No Disrespect, But There’s an Upside to Being Raised in the Church


Me and my grandmother, when we were both babes
I think about my Nana every Sunday. I mean, I think about her almost every day anyway, but Sundays are extra special because I spend my mornings in church. That’s how I’ve spent just about every Sunday since I was born actually, minus a hiatus when I was in college and would’ve rather tap-danced barefoot across broken glass than get up early and haul my caboose across campus to go to chapel.

Interestingly enough, that’s the time when I probably needed to have my rear end parked in a pew the most.

Now as a grown woman raising my own daughter, I see how the values and lessons that were drilled into me by my mom — and of course, my Nana — have come full circle as the morals and lessons I drill into my child. And they were part of the fruit that came from a faith-based household where I had no choice but to rise and shine to praise the Lord on Sunday mornings, no matter what I did on Saturday night.

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That’s not to say I was always enthusiastic and that’s certainly not to say that I always wanted to be there. But my grandmother’s reasoning went something like this: it wasn’t by pure happenstance that we had food on our table every day and a place to lay our heads down at night that didn’t involve a nylon tent or a cardboard box. For those two reasons alone, we needed to be up and at ‘em to give God some thanks. It was, in her opinion, the least we could do for the countless blessings we received just on a daily basis.

I thank her for instilling that kind of gratitude in me. Because as I got older and started being tested by real life, the kind your parents warn you about when you’re a kid living in your little laissez faire bubble, I could still find reasons to be joyful instead of resentful or angry when things weren’t going my way. Going to the altar and listening to the old saints give their testimonies of survival and being prompted to praise God, even when I wasn’t really feeling it, gave me an unshakeable, built-in optimism. Part of it is my natural personality. But the other part was cultivated right there in the loving walls of Mt. Sinai AME Church.

If it hadn’t been for that background, certain struggles in my life — becoming a single teen mother, losing my job and hitting on financial dire straits, being young and stupid in an abusive relationship with a man I was in love with — could’ve taken me onto a completely different path. I didn’t always do the right thing, but I knew I could always be forgiven and try to get it right again. That was the main message in our church. You mess up, you learn from it, you thank God for another chance, you try not to muff it up again. The end.

The values I learned under the tutelage of my grandmother — and my mom, too, when she wasn’t working overtime and could attend church services with us — have made me empowered, wise, prepared for anything. I know a lot of people poo poo all over organized religion, and that’s surely a matter of personal choice. But I’m thankful for those Sunday mornings in church and a mother and grandmother who loved them some Jesus because they taught me how to inject faith into my everyday life, beyond just cracking open a Bible and memorizing a few scriptures.

So now that I’m passing that down to Girl Child, I’m also thankful that I cannot remember a time when my own daughter said she didn’t feel like going to church, that she prays about decisions she has to make in her own young life, that I catch her mixing gospel music in with her Beyonce and Justin Bieber because I was pure, nothing-but-hip-hop at her age. She’s still trying to figure God out right now and that’s cool. I’m just glad she’s interested in seeking Him out.

Still, with all of her signature church kid-isms, I don’t expect perfection. I’m braced for her to mess up, just like we all do and just like I did (though I certainly hope not in the same magnitude). The thing about coming up in the church is not that folks are flawless but that they learn to forgive both themselves and other people, and that they develop the emotional and spiritual tools to bounce back. From whatever. From everything.

Did you grow up in a faith-based household? Have you continued to teach the principles to your own children? 


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