Sing it Kierra!
“I don’t know if you have noticed, I’m doing me and I love it. I just ran through the fire. Please don’t judge me.”
Piping in the background is my new theme song. The lyrics wrap around me like a veil.
“Oh my goodness! Natasha is getting married! She just posted a picture of herself in a wedding gown on Instagram. Look at that laugh! She must be so happy! We are happy for her.” Like after like and comment after comment, the blind party guests all watch in wonder and some in relief, thrilled that I will no longer be the single woman at church.
Cutting through their comments and leaving their “likes” to sit there, I am transported back to childhood.
Growing up in a traditional Southern Black Baptist church, it was “MANdatory” that you give your life to Christ and “get saved from your sins” by the age of 13. Each year, we would have a revival that ran for a week and lasted sometimes until midnight. Songs, testimonies, sermons, shouts.
The older men and women in church would prepare us years before we turned 13, as that was the prime year to say “I do” to Jesus. I attended faithfully. I even played the piano until I got tired of playing the same old song. “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” in the red hymnal became my nemesis.
“Why do we have to sing the same song every Sunday for years? What if I want to play a new song?” I asked. My questions were met with strong disapproval.
One day I looked at my cousin and said, “I am not going down to the altar. I’m not playing that song again.” She assured me that I was setting myself up for scrutiny and punishment if I did not. That sent my central nervous system into overdrive. I knew the protocol. I knew not to be disrespectful even when I felt disconnected. Feeling completely emotionless, I once again went down to the altar to belt out melodies from the keys.
“Yes, church, sing on!”
The heart is honest, but the mind lies, and the lips are the moderator of them both.
I gave my life to Christ that night. I repeated all the words that I was prepared for years to say. Jesus was now my Lord and Savior. I was born again and was baptized the next month on a set Sunday.
Down into the water I went, and I came up. RISING…Where were the doves? Where was my “Hallelujah”? I could not locate it. I knew it was a lie. I was going through the motions, pretending like everyone else. But I had to be washed in white. I had to be made clean. I couldn’t have any stains on my white dress. I had to, I had to…
Stop right there. Whoever said “HAD”?
My heart loved God; my mind knew that my contrived “salvation declaration” was a lie; and my lips uttered in agreement to please everyone who beamed with pride that I had presented myself as part of Christ’s Bride. As always, I had done what I was told to do. I had received my marching orders and gotten in line.
Years later when I said my vows in my wedding gown, my heart, my mind, and my mouth were all in agreement. Then, I aligned with another set of rules: “Smile. Wave. Fake it until you make it. And when you get home, you can take that mask off.” One night, shredded and shamed-separated from my family and my friends, I crouched in the corner of a dark basement and screamed, “My father would kill you if he were alive!” And out of nowhere a mysterious exorcism of sorts took place. I was able to move his body off of me and toss him across the room without lifting a finger. He doesn’t even remember it, or at least he claims not to.
In that and moments after, I knew that I had God’s power without the pomp and circumstance.
This never-ending cycle of bowing down to people in “positions of power” and caring what others thought of me broke me down to nothing. And it was when I hit my wit’s end that I soared from a bottomless pit to a palace called freedom.
Now, as I look at the picture I’ve posted of myself in a wedding gown, I recognize the angel over my shoulder telling me to rise up and reveal my true self.
I got my power back, and now I stand in it to advocate for myself and every other woman that has been objectified, disparaged as “getting it” (sex), or labeled “crazy” because she is single over 30 and 40 years old. I stand in front of the mirror, smile, and tell myself, “Don’t rush. You make your own rules.” Age doesn’t always equal wisdom, for if it did, they would never have placed a 10-year-old at a piano who wasn’t “saved”…yet.
When I hear whispers of scrutiny, my answer is simple: you don’t know God’s plan for my life. He didn’t consult with a council, the pastor, or the “man” when he called me. I am not wearing a white dress to prove my purity or anything else. I am wearing cowrie shell beads around my waist, a threaded band that holds my breastplate of righteousness. And I no longer produce a cacophony of sounds from a wooden piano; I boldly sing, “I’m doing me and I love it. I just ran through the fire. Please don’t judge me.”
* Wedding gown provided by Amanda, a donor for Girl Rising.
Natasha Stevens is passionate about humanitarian efforts ranging from empowering girls and women through education, writing, counseling, and speaking engagements, to hands on mission work in various places, including the eradication of forced child labor and early marriage through human trafficking. She loves a hearty laugh in summer gardens as much as a healthy bowl of oats in winter. She enjoys interacting with people from all walks of life, giving back where needed, and ministering the love and grace of Jesus without a title.