Toomer Family BLOG

Our goal is to celebrate ALL Toomer family members today and yesterday. This blog will include history, genealogy, and reunion news. Additionally we will share our talent in poetry and prose, along with spotlight news on family members.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Good Enough For God

By Beandrea Davis

(Excerpted in vignettes)

Foreword: If god is anything, god must be a choice. Not something arrived at by default, stale tradition, or lifeless ritual. It is an intention to go before the altar of divinity not knowing exactly what you will find, but knowing ultimately you will be enriched for going. You will be able to touch more healing, more calm, more aliveness, more of this being on fire for Life. This book is about taking back my power to choose.

Smile painted on. Dark brown braids tightly woven in cornrows. Underneath a white robe, a gray Penn t-shirt, green swoosh shorts, and a black bathing suit. I walk out across the high school auditorium stage with Bernice on my right and Marissa on my left getting ready to Get Right With God. I sink down into a metal tub that looks like the ones black women in the South used to do white folks’ laundry in. The noise of the packed auditorium falls to a hush under chilly water. There is a pause where time seems to flow like the currents of water I’m now submerged in. It happens quickly. I am baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and now called a disciple of Jesus Christ. Now part of “God’s true church,” the International Church of Christ, I joined the fold of the narrow path, fixing my eyes upon heaven and my mind upon Saving Souls. Christ died for the ungodly. Me. Only God alone is good.

On third Sundays at Wayman A.M.E we – The Youth – wear burgundy choir robes with white triangular collars as we walk down the aisles in the opening procession. We take our place in the choir loft behind the pulpit, on view for the entire congregation to see. Our turn to be a choir is a daredevil event like the high jump. Will we knock down the bar, forgetting the words to the songs only a handful of us had even showed up to practice? Will the Smith daughter’s voice carry the solo? Will the congregation catch the spirit or just tolerate us with a toothless smile? I had faith when I thought of Mrs. Smith. Her booming soprano voice (it shocked you when it met the air) and chubby fingers could always conduct us into something holy, something worthy of the congregation’s ear. I longed to be a soprano, not the alto that I was. Altos were medium, bland girls with too deep voices reserved for boys. Sopranos were fairies; the real singers who made the church’s roof blow off. I always wanted to raise my hand when Mrs. Smith asked for volunteers to sing a solo, but I didn’t think my tentative voice – trying to be soprano although my vocal chords were alto – was good enough. When Mrs. Smith raises us to standing with her hand gesture, I hear Mrs. Roberts – Tony and Clint’s mom – say “C’mon choir!” She waits on Wayman’s youth to deliver her the Good News. We have the answers from the Lord she needs to hear.

I remember fear. Now I lay me down to sleep. A deep fear in the pit in my stomach would always emerge at the prospect of hell. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. I had to get to heaven. Hell was not an option. If I should die before I wake. I wasn’t doing no altar call, so I made sure I prayed every night. I pray the Lord my soul to take. I say this prayer of absolution every night underneath my covers, reclining atop Sesame Street sheets. I say the words in a whisper thinking to myself, “Well, I guess I am safe now. I have begged God to let me into heaven, even though I don’t like altar calls and I am not saved.” God is an overseer I have to get permission from and obey without talking back. He is up there. I am down here. These are the rules, and that is that.

This morning my arms disappear in shivasana. Lifting up at an angle, they simply float away. I am in between feeling and not feeling; in between being and not being. In between my thoughts and the words attempting to describe them. These arms don’t physically disappear; they enter another realm where there is no Rational Mind. In shivasana I am in a state of blissful nothingness. As the whole of my body’s weight gives itself over to the Earth I ask myself “Who knew the floor could be this comfortable?!” It is the birthday cake that comes to you no matter what kind of year it’s been. You get the cake because you are still here and you are alive. You have completed your asana practice and shivasana is the reward of integration. My body thanks me for remembering to feel my wholeness, sending currents of energy through me. The muscles and bones of my spine are slow dancing together, stretching, lifting, tapping their feet bending their knees when the riff gets heavy. I am the dancer and the dance. Resting in witness consciousness, I am all of this at once.

“You all are so lucky you’re still virgins. Single people want to do all the same stuff as married people these days.” On our way back from a Wednesday night church service, Bernice says this to Marissa and me as we ride through West Philly in her black Nissan Altima. Lamenting her three abortions from the days before she became a disciple, she thought college-age virgins were a miracle in these days and times. After years of never being asked out on a date, I had concluded that I was an untouchable like the downtrodden caste in India. It felt like I was wearing an invisible sign on my forehead that said ‘do NOT ask this girl out or tell her you think she’s cute.’ So I held my head a little higher that night after Bernice returned us to our dorm, relieved to know my “untouchableness” was something to be proud of now that I was Right With The Lord. And as a disciple I have my first taste of dating life. Going out on a few dates, I experience what its like to get excited about having plans, getting dressed up, going out and getting to know someone you see every week in church. But something about the whole culture of dating in the ICOC feels very forced. I go on dates to “encourage” the brothers and myself, like Jesus commanded. Not exactly the beginnings of a fiery romance. It was hard at times not to feel like a charity case. Instead of going away like I’d hoped, that untouchableness keeps showing up at the most inconvenient times.

I want to be that blank space between thoughts. I long to be the bass guitar in a band – the thing that you feel, that keeps you listening even when the set is horrible. It is what snaps things into place like that last stretch of openness before a Tupperware top is on good and tight. This unknown is where God dwells, and I want the confidence that underlies this spaciousness. I want the big ass mind, the one where I sit quietly, content to let Change shine as it disappears. I want to be that confident, that lovely, that strong.

Copyright 2006. Excerpts of Good Enough For God appear courtesy of Beandrea Davis. Re-printing without permission strictly prohibited.


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