COGIC Church Mothers Section In the black church, “Church Mothers” (elderly women in the congregation) are recognized as pillars of the faith. Cheryl Townsend Gilkes writes that black women within the church are the underrated “enterprising agents” of the black church tradition. I grew up respecting an honoring the women elders in the pews. These powerful women knew the Bible better than anyone yet was not allowed in the pulpit to ‘preach’. Still today, Church mothers can be heard saying, “I don’t need a title to do what God has called me to do.” With this, they still remain the most committed members in a church when it comes to service within and outside the church. As a retired woman and/or former homemaker, engaging with a traditional church mother guaranteed a few things: warm embrace, a beautiful smile, memories, questions about your lack of attendance, follow up questions, invitation for the next weekly service, ticket sales for the prayer breakfast, a heavy pocketbook with candy, and the beloved handshake with a bill folded 5 or 6 times over.

Mother Lavada G. Williams-Gutierrez
Mother Lavada G. Williams-Gutierrez. Photo Cred: Joel Clifton of Clifton Photography

My grandmother, Lavada G. Williams-Gutierrez, was the epitome of a Church mother when she was at church, the DMV, collecting her rent from tenants, and definitely during the holiday dinners. Church mothers, like my grandmother, were bold in their faith and I knew it cost something to get to where they were.

As I near my 40th birthday, it is simple to recognize that I am not getting any younger.  But these days, I truly understand why Church mothers continued to tell me to “Trust God in everything that I do.” Little did I know that trusting God is not just about the dreams and goals for my life. I am learning that trusting God is necessary for the difficult unanswered pains of life that resemble fault lines ripe for a natural disaster. To be honest, I have expressed a lot of anger at the result of a sure foundation now presenting itself as unfit and unhealthy.

Don’t get me wrong, I am glad to be alive, raising a family, working towards better health and completing my PhD. And I still quote the Scriptures of my childhood.

…. “[God] has given us ALL things that pertain to life and godliness…” (2 Peter 1:3)

“…all things work together for the good of those who love Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:28)

I know these Scriptures, and many more, like the back of my hand, but how does one maintain faith while experiencing pain and trauma?

What does our theology look like when our pain and grief is a result of God allowing a crisis – ‘on purpose’?  

How do you make sense of what doesn’t make sense?  

How do you make it through a crisis when you followed all of the rules?

As my mom shared, “Candace, you have to stop looking at what it looks like and have faith in God, knowing that you have the victory.”

I get it. But how do I get there without bitterness and anger overtaking me? I’m only human. Anger and frustration are real. If I followed the rules, should I have to deal with God’s path that involves hurt and pain? How do we communicate with a deliberate God that allows pain and suffering in our lives?

Have you ever found yourself trying to suppress your anger to appear as having greater faith in God? If so, this is unhealthy. In fact, this is not a model for life found in Scripture. Let’s go to John 11:1-43

My therapist directed me towards Martha’s response to Jesus after he took his sweet time coming to see her brother, Lazarus. Once Jesus arrives, Lazarus is not only dead, but he has been dead for four days – 96 hours. Isn’t that like God to show up when everything is completely lifeless? Usually, this is a greater testimony of God’s example of resurrection power. Within three small Scriptures (John 11:20-24), we read that Martha confronts Jesus about his lack of priorities. His own friend was sick and now is dead. The healing moment has passed. What does he want now?

cemetery under the cloudy sky
Photo by Anna-Louise on Pexels.com

Sometimes, I feel like Martha. I get Martha because in a previous story, she is not the highlight of the story as she commits herself to her societal role as a woman hosting a gathering of men – Jesus and his disciples. Martha is chided for not taking care of business, while Mary is praised for her position at the feet of Jesus. Fast forward to this passage and Martha seems to have learned the important lesson of doing the “good thing”. Does it work out for her?

With the last encounter with Jesus, Martha knows to call on Jesus.  She has learned her lesson, right? The text does not say she did not call any doctors, but I wonder how doctors would respond to a call from a close friend of the town’s nature mystic who preaches outside the temple and heals with power from God.  Jesus became an enemy of the state (Rome), the temple and those whose profession was to provide healing ailments for those in need.

Martha calls on Jesus…..no answer. He received the message but decided to wait! This leaves Martha angry and rightfully so. Does this mean she has no faith; no relationship with God?  She did the right things, yet Jesus purposely waited.

What I appreciate about Martha is that she represents people who have faith enough to know that they can be honest about their anger and frustration towards God. We are often told that anger is a sign of having faith that is weak. At the result of suffering and evil in this world, there has to be room for anger. This sort of response is healthy as it is both reality and reminder of the goodness of creation. Is it God’s will that we suffer?  God is big enough to handle our anger as God hears our protest as authentic to our faith in God’s will for our lives. Therefore, anger and reflection should not be the equivalent of renouncing our faith in God.

close up of hands
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My 5-year-old daughter gets this already. While praying the same prayer and seeing no results, she said to me, “I’m not praying this prayer any more. I’m mad at God. It’s like God doesn’t even hear me. It’s so annoying.” I’m so grateful for her honesty and I encourage her to keep talking to God, no matter what. You can be angry but keep talking. God always hears and will always answer.

