As a young child, I shared a bedroom with my mother. We lived in a two bedroom apartment, and my brother had the only other available room. This scenario existed in my memory between the time my father passed away when I was five until my brother moved out when I was 13. I’ve never considered if this played a role in our closeness, but perhaps it did. At any rate, I recall my mother getting out of bed one day, and fainting. In the process, she hit her head on a free standing fan. She ended up being fine, but to witness the experience as a child was quite frightening. Seemingly there was a great deal of discussion as to what made my mother faint. Did she arise too quickly, was it a precursor to the high blood pressure she would later develop, or was it simply a one time occurrence? Either way, I believe I made an internal decision to avoid fainting if at all possible.
When a person faints it is typically the result of the nervous and circulatory system causing a temporary drop in the amount of blood reaching the brain. When the blood supply to the brain decreases, a person looses consciousness and falls. Many of my close friends during my high school years would recall my mother’s infamous statements each time I asked to go out. Why did I believe for some reason that asking my mother in front of others would diminish her tendency to say no or embarrass me? Her response to any trip away from 7821 on the south side of Chicago was, “The blood is rushing to my head; you are sending me to an early grave.” You see, my mother was slightly older than my friend’s parents, and her night of Friday night fun consisted of being in her recliner, splurging on some country time lemonade, popcorn, and watching Dallas. I enjoyed this ritual as well, but as soon as the last scene rolled, I was ready to go! Even though this ritual played out precisely the same way upon each inquiry, I still felt a bit of discomfort in my stomach when my mother rubbed her head while speaking. I thought perhaps it was a precursor to fainting. I eventually realized, perhaps when I had a daughter of my own, that it was my mother’s way of processing and reconciling trust in God rather than trust in herself.
As I write, I am channeling my mother as the graduate prepares to leave home and as she keeps saying, “become an adult.” I don’t recall making that requirement, but she definitely has received that societal message and expectation. Godly proud as I am, and for her future dreams and aspirations taking flight, I am reminded of the times she asked, like me, to go out with friends and I too had to make the decision to trust God or my mind mapping of what ifs. Yet this time, there is no asking. She has worked hard and earned the right if you will to begin becoming what we say tirelessly in the world of higher education, “a productive member of society.” I have little option but to cling to the scripture that has taken me through, and my mother, and my mother’s mother, in Psalm 27:13: “I would have fainted, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
Our nervous system carries messages to and from our brain to various parts of our body. We experience a myriad of emotions from the moment we find we are becoming a parent, until the time we depart this earth. So as I consider the graduate striking out on her own, I’m confident my already complex network of nerves and cells are working overtime in all the potential scenarios of reality, and not that fake mess on television. Yet, I must take refuge in Psalm 27:13 and narrow in on “unless.” Here’s why.
I would have fainted and given up when the graduate’s biological father checked out unless I believed that she as a gift of God was greater than what he discarded. I would have fainted in rearing her as a single parent, unless I’d seen my mother navigate it so successfully, raising two God fearing, loving and smart children. I would have fainted and left graduate school alone (and the loans) unless I failed to believe that doing so would provide access to people and experiences that would prove beneficial for the graduate’s overall human development. I would have fainted through the various childhood sicknesses she experienced unless I stopped believing that God is a healer, and that all sickness is not until death (John 11:4). I would have fainted as we transitioned from address to address and job to job, unless I trusted that every move would be blessed by God. I would have fainted as she navigated spaces so different from my upbringing, where she was the only person of color and female, unless I understood the significance and how she was living what the ancestors prayed. I would have fainted as I witnessed the low expectations and pity treatment associated with the combination of being black and female and from a single parent household unless I fully embraced how blessed we indeed were for sharing the same lived DNA. I would have fainted as she chose a school six hours away from home (just like me) unless I believed that the same God who watched over her in our front yard, remained true to his responsibility and would do the same no matter where she was. So, as I write and she prepares to depart, I would have fainted unless I believed that the same God who has shown himself mighty through these 22 1/2 years, and my nearly 47, and my mother’s 82, would not do the same again, as he’s always done.
I have witnessed and experienced his goodness in this land of the living. So much of that testimony emerges from the blessing he sent forth through her. I am reminded of leaving home and moving to Atlanta as my mother undoubtedly had the same experience as I’m having. Yet, both of us are full benefactors of who God is. I have built enough of God’s messaging to carry through my internal state of affairs to overrun anything negative that the enemy would attempt to have me consider. I find seamless circulatory in Psalm 42:11: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” As she departs, I celebrate this milestone, I celebrate her accomplishments, I celebrate what is to come, and I hope in God! That is final. For that, there is no unless.