I have asked a few of my favourite writers/bloggers to respond to the Jesus Feminist discussion questions. The discussion questions are meant for small group discussions or journalling but I wanted to make a bit of room on the blog for each of us to respond to them, too.
From Chapter 3: Tangled Up Roots
How did your parents’ stories or family history impact your understanding of God and your place in the kingdom?
Weigh in with your response to the day’s question in the comments.
One commenter’s response will win a free signed copy of the little yellow book.
Today, spoken word poet and writer, Amena Brown is responding to our question.
I come from a long line of preachers, musicians, ministers, praying people, and altar builders. My great great great grandfather was a runaway slave. When he made his way to freedom he discarded his slave master’s name for a name he chose for himself, John Dabaptist Brown, which is how my dad’s side of the family inherited Brown as a last name.
My great grandfather, John David Brown, became a bishop in the Church of God in Christ. Most of his children became ministers, including my grandfather, John, who I grew up watching preach. Bishop Brown’s grandson, my dad James, also became a minister who played keys and built altars with his bare hands.
On my mom’s side, my great great grandfather was a sharecropper and pastor. My Great Grandma Sudie never held a ministry position or title, but she taught me my first hymns and bible books. My Grandma, affectionately known as Mother Lee, played piano for church choirs starting at the age of twelve. My mom’s relationship with God was my first testament that Jesus was not a fictional character or a religious figure; that he was real and present and that connection to him was life changing.
I always have a moment, right before I go on stage, a moment where I don’t feel sophisticated, or awesome, or worthy. A moment where I still feel like the girl with the unfashionable mushroom hairdo and big glasses, the nerd who would rather find her face in a book than have an awkward conversation. And I wonder why would God choose me? Why should anyone out there listen to me or hear what I have to say?
Then I think of my parents, grandparents, great grandparents, ancestors throughout my bloodline who I never had the opportunity to meet. I remember that I come from a line of righteousness. Not perfect people, but hard-working, bible-reading, Jesus-preaching people. I remember that many of them prayed for me even though they knew they’d never get the chance to meet me.
I’ll remember my Grandma Sudie gathering the mothers of the church in her living room and feeling their prayers like dew on my skin while they held hands and waited for the Spirit to move. I’ll remember sitting in the wood pews of a church my great grandfather built, where my grandfather learned to preach, where my dad directed the choir and played piano.
I remember the joy in my grandma’s fingers when she played the piano keys with such strength as if the weight of her fingers could force more hope out of those hymnal words. I remember how my mom can hear worry or doubt or hopelessness in your voice, how she won’t just promise to pray for you later. To to her any conversation is a few words away from being a prayer. She’ll talk to God about you right then, in the middle of your tears, in the middle of your mind’s curse words.
I think of them and remember when I walk on stage with my head up and shoulders back. I stand for them; to represent the lives they lived, what they sacrificed, that they are a part of the reason I’m here. Hopefully I stand here in my generation, so someone else can stand in the place they are called to long after I’m gone.
I’m reminded that it’s God who makes me worthy and that I’ll never quite understand why he chose someone with all of my insecurities, misgivings, and weird things, but he did. So instead of fighting him on that, each time I walk with him, right up to that microphone, standing on the prayers of righteous people that were here generations before me, hoping to speak the truth, hope, love, and grace that they lived and died for.
As I walk offstage, I’ll hum a hymn my grandmother taught me and be thankful.