That’s what Martha did. Martha kept talking to God.

As Martha released her frustrations towards Jesus for showing up after her brother died, little did she know that her actions were making room for an answer to her crisis.

First thing to remember is that Martha’s crisis (as well as ours) is something we are purposed to go through and not take residence. Long before Jesus makes it to Bethany, upon hearing the news about his sick friend, he says, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4) Maybe Martha would have been less frustrated if she heard Jesus say these words as her victory was foretold long before he arrived in Bethany.

With Martha’s story, I am reminded that I have the victory and I have faith that this crisis is not unto death.

Within this text there are two very important steps that need to take place in order to for us to make it through and do more than just function throughout each day.

Here we go….

  1. Talk to God and let it go. God is big enough to handle hearing our frustrations. It is out of your hands; especially when you know you are not the creator of this crisis. This doesn’t mean we lie down and give up. No. Seek therapy, attend fitness classes (I like Zumba and Yoga), (re)organize your home, meditate and pray. These are things that have given me strength when these moments of despair arise. Of course, prayer and meditation are the best way to start the day, but I must also make the extra effort to survive this storm being committed to believing that the eye of storm is reachable and where I find peace. Releasing also involves shedding tears, journaling, and/or singing to voice our devastation on the path towards peace. We are vessels and have to focus on the shifting of our contents and being intentional about what we fill ourselves with in order to survive and thrive.
  2. Talking to God empties us out to make room for the answer and peace to help us through the crisis. Remember we are going through; we are not here to stay. Notice how Martha emptied her frustrations out, first. Then she received the resurrection knowledge that resolved the crisis in her life.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2.

Question: How do you make theological sense when you feel desperation due to circumstances that are not your own? Talk to God. Trust God.

Are you being honest with yourself and God? Talk to God. Trust God.

As a child grasps the hand of a parent, trust God to help you manage your emotions. Don’t get rid of them. Rest in God knowing that the unfamiliar path will not be something you face alone.

landscape mountains sunset person
Photo by Josh Willink on Pexels.com

Martha would be an awesome Church mother. She’s been there. She’s lived through desperate times of correction, love and having her prayers answered.

One of my grandmother’s favorite Scriptures was, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, lean not to they own understanding. In all they ways acknowledge God and God will direct your paths.”  (Psalm 3: 5-6)

 

What a reminder…..

God sees my past, present and future

God knows the path that I should take

God hears me when I cry.

I will never stop talking to God.

 

6 thoughts

  1. What makes me angry is the idea that Lazarus’ illness is for God’s glory – isn’t it rather selfish to make someone fall ill and die just to show how great God is? Or am I not understanding this right?

    1. I have been a little swamped with family life, writing, etc. but I was elated to read your comment via my email notification. You ask an extremely important question. I remember my first years of seminary and we dealt with this “theodicy” issue. Theodicy deals with the “why do good things happen to bad people AND why do bad things happen to good people”. I totally hear your question and justified attempt to understand the “meaning” of Lazarus’ illness that just ended up with Jesus raising him from the dead? Why did Jesus wait the four days?

      The first thing I keep in mind is that we are not immortal. We all have to die one day. Concerning your question of God possibly using something so traumatic to get our attention, I get it. There also comes a time when we see that God’s plans are nowhere near ours. It wasn’t Lazarus’ illness that was used for God’s glory though. God received the glory in Lazarus’ resurrection. In the earlier part of the text, Jesus says, “This sickness is not unto death”. He said this to his disciples (who represent the church in many ways) who constantly had difficulty understanding the full ministry of Jesus. Lazarus’ resurrection was also a testimony for those who still did not believe until they saw for themselves.

      I really like how Jesus also allowed Martha to have words with him. He did not cut her off. He listened. In the end, I see how one could question a person’s method to get “attention/glory”. However, I also see there is a larger picture and stronger lesson that is being experienced by those in this story. Jesus did tell the disciples to pray; even gave a sample. Yet, they still struggled with trusting Jesus, as God’s Son, for what was soon to happen – the crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

      I hope I gave some understanding. If not, please ask away.

      Candace

  2. Hmmmmm….wow….exactly what I’ve been feeling but running and pushing down the anger. Wonderful meditation….never stop talking to God…from one Martha to another….

    1. Hi Martha,

      My apologies for the late response. Life just happens around here:) But I wanted to thank you for reading my blog. I truly believe that as we allow ourselves to be angry, yet continue to talk to God, we are pleasing God. As a parent, I do not mind that my girls let me know how I made them feel. Sometimes, this includes the response, “You’re being a mean mommy!” And honestly, I have to stop myself from laughing but I’m also grateful because to hear these little squeaky voices lets me know they are comfortable enough to know they can express themselves. Have an awesome rest of the week.

      Candace

  3. Love this!!
    I believe God gives us that “room” for our feelings. We are human, there’ll be things we don’t understand and He knows this; so we talk to Him, air out our frustrations and go from there. It’s what we can do.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my blog posting. Yes! Air it out. Talk to God. And Go from there. We have to keep moving. The load will be much lighter and we can think a little more clearer when we release what does not belong within. As I mentioned, we are living vessels. We have to be cautious of what is within, as much as what we intake from outside.

      Candace

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