That God Doesn’t Exist

by Elise Lockamy

God “is somewhere around,” she says.  “We just can’t find him.”

I knew He was coming.  In this New York Times series featuring the life and times of a homeless child in the City, I knew God was going to show up.

In the piece, readers learn that Dasani is the oldest of eight, with an acute awareness of her social status and family role.  She is intelligent – and not just streetwise; she’s academically gifted too.  She wears responsibility as a chosen chip on her shoulder, bearing through it by fighting those around her when the weight becomes too heavy.  Her mother and stepfather are (recovering) addicts. They have some income but are unable to manage it.  Their lives, it seems, depict ebbs and flows of favor – as when Dasani’s mom inherited $49,000 after her own mother’s death – and despair – as when Dasani’s stepfather’s tax refund is garnished to pay back child support.  The family has been living in deplorable conditions in the Auburn shelter in Brooklyn for close to three years.

As the polished writer details the individual and socio-political dimensions of Dasani’s life and homelessness in New York City, I see something.  I see that there is no mention of the family’s faith life, or religion. Why should there be?  In a life described as this one, how could faith or God possibly exist?

I read on, past the “we just can’t find Him” quote, and find myself enamored by the descriptions of Brooklyn life. The mention of Brownsville takes me back to my childhood.  I remember corner stores and train rides.  Gypsy cabs and dollar vans.  Kings Plaza and 99 cent stores.  Mr. Frosty and open fire hydrants.  After school pit stops at the nearby Chinese restaurant for chicken wings and French fries, and maybe some apple sticks.  I remember walks in Prospect Park, and bike rides up and down Bergen Street.  I remember all our neighbors, the village that raised both me and my dad.  I remember the building down the street my cousin and I were told to stay out of.  The empty lots we were told not to walk by.  I even remember the stray bullet that killed Mr. Mike, the neighborhood handy man.

And I remember the moment, years later, when it finally hit me that God had given my parents a dream, a vision, and had lifted me out of something.  I had already matriculated from Milton Academy and Georgetown University and was riding the bus to my (seemingly) dilapidated graduate school apartment.  There were “Teach for America” posters lining the advertising space. I read something to the effect of – “Only 1 in 10 students from low-income neighborhoods graduate from college”.  That’s me, Lord!  That’s me!  And then – why me, Lord?  Why me?

Elise (left) with peers, Milton Academy graduation, June 2005

Elise (left) with peers, Milton Academy graduation, June 2005

Elise (center) with sisters, Georgetown University graduation, May 2009.

Elise (center) with sisters, Georgetown University graduation, May 2009.

“I don’t dream at all,” she says. “Even when I try.”

Dasani does not dream.  She only knows lack.  She only sees lack.  And there’s no one, not even a God, to correct her vision, to show her dreams, to show her faith, hope, and love.

Dasani is not so far removed from me.  Growing up, I am sure there were a few Dasani’s in my classrooms.  And that’s when the tangle begins.  Father, what you did for me, surely you can do for Dasani.  Surely.  Surely.  I can hardly imagine a God who neglects his little ones.  Hardly.  Hardly.  Because I sometimes do.  I think back to emotionally trying times in my life, and remember feeling all alone. God you are not here.  You’ve left us!  You’ve left me.  And there – in those moments – I am an orphan. Orphaned and foundation-less. Homeless.

I scour the Word for relief.  Not unlike the scouring Dasani’s parents resort to in the form of begging, stealing, and using.  I am led to Matthew 25, The Parable of the Talents.  Servant one is given 5 talents, servant two is given two, and servant three is given one – each servant receiving according to his abilities.  When the Master departs, servant one gleans five more talents, and servant two gleans two more.  Upon the Master’s return, they both present 10 and 4 talents back to him accordingly.  As a reward, he allows them to “enter into joy” and equips them to be in charge of even more.  But as for servant three, well he has nothing but the one talent to present back to his Master.  The Master inquires, “why didn’t you increase what I provided to you?”  The servant responds – “well, I knew you to be a harsh and hard man…”

Harsh and hard.  This harsh and hard God has abandoned Dasani and her family.  The harsh and hard God I know has turned his face from me many times and the past.  Why? Because a harsh and hard God does not exist.  He is not present because He is not real.

God is love.  Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13 remind me that love is patient and kind.  My God, the one I have come to call Lover, Savior, Redeemer, and Provider, is not harsh and hard.  He is the embodiment of all that is good.  With this in mind, I turn back to Dasani and her family. God is somewhere around.  The reality of their circumstances presses them to rely on a harsh and hard God image, because the loving God, the one their spirit knows and cries out to, wouldn’t leave them in this state.

The Master takes away the one talent from the third servant, relegates him to the “outer darkness”, and asks, “Did you really know me?”

If God is real, and is love, then Dasani would not face the life obstacles that she does.

No, see, when God is real, and is love [in our thinking, in our dreams, in our inner-being] then we face obstacles and triumph as overcomers in and through him.

