religious investment, free of frills and/or what she considered irrelevant spiritual expression. Needless to say, that in the black church we often ran into situations that made her uncomfortable. The thing I remember the most was how irritated she would become at sanctified churches when the dancing, singing, and chanting would begin. I later found out that her disdain was a result of experiences from her childhood upon which she carried into adulthood. Ironically, the first church I ever joined was a sanctified church off of Moreland when I was 9 or 10 years old. The church, and myself, were growing spiritually. We began in a shopping center and, within a short period of time, moved into a larger sanctuary. Although we were growing large, I felt the intimacy of the church and my relationship with God; what my mother seemed to have been seeking for years. One day, during communion, I felt this “cold rush” thru my body and began to cry. I had never taken communion before; never even felt inclined to. But on this day, the sun seemed to be pointing at me thru the window, the music seemed to flow thru my body like water, the sound of angels were ringing in my ears, and, when I decided to get up and speak, it felt like I was floating across the floor and the words seemed to flow completely out of my control. I remember, it seemed as if the congregation was crying out with me and as if they all were hugging me at the same time even though everyone was still in their seats. That day, I joined the church and, needless to say, that made my mother pretty angry as she was not a member, nor did she approve of the sanctified format. Fortunately, she allowed me discover God within this group of worshippers without discouragement. Unfortunately, the congregation’s growth was not proportionate to that of the church, nor proportionate to mine with God. The personal and intimate relationships were usurped by greed and envy. This was probably the first incident which created an aversion to the large church and any discussions of prosperity, at church, within a worldly context. After a couple of years, the reset button was hit on “my” search. I attended church with my mother until I was 15. I grew weary of going thru “her” journey with a complete disregard of my own. We attended at least 20 area churches; each of which we would visit several times and have a full discussion about what we were looking for. How this church or that church provided a means or vehicle for achieving spiritual nirvana. I believed our approaches were just vastly different.

 

My father’s approach was very different from that of my mother. He would “pound” on my spirituality from an intellectual point-of-view, constantly giving me books and articles on the history of civilization; which are the basis of all religion. My dad’s family is Jehovah’s Witnesses, although they never took me on any of the evangelical excursions. He told me last year that they never wanted to push me in one direction or another, but wanted to provide me with a similar (if not the same) spiritual foundation. As I mentioned before, I remember receiving direction from God, and I knew I could talk to my dad about it without provocation; which very dissimilar to discussions with my mom. My dad seemed to join me in my search of a proper relationship. I originally thought this was because our perspectives and beliefs were the same; however, I found out later that he was merely encouraging me and it had very little to do with his beliefs. What I seem to remember the most about my dad’s relationship with God was that it was always “put God first and you can’t go wrong”. I understood that he was a Christian, but I could not understand why he was so interested in Catholicism, the Pilgrim’s Church, and the Holy Apostolic teachings. Today, I still don’t know but he is passionate about it. In addition to put God first, my dad was adamant about exposing me to as much of the world as possible; especially from a spiritual point of view. I remember sitting with several of my dad’s friends and discussing religion from their points-of-view; his friends/family from Africa, Jewish friends, Muslim friends, Hindu friends, Russian friends, English friends, Hispanic Catholics, Iranian friends, even atheists; everyone. I don’t remember details of every discussion, but I remember that if given enough time, we discuss spirituality with anyone. If there was a documentary on PBS or cable about religion, we would watch it; that goes all the way up to last year. What I always got from being around daddy was that, in the big scheme of things, the world is “small” and is completely available to you. God has his arms around this whole thing and there’s nothing wrong with discovering as much as you can while you can.

So, growing up I was exposed to two (2) trains of thought: My mom exposed me to a denominational approach to discovery and my dad took a more monolithic perspective of spirituality. My early beliefs basically fell in the middle; I wanted the intimacy of a small, denominational church; with an instinctive “moderate” perspective of our (Man’s) existence and relationship with God.

