A Painful Place To Be

by Jacqueline L. McGee

For many years I found myself at a cross road between life and death. With my life in shambles, I often wondered was there really a God? Was the bible really true and if so why was there so much suffering, so much pain? As a Christian, my walk with God was so inconsistent. I would be up today and down tomorrow. I found myself afraid to love and trust others. I was angry with the world and I was angry with God. I blamed God for everything that went wrong in my life. I was raised in the church. You would think I would have known something about God. But I was just a spectator, watching all the elders and mothers shouting, dancing down the aisle as if they were praising God for rain, but to tell you the truth I was present, but my mind was in a world of its own. What was it about God that caused people to cry out to Him, that brought so much joy even to the ones I knew that were facing some hard times, but they kept shouting and praising God in the highest expectation. They poured so much into this BIG GOD, but it seemed as if they were getting very little in return. But you can never judge a book by its cover. You've got to read it first.

Growing up in a single parent home with five other siblings was a struggle for me. My name was Taylor. My mother received welfare once a month that barely kept food on the table and clothes on our backs. I can't recall hearing the words "I love you" or getting those special hugs and kisses. There were no birthday parties or any memories of family holidays. The house was always quiet and filled with tension. My mother never smiled much and she was always angry. We lived in a three bedroom house on the south side of Chicago. As a child, rejection was something I experienced at a very young age. My mother and father separated before I was born. I could only recall seeing my father a few times, but he always treated me different from my other siblings. He would play games with the other children, but he would always tell me to go play with my baby dolls. My father was a man who showed very little emotion. There wasn't too much that raddled his feathers, not even mama.

I would be so happy whenever daddy came home; hoping that he would stay this time, but there was always tension between daddy and mama. Daddy would always bring us a bag of candy, but I had to share mines with my baby sister. I never could understand why I always felt left out and alone. I always wanted my father to be a part of my life, but there were always excuses, problems and situations that kept us apart. If there was anything I desired it was having a father and a mother who would love and protect me. But the more I turned to my parents for love and acceptance I found myself drowning in my own tears. I felt unworthy of love and affection. This was just the beginning of my demise. The sense of emptiness on the inside, I became over whelmed by my own emotions. I began to feel out of touch with others. The world around me became a dark and weary place.

I was taught to put all of my trust in the Lord and to, cast all of my cares upon Him because He cares for me. That's what I would always hear my grandmother say. Grandma was my angel. She would take the train every Sunday to our house and she would take us to church. I loved the sound of that organ and I love to hear the choir sing. The music was so soothing to my ears. I would always pretend that I was standing high above the clouds, looking down from heaven. I remember when grandma took us to the altar; she asked us did we want to go to heaven? We all said yes ma'am. Then grandma replied, "You must be saved." The pastor laid hands on us one after another. When he placed his hands on the top of my head I suddenly fell to the floor. It felt like a bolt of lightning. Grandma said that was the power of God resting on me. When I stood to my feet the pastor said "Jesus loves you and I want you to always remember that."

Grandma always made me feel special and she taught me how to pray. She always said "that Jesus always listens and that he would always be my friend." Having that childlike faith I believe her. So every night before I would go to bed I would talk to Jesus. Prayer always made me feel better. But when grandma passed away all the bad things began to happen. I always prayed to God to put my mama and daddy back together again. Granny always said that nothing was too big or small for God to do. But it never happened. My grandma was the only person I wanted to be around. I prayed that God would send me to heaven to be reunited with her.

Things became worst between my daddy and mama. Whenever daddy came home he and mama would always argue. Mama would yell so loud it made the house shake. I never understood why they were so angry with each other. Mama and daddy always argued because he refused to get a job. But before I knew it, I didn't see my daddy anymore and mama never mentioned his name again. That was a sad time for me. All the other children in my neighborhood had a mama and daddy. I felt God was punishing me and for some reason I felt that I had did something wrong. The children teased me, called me names and their parents would always ask me "Who is your daddy and where is he"? I was too ashamed to open my mouth and say a word. I would run to my room and cry until my eyes were like two yellow cream puffs.

I was angry with God and I refused to pray anymore and Jesus was no longer my friend. From that day, I never told anyone how I felt about anything. I was confused! I felt so disconnected from God and the world. I felt separated, parts and pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle scattered. My mind; a confused dream in a cold and dark world filled with pain and despair. I was the fragment of a story with no logical meaning, taunted with all the negative conversations and the hurtful words that disconnected me from reality. There were no good memories. I could still relate to the ones of my grandmother, but after a while, it didn't matter anymore.

During my elementary years, I didn't have many friends and I was a loner. It was hard trying to relate to the other children. I was like a clam sealed inside my shell. I only opened up just enough to see what was coming. I was very withdrawn. I was placed in a special classroom because my teacher assumed that I had a learning disability. I was later diagnosed with dyslexia. The words in my book appeared to be backwards and I was not able to read them. The children teased me and called me special. I was tired of being called names so I began to fight back. This was the breaking point of my anger. My behavior became violent. I was sent home from school on numerous occasions. My mother would chastise me repeatedly, but it just made things worst. My classmates were afraid of me and my teacher always separated me from the rest of the group. She always called me a trouble maker and she told the other children "if you play with her she's going to beat you up." Whenever she called me names or said bad things about me to the other kids I would get angry and throw things at her. I was sent to an alternative school for children with behavioral problems. I felt like a caged animal. I was locked inside my classroom and you couldn't do anything unless you asked.