At the end of the piece we learn that Dasani’s family has been relocated to an apartment in Harlem – one with bedrooms and a kitchen.  Dasani is now close to the park where she trains with an athletic team.  Dasani’s Brooklyn school – the one in which she grows close to an inspiring teacher, Ms. Hester – is making arrangements for Dasani, and two of her siblings, to remain enrolled there. They are working on bus pickup as to not exacerbate the children with an hour long commute each way.

At the end of the piece I see God, in all his loving kindness – in the teacher, the principal, the investigative reporter, and the supermarket patron who allows Dasani’s stepfather to fill up a cart with groceries that this Samaritan will pay for.  I see it.  I see Him. Maybe now, His omnipresence will begin to fill Dasani’s heart.  Maybe now, she will find Him.

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Pass You By

by Elise Lockamy

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“Don’t have to stay with someone/That makes you cry/ You’ll end up killing all the love you have inside…”

My song of the morning this past week has been Boyz II Men’s “Pass You By”.  The song tells the story of a woman who glows and feels like life is complete after she meets this amazing man.  Soon though, the glow begins to fade.  He’s not who she thought he was.  The relationship is not going in the direction she thought it would.  The Boyz tell her she doesn’t have to stay.  “You’ll end up killing all the love you have inside.”

A few months ago I was making a left onto Peachtree.  As I started the turn, I noticed a woman in the passenger seat of a Range Rover at the light.  Her pink skin had grown pale, her appearance withdrawn and sad.  I looked away.  As I finished up the turn, I glanced in her direction again and saw the car’s driver, a man who looked to be a few years her junior and twice her size, punch her in the face.  He punched her.

The light changed.  They continued driving.

“Oh, my God.  Okay. Okay.  Pull over.  No, you’re in the middle of the street.  Okay, make a U-turn and follow them.  What’s in the trunk?  All I have is a screw driver.  He could beat me up too.  License plate?  If I get the plate, maybe I can report it.  Crap. They’re already gone.”

That was it.

I did manage to report a domestic violence incident a year ago.  I was trying to sleep but there was a lot of commotion outside.  I heard arguing and car doors slamming.  I sat up in bed, looked out the window and saw a male figure pushing a woman to the ground.  He was holding her by the neck and she was whimpering.  I ran to find my glasses to get a clearer view, but when I hit the light switch, it alerted the batterer and he hopped into the passenger side of a waiting vehicle and sped away.

Damn.

I ran downstairs.  There was litter everywhere.  Clothes. Pictures. Condoms.  Even a license plate.   I knocked on my neighbor’s door to see if she was okay.  (I had my screw driver in my hand.)  She never answered.

I ran back up to my apartment, waited ten minutes, and then called the police. When they arrived, they told me that it wasn’t the first time there had been an incident with the couple downstairs.   They asked, “Was he Asian?”  I couldn’t tell for sure because I did not have my glasses on when I saw him.  They banged on my neighbor’s door.  When she answered, one officer proceeded to yell at her. “WHERE DID HE GO? WHERE IS HE? YOU TWO ARE GOING TO JAIL! YOU’RE DISTURBING PEOPLE!  CLEAN THIS SHIT UP!”

I regretted calling the police.  A month later, the couple moved.

I know there had to have been a time when both women had a glow, a glow of love and hope.  When it began to dim, did anybody notice?  Did anybody tell them that it was okay to leave?  That there were better things in store if they did?  What was keeping them there?   I once heard a pastor say that women love to a fault.  Was that it?  Love?

I want to wrap this up neatly.  I want to make some grand conclusion.  But I can’t.  Domestic violence is real.  It’s not Hollywood.  It’s not neat and fairy-tale like.  It’s real people.  Real messy situations.  I just have to be armed for the next time I encounter it.  A screw driver isn’t going to cut it.

If you or someone you know needs help, please see the resource below.  From the #COOLIKANS. With love.

National Domestic Violence Hotline
www.thehotline.org
1-800-799-SAFE

Go Fly a Kite

By Elise Lockamy

Dedicated to the single Christians out there, and those yearning for more intimacy with the Father

We had spent many nights Skyping and talking on the phone but still no clarity. I was disappointed when I asked him to let me know where this was going and he said that he just wanted to be friends. I woke up later that night telling myself to cry, to just let it out. As I stood on my balcony, the tears did not come. The only thing I felt was relief.

A week prior to confronting my “friend”, I watched a sermon series by Andy Stanley entitled “The New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating”. In the final part, Andy encouraged listeners to take a year off from dating to “become the person you’re looking for is looking for”. So the day after my balcony moment, I started my year off. The year is currently in progress. Here are a few vignettes that I hope you can relate to. I must admit, this year is becoming less about transforming into wife-material and more about intimacy with God. Welcome to my journey.

 

The Kite Story

“Daddy, is this a set-up?” My friends and I had reached the top of Stone Mountain in Georgia.  There were kites flying way up high.  It suddenly occurred to me that I had never flown a kite before.  Sarah said that I should put it on my list of things to do during my year off.  Yes!  The very next day, my coworker, who was moving to a new city, was downsizing from her trunk.  She handed me a pair of shoes and (coincidentally) three kites!

