Disconnected Ramblings on Love’s Presence, Absence, & False Form

It seems that all my friends are in seasons, where love is raining down in giant drops of warmth and relief and joy. It is a time to dance in the rain; I feel like I am drowning in it. Most days, it is enough to keep me afloat, but lately watching love in its mysterious abundance has become painful. I could condemn myself for the exaltation of romantic love, but it would be a legalistic attempt to repress what feels entirely human and appropriate.

Flowers and weeds were planted in the desert, just in time for the skies to open and release what they were holding back. Time and weather allowed for waters to recede and flora to blossom. Flowers and weeds looked all the same and took over the terrain. How does the desert know a flower from a weed? It has seen nothing of either, it just knew it was covered. To be covered with life is wondrous, to be tended divine. You were once a desert. Nothing could have ever grown there. You never expected bloom. You never expected life. You never expected for weeds to take over and destroy you. If you don’t tend to a garden in the desert properly it is only a matter of time before weeds will bring it to ruin.

Faithful Desert Fathers and Sisters witnessed the wild takeover from afar. If the desert was to be saved every weed and flower needed to be uprooted. They were. Every pull took a bit of sand and water with it. It left the desert exposed, fragmented, and dry; it was a lesser desert. The weeds were taken and burned before her eyes, along with the flowers. It is better to be a desert than filled with weeds robbing you of life.

But the flowers left seeds, that the desert knew it could never bloom again. So when it rained in the desert the terrain wept as she remembered.

Anyone who would encourage me to be content in the love I have now is a fool. I don’t think of them actually as a fool, but how? In counseling, Dalia tells me, I feel things deeper and process quicker. I know my sorrow is a lack of specific love.

My closest friends are busy with their families. My most recent of question is “Where I fit into all of it?” I think in terrible analogies. It includes this one that has been running through my mind.

Our individual worlds are entire solar systems, with moons that revolve around planets and planets revolving around the sun. My friends feel like planets or moons, receiving priority in my solar system. Sometimes, I have to settle for being a meteor, brightly quickly passing by causing temporary interest to return to normal orbit once more. Love – if it has degrees of goodness – generates a new planet to add to the solar system. It may begin as Neptune, colder than ice, but in time it will draw near to the sun.

I was once Pluto. The appearance of a planet in orbit, but actually a moon. I was devasted to learn I could never be either. I would love to draw near a sun.

There are people in need of more than a handout or hand up
Litmus tests we give people have showed them what we are made of
If you choose to love, love well
If you find someone intriguing, don't caricaturize them
Give them space and time, let them be human
If you choose to love, love well
People will never show you pain until you see it was your hand
People that you hurt will still want to be your friend
If you choose to love, love well
A lion is leaving in the autumn leaves
Both lion and lamb are weeping sorrow and relief
If you choose to love, love well
Go to bed cold, sad, and alone
Remember your two hands are something you can hold
Love is more work and time than one could afford
After loss, I want to love once more
Love may kill you and bring about death
It's the one way to die with a heart still beating in your chest
I choose to love, so love well, so love well, so love well.

Words & Meaning

Death took me by the hand in an entrancing fashion and led me down a boulevard turned alleyway. I would have never expected it. Beat up by a bully, I was too blind to actually see. Beat up by my own broken hands. How would they ever shape themselves to praise again? Clenched fists and middle fingers never get praised from the pulpit. Upwardly raised palms are preferred, but this year the only time my palms were raised to the sky were as I cowered on the ground begging for mercy. “I cannot take another blow”. 

I am not a victim this year. As I author my autobiography it is too tempting to cast myself as the victim, too superficial to cast myself as a hero, and too simple to cast myself as the villain. I have played all three and play all three poorly. If I were to leave another year of life (and in three hours I will), it would be with the understanding, I am profoundly human. I am not better or worse than others. I am just Tosin. Simple, Tosin. And, that it wholly okay.

I am no Peter. Nevertheless, something within me resonates with the humility he found in failing God, himself, and his community. I never thought I would know about it; I don’t wish that others would. It is lethal.

I wanted to run from the face of God. The fear Israel must have felt was guttural, living with laws knowing failure was imminent. YHWH sees all and knows all. Sounds like something from 1984. How does someone sinful come before a Holy God? To know the character of God was a help. To know “The Lord. The Lord. The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast compassion”. To know, ten years after my salvation, God knew I would fail. “My God. My God, why have I forsaken Thee? Why hast Thou took me once more?” I don’t understand God. I am okay with it. I am learning to be okay being forgiven without the expense of being forsaken, even though all I want to do is self-flagellate. God keeps grabbing whips out of my hand. “There has been enough bloodshed. I don’t need yours.” 

