By Tanay Adams
As a Black woman with roots in the south, I grew up with the back of my thighs glued to a red church pew almost every day of the week. Monday was Intercessory Prayer night, Tuesday was Bible Study, Wednesday was the Womens’ Ministry, Thursday night was the Usher Board meeting, Friday was Friday Night Service, Saturday was Choir Rehearsal, and Sunday was of course church; with both a morning and evening service. There was always a reason to be in church, and even in the summer, Vacation Bible school meant church throughout the week and on the weekend, including the revivals churches love to do every summer.
I forever live for the complimentary plate of fried chicken, string beans, and a roll, with some butter cookies or at least the yellow cake with chocolate frosting for dessert that we’d receive in the basement after service. Still, I will say that some lessons were permanently drilled into me because of this constant churching. Of all the lessons I’ve heard throughout my life, the one that all church folk takes seriously is to not, in any way, mess with anything deemed ungodly or considered works of the devil.
This rule makes Halloween a holiday that’s prohibited, Harry Potter the anti-christ, and is the root of the Christmas tree debate in Christian houses during Christmas. These things become questionable because Harry Potter incorporates magic which can be considered “witchcraft,” Halloween is all about embracing taboo and the things hidden by night. The Christmas tree was initially taken from pagans during the Winter Solstice Festival (the conflict comes in because it is outside of Christianity). The usage or solicitation of crystals, tarot, palmistry, astrology, and hell – even herbs – are all included in this list because they are all seen as ungodly, though ironically, plants, handprints, gemstones, and stars are some of God’s most incredible creations.
Everyone stresses that you have to have a personal relationship with God, yet, it seems that everybody got something to say about how you establish and cultivate that relationship, which feels very impersonal. It’s like dating someone, but not being able to date them in your way but by your parents or someone else’s rules. It never truly feels like your relationship. But what I have found to be true for myself recently is that my relationship with God involves the very things I was taught were ‘ungodly’; in fact, our relationship is now stronger than it’s been in my entire life; including my years on the pew.
I wrestled with this concept at first because it went against everything I had been taught, but it isn’t my desire to worship stars and rocks but to consider them in relation to me and as part of my journey. The first time I truly felt God wasn’t in church but sitting by the ocean at night. I looked at the beach, looked at the foam in the waves, and out across the ocean, I looked at the moon and stars, and then I looked at myself. I couldn’t believe that the same God who created those planets and stars and carved this ocean; specifically created me and placed me on this earth for a moment. It was humbling to remember that we all had the same creator, and so understanding that the moon, stars, and oceans all depend on and affect one another, I wondered how I figured I was exempt from this shared connection. And just like they were created and put here to serve a purpose in harmony with each other, so was I.
To think you are living an experience on a planet held in place by things that can’t be fully explained, where things can’t be fully explained exist, as a person who operates in a way that can’t be fully explained; utterly unaffected by anything around you, is not logical to me. So I choose to live in relation to the other incredible things God created, and through this, I have learned to honor, love, care, and respect myself in a way I thought I might never experience for myself. The love for myself, my family, my life, and God grew because I began to consider myself as fantastic as everything he’s created. Being with and using his creations makes me feel less lonely in our relationship. It’s a reminder of his love and the wonder of him.
So yes, I do carry a jade crystal in my purse because God created the jade stone to have properties of protection during travel and attract success, and as another one of his creations, I’m going to use it. No, I do not worship and pray to the stars, but I do like to know how they’re moving and in what ways that may affect me so that I am intentionally aware of myself and my surroundings. I pour liquor in a cup for my ancestors, because like most ancestors from the south; they liked drinking, and the act shows my appreciation that God saw fit to birth me into this family; so I continue to care for them. I reveal all of this to say that only you can define what your relationship with God and spirit looks like because that relationship is YOURS.
God is so much bigger than the church, and because he creates everything in his image, everything from him is a reflection of him, so don’t try to put him in a box. The entire relationship with spirit is built from faith, intuition, and radical understanding of self, and these things can’t be established by following someone else’s rules, especially for Black women, who share a natural connection to this earth and spirit in a way that is not experienced by any other population. Don’t believe me? Pay attention to the way you feel and move when you’re standing in the sunlight, under the moon, by the ocean, under a tree, and near any other one of his greatest creations. I promise; you’ll see what I mean. God is there too, sis.
Tanay M.A. is a contributing writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC. Tanay’s passions lie in holistic education and creative/poetry writing; both are heavily influenced by her love of Black Women, and her love of creation. You can follow her on Instagram @theamazingtanayzing.