 

Becoming an Adult with God

Although my parent’s approaches were different, it was always easy to see that their beliefs were similar. They often expressed the personal and private relationship with God, both thru Jesus Christ. I was introduced to Him by my mother as “the vehicle” and my dad as “his vehicle”. I was always allowed to have “my relationship” but they both made sure they were overseers of my spiritual discovery. Once in college, my discovery took a new path. Most people do not think of religion when they think of your choices for a school. I was very aware of the spiritual background of colleges; specifically HBCUs; specifically Morris Brown and Morehouse. I chose to go to Morehouse for more than just the prestige, scholarship, and proximity to home. Morehouse is Methodist institution, and I felt that being forced into a “religious” practice would add to my learning experience more than going to a place like the University of Michigan where religion was primarily a course of study. Regular chapel sessions and religion study requirements were going to help me get to the discipline I believe I lacked coming up. One event that sticks out in mind was when my girlfriend told me that she would break up with me if I didn’t come with her to church. It was a warm Sunday, and I sat in my room all morning torn between the woman I loved and getting up to go to church. I was playing video games and my friends all were encouraging me to go. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go to church in particular, but I didn’t appreciate, nor did I agree with, the edict that was being placed on the situation. I felt like going based on the fact that my girlfriend was demanding it was as negative to the situation as me not going at all. After a few angry rants and several tears, I decided to get dressed and walk to the church. I talked to God the entire way. I was asking for guidance and perspective, and my calls seemed to go unanswered. This was a completely new experience to me; as far as me praying and feeling empty afterwards, but I made it to church. When I walked in, I saw her sitting with her friends about 5 rows from the front. I walked in, confident and open minded with my heart exposed to receive whatever it was God was trying to tell me on that day. I was very disappointed with sermon and even more disappointed with her friend’s perspective on me actually making it to church. It was as if I was in the middle of some crappy fairy-tale love novel and made it thru the doors just as she thought I wouldn’t come. The light was shinning on me and we were finally able to express our undying love for one another. What a crock of crap!!! Not only was the sermon disappointing to me, the girlfriend and all of her friends vowed to never return to the church because of the pastor’s perspective on women’s role in spirituality and life. I remember thinking I had lost perspective on what church is supposed to be. This situation was the very beginning of my “adulthood”. God didn’t want to add anything to my prayers because they were poorly directed and misguided. I decidedly placed my relationship with my girlfriend before my relationship with Him. And although I was going into a place of worship for Him, I was not doing for the right reason(s).

When my son’s mother and I were dating, we attended church together every Sunday. I remember the decision to go to church was mine and was guided from the right places. I thoroughly enjoyed going to church with her. I knew that she was the girl that I was supposed to be in a relationship with at that time. I have always been self-aware, but that part of my personality began turning into self-absorbed. I was worshiping on a regular basis; doing all of the things I had been taught were the right things to do; however, I was becoming more self-righteous and less humbled by the presence of God. I began to pigeon-hole other people and other perspectives and that was “completely” against God. I felt like getting my little internship in Houston was ordained by God because I had zero experience and was probably less qualified than many other students, but because my relationship with God was so much stronger than everyone else’s, I got the nod. The people who interviewed me could see God in my person and couldn’t help but choose me; like I said, self-absorbed and self-righteous, but no longer self-aware. God would give me everything I need and all I needed to give back was a dutiful approach to worshiping Him. My “baby momma” and I  had problems and I asked God for guidance and, for the second time in my life, came up empty. The irony of it all was that the two times in my “adulthood” that I came up empty were both centered on a female love interest. “I” knew then what to do, tell her it is over and go on with my life; me and “my” God are out of here. Once free from the craziness, I moved on thinking everything was still about me. I win the Intern of the Year Award, I was offered a full scholarship to transfer to Rice University, I opened the door for the first person from a HBCU to be hired into this French-based company, I was a living and breathing example of God’s work for others to follow. Maybe my grandfather’s prophecy of me becoming a pastor could be a reality. The thing that stands out the most during that time was that I was being offered the world to stay in Houston to finish school and work, and when I asked God for guidance, I kept receiving the same answer. I would even regurgitate to the people I was working with, “Thank you, but I have unfinished business back in Atlanta. I think I should finish what I started out there ‘at Morehouse’.” I was back home and in school (excelling), full perspective on what life was about and on top of the world. November 2nd 1995, God humbled me in a way that I didn’t think was possible; I had a son on the way and “my plans” were shattered. That day probably shaped most of my adult life in that I figured out that nothing is promised, nor given to you. I can be the Lord’s most loyal servant, His most shining example, but without proper care and work, all that you have been blessed with can be taken away…at least that’s what I thought then.

