My Aunt Mavis and I were on the phone the other day. We were having one of our many phone fellowships. She is an A.M.E. minister’s wife and serves as an awesome encouraging force in the Christian church. Anytime I can get her opinion, I take it. We were placing our own problems and fears at the altar. She shared what she was in the midst of. She talked about her grandchildren, who I miss often. She asked me how things were with her siblings. She made space for me to talk about my work life and ambitions as a library worker.
We made one another laugh with a few choice expressions. But when we talk about the Savior and his presence in our lives… I truly feel connected to my aunt.
When we refer to the goodness of Jesus, each of us is filled with joy.
I asked her: Is there a song you can recommend to me that helps you.
She said: “Exodus”. Specifically, the song is called Deliver Me (This is my Exodus).
This song was a Dove Award recipient in 2018. It was recorded by Donald Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers. I have several Donald Lawrence tracks in my music collection. But I had only heard “Exodus” during an impromptu car trip to Beech Grove Baptist Church last Friday. My aunt and my cousins (who are like extended mother, sister and brother to me) needed to run to the church to do some preparation for an event.
I have been having an Exodus on an epic scale. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an “exodus” is movement of a large group away from some place. In the Greek, the Collins Dictionary says an exodus is “going out of the way”.
Last October, I had my last alcoholic beverage. I had been using alcohol to fight my loneliness and ultimately the fear that comes up from not fitting in with everyone else. I was so afraid of my different-ness that a good drink was often used as a buffer against social environments in which I felt un-prepared for.
Whenever someone aggressive, more extroverted, or brave intimidated me, I would use alcohol to numb feelings of regret, rejection, and unworthiness. I also used it as an exodus, a running away from who I was deep inside.
I was afraid to be different and alcohol helped stretch my desires out so far that the desire to connect with people who were “not safe” outweighed the desire for self-care.
Since I stopped drinking, evaluating has been just freaking HARD… so complex. When I check in with God and look at myself, I see pieces that I never knew. Some of the new pieces make me laugh. But most of them send me into fits of mourning. Although I have much more peace and positivity inside now, there are still rough episodes.
And I have to stop and process those mixed-up emotions.
I have been bravely attacking bad habits that limit my ability to be emotionally, mentally, and physically present.
It’s been a scattering to see what actually works best.
It’s troubling as I discover things that I need to get rid of.
When I heard “EXODUS” on the radio, I had been out of the “gospel” loop.
I’ve been rotating alternative rock songs, pop songs, and specific gospel tracks on my smart-phone.
I have taken to listening to our K-LOVE affiliate when I spend time with my friend running errands in Baton Rouge, LA.
I had not truly heard “Exodus” before. The conversation that had taken place between my aunt and her children in the car on the way to Beech Grove Baptist Church about this Exodus song felt disconnecting.
My Aunt Mavis told me that she had been meditating on this track. I similarly told her that I had been playing and re-playing Kirk Franklin’s “Father Knows Best”. Examining Franklin’s track and “EXODUS” is quite enlightening when looking at my own journey.
Father Knows Best by Kirk Franklin talks about the mysterious plan of God and the idea that believers never truly know the reason he takes people, things, and situations away from us.
This is my Exodus reflects a new take on an old story, the migration of the Israelites to a new homeland. The Israelites in the second book of the bible must struggle with the tyrants of Egypt to eventually turn away and scatter to a new land.
Father Knows Best refers to Isaiah’s prophecy about the Jehovah. Isaiah said of God “Your ways are not my ways… (Isa. 55)”
Exodus is about healing our souls…and how we un-willingly hurt ourselves because healing paths are blocked our refusal to be humble with ourselves.
I believe our going away, our leaving, our Exodus has everything to do with believing and hoping past the people, things, and relationships that have hung on to us like anchors at the bottom of the deepest lake.
As a disabled person, my Exodus has been learning to trust God when it comes to searching for the people and things that are custom-made for me.
There are billions of people in this world. I believe that God is a God that clears space for us. He can clear the way for us, driving away those people and things that are not healthy. But we MUST be willing to look deep at the core of our close relationships and face the painful reality. And we are not always ready to do that.
