My Will be Done

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In my family of origin and true of others in the South, children are seen and not heard. To be sure, it was more instruction in role expectation than reality. The adults didn’t want to hear the children. Their voices, our voices were devalued, prejudged as needy, juvenile, playful. We were not old enough to be taken seriously.

Barred from participating in conversations with adults, our exchanges were punctuated with yes ma’am and no ma’am, yes sir and no sir. No questioning their authority; the adults were always right. Never in doubt, the adults had all the answers. But, our inquiries were rubber stamped the same: “None of your business” and “Because I said so.”

All under the same roof, we shared a last name. Everything else belonged to the adults. Consequently, children were of a different class and instructed to “stay in a child’s place.” In their minds, we were different kinds of human beings. When we became adults, we would be treated as equals. They couldn’t wait for us to grow up and neither could we.

More than climbing up the familial ladder, the required silence was particularly cruel for me. Words in hand, they quickly moved into my head and stayed there. My words meant so much to me; I just couldn’t bear them being ignored. So many words left unsaid, it was a kind of death. The silence was slowly burying me.

Paper and pen were my salvation. They started as surrogates but now, they are family. My next of kin, I want to make sure that they are okay should something ever happen to me.

So, giving my words to God in prayer proved trying. Our conversations began much like that with the adults in my life. Reverence detached from relationship, it was mostly small talk. Still in a child’s place and not sure if it was safe to speak, prayer was carefully scripted.

I had taken the Lord’s prayer and made it my own. “Adult God who is in heaven. Hallowed be your name.” I didn’t trust that all-knowing God would give me a fair hearing. A child of God, I didn’t believe that God would take me seriously. Worse still, I didn’t think my voice mattered. God was having conversations with angels until the arrival of the kingdom.

So, my will be done on earth and heaven doesn’t need to know about this. My life would be kept quiet and wouldn’t require much of God’s time. It would not upset or offend, get in the way of anything or anyone. God would not have to worry about me.

I would have stayed in a child’s place if not for the exchange of words, my words for the script given me, in prayer.

smcneillReverend Starlette Thomas* is an associate pastor at Village Baptist Church in Bowie, Maryland and the Minister to Empower Congregations at the D.C. Baptist Convention. She writes on the social construct of race and the practice of faith at www.racelessgospel.com. Her hobbies include reading, writing, and Starbucks.

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