By: Lanisha Porter
This is written with those religious girls in mind. I too belong to this category. When you are raised in the church you are reared up in the world with an extremely sensitive conscience. You are taught what’s right and what’s wrong; what’s blessed and what is not; what is holy and what is secular; what is good and what is bad. To have a conscience simply means to be with knowledge--con meaning “with” and science meaning “knowledge”. So when you are religious you often cross-reference your actions and decisions with knowledge gained from the church. Therefore, when you do something that has been historically reinforced as being bad, in the eyes of the church, the guilt and shame can eat you alive. Many young women in the church have strayed at times from what is good and hold themselves hostage to their mistakes. Well, I want to talk about that. I want to write to you today and tell you to forgive yourself, girl. Lets talk shall we?
I’m a church girl. I get it. I fully understand the battle that is constantly fought in your mind between living in the world, but being in the church. Very easily, the pressures from everyday life seem to become a field of land mines you carefully tip-toe around. Pre-marital sex, drinking, smoking, wearing provocative clothing, tattoos, piercings, beauty supplements, or even listening to secular music are just among some of those pressures, to name a few. And you carefully tip-toe around these things because at some point in our religious journey we’ve been taught that it’s wrong or bad, and taints the image of a true believer who is truly after God. And being conscious of this, we try our best to avoid upsetting any land mines that would make God or the church see us as being less. But the longer you continue to live something happens…
…you set off a land mine. (Oops!!) So now, you’ve messed up. Now what? As a church girl who is supposed to uphold the standard of innocence, purity, and holiness, now that you’ve pierced yourself with flaw, what are you going to do? How are you supposed to deal with yourself when you’re a church girl who has done this bad thing?
We ask this to ourselves. And most times we opt to deal with it on our own to bypass the judgements of others. We choose to deal with it in secrecy because then at least there’s some false sense of comfort, being that no one else knows our filth. Secrecy keeps the wildfire from the mistake contained…that’s what we elect to believe.
I remember when I used to try not to upset any land mines and steer clear of making mistakes. I so wanted to be on my Fathers mission and go out and strengthen the body of Christ (as I still do). And I didn’t want anything to distract from that. Quiet as I kept it for a long time I didn’t color my hair, get the belly piercing I wanted, or even wear shorts because I feared somehow I wouldn’t be upholding the standard of purity I knew I owed to God. For the most part it was easy, when I was younger, to evade those feelings of pressure. But as I got older, I realized it was harder to steer clear of those land mines and pressures. However, I never wanted to feel like I was turning away from God. In the events that I did step on land mines and make mistakes, I remember internally dogging myself and thinking about how much less perfect I was because of the mistake. And like every other church girl, I wondered what am I supposed to do now that I’m one-more-mistake-less-than-perfect? When the mistake is fresh your dignity is most definitely in the moral-deficit and your confidence is bruised and sore. Even more, your conscience is echoing “you knew better” as you recall lessons taught in church.
But here is what I’ve learned. Being that I’m this church girl with knowledge gained from the church, I most always remember the most important knowledge there is to know. That is this: God loves WITHOUT condition. You see, making a mistake is the perfect opportunity to see God’s power at work. It is the perfect opportunity for you to see God for all that you have been taught he is. God loves you. It is you, HIS very own child, that He loves. God really does love you and don’t you ever forget it. The very God who is the author of time, the grand sum of miracles explained, the power behind the makings of the clouds, the tiniest grain of sand, and everything in between, loves YOU. You are the astonishing detail to his masterpiece called Earth. God loves you under any and all conditions. His love never fails. (I’ve repeated myself so you can understand how much He loves you without waver). In knowing this, you must also know that you do not have to hold yourself hostage to your mistakes, babygirl. His grace is like pure water, sufficient enough to cleanse away the filth of your truths. The mistakes that I have made have reinforced for me exactly why I should wait on God, and surrender to His will for my life about the things I cannot control. On a real tip, you will not be able to live a mistake-free life. Trust me. I’ve tried. Mistakes are inevitable. And even if you are pleasing someone else’s book, you are making mistakes in another persons. Even, if you get off track with one mistake or a few, doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to get back on track. As I said above, God is in the business of conditional love and forgiveness. While we shouldn’t allow our mistakes to become habitual, we must learn to stand back up once we fall down in error. As Donnie McClurkin sings, “A Saint is just a sinner who fell down but couldn’t stay there and got back up.”
So miss lady, the church girl who did a bad thing...forgive yourself. God has already given His only begotten son to equalize the consequences of our sins. You don’t have to keep paying for it with your dignity and self-esteem. Pick your head up and look for the best way to get back on track. Now that you know better, you now do better. Besides, holding your head down like that is horrible for your neck. Look up! (:
Lanisha identifies herself to be an ambassador for empowerment and enjoys speaking publicly. She is a senior at Manhattanville College located in New York.
At 21, she is a young woman who authors the book "Things I Never Talk About." The book is a deeply personal recount of the first 18 years of her life. Miss Porter conveys her emotionally-riveting experience about enduring maternal abandonment, and having to be raised by her single father. Interestingly enough, her suffering from a feminine presence to help push her through the canal of womanhood, lent to her passion for female empowerment. Lanisha now directs an all girls group in Louisville during the summer called "Urban Girls Rock!". Her program is housed at St. Stephen Baptist Church under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Kevin W. Cosby. The empowerment program is predicated on her book and helps cultivate young women with confidence, class, and character despite their circumstances. Recently, she—alongside her colleague—started The Jewell-Porter Book Scholarship at her high school that awards one deserving senior. She uses the proceeds from her book sales to help fund the philanthropic effort. Lanisha identifies herself to be an ambassador for empowerment and enjoys speaking publicly.
Welcome to my views from this horizon!