God is not going to make you depart a situation if your pride is not ready to leave it. This goes for every destructive pattern and relationship in your way.
We cannot scatter ourselves or our resources on the water of life if we are bound by any abusive structure. Abusive structures are any substance or person that is keeping us bound.
When we start relationships, the need for closeness is so desperate. We cling to the first person willing to accept our broken parts. This closeness becomes more layered if the person accepting our broken parts is someone who we grew up with.
Sometimes our need for “togetherness” and mutuality is stronger than our need to choose what’s best for us.
I used to believe that I needed to be together with family at the sacrifice of my own sanity. I needed to be together and mutual in order to be (good). Any different choice was bad.
But this is my exodus. I cannot be a slave to anything that draws me away from the love of God. Anything that disturbs the peace in my heart must be examined.
The father God knows best. And God’s way is better than my own selfish way.
I am still mourning. I still get truly scared.
But one day I will be totally delivered. One day soon, God will give me total peace that none can understand.
In recent years, I have given up what I used to love… or what I thought I used to love. The spiritual war toward deliverance is about self-control, self-discipline, and accountability, among other qualities.
On the push toward a new me, there is a struggle to release the past.
You must claim your own exodus, and pray and plead for those that are not ready to do the work.
Don’t ruin your exodus journey by refusing the clearing up of the brush. God has cleared much hurt from my life. And I am still working on my freedom. I needed someone committed to seeing me the way God already sees me.
I needed my best friend Greg to help me discover the person I was without the guilt and trauma of my family structure.
I needed a therapist to help me learn about the hidden triggers within my own temper. I needed a new network of loving support to make hard, difficult and new choices.
The network is incomplete. But I love the person I am becoming. I am on the exodus and I believe that Father God knows every new path I must take.
I am straining to let God’s light in. I’ve discovered that competition does not serve me well. I’ve learned that quiet observation is better than yelling to prove that I’m right, even if it turns out I am. I used to believe I needed to be the loudest voice.
Before I began my exodus, I watched films without unpacking them. I heard music without asking myself what it meant to me. I joined environments without meeting crucial needs I had.
I still struggle with anxiety and its triggers but I know that conquering anxiety is all about understanding our bodies. We must listen to the tones of people’s voices, the intention behind actions, the tugging of our hearts when we feel fear. We must release away our authentic voices in a calm, safe environment.
I had a trigger today. Some said something to me that literally ripped my heart from its chambers.
I want whoever is reading this to know: WORDS have power and they damage places that the eye cannot see.
Some way God allowed me to stay silent when I was verbally assaulted. Luckily, I had a non-judgmental friend to process my anger and trigger with.
I’m glad that God allowed me to hold my tongue before I acted in anger and malice.
We don’t always see how aggression and anger from others, can wear us thin. For black men and women, we come into the world front-loaded with anxiety.
Before we can understand the anxiety in relationships, we become stuck in the anxieties of racism and intolerance.
If we ever learn to express our anxieties around racism appropriately, we then can tackle the triggers and pain of mental illness.
But sadly, some of us never reach beyond that first tier of “racial anger”, the problem of us versus the others.
When you’re African-American the sources that drive anger, anxiety, and mental imbalance blend together to create a confusing mix of terrifying emotions.
Le’Andria Johnson sang: “All I seem to do is hurt me”. We don’t always see how we are killing ourselves. We don’t always see how we numb our pain. I had to learn how I was hurting myself before I could learn how to love myself again.
There are still days when pain blazes up. I still fight anxiety. But I can thank my colleagues, my church community, and my former instructors and mentors for choosing to see me in terms of my future self.
I am growing day by day. I am creating new memories. I am upholding new values. I am a constant work in progress. But for the very first time, there is REAL AUTHENTIC JOY in this journey. And it’s a joy that I found by being patient and kind to me and those around me.
There is still bread to cast on the water. There are still new roads to discover.
The beginning is the Genesis, the Exodus is the migration, and finally we separate. I am ready to separate because I’m certain that God will be me wherever I will go.