Failing myself dismantled me. As my heart grew hard, a mallet came down and exploded it into fragmentations. I was dissociative. My body didn’t feel like mine. Writhing felt normal; breathing felt hostile. My face was not mine. My soul was not mine. They were for hire and would cash out at whatever made me feel good. Standards, I set for myself dismantled in a moment. I was a worm hoping to be crushed underfoot. Many a Saturday night, I spent weeping and wheezing hoping God would have mercy and dismiss me from these moments–either temporarily or permanently. Five months later, I still don’t know who I am. There are fragments, that will never fit again and some that will fit awkwardly. I am here. I am alive. I believe that is reason enough to rejoice.

The church has hurt me. The church has healed me. I cannot hate the church for they have loved me. I could not imagine the sorrow a once proud Peter felt returning to the 10 others who knew. They had all heard of his denial. They made it safe for him when casting him out would be more appropriate. I have taken the bread and the wine many times. Never in such significant ways as this year. What follows is an excerpt from my personal journal:

The bread and the wine had never tasted as sweet as yesterday. There was no change in the quality of the meal. Rather it was the posture in which it was received. There is a special humility in confession. It is the humility that despite failure, I am still a part of the body. Despite my deserved amputation and my attempts to self-amputate, broken bread and crushed wine restore me to God and others as well.

Communion is not just a dull common meal, but a weekly grace. I imagine the best fish Peter had was when Christ restored him too.

I have no words for the way The Body has bandaged my wounds, changed the dressing, poured the salve. I am still broken, but far less than I would have been on my own. I’m in despair, but not depression. At times, I feel disregarded but never thrown away.

He comes for me. He heard my weeping in the alleyway. As I plead for mercy I don’t deserve, He gives it. As I tremble, disoriented from the setting and the beating, He grabs my hand and sits beside.

A Year After Hurricane Harvey

Rebuilding your life after a hurricane tears it apart takes time. It only takes a drive through my old neighborhood to remind me of that. I woke up early this morning to drive the 35 minutes from Katy to Houston to see my former home. Last night last year was the last night I would have spent there, and I didn’t even know. It’s a tragedy that one doesn’t know that memories are being erased. As I sat outside my home, I stayed long enough that I only cried, but didn’t weep.

This past year has been the greatest unwanted challenge of my life. I have been vulnerable in the best and worst ways, and I know it is still not over. The same feeling, I had towards my birthday last year is the same as I have now. Why celebrate? I don’t have the lightheartedness needed to supplement the festivities. I survived, losing my roommates, home, and things. I survived, living in a homeless shelter. I survived failure that near ruined everything. I survived, living in 3rd Ward and moving to Katy. I survived another challenging year of seminary.

I survived and I’m grateful, but when do I get to go back to living? When does life start once again? All of the pains and perils of prehurricane are still present. I still want to root myself in Houston, but I don’t know when or where. I still want to have someone to companion with, but who and when? I still want to know why I’m in Texas. It will always feel easier to start anew that to remain where you’re planted, but remain I must. When will life feel like it is settled again?

One thing that I am confident in, is that God is faithful to me even when I am profoundly unfaithful. God could have and should have left me this year. It would not be unwarranted. He didn’t though. He used people, His people, to love me in ways, I didn’t know I needed to be loved. I have been loved at my worst this year. I have been loved when filthy and writhing in my detestability. I have been loved in rebuke and counsel. I have been loved in discipline. I have been loved with people’s time and money. I have been loved by a child who brings praise and his mom and dad. I have been loved by a girl filled with beginnings. I have been loved by an Equa-Nore couple who God has just used in simple and profound ways. I have been loved by my pastor and his wife. I have been loved in settings where I get to place my feelings on a canvas. I have been loved by my family in Atlanta and my family in Katy. I have been loved by classmates and roommates. I have been loved by former coworkers. I have been loved by a woman with a shy dog. I have been loved through the Spirit, from the Father, by Jesus. I have been loved by God.

Hurricanes destroy things, but they help us know who will be there to rebuild when life falls apart.

Dear God, 

Thank you for uprooting everything. I mean this sincerely and sarcastically. I know there are some things I would have never uprooted if You hadn’t plowed through, but I’m grateful you did. I am exhausted. I’m always exhausted. I’m grateful for another year. I’m hoping and praying for a good one next year, but if sorrow comes once more, I pray I would be more faithful to you than before. 

God thank you for loving me when I was unlovable. I don’t deserve it and never will. Thank you for knowing the depth of my failure and still allowing me to know You and be associated with you. 


But What if I’m Judas?

Oh, my soul. Oh my Jesus. Judas sold you for thirty; I have done it for less. 

There was a time in my life, where the lyrics to this melancholic tune felt so far away from where I would ever be with God; I sang it with deep conviction. Now, I sing it with true feeling from true experience that has brought true remorse.