 

Being an Adult with God

So here I am 19 years old full of promise, with a baby on the way, a strained relationship with my mother, longing for a relationship with my dad (because I needed someone to talk to), and God swinging on me yet again. From as far back as I can remember, I felt like I was dealing with some form of tragedy every year or so.near death experiences, losing loved ones, and other very emotional events which shape everything I am at the moment. I always thought I was doing things the way God wanted me to, and every time I think I get it, something would happen. I used to always go back to my mom saying “God, ain’t did nothing to you!” I listened to that out of fear, but somewhere along the line it happened…I figured out that God has been doing things “for” me the entire time. I was blessed to be in my position. Nothing was taken away from me with my son’s conception. I was being given something that would have been difficult for me to learn on my own. I was able to find selflessness with others that I never had before. There was a living, breathing, part of me that I was responsible for shaping into a reflection of God image. He was a gift. All of my children are gifts. The hardest lesson to learn (and I still struggle with this at times) is not asking God for guidance, but asking God for help. You’ll see in all of the examples above that I wanted God to “tell” me what to do. A random cab driver made me promise to God that I would ask for his help. Afterwards, the world seemed brand new and that reset button I was looking for went away. It became an accountability and responsibility button that could always be on if I allowed it to be. That was what my parents were teaching me and that is why God has allowed me to continue to live and adjust in His world these 30+ years.

 

Have You Forgotten About Jesus Christ?

As I mentioned, I was raised Southern Baptist, so hell no, I haven’t forgotten about Jesus. We are taught in the New Testament that the way, the truth, and the light and the only vehicle to God is through Jesus Christ. I have always found it interesting that Jesus no one ever speaks to fact that Jesus Christ never asked, nor wanted, this responsibility. He spoke of the truth of His words and that they were words of God, but he made it clear that no one worship any man including himself. His birth, and eventual “death?”, helped the people understand that God is a forgiving God and not the punishing God of the Old Testament; however, God of the Old Testament was forgiving as well. Did he destroy Adam and Eve when they specifically disobeyed Him? But I digress…

The world consists of billions of people from different demographics, backgrounds, cultures, climates, colors, languages, et al. The idea that the single absolute of our world is the based on a Man, even He who is hallowed, creates an interesting dichotomy. Man is imperfect which means that Jesus Christ is not a Man. He is God and all of us, created in God’s image, should follow God’s example and worship Him, come to Him. The example I often use when discussing Faith is that 10s of millions of slaves never had an opportunity to meet, discover, learn, or practice in Jesus Christ’s example. Quote from a pastor (similar quote three times over):

“Well, because they didn’t know, they will be judged on the merits of their life and not the acceptance of Jesus as God’s only begotten son.”

I am not making a commentary on the relevance, or existence, or validity of Jesus Christ; however, I am encouraging people’s Faith which could be called Jesus Christ, and/or Muhammad, and/or Jah, and/or Shangdi, and/or Aten, and/or Yahweh, and hundreds of other names by which all have the same meaning. God, by whatever name, is almighty! Hallowed be thy name! So, “name” is the differentiating factor of whether you are bound for heaven or hell in the afterlife. Or is it Faith? I wonder if the acceptance of Jesus Christ is disrespectful to my ancestors who died in the spirit and worship of other deities. Am I continuing the destruction of the history of my culture of thousands of years with teachings which are possibly only 300 years old to my family? My journey continues…

 

Finally, Equally Yoked

God has helped me take life one day at a time. Recently, He has stressed the importance of the time we have here on earth. I have been blessed with all of you who are reading my blog at the moment, and I am a better man for it. I apologize if my words are against your principle beliefs as that is not my goal. I think about all of my relationships and how the Bible says they should be equally yoked. Biblically, equally yoked is generally defined in Corinthians 6:14-16 (but not limited to):

 

14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?

 

15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

 

16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

 

Although this discussion is very personal to me, I felt inspired to offer as much of myself spiritually to ya’ll just short of my personal and private relationship with God. I am realizing that transparency is the great equalizer to fear. I take pride in my relationship with God and exult with every breath I take and everything I do. I have no regrets because without a journey, one has not lived. I do not fear because my final judgment, nor my life, is predestined; it exists at this very moment, which is gone with each letter I type. Everything I thought I knew and have wanted to “understand” is part of my journey and God is with me always for I am in His image. I live and breathe today eager to share, cultivate, and intensify life with you all.

 

The floor is now open for discussion…or not.

