Southern, black girls learn Jesus first and Juvenile second. At least I can definitely attest to this curriculum. Growing up in southeastern North Carolina, in a family that was full of church folk, my place in the church was prepared before mama pushed me out. Sunday school became my university and I had self-promoted myself to assistant dean of the “beginner’s” class. (beginner’s class pre-K-K for those who don’t know.) Church became a second home to me, although I was terrified when the Holy ghost would pay its weekly visit, which was confirmed through shrieks of “hallelujahs and thank you Lords“matched with convulsions and bodies on the floor covered in 300 thread count white sheets.
While Jesus was my best friend ever, I couldn’t practice the tootsie roll or the butterfly with him. He wouldn’t sing little sally walker as I danced along to my favorite part:” hey girl do ya thang, do ya thang switch”. Yes, a true product of the 90’s was I. Validated by my hair bows and color blocked windbreaker outfits outside of Sunday, and ribbon-laced ruffles reserved for nothing but the Sunday sacred. To me, my ability to place my hand on my bended knees, outside of prayer, showed I was a typical black girl and as soon as I started school, that was all I wanted. My obsession with church allowed me to passively bring up Jesus to the class and had me shook when I found out everybody didn’t go to church, let alone know about Jesus. As I grew, I wasn’t aware of secular and sacred, I simply knew, what we do here, we don’t do there. So, it quickly became a game of compartmentalization, get on your knees to pray at home and on Sunday, and bend your knees to stay trendy.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED to dance. I loved to get on the ground and do dances that my parents would’ve raced to kill me over. It was the trend, bend down low, scrub the ground and it became a part of who I was. So much so, to where I’d commonly find myself in the middle of circles and dances battles from middle school to college. My friends and I would practice just to learn the dance before the other so we could have the privilege to teach the rest so we could show out at the next party. So, it wasn’t long before my I answered the black woman call to greatness, the symphonic intro to “back that a*! up.” Anytime I heard bounce, shake or twerk music I couldn’t resist not tooting it up, but there’s something almost innate about Juve’s record, it’s hypnotic in a sense and my favorite song to shake to. So, imagine my physical reaction when I hear the song after my initial sermon…I looked like an addict with a year’s supply of the good stuff on the dance floor.
My knees literally, buckled. Buckled! As if I twisted my ankle walking on heels, down a cobbled street. (GIRL!) In that moment, I realized that now, I can’t bust it down anymore…yeah…i said it LOL! I can’t afford to be seen dropping it low, because who would take anything, I have to say about Jesus seriously?! What damage could I cause, by letting loose in a club? Better yet, what kind of person would trust me with Jesus info after seeing me in here? So, I stood there the entire night, suppressing heavy basslines and rethinking how I define common words now, like dance, fun and sin. I knew this day would come eventually and I’ve dreaded it for soooo long, I’d have to sit my butt in a seat and ignore the ratchet lyrics that still resonated with me.
After the first-time experiencing night life after deciding to live a life for Christ, I decided that maybe I shouldn’t go again. People of God don’t go to these places, although my then, 24-year-old definition of was still wrapped up in the music and trending dance moves. I had given up sex, drinking, smoking and profanity for God. The one thing I didn’t want to give up was the music and dancing, I know, it was weird! now, when my unsaved friends want to include me in their plans, its usually involved getting food or movies, it became awkward to hear them make plans to go out. While they were getting ready, I’d help with hair, zipping up dresses, giving fashion advice and when they left, I’d study my bible, preparing for my initial sermon. I’d spend the night feeling justified in my decision to stay home and study, but felt as if my salvation didn’t take effectively, because I was left with the desire to go out and felt a little bit of torture from sitting out.
Little did I know, that this feeling would carry over into my now. Over the span of time, especially during my active preaching days have I been ‘out’. Mostly to homecoming events or to hear my friend’s go-go band. (I LOVE GO-GO MUSIC!) anytime the band is in town I go to hear them and as the bongos and cowbells ring out in the air, I simply sway. Trying to be mindful not to shake it like dog lmbo, I simply rock, as if I’m in the youth choir again. Standing on the sidelines, my bestie and I watching people smile and dance, but all I can think about is God and if he’s upset that I’m here, or is this guilt from my own expectations. I think about if the people there knew I was a Baptist, shouting, minister, how would they see me? Probably the same way I’d look at a preacher in the club, with a funny face and questions of the authenticity of their anointing and commitment to their calling, if they were called. After being checked, by my bestie about allowing my guilt to choke any enjoyment out of the present, I took a step back.
Over time, I’ve asked pastors, spiritual parents and those I trust about going out. How can I live a consistent, saved life, without being shut up in the house except for work or church? I’ve gotten a few answers that were similar in nature: the place isn’t sinful, it’s the attitudes that permit sin to flow there, in a sense I agree, it’s more than obvious when you step back and look. Mind you, I only went out about 3 times a year, including homecoming, no kidding! After prayer and maturation, when I go to hear my favorite go-go band in these places, I’ve ended up ministering to people, prophesying to random guys, talking about Jesus to people who’re trying to flirt with me. It’s been amazing and hilarious all at once. The comparison of the feeling in my ankles to become light and shout for Jesus in church versus the feeling in my knees for juvenile were opposing forces. I’m not necessarily saying twerking is bad, but for me, there’s was a spirit of competition and seduction accompanied me when I had the desire to do so.
I said all of this to say, I realized that my guilt was deformed in a way. No, it doesn’t look good to be a minister and being a space for night life, yet I had to confront my expectation of the place, the music, the people, the activity there and my role and behavior while there. I had the false sense to be responsible for the sin that may be conceived there, for hearing the profanity in the music, for smelling alcohol filled laughs. I realized that just because I’m in a place doesn’t mean I’m responsible for what happens there, but it does mean I must be aware while there. In addition, I was taught to condemn before finding where grace is, for myself in understanding the transition between secular and sacred living.
I don’t want this to be too long, but essentially, I realized that my definition of a thing also defines my role in the thing. Am I sinful? Yes, it’s my innate sense of being, but that’s why Jesus came. Does my proclivity means I lack Jesus? No, it’s an indicator of what’s sensitive to my spirit and to be alert. The same way we’ve seen people shout and buck in church, not because they truly feel it, but simply because that’s where it happens. It’s the same way anywhere. Your nature can be threatened by what you surround yourself in and that’s where the danger lies, yet you can choose to be committed to your nature in Christ.