“A Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ The Samaritan woman asked, ‘Why do you, a Jewish man, ask for something to drink from me, a Samaritan Woman?’” John 4:7&9
You know the expression about not being able to understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes? That saying only goes part of the way. To understand where someone is coming from you have to have some point of reference. Some way to connect the story that you hear from them, the language they use and the things that they don’t say. Without that point of reference you can gain knowledge, but not truly wisdom.
God has put me in a lot of situations over the years, but I have to say the current situation that I find myself in is one of real interest. The congregation that we (Joy and I) have been visiting with is a very different place than any church that I have ever stepped foot in. Even more than that is the chance to fellowship weekly with a wonderful woman by the name of April. She was raised in “Black Church” and is very Pentecostal at her roots as well as very charismatic. I have learned a lot from her and gained a lot of knowledge from my time with her. But we will get back to this in a bit.
First, we need a point of reference. I was born in Bell County Kentucky. That area is coal country, think of all your stereotypes for West Virginia and you’ll be very close. I come from a line of Scotts-Irish that made their way to KY building railroad lines and then going into the mines. I was born in ’83 and have lived in a house that did not have indoor plumbing. I have family that lived in Tar Paper Shacks while I’ve been on this planet.
I was very sheltered to culture and only got to experience the culture handed down to me for a very long time. That culture was of the area and was something of a mix of the evolution of Scotts-Irish with a splash of Cherokee mixed in with a lot of distrust for authority and the whole take care of your family because you can’t depend on anyone else to do it for you. Throw in a bit of You know the quality of a man by how hard he works. The type of Pentecostal that I am used to was energetic and when the preacher got going it had the breaths to get the point like every word required your full lung capacity.
I don’t have a whole lot of memories of that side of things. I have more memories from Southern Baptists churches, where you might get the occasional “amen” or “yep” or “speak it,” but nothing more than that most of the time. That was up until I was a little over five. In this same area whole generations lived on the same plot of land that was once a great grandparents place that was broken up through inheritance.
After I turned five we moved to East Tennessee about 30 miles outside of Knoxville. I was probably about seven or so when I first saw a black person. I didn’t go to school with anyone that was not my ethnicity until middle school when I went to school with a couple kids who had a Korean mother. It was high school before I was in school with a guy that had a black mother, that went up to two my Junior year, but the other guy was “all the way black.” The joke was we go to school with 1 and a half black kids. Looking back on that now, I was so ignorant and blind to the way of the world.
It was also about that time that I started to actively try to learn about different cultures and the way things are outside this bubble that I lived in most of my life. Living in some of the place I have and seeing the issues of illiteracy, drugs, revolving jail doors, prostitution and all the things you hear about from the inner city in the very white towns that I have lived in the term “White Privilege” seemed to have a too wide a brush attached to it. I needed to understand things a bit more. And before my recent education would you have asked me about it I would have said that if I were a black guy there is no way that I would have gotten some of the breaks I got in life. There is a problem and many of our systems are broken.
The reason I bring this up is because of what I have lived through a lot of Liberal minds like to think that the problems I listed above are only inner city problems and only impact Blacks, Hispanics or fill in the blanks. It is not just a problem in those areas. It’s worse for those groups than it is for the white folks, but White Ghetto exists. Rural America can be a wonderful place to be, but it can also be a cesspool of crime and wasted lives. There is a depression that exists. It comes from a feeling of hopelessness and a feeling of no matter what things will not get better for me. The common threads of not being smart enough, or good enough. Because someone talks with a slow draw they have to be stupid.
They are painted differently but they exists. I don’t have too many cousins that don’t have a criminal record. About the same percentage never got a college degree, and some that do still have no jobs and each day getting closer to not having a future. The reasons are different. There is not much need for college degrees back home in KY. There are only so many teachers needed; so many doctors that the area can afford; so many MBAs when the population and economy is so bad. The desire to improve so little.
There are people that I know that didn’t learn to read so they could draw disability. I could never understand that. I’m looked at by people there as abandoning my family by leaving. How dare I do that to my parents. What kind of son would leave so far away and break their hearts. It is so hard to wrap my head around it. There is a lot of good there too. Do not think that it is all bad, but this is more about a different perspective.
I never realized the built-in racism that I grew up with. Some of those ideas planted firmly in my head that you do not realize it until someone calls you on it or you hear someone talking about it. That is something that I am thankful for realizing was there so I could get rid of it. Now another thing I do not want anyone to think I’m saying is that “White Privilege” is not a thing. It is. It is a very real thing. It was just very hard for me to understand when I have seen so much of the same thing growing up.
Gangs are not a thing in the same fashion. There are people that run around in groups robbing people and burning houses down and such. Not so much breaking and entering, but drug dealers own those souls just as much as they do in the inner city or wherever the Ghetto has been engineered to exist. The themes of No Hope, No Escape, No Reason to try are very real in the ghettos of hearts, minds and souls.
I’m a VERY stubborn person. I also do not react well to things like you are not capable of doing something or someone telling me that I’m not good enough. I’m the only one that can say those things to me (if only I would react to myself the way I react to others telling me such things). I sat out to prove those thoughts wrong. I did not accept it and kept fighting my way up, but I’m white. It is easier for a white person to bounce back from the mistakes that I made. If that statement were not true then prison populations would not be as off balance as they are.
Now back to April and all her wonderfulness. Her living testimony and her awareness of the spirit has been a wonderful challenge to me. She has called my preconceived notions on many things just by being her and without realizing that she has done so many times. She also helps me realize that my relationship with God and how I love to worship is ok. More than okay it is perfectly okay.
I thank God that she was put right in our path. I needed that girl and her faith to help me step up a bit more than I had been. I can get comfortable sometimes and when I do I can get complacent. God has too much work for me to do to let me get comfortable and complacent. Her reaction to Joy and I’s testimony was a breath of fresh air. This time that we have been spending with Wedgewood has been good on many levels, more than a little rough in others.
My acceptance of my own spirituality as well as accepting the path that I traveled to get to where I am has been huge. April has been a big part of that, as well as a few other Wedgewoodians. There is a good deal of Pentecostal in me and I am very Charismatic in my walk. It has also helped me come to terms with Deliverance and the fact that it will be not just in my past but also in my future. My willingness to talk about it alone has been a big help.
So what is the point to all this rambling about myself and all the baggage that I have with so little about faith or my spiritual journey? Sometimes you just got to talk with people about where they are and where they are from. On here I’m one of the only voices so I wanted to share some of that to gain a bit more knowledge from where I came from and how I ended up so messed up. But that’s ok if God didn’t like messes he wouldn’t have made a mammal that lays eggs.
In short, I want to thank the people that continue to shape my faith and offer up my shoes for you to take for a test drive. Don’t worry they don’t smell that bad, but man are they worn out. Thanks for the chat. Keep an eye out for some announcements that might be rolling around later this year.
“Pentecostals see demons behind every rock and tree,” says Travis. Kyle retorts, “A Baptist wouldn’t know a demon if he hit ’em in the head.” Visitation (2006)by