Ain’t Nobody Praying For Me
“Bitch all my grandmas dead, So ain’t nobody prayin’ for me, I’m on your head, ay” Kendrick Lamar-Element
You know when you tell people you’re going through rough times and they respond with “I’m praying for you”? That response right there was their prayer. Sometimes I chop it up to a lazy response or just a common reaction but other times I see it as judgment and condescension. Bitch if that’s your prayer don’t bother, pray for your damn self!
Florence considered herself to be a Prayer Warrior. As a kid I imagined her and the other Evangelists were standing on the Frontline of the evil war using their superhuman prayer powers to battle the devil with the spirit of the Holy Ghost. I’m pretty sure my introduction to religion came from my grandma Florence (maternal grandma). While mom was doing whatever she needed to do on Sundays grandma was dragging me to church. I’d rather be anywhere in the world instead of sitting in a pew trying not to fall asleep. Service would start from 10 am and last until God knows when. My biggest fear was that the pastor would get carried away praying for someone in the crowd that needed Jesus but they were too afraid to come up. A few times I swore he was calling for me and I volunteered as Tribute so we could end this thing and go to the buffet. I walked my little silly self to the front and received a cross of extra virgin olive oil across my forehead and a mush backward. I wasn’t sure if I was actually catching the holy spirit or if I got dizzy from being mushed so hard. I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. Apparently, we’re bad people and God made all of us. If we pray to God or Jesus his son who’s also God and admit that we’re bad people all the bad shit we did would be forgiven, Right? If I was lucky we could get some Jesus crackers to eat and a little bit of grape juice. This was clutch for saving me from the death of starvation or the embarrassment of my stomach being louder than the pastor. Sometimes I got to go to Sunday school in which little kids could experience a dumbed-down version of the Bible. I gained a better understanding of how God made us all and we had to be good or go to Hell. I even got to learned love, in love, like and marriage can be 4 different things. Love is a noun and a verb. It’s a thing that is an action that we take. You can have feelings of love for someone but you can also choose to love them. A lot of times we see family members with that state of emotional indifference. I’ve found myself choosing to love my family members with the absence of liking them. Some people are pretty fucked up and you don’t necessarily want or need them messing up your energy. In love can be exciting but the thrill can easily leave.
One morning grandma dropped me off at the Sunday school building and she went to the adult church in the main building across the road. This day for some odd reason grandma picked me up before services were through. I was about 4 or 5 years old and this was in the ’80s. I got in the car on the passenger side and hadn’t put on my seat belt. Grandma started the car and for some reason, she started racing towards a tree. All I remember is grandma screaming and the next thing you know I’m no longer in the seat but my head is stuck in the windshield. I open my eyes to see nothing but blood and I fell asleep. I open my eyes up to see a white man telling me to wakeup. “Nooo, I’m sleepy,” I say. He shakes me and says you can’t go to sleep. I remember a cloth being placed over my head, a sharp needle poke, and then some dull tugging and pulling. My grandma had broken her nose, ribs, and possibly an arm. Eventually, we healed and headed back to the Sunday routine.
When she was up to the task she took me back to Sunday school and she went across to the main church. Do you remember those little fashion designer plastic plates where you switch up the look and rub the crayon over it to make your design? I was creating the new haute couture fashions of the ’80s and as I attempt to grab a red crayon and a little girl stops me in my tracks. “You can’t share crayons with me!” I look at her wondering why and before asking she tells me I look like Frankenstein with those strings in my head. I wasn’t aware that my head had been shaved and there were stitches in their place. I was just a naive little girl who wanted to color. Another girl who seemed to feel bad for me assured me that I could share with her. She stared at my forehead and asked me what happened. I told her we got in an accident, my grandma hit a tree because my Dad cut my Mom’s car brakes. Kids say the darndest things.
My mom and Dad were towards the end of their marriage. My grandmother stayed with us and was a heavy influence on my mother. According to grandma, Dad cut my mom’s brakes because he was trying to hurt my mom and didn’t expect my grandma to take the car that day. I didn’t blame God, I half blamed my dad, and blamed the other half on my grandma. If Dad cut the breaks how did we make it safely to church? As an adult, the story didn’t make sense. I remember visiting with my dad during the separation and looking into his eyes. “Dad, why did you try to kill me and grandma? ” He didn’t respond but instead had a sad look on his face like he had no idea what to say, not because he was guilty but because how do you have this conversation with a 5-year-old. He changed the subject and assured me he loved me.
When I grew older Grandma would take me to different churches. Around this time I may have been 7. One night we had to go to the Epostolic Temple and they had an overnight prayer session. I got the idea that the goal was to make everyone speak in tongues and once that happened we could go home. I closed my eyes real tight and prayed to God waiting for the Holy language to pass through my little lips, it didn’t happen. After warm Extra Virgin Oil palms laid across my forehead, a woman prayed for me in a foreign language. It sounded like “hummamuma sunda huma shia” or something like that. I was really tired and really hungry, why wasn’t God sharing with me the scared language? Am I not hungry enough? Am I not worthy? I started to try to replicate the sounds I heard everyone else making. The lady praying for me was not convinced, I was embarrassed for mocking the gift of speaking in tongues. It seemed like forever but we finally went home in the wee hours of the morning.
