I listened to gospel music every morning on my commute to Manhattan for work. From the moment I walked out of my car to get on a 5:29am train until around 7am, my soundtrack was a playlist I called Gluten Free Body of Christ. Although I often napped through my 42 minutes on the Long Island Railroad, I felt as if it was a great way to start and consecrate my day.
As is the story of many-if not, most-black musicians, I grew up in church. A rather precocious child, I got myself into all kinds of trouble at Grace United Methodist Church on Murdock Ave and 201st Street. I did stuff for the sake of doing stuff and got into my
and a few other children’s fair share of trouble for running my mouth a little too much in Sunday School, choir rehearsals, Methodist Youth Fellowship, Confirmation Class (my grandmother was my teacher and it mattered not one bit); and of course, both Sunday services. I once fell asleep at altar call, woke up because the music stopped, and I realized I was the only one who was still in the front for prayer.
There are two great church stories which are by far my greatest hits; but I will only tell one for now. Our Fellowship Hall was in out church’s basement. One early-nineties evening, I saw the large wooden cross, used for almost every function, which stood a little over six feet tall and had a width a little less than five feet. It laid by the stage in Fellowship Hall and for some reason, there was a can right next to it. I did not read what kind of can it was or what it comprised of. I probably thought it was shellack because it was the time of year in which the old cross needed a new gloss for all the upcoming functions at Grace.
In my mind, I felt compelled to do my part and help my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. A lot goes into the upkeep of a house of worship: the janitor had janitoring to do, the congregation had to congregate, the reverend had a sermon to finish, Sunday School teachers had lessons to prepare; you get my drift. I decided to begin the process and glaze a new topcoat onto the cross. Because I was nine, I sprayed my name across the horizontal bar of the cross before I filled it in.
By the time I finished the “d” in my name, I looked at my work and observed C-h-a had was not clear. The can was not shellack, it was gold spray paint. I did what any child would do and ran away. Whenever someone found the cross, it would not take long to figure out the vandal who spray painted the church cross; my name was there for everyone to see.
For years, everyone who went to every function at Grace United Methodist Church on Murdock Avenue and 201st Street in St. Albans saw my work. I think this is the funniest part of it all. Imagine a friend invited you to attend a meeting or show at church. You walk into the doors and take a seat in Wesley Hall. You wait for the service to begin. As the curtains open, you see a cross, sometimes with a loose sash draped to represent Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice; its symbolization means a lot to you. You notice something on this cross and you ask yourself “Does the cross on the stage say “Chad” in gold spray paint?!” Yes, it did.
Despite my mischief, through osmosis and repetition, God and His word got through to me. I still rebel-roused; however, I learned a lot and The Spirit has always guided me. I may not now, nor may I ever be the bible thumper guy. But if you are around me long enough, you’ll catch a reference to a scripture or two, or contextualize with hermeneutics (the branch of knowledge which deals with interpretation of the Bible).
In Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, and 1 Peter, the Apostle Paul spoke of spiritual gifts. Of the 18 mentioned, mine would be discernment. 1 Corinthians 12:10 says “He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from God or another spirit.” This is who I am.
I am thankful for my gift of discernment. There are times in which I misread messages and people because I favor what I want more than I need. Nonetheless, often, I lean of this ability. It may not be how I phrase it in public, but it is part of the reason I hold onto creative endeavors and/or bridle my tongue; The Spirit told me “not yet,” and I have no choice but to listen.
I would like to think I have a solid relationship with God; but there is room for improvement. I talk to the Elohim quite a bit and it the tone is more conversational. I could pray and need to pray in a more traditional sense with more frequency. I tend to pass out every night, unaware I have closed my eyes. I feel the reason I shut down is because God has heard enough and wants to shut me up (I say this in jest but kind of think so). More often than not, I go to God with thanks and could work on asking for more (maybe the reason He hits me with the sleep button is because He’s saying “Alright, Chad, enough with the compliments and tell me what you want”). He has told me “Shut up” before.
I know it is okay to question God; but with all of my experiences over the past decade, not once have I asked why or ever found myself angry with my maker. I tend to shrug stuff off and say “God, I know you have a perfect plan, one I do not and will not understand until you see fit…here’s what I’d like; but have your way and I’ll be cool with it.” Maybe this is the reason some places and spaces in my life have played out as the have. Perhaps God has continued to apply pressure and will do so until I get mad, so He can show and tell me who He really is.
I do not have all the answers and I am nowhere near close. In God’s eyes, we are all the mischievous kids who want to “help” and spray paint their names on the cross in gold letters. We mean well and mess up. My faith keeps me centered, helps me find peace, and I try to do my best to do my part and share it with others.
I think this is where I would like to end this essay.