 

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Responses

  1. As an educated Italian American (read: white guy), I was very moved and impressed with your entry on this topic and so thankful I was led to you today. Perhaps a ‘higher power’ led me to you for encouragement.

    I say that because although there are many differences between you and I, I also see many parallels and likenesses as well.

    I was raised Catholic, fell away ‘doing my own thing’ while in my 20’s, and only re-dedicated or “got it” again the last few years through a personal struggle of depression and trials and tribulations that I wish on no one. Though I may look healthy on the outside to most, on the inside I was a blubbering man(?) who was lost in the world. You are exactly right….about asking God/Christ to ‘help’ and keeping that seperate from asking for ‘guidance’.

    Today, I am a non-denominational Christian who does look to Christ (although to be honest I had some issues with your comments on your ancestors belief and your own today and the destruction of your ‘culture’…but that’s a nother email in and of itself) and still struggles and falls daily, but in the last few years I finally came to the conclusion it was my “relationship” and my “walk” with Christ,…not my mothers, or my fathers.

    I am very encouraged and feel blessed today I came across your blog. I enjoyed the educated feel of it, and strong conviction an dpassion in yoru words, but lending the fallible human element of it all that I see in myself.

    Please, feel free to stop by my own blog sometime….It started out a few years ago when I had clinical depression….ready to ‘cash it all in’ as they say…it’s raw at times and sometimes scattered, but it was meant for my own therapy and turned into a journey of re-discovering God (and still making that journey today). God bless.

  2. I don’t know where to begin with this discussion. I find it commendable that you are seeking a deeper relationship and understanding with God. I too am journeying to discover my divine purpose. One thing that I think that you have ignored in your dissertation is obedience to God. As humans, we are all sinners and flawed. God knows that I have fallen and have been ashamed of submitting to my base nature and following my own desires and not God’s desires for me. In my case, I feel like I use sin as a deterrent to God’s call for me. I am deathly afraid of the mission I may be chosen to carry so I try to pull away from the voice and hope that God will decide not to use me. (I’m a modern day Jonah). The point I’m making about obedience is that you speak of your journey with God but little about living a life that follows the ordinances that God puts before us all in order to be in higher communion with God. When we actively live in sin and take matters into our own hands, we are not adhering to God’s commandments and forfeiting blessings. By no means am I saying that bad things cannot happen to good people or good things cannot happen to bad people but what I am saying is that when we are not living according to our purpose we cannot be angry when God is silent. we have closed our hearts from feeling and our ears from listening. Our own voice replaces God’s and we do what pleases us. It is true that we all must find God for ourselves and seek a personal relationship devoid of religious implications and worldly influences. This is the time when one must submit with a contrite heart and fall before the Lord. Only then will we hear what we are afraid to hear and go where we are afraid to go. My advice to you is to read your Bible with an open heart and pray for wisdom, knowledge,and understanding. It is hard to find God when we are inatelly selfish and want God to form to us and not us to God. We cannot diligently seek the face of God when the ties to the things of this world is more important.
    Another thing I have learned is that we don’t have to take this journey alone. We need to fellowship with others in order to gain spiritual growth. That is something I have struggled with. But now I understand that I need friends who take God seriously who I can talk to and vent my spiritual frustrations to. Also it is impossible to do the will of God if salvation is a selfish experience. The gospel is meant to be spread and bring others to the same glorious state that you are in. We are meant to encourage, uplift, and empower one another.
    It is also important to know that even when we are in the presence of God that life still happens and the sun shines on the good and evil alike. We will always have pain. The peace that God gives you just better equips you to deal with it. We learn to be strong enough to weather all things and come out just fine.
    About Jesus: I am a follower of Yeshua. I believe that he is the messiah and the only way to God. He is the only divine revelation to mankind and the only example of perfection. Those who died without knowing the gospel, I believe had to seek communion with God in a way that is natural to us all. All humanity knows God. The difference is that people project their ideologies on God. Ex. Instead of going inward and seeking peace people wants something tangible so they worship objects, ideas, minsters instead of the god, etc… Read Romans 1:18-32.
    Maybe this we got back in touch last year for a reason; so we both be led back to God. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
    Forgive me for being all over the place. It’s hard to write down so many ideas within a little comment box.
    Be blessed and take care of yourself. I hope that the goodness of God rests upon you and grant you the answers you seek. You are always in my prayers and you always have a friend in me.


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