Skip to main content

Am I Being Baptized or Am I Drowning?

i started preaching on accident.
and my life has been in complete chaos ever since.

On a cold day in February, a colleague of mine emailed a few people asking if we wanted to preach a chapel service at Union Theological Seminary. Upon first read, I said "Hell No!" I mean like, WTF? I had never preached before in my life. Matter of fact, I started seminary telling everyone that I wasn't a preacher. I simply wasn't interested in doing ministry in that way. But there was something that whispered to my soul that brisk morning that led me to reply with a hesitant "Yes. I'll do a lil somethin' somethin." I hadn't planned on writing a homily. I thought I'd do a spoken word piece that was infused with a lil scripture here and there, maybe even squeeze in a song or two. Some kinda way my spoken word piece turned into an exegetical exploration as I fell in love with the wonders of hermenuetics more and more. It was a beautifully frightening moment that I cherish... and despise.

My life has been a tumultuous rollercoaster ever since I opened my mind and my mouth to the will and the word of God. This little "accident" has been the thorn in my side, the dream I never knew I had, the nightmare that won't go away. After saying "Yes" to this calling to go into ministry 4 years ago (and into seminary last August), I have been met with such harsh life lessons married with amazing moments of encouragement, new friends who have become family paired with difficult separations, and most recently, depression. We don't like that word. And for good reason. People play around with it too much. For those of you who know what it's like to cry everyday--to feel like you're constantly sinking, to feel alone in a room full of people, to hear your praises on people's lips and feel nothing, to walk across a bridge and the thought of jumping faintly crosses your mind--you know the reality of depression and how it can immobilize you...how it can keep you in bed far beyond the designated 8 hours...how it can distort your vision and displace your aspirations. It seems like the more I step into this thing called "ministry," the more I feel as if I'm falling into an abyss.

There are days when I don't know if I'm being baptized or if I'm drowning. What is this anguish I feel amidst this apparent anointing? What is this loneliness amidst the praise of people? 
I never thought ministry would be easy. Few people are lucky enough to have a pastor that talks openly about depression and other mental health issues among clergy. Yet, I guess I didn't expect the post-church brunch invitations to fall off so quickly.  I didn't expect the check-ins by people I thought were mentors to halt so abruptly. I hadn't properly prepared for the coffee-dates and happy hours with "friends" to never make it on the calendar--for the foundation of what was my support circle to crumble and melt into the quick sand along with my sanity. I simply Didn't Sign Up For This!

The quickness with which these events have happened reminds me of Jesus' post-baptism moment. In Matthew 4:1, the writer says that Jesus was "led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." Almost as quickly as he was baptized by John and affirmed by God, Jesus is led into a harrowing encounter with the devil himself in which he was forced to test his faith in the loneliness of the sunken place. It made me think about the series of events that have taken place since my "accident" differently. Almost as quickly as I walked into this ministry thing, I was snatched away into the wilderness to wrestle with myself. I've been thinking a lot about what I believe about God--and myself--in the post-baptism, post-theophanic moment in this wilderness. What do you believe about yourself when you're alone in the gym after church while everyone else is drinking mimosas? What do you believe about your faith--your God--when you're forced into a quiet place to wrestle with the devil yourself?

I'm learning how to worship in the wilderness...again. I'm learning how to find warmth in this sunken place--how to wrestle without hurting myself. I'm learning to be okay without the comforts of my pre-baptism life. Perhaps, the wilderness is the Clearing--this painfully intriguing space of solitude.

and until I come out, if I come out, I shall wrestle...and go to therapy...and try to keep my head above water.

-----
For those in crisis:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255

The Samaritans 24-hours Crisis Hotline
212-673-3000


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

It's Cheaper To Die

This past December, I sat down with my checking accounts after my rent was paid, and I added up all of the past due medical bills that had been piling up for months (some, for years). I deduced that I had the funds to finally pay off the $500+ of unpaid bills--bills from the colonoscopy I had in 2014 and the biopsies I got done in November (nothing malignant was found). I was so proud of myself for paying off my medical bills at the end of the year. It felt like a tiny weight of debt was lifted from my aching back.
In January, however, I got slammed with a new set of unexpected and hefty medical bills and, honestly, my friends, it's cheaper to die. 😶
When you go to the doctor or dentist these days, there is a lot of lack of clarity about how much things cost. I knew I'd have to pay for some of the colonoscopy and x-ray, and I did so up front, but I wasn't expecting the unexpected remainder that my insurance suddenly decided not to cover to slap me across the face with th…

Surviving the Community that Supports R. Kelly (and Men Like Him)

Read Finding Love After Sexual AssaultHere
_______________________
My brilliant colleague, Danielle Williams Thiam, preached a sermon this fall on the rape of Tamar (2 Samuel 13). In her sermon she pointed out all the ways in which, not just Amnon, but the community and world in which Tamar lived participated in her rape. "Rape is a communal sin," she preached. I honor her words as a sexual assault survivor and as an advocate for holding the collective responsible for the violation of women's bodies, particularly the bodies of black and brown girls. ______________________
For every person who knew that Deacon so-and-so (who was in with the pastor) was touching little girls and turned their heads cuz they didn't want to 'fall out' with the pastor-
REPENT.
For every person who stood outside a closed door knowing that what was going on behind that door involved an abuse of power that ravaged a female body-
REPENT.
For every lawyer who knowingly defended a guilty…

Pile Up Your Affirmations

I haven't blogged in a while. I suppose it's due to many reasons. First, many of you know that I relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina at the beginning of April. I got the offer of a lifetime to come down here and do full-time ministry, focusing on the fields of spiritual formation and community outreach--which are two of my favorite things in ministry. I left New York after 8 LONG years of hustling and self-discovery, saying "yes" to God and the unknown yet again. For my final sermon in New York, I preached about God's command to varying groups of people in the book of Genesis to "fill the earth" (Gen 1:28, Gen 9:1, Gen 9:7). I  knocked down the Towers of Babel that I'd built over the years and I ventured forth into the mystery. 
This journey has been a tumultuous one. It has been one of many ups and downs over the past 18 months. For the most part, I am grateful--grateful for the opportunities that have come my way--for the accolades, for the aw…