For Christmas when I was 11 years old I got three great gifts. The first gift was my period. Obviously, the first gift wasn’t so great but it was a sign that I was growing into a woman. The second gift was Mary J Blige- What’s the 411, my first CD. The third a purple leather King’s James Version Bible. I cherished the latter two gifts and loathed the first. Really Jesus? You gonna give me vaginal bleeding for Christmas? This how you treat me? I swore that my grandmother once said that we have periods because Eve ate the apple in the Garden of Eden. What a fucked up punishment for eating an apple. I took my Bible and set a goal to read it every day. There was a calendar of scriptures to read on specific days so you could pace yourself for the year. I started promptly on New Years Day. As I read I found that the book of Genesis was the easiest to understand. It helped that I had read the kindergarten version at Sunday school when I was younger. As I read further through the Bible I found it harder to understand. The words were foreign so I utilized a dictionary or asked my mom. The stories were fucked up and contradictory. I had a hard time believing in the Bible so I blamed the human error of writing and translation. Sometimes I told myself God is so smart and sees the bigger picture maybe when I’m in heaven I’ll understand.
After being married for 3 years Cris finally gave in to letting me have a baby. Cris was Agnostic and I wasn’t sure of my own beliefs. When I was pregnant I started going to a little church in Fredericksburg. I had my hangups about Christianity in the past. First of all, you me to tell me God just made two people and the kept having sex with each other until we were all here? There’s no dinosaurs in the Bible but their bones are still here? How is Jesus God and the son at the same damn time? When Jesus died why did he call out to his Father if he is him? If God punishes bad people why do innocent babies die?
This little church I joined seemed to be different from the others. I was looking for purpose but moreover, I wanted to be right with God since I was expecting a child. I can’t lead my son to a life of sin and if there is a God, I want to go to heaven with him. I found this new church online. It appeared to be a white modern church. The pastor was young probably in his 30’s and preached from the Bible, not from your wallet. It was set in a high-school auditorium on Sundays and the church band rocked. The lead singer yodeled “His Great Name” and the spirit of Jesus flowed through me and a tear or two left my eyes.
When I first walked in the door a welcoming older gentleman handed me a paper and thanked me for coming. As Sundays went on I sat and worshiped in the church knowing no one and paid my tithes because God would give them back to me in blessings. A few times the older gentleman recognized me and would speak. I mean I was the token black girl, how could he forget. At some point, I was invited to bible study to further fellowship and get closer to God. I went to the gentleman’s home on a weekday. I met his wife Diane, his daughter, his daughter’s husband, and the lead singer of the church band. We talked about the Bible what the scriptures meant, how they applied to our lives and prayer. We shared our personal struggles and lessons and were there for each other.
I had my son in January and the church was there for me. They sent meals to eat, washed my dishes and helped me with my laundry. Diane went as far as watching my son when I returned to work. This was a good church I thought. They help the homeless and raised awareness for sex trafficking victims. They welcomed everyone and left the judgment to God. Diane and I formed a very close bond, she was my best friend.
My grandmother Florence died 3 months after my son was born. I thought we’d lose her sooner due to strokes, heart attacks, and high blood pressure. She was taken away from us because of cervical cancer that metastasized throughout her body. I tried to keep it together, I prayed and cried and stayed strong for the family. I had a little one to take care of, I couldn’t lose it now. Florence didn’t have life insurance. She’d been living with my mom before her passing and my mom tried to take care of everyone off of the strength of her back. To bury my grandmother it was going to cost $3000. My uncles didn’t help, my mother didn’t have it and my grandma had no husband. I reached out on social media for help and everyone just offered prayers and condolences.
My mom reached out to the church my grandmother had been a member of. The pastor wouldn’t even attend the funeral. She complained that my grandmother didn’t pay all her tithes. If you knew my grandmother you would know that she was a social worker who took care of everyone. She would let drug addicts, homeless people, alcoholics, and whores stay with us. She made sure you got the help you needed when the world let you down. She deserves praise and gratitude. Where are the statues for Florence? Or at the very least support for her death by her church?
I didn’t directly ask my church for financial help, I just appreciated the prayer and emotional support. I didn’t expect that from them, they didn’t know Florence. I prayed to God to help me find the funds for her burial. I ended up securing the funds from a high-interest personal loan. One day while conversing with my church best-friend Diane, she asked me if the church gave me the money. “What money? What are you talking about? ” She told me that during a Bible study session I wasn’t apart of, the group put together some money for my grandmother’s funeral. No one ever told me about this fundraiser and I never received a dime. Diane confronted the pastor and he acted oblivious to the situation. The church had pocketed the money and kept it moving. The one church I trusted made me lose my faith once again. I never returned. It’s not the money that bothered me the most it was the deception. I don’t think I’ll ever believe in the concept of a Holy church again but my faith has somewhat remained.