When I have considered Judas, I have fluctuated between two images. The first is of this short and stout man huffing through the streets of Jerusalem trying to keep up with the other disciples, slowed by the money in his purse. The second is a weasely looking man. Slim with thin facial hair as if he was stuck in eternal puberty, this man is sly. He is smooth in all the ways that make women move to the other side of the road and men roll there eyes. Now, I see Judas for who he is, profoundly human. This year, he looks more like a Nigerian-American woman burgeoning into twenty-eight.

It’s a terrifying thought to think. I had this thought three weeks ago in Leakey, Texas. During a season of grappling with failure. I laid on my bed and asked myself, “But what if I am Judas”? I trembled unable to grasp all the thoughts and feelings that come with that statement. Have, I fooled myself and my faith? Is it all a hoax? Have, I played a massive joke on myself? Am I the butt of that joke? Have, I followed Christ for so long, but never really been a part of him? Did Judas know he wasn’t really apart of the fold?

Sometimes, the condemnation, guilt, and shame mix a potion that if wholly consumed will kill you. It killed Judas. It left him alone with this body hanging from a tree as Christ hung too. Blood dripping to the ground as Christ bled too. It has left me awake for another night cataloguing my failures so my friends and foes have the potential to see. Hoping that they would flagellate me so a physical pain could release this spiritual burden. Spankings were a grace because when finished you knew you had paid your penalty. I would even provide the whip and ointment to place.

There is another way. There is Peter. Peter who has betrayed Christ and himself. He is found fishing in a boat. Christ beckons him. He is restored and living out his life mission. Christ brings the peace he needs to move forward.

Could I ever be Peter?

Where Do I Exist?

I am too much in my head. I am too much on a screen presenting the augmented existence of me. Projections of my failure filtered through blue and green seem successful, but alas it is just a fragmentation grabbing love and likes that would be much better received in person. I love a good escape, but it is time to awaken myself to the opportunity to be more present in life and absent elsewhere. Where daydreaming becomes my only escape. I hope to survive in my own life. I hope to exist less and less through scrolling screens and more and more through the hope that comes with living a simple minimally comparative life.

I am both excited and terrified.

Without Feeling

I have no clue where my emotions wandered off to…

A long season of trauma has left me feeling really numb to everyone. So much so that personal offense and direct manipulation do not enrage me. I would like to associate it with the Jesus pacifism that some Christians have, but I know it is not that.

Part of it is the stifling of communicating frustration or even confronting white people. I could say not all white people, but I don’t feel the need to, be a smarter reader and assume with diligence. I have learned when confronting white people to be prepared to be unheard. Be prepared to argue that an offense happened and that offense can be minimized by whatever perspective they want to have on the situation. It is infuriating. As a black person, in conversation or arguments, I have to argue the validity of my feelings. My emotions are not even safe in conversations. It’s one of the minor ways people can try to steal your personhood. In a confrontation, you become overly passive to be heard. Rather than self-regulating, you moderate your tone, others expressions, setting, word choice…maybe that’s just me. I don’t know.

Part of it is apathy. Unrelenting apathy. I have done things. I have been in counseling, had painfully hard conversations, have pursuing friendships where I failed, have tried to make emotionally healthy steps. Nothing; Tosin is checked out. I am drained. I’m waiting for a vacation that hopefully restores a sense of feeling.

What I do know is that I’ve been hurt and let down this week. I am just waiting on the feelings to kick in.

Dear Mikey

Anyone who spent time with Mikey would assume death would be the furthest idea from him. Mikey was so full of life. It teemed out of him. It was as if, he was closer to the breath of God than many. His animated figure made everyone laugh. There are few photos of him that don’t make me laugh now.

O death, where is your sting?

Oh death, there is your sting.

I do not want to give much time to death. He has stolen so much already. Mikey, your life was is so precious. Death has taken life from you. Those hands God gave you were in rebellion towards you and took your own life from you. Death has taken life from those who love you and still remain. Six years removed from Atlanta, when I learned of your passing, my breath was stolen. Mikey, so many of my inhales and exhales were in eruptions of laughter. Mikey, you gave breath. Sweet image bearer, adopted son of God, oh how the siblings loved you. I think of your bride. I think of the disciples. Their fear to learn of Christ passing. John’s eyes on Christ’s disfigured body. He no longer looks like himself. Christ’s death boasts the resurrection. I think of your youth. God redeems. Mikey, your death in its grisly state is still riddled with redemption. Mikey, in the hands of a Creator, your death will still bring life. It is what my prayer is. It’s all I have to hope in.

So as early morning tears stain my pillow, I weep and rejoice. For though we have lost you, for now, we have not lost you forever. I look forward to Christ’s return. I look forward to the resurrection. I look forward to you rising. We will rise together.