I realized that God was not only concerned with my “ministry-centered” development but also with my fun adventures.  Maybe I did miss tithe payments and did not volunteer to help out with children’s ministry when I was definitely available.  Maybe I did not spend enough time reading the Word last week.  Yet, he did not hide from me.  He showed up in a happy coincidence that spoke to my nerdy heart.  The kites were better than flowers on Valentine’s Day.  He heard and he responded.  And not just with one kite but with three.  Talk about abundance!  (John 10:10)

Imagination

“Daddy, I hurt.”  I was lying down on my living room floor with my eyes closed and arms straight up in the air.  In my mind, I was sitting in God’s lap.  We were chest to chest so that our hearts were near each other.  I imagined hearing his heart beat in sync with mine.  I began to whisper in his ear.  I told him that I was disappointed that my parents divorced.  I revealed my fear that I would never get married.  It seemed that no Christian man would ever take the time to get to know me, want to have fun (rollercoasters and mini-golf), and initiate righteousness in a relationship.  Sigh.  I told him that I had no idea what my next career move would be or how I would ever finish paying back my student loans.  I told him that I wanted to live free and be whole.  I told him that I loved him with my whole heart and that I would never stop chasing him. 

He told me that I was his.  And that his thoughts towards me were those of peace, love, and prosperity.  I learned that I was a woman of joy and that my gifts included teaching and healing.  He told me that I was not lost in the crowd but that he has had his eye on me since I was in the womb.  I actually caught a glimpse of him looking down at me when I was a little girl with big hair puffs.  He told me that when I was lonely, there was a place for me in heaven to come and play.

Since then, I have imagined walking down the beach with Jesus, enjoying a swing in a park with God, and sitting atop the Great Sphinx of Giza with Jesus in a beach chair beside me.  My imagination led me right into fellowship with God.  (And let me tell you this, the more I use it for intimacy with the Father, the less room there is to entertain past regrets and sexual fantasy.)

This Is On Purpose

“Lord, I want to have sex!”  I am in my mid-twenties, and yes I am a virgin.  Some out there may be applauding.  But seriously, hormones do not dissipate, no matter how hard I try to pray them away.  How can I wait?  How come nobody wants to have sex with me?  What is wrong with me?  Elise, this is on purpose.  Huh Lord?  I had come close to having sex once.  I was in grad school and in the throes of one of the lowest points of my life.  I said no and then for weeks thereafter, I could barely look myself in the mirror.  I was ashamed of the woman who had come so close to giving her body away, disobeying the edict to honor God with her body (1 Corinthians 6: 18-20).  In my recovery period, a friend I confided in said she was proud that in the moment I was sensitive to the grieving of the Holy Spirit.  Hmmmm.  So why does God not want me to enjoy what everyone else (siblings, godparents, friends, media) thinks I should be doing at least once a day?

He told me that he wants me in this condition in order to accomplish what he wants me to do.  My virginity is not a default.  It is on purpose.  I now believe that the outpouring of my gifts and talents would not be possible if I had joined myself to another through sex.  Even in the context of marriage, my priorities would be different and probably would not include sitting down to write an  essay about my experiences (for instance).  This is on purpose.  My whole being is on purpose.  And guess what, I like it.  I like being available to Daddy and sharing his truth with others.  Thank you for my virginity!

As God showed me purpose, I experienced healing from the shame I was carrying around.  I suddenly remembered a line from a sermon I heard.  The speaker said that “with God’s restoration, even a prostitute can reclaim her virginity”.  Whoa!  I envisioned myself weighted down by a heavy coat.  It was shame and embarrassment.  God took the coat off, and replaced it with a glowing white cloak of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).  And as he made the exchange, I was no longer weighted down but rather floating in front of him.  My pink princess crown was intact.  I can start again.

In The End…

There is so much more to tell.  But I am sure your own journey will bring much revelation.  So go fly a kite… and hike a mountain, and forgive those who have hurt you.  Explore the depths of Daddy’s love through quiet time.  Use your imagination to sit right in his presence and let him lavish you with healing and spiritual gifts.  Allow God to break things off of your heart.  Ask him about your identity.  Let him reveal to you the secrets related to your purpose.  Observe nature and people, and listen intently for the Holy Spirit to share valuable insights.  Get to know him as Father, Friend, and Lover. Rest. Play. Love-bathe.  Enjoy this romance that you and Daddy are invested in.

As you delight in your fulfilling romance with God, you will begin to trust him with the desires of heart.  You will trust that he will bring you and your partner together in his time.  And you will know the contentment that Paul describes (Philippians 4: 11-12) – and dare I say happiness and joy too – as you wait.  Make a move toward his heart.  It is accessible and he does not disappoint.

“Go Fly a Kite” was originally published on December 4, 2012 in Warrior Lessons.