Ummm. So. This is a thing I have been turning over in my own mind and coming back to. Not really studying but when asked what are things that my generation struggle with, I had a list of things that aren’t really struggles because we don’t see them as wrong—LIKE sex before marriage, or shacking, or having kids out of wedlock, or casual relationships, casual drugs/drinking, etc— but those things lead to the real problems that we DO struggle with that lead us to looking for spiritual solutions (sage, yoga, Afro-futurism, etc) like depression, loneliness, eating disorders, divorce, other mental health disorders, sexual assault, family dysfunction, and the like. A lot of my generation have actually tried Christianity before in some form and it did NOT WORK. And it was this core thing that nobody really gets into.
I know my thinking is super circular so please try to bear with me:
I think I can sum up the majority of the struggle as this thought right here:
“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!””
I believe you but I don’t believe you.Mark 9:23-24 NLT
Our patterns of behavior are locked in early and often based on what we experience, what we are taught, what we see around us, how our family and friends talk to us, what we listen to, what we see on tv, what we read, what we learn at church or from not going to church… all these ideas weave together to form our belief systems. These systems decide how we interact with the world and are then fortified by demonic spirits (Stronghold – a place where a particular cause or belief is strongly defended or upheld by demonic interference).
Being black is a perfect example. Even if you didn’t grow up in the projects or whatever, you get some very clear messages about what it means to be black very early in life from all around you. Black isn’t as pretty or clean. It isn’t as smart. It isn’t as desirable. It is more physical but not as intelligent. Definitely not MORE intelligent. It isn’t safe-especially if it is tall, dark, and big. It is violent and loud and aggressive. It is dangerous. It is dirty and nasty and sexual. It is unworthy and okay to violate. It is unclean and poor. It is shameful. It is foolish. It is untrustworthy. We don’t exist in good spaces. Our music says it. The news says it. The tv shows—even the comedies and cop shows say it. The books say it. The commercials say it. The schools say it. The neighbors hoods say it. Everything around us affirms this fact. This belief system is so engrained that we treat other blacks people this way. The lighter you are, the better we treat you. The smaller you are, the nicer we treat you. The quieter the better. If the whites accept you, we accept you. We do it and don’t realize that we punish our own kids more than we punish others. We fight to be accepted by white standards. That is our belief system because that is our experience.
When you get SAVED—or you become born again, you spend a very long time living with two belief systems and the old one is still stronger than the new one. You are a baby fighting off a monster under the bed, and the monster is winning all the time. We are the man in the scripture screaming “I BELIEVE! But not really.” And the devil is really rocking you, making you question this new belief system you’re trying to get in place. And most churches DO NOT HELP CUZ they not teaching you a firm foundation. They teach you traditions of religion and of men. But not JESUS. Not true sanctification. Not deliverance. Not grace. Not healing. Not freedom.
So then most people give up. The monster wins. We go back to doing what we have always done because it overpowers us. It looks like the new thing is not working because we never really learned the new thing. The new system was never properly put in place and turned on. So, many folks don’t believe that Jesus CAN—let alone WILL—even folks who remain inside the institution of the church. There isn’t (I feel) faith or trust that any of that stuff is real regarding me personally. Ain’t no plan. Lemme just try and make it to heaven just in case. It’s a dark secret that folks walk around with.
But what happens when we grow up—when we teach people how to grow up? What does that LOOK LIKE? What does it mean to really overcome? What does real time change mean? What does honest Christianity mean? How do we help people walk out two confessions until the new one overrides the old one? What happens when we help people learn to say, “I believe—Lord help my unbelief?”
I think I’d like to start there. To start with talking about what that looked like for ME. Here are some of my belief systems—my strongholds—that I had to overcome to be able to walk in this new life victoriously. I had to recognize that I thought I was unloveable and why I thought that. I had to understand that I thought I was only loved because of what I could do and not who I am why I thought that. I had to—and sometimes still have to—use to the word of God to combat those feelings of rejection and fear and inadequacy. And what those prayers and those times of doubt and fear look like.
Church people don’t talk about that kind of stuff. It is messy and uncomfortable but I think that is why Jesus added those type of stories in there. Because people needed to see the conflict of flesh and spirit and how you have to fight your way into it. Talk your way into it. Like the woman at the well. Or the lame man sitting at the pool all that time. Or the man whose friends tore up the house to get him in there. Or the lady who crawled. Or the lady who was bent over for 18 years. It’s ugly sometimes. And we’ve made it seem like if it ain’t Joel Osteen cute you failing at Christianity. There’s the dance, the shout, the slain in the spirit—but no divine empowerment to live a life clean and acceptable before God and anointed to the task for which we were designed.
This is me kind of talking it out, so it isn’t clear. So maybe the blog portion of this site is my attempt to sit down and clarify it.
I’m guess I’m talking about doing what the apostles did. Share with you my transformation. This is what I experienced by degrees, starting at Bishop Moody’s Church and continued to a degree at Pastor Bill Winston’s church when we lived in Chicago. But really gearing up with Dr. Alice Vliestra, a Christian therapist who was never dogmatic or mean or condemning and landing me here risen in Christ—or rising, because we are in continual process as until the day of completion in Christ Jesus.
These steps I’m are the ones I am taking as I continue to find my way into full citizenship into the Kingdom of God:
- pull out the bad belief systems (stronghold)
- replace those with the word (new creation)
- Put in in new belief systems (grace-Divine empowerment)
To focus on that—to have people consider, to begin to think about what they really believe and the different identities we have taken on as a result, and to begin to dismantle those though the word. Once you take off the old man in the soulish realm, then you can put on not just the salvation but the citizenship. I guess you would call them the “promises” of God.
What’s a negative self/world view that we struggle with daily? What does it look like to identify the bad belief/unbelief/lack of belief/disbelief—then be sanctified in a way that the fruit of our repentance remains?