Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Confessions of a Called Woman

 I have been on a life