I think I go to church solely for the inspiration. Okay, I also love the free Welch’s Grape juice on First Sundays, but a good word has the power to heal me from my day-to-day struggles. Take the whole “God hates gays” mumbo jumbo out of the equation and church can be an emotionally stimulating outlet during many crossroads in life. One thing I’ve noticed in my search for the right church in Virginia, one that gives me that warmth I felt in my church back home in Connecticut, is that the good all-black churches aren’t hella-religious in a “You must live by this or you’ll go to hell" way. They’re always themed around self-improvement and modern translation of the gospel for the everyday sinner… me. In other words, black churches are not as boring as white churches, but you already knew that.
At the church I chose, this over-confident, mid-30s, 6'1" well-dressed piece of dark chocolate preacher teaches the road to financial stability, taking ownership of your destiny, and having trust for those around you rather than being insecure. He hits home numerous times with me, and seems sincere in his attempts to share his growth. In other words, there’s rarely a Jesus stick-up at the end of the service where cash is demanded. This Pastor, like all the good ones, knows exactly what you need to hear and when you need to hear it. And that makes me say praise Gawd!
This past week he talked about a topic that was related to my work, and I thought, holy crap, does this pastor follow me on Splice Today? His message was on perception and the importance of embracing your life experiences (especially the bad ones), and how you take on new challenges, relationships, and environments. Relying purely on fate (while being smart but not guarded) in new situations is something beautiful that we should all experience. He called it “Keeping a tender heart vs. a hard heart.” I couldn't have said it better myself. In fact, I charge big bucks to teach this message to my own audience!
This is the whole essence of my IAMMYLIFE approach: as we get older you should give less of a shit about what people think about who you are and where you come from. The latter becomes unimportant anyway, and being assessed by your intelligence, skill set, and personality matters more. However, the struggles you went through to find your success are also a major part of you that you shouldn’t be ashamed of. I’m not suggesting walking around and laying your baggage on people, but be open to letting people in by telling them about it. In fact, I believe we are more attractive when we can tell our stories (balancing the good with the bad) with confidence and grace.
“Yes girl, after my divorce I didn't eat for weeks, I was in pain and now I run my own restaurant and eat every. Damn. Day. Screw my ex-husband.” This is using your bad experiences for some good, because there is a silver lining in everything, even in the struggles we face. I wish my childhood wasn’t as screwed up as it was, but I wouldn’t have the savings account I have today if I didn’t move out of my mom's house at 17 and work four jobs in high school so I’d never have to go back.
Face it, Pastor is right; we are a product of our experiences. Some of us have triggers that bring us back to those times of the hurt we’ve been through. So we need to find a way to remain confident. Constantly embracing the adversities you’ve been through keeps you humble when the good things happen, those sudden cloudbursts of success. That’s what I define as a having a “tender heart.” Like sexy chocolate church man said: if you stay tender then you’re more likely to welcome those who feel a connection to you instead of displacing your bad experiences on new experiences. Too often, we let our hurt, differences, and even sexual orientation impact the potential bonds that fate has set up for us. Sometimes it's best to just set yourself free for the power of friendship.