Dissociative Christianity

Overwhelming or persistent sorrow or sin is often followed by dissociative self-questioning and theological dissonance. Where is God at this moment? Where was God at that moment? Are You there? Are you listening and watching? Are the things I think about myself wrong? Am I really a charlatan, fooling myself and everyone else? Am I meaningless? Am I anything at all? Am I alright? Am I loved? Choosing a life of faith is also choosing internal and external dissonance. The world will fail my expectations. I will fail my expectations. And tonight is one of those nights where I am unsure what I am and where God is.

Surprisingly in this season, music, particularly music that challenges my theology is what soothes me. I have not left the Christian faith, but I have left the simple-minded faith. I have left assumption that God wants me to have the answers. God knows how to deal with dissonance. Much of his revealed nature appears dissonant. Three and One. Truth and Grace. Mercy and Justice. The presumed dissonance finds resolution in God. Again as lost as I get I continually await the Sovereign Hand of lead me back. Prone to wander indeed.

Until then, I leave you with one of the songs that asks the questions, I ask about myself and God in my dissociative questioning. May it serve you well.

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The Power of a Name (A Juneteenth Post)

Hi, my name is Oluwatosin Akande. Don’t worry about an easier way to say my name. Most days, I give it out, but today, I would really like to go by my whole first name. Oluwatosin. It rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it. There is something about my name that is melodic. The soft opening of the mouth for the Oh. The tongue against the teeth for the loo. The way the mouth makes a kiss for the wah. The tuh of the teeth for toe and the vibrations of the suh for sin. Oluwatosin. Beyond the simple pronouncing of my name, is its meaning. My name was not chosen because it sounded nice nor because it was eclectic and on trend. My name serves as a banner over my life. My parents, in choosing my name, were making a statement about who I was to become.

The Lord is worthy to be served. Every time, my whole name rings out that is what you are singing over me. It is what my parents sang over me as I breathed my first cry filled breaths of the broken world. As my parents continued singing over me, the sang my child, “God will take care of you.” Oluwafunke. They continued with Dolapo and sealed me with Akande.

Oluwatosin Oluwafunke Dolapo Akande.

My name is a song that should not be shortened because someone cannot sing the lyrics. It should not be altered because the words are hard to say. It is not a joke or something to mumble through. It is a song worth learning so you can sing along because I would love to include your voice.

Part of the black identity for many African-Americans and black Americans is the dismissive nature at the onset of meeting a new person. With no attempt, people will ask is there something else I can call you? Hence, Tosin or Ola or Funke. What people don’t know as they call out my name in a mocking tribal yell, that they are just failing to sing a song with the honor it deserves. It is also the continuing dismissive nature of my name.

For many sold into slavery as they lost their lives, they lost their name. They lost a song that had probably been passed down. I am no slave, but to lose your name is to lose your identity. Who you are fades as someone else calls you what they will. It is the humiliation of Eve as Adam names her. Adam had only named animals before. Was she counted among them?

It was the months of homelessness because when a landlord is looking at a name like Oluwatosin Akande, they don’t hear the song. The smell curry odors seeping into the walls and never leaving (which is a fragrant, not odorous smell). When they receive emails from Oluwatosin with legitimate concerns my voice carries to the trash. On two occasions, I have emailed major Christian organizations with concerns about how black people were being treated and never received a response. People try to mute my song. People have muted my song.

To say no longer is to lie about the unwillingness of the tone deaf to learn to sing. However for every person who has learned to sing my name, my whole name, who has not mocked it but honored it. Thank you. My song on your lips is an invitation to harmonious hope that I matter. To every student I have who hates me for calling them by their mother-given name, I hope and pray that you realize, I was just trying to sing your song as well.

Growth from the Stump

Kindness, Tosin, kindness.

Patience, Tosin, patience.

Love, Tosin, love.

I feel chopped down to the stump. Roots are still intact, I hope. I am so scared to dig beneath the surface to find out that my roots are rotted. I’d rather live with the illusion that all is well. A Prayer by Kings Kaleidoscope is frequently played. I don’t pray in this season. I think my song selection says it all to the Savior. Wicked sinner thrown to lions. Is there hope on the horizon? I know the answer is always yes. I just don’t know where to place myself in the direction of hope. People both underestimate and overestimate. More than direction, I need to be lost, but not alone. When Iʼm staring at the ground, itʼs an inbred feedback loop that brings me down. So itʼs time to lift my brow and remember better days. When I loved to worship You and all Your ways with the sweetest songs of praise. I am awaiting those days. Tonight, I rest after pouring out, praying that in my complete apathy, God would have mercy and fill me for another day.

Empty, Tosin’s empty.

Wait, Tosin, wait.

Hope, Tosin, hope.

Row

During class today, I just got really sad. It was around 7:41pm and if I had been alone, I would have probably cried, but I carried on in my usual rambunctious nature. I journaled during the last group’s presentation. I needed to get words out. I remember why I journaled as a thirteen-year-old. I had no one to talk to. I have talked to a lot of people in the past three weeks, but sometimes, it still feels like I have no one to talk to when I really need to talk. My struggle is in my general distrust of people. So sharing sorrow and opening myself is a long-term process. I disclose only when I feel safe. There’s an article about a baby seal that took three years to photograph because it took that long to trust the photographer. I’m a baby seal. I know I am wrong. I know it. I don’t need people to tell me I am wrong. I need people to prove me wrong.

I left class and just sat in my car listening to the same song. Row by The Autumn Film.