By the time I started high school, I was labeled as a trouble maker, a bully with a bad attitude that had no problem attacking and discrediting others among my fellow class mates. So here I am disjointed, broken, tormented and haunted with the memories of an unhappy childhood. Seemingly irrational, confused I felt a lack of meaning and purpose in my life. I consistently felt uncertain of myself. I was a very insecure child with poor self- esteem, the problem child that nobody wanted. I had so much rage and anger that caused me to have destructive behavior whenever someone fueled my fire. I was always getting suspended from school.

I was not only a problem at school, but I became a greater problem at home. I started running away, hanging out with a bunch of bad kids in the neighborhood. It was just another way to lash out at the people who hurt me. I was picked up for curfew many times, but the police would always bring me home and give my mother a warning to keep me off the streets. But all we would do is yelling and scream at one another. That was a trait that I learned from my mother. She would always say "you're the worst child; you'll never amount to anything. She would go on for hours, tearing me down, until she realized I wasn't listening any more. I had become numb to every negative word. It's just like a glass of water, it can only hold so much before it begins to spill over. I've lived with that nagging sense of negative words as long as I can remember: stupid, dumb, and crazy!

They were words that come to haunt me, the very thought of my low self esteem, my insecurities began to play like a song, programmed to play over and over again. It was an emotional roller coaster ride that caused me to do things to my body. By the time I was fourteen, I started using drugs and alcohol.

Shortly after my sixteenth birthday my mother had me admitted to the psych ward. I swallowed a whole bottle of sleeping pills, trying to ease the pain...I just wanted to sleep and never wake up again. I came to this conclusion when I tapped into a moment of feeling connected; an inner moment of feeling in touch with reality, something deep within me. Even though, I always found it hard building a relationship with people, but there was a relationship in which I became intimate. I was willing to open my heart to someone I thought I could trust, but he was just like all the rest. So much for puppy love, when the emotions become too great, I simply disconnect and divide myself from reality. The restlessness of wanting to know who I was and the purpose for my life didn't matter anymore. I felt that I was in a world of my own driven on fear and rejection.

When I returned to school, the principal decided to separate me from the other students. I was a senior and the school felt that I had the potential to graduate. I was assigned a teacher who would work with me one on one. Her name was Mrs. Peterson. She was tall, but a very slender. A white lady with short black hair, her continence really stood out. She introduced herself to me with a big smile on her face, extending her hand to greet me with a hand shake. I was shocked she wanted to shake my hand. I wasn't expecting this at all. I slowly extended my hand. My hand shake was rather limp.

She looked at the folder on her desk and calmly replied, "So you're Taylor?"

I slowly replied, "Yes, I am." She kept smiling at me, something that I was not accustoming too. She tried very hard to have a conversation with me, but I refused to open up. I wasn't exactly the nice's person to have a conversation with. But no matter how much attitude came from the lions cage she still maintained her character. To tell you the truth, I thought she was a little strange, but she was determined to be my friend.

She would come in the classroom day after day, with a big smile on her face, excited, as if she was expecting something great to happen. She worked with me very closely and she made sure all of my homework assignments were completed. Mrs. Peterson was a great encouragement as a teacher and a friend. She taught me about Shakespeare and poetry. She encouraged me to keep a journal and put my thoughts on paper. I soon discovered that this was the outlet I needed. I was starting to see my true reflection in the mirror. I realized that all the bitterness and un-forgiveness I was only hurting myself. I learned to channel my anger and aggression in a positive way. I was starting to understand with creation there is purpose.

She would always listen to me, but most of all, she cared about me. No matter how many mistakes I made along the way, no matter how many times I was ready to throw in the towel she continued to encourage me. I was starting to experience something that was pricking my cold black heart. The rage and anger were starting to cease. This was the act of God's love.

I asked Mrs. Peterson why she smiled so much and she softly replied, "That's the joy of the Lord."

Then suddenly, I became angry. I told her that I didn't like God!

She quickly replied, "It doesn't matter, God still loves you."

I asked her "Why didn't God answer my prayers and why did He take my grandmother away? She was the only one that cared about me."

"That's not true Annie. You have to understand that everything we go through is for a reason. They are reasons that we may never understand, but there will come a time in your life that God will take all of those bad experience and use them for something far greater than you could ever imagine.

God has never stopped loving you." Tears began to stream down my face, uncontrollably. I always cried in the dark and I vowed to never let anyone see me break! I dropped my head, crying relentlessly with a Godly sorrow saying, "I turned my back on God a long time ago."

Mrs. Petersons softly replied, "It doesn't matter He forgives you... He's waiting for you."

I Am

Wisdom you thought of me,
The soft whisper of your word,
Brought me into existence,
Creation in the womb,
A marred piece of clay,
You are the potter,
And I am the clay,
You formed me,
You fashioned me,
With many pieces,
You breathe life,
I am body, I am soul,
I am spirit... I now live,
I am who you say I am,
Through trial and tribulation,
Through persecution, I stand,
I am who you say I am

A Painful Place To Be by Jacqueline L. McGee

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