She hid under her covers
In fear for her life
The water rushed over
While she capsized

May your heart hold on
When it gets hard
And may your pulse stay strong
When you’re falling apart

Row, row, row your boat
Row, row, row your boat
Gently, gently

All these words transcendently resound my life.

Songs turn into pictures in my mind. I see a girl departing an island, she should have never ventured to in the first place. Leaving the island and entering the ocean again was a wise decision, but came with its challenges. Exiting the island meant two things: (1) she opened herself to the ocean never knowing when and where she will drop anchor for a final time and (2) she exposed herself to the harshness of the seas. If departing was hard, she immediately enters a storm in her little rowboat. There are moments where the eclipse of the waves seems manageable, but there are other moments like these lines where she capsizes. The winds and waves crash and collapse and overturn her little boat. So, she just holds her breath as she manages to turn herself the right way up once again to fight the wind and the rain and the salty ocean water. With tears of determination in her right eye and tears of pain in her left, she just keeps rowing. She just keeps rowing, slowly, painfully, gently.

I finally drove away to pick up Chick-fil-A. I needed a change from my steamable Veggie Pasta meals. I went home and ate dinner in my bed like I always do and watched Totally Spies to numb whatever I was feeling until I garnered enough emotional and creative wherewithal to document it and share it with people on Friday morning.

There’s no perfect resolution to a storm except to keep rowing. So, I will keep doing exactly that.

Grave Friday

This is the first Easter season in three years where I have done nothing. Good Friday is perhaps my favorite day in the Liturgical Calendar. I am often akin to melancholic expressionism. So for all believers who have an unshakeable gloominess, Good Friday is for you. This particular Good Friday has been challenging. All of the personal events of my life in this past year have shifted my eyes from a Suffering Saviour to my personal suffering.

This particular Good Friday, my focus has been on the grave, not the grave of my Saviour, but my grave and my graveness. I have felt hollowed out for sixteen months. It is of my own doing. You cannot live sinfully and expect to feel alive. I have attempted to maintain appearances of wellness. Every night I crawl back into the grave and find it dug deeper than the night before, making it harder to leave for the next day.

After some time, it is now too deep. I crawled in for a night and awoke and could not exit again. So, I lie there, looking up to the sky hearing familiar noises knowing life is continually moving forward, as I lie in the grave. I don’t even know if people know I’m here. Time progresses, I give up hope that anyone will pass by and look down and see someone is in this massive pit.

Until He does. He has always been someone I was drawn to in life. He can save me and pull me out. On this Good Friday, He does something different. He crawls into the grave with me and nestles me. He knows me all too well, but today He takes my deadenness. He somehow lies beside me and over me. His hands are holding mine and washing a prodigal clean, writing in the sand, and healing the broken.

He does not belong in this grave. He tells me I don’t belong there either.

We don’t get up immediately. He tells me we will get up soon.

So, I wait but not alone. Never alone.

To those who read and weep for you are in personal graves of sinfulness or sorrow, depravity or depression, loneliness or feeling lesser. Join me in remembering a Saviour who joins us in the grave if but for three days. Who grabs us by the hand and pulls us out. Whose life gets transferred to us.

It is a Good Friday indeed.

The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb
He crawls into the grave with us.

GOL: Philemon

Dearest Philemon,

I think of you often and am really happy when I do. People tell me about how you get Jesus’s message, you are internalizing it, and living it out. It makes me really proud. Because of this, I don’t want to force you to do something. Rather let me tell you and you can decide on your own. I tell you this because I love you. Onesimus your former slave ran away and has become a part of the family. It’s awesome how much more useful he is as a brother than a slave. I’m sending him back to you even though it feels like I am ripping out my heart. I would like to keep him, but I feel like it wouldn’t be honest. Maybe the divine reason he ran away was so that he could become a son to me and brother to you.

If you still think the same of me, welcome Onesimus as a brother. If you have accounts to settle with him, write me back. I have some to settle with you. LOL. I know you got my message and will do more than welcome him as a brother.

Prep a room, I’m coming over semi-unannounced.

The clique says hi,

Paul

Grace Abounds

Today was a difficult day. My sleep rhythm has been off since Sunday. Every night, I have tossed and turned in my bed. Eventually drifting off to sleep. Arising again at 5:30am, with the expectation that today would be different. Work has been a general build-up of stress. My plate remains full always. Monday to Friday has been full of meetings. Some, I have led; others I have sat through. Meetings have thrown off my eating schedule. Around 3pm is when my numb headache settles into a lingering headache.

School feels overwhelming. I still suck at Crossfit, but that’s nothing new. Some days are better than others, but today I especially struggled. It’s 11:52pm, and I have a parent seminar topic to teach from tomorrow at 10am. I have zero slides created. When I realized this at 4:45pm, I sort of lost it. I felt all of me closing inward. My chest constricted. My brain was sprinting. My forehead was sweaty. I felt anxious and scared and lost. I erupted. A lot of my lava landed on others. I felt alone. I ran to my car to make it in time for class and ran over my work phone.

By the time, I pulled out of the parking lot, I was in complete tears. As I race down 610 to DTS, I was sobbing, yelling all the things out loud that my brain was telling me about myself. I’ll spare the gory details.

I sit down into Soteriology (the study of salvation). My professor speaks of the nature of Christ’s grace, and I just weep. If there was ever a day, I needed people to be gracious to me, it was this one. There were moments, I felt it. There were others, I didn’t. However, I thought of God’s grace. God’s grace is salvageable. God in some miraculous feat, managed to pull this damaged days and salvage it into something good.

It’s a miracle every time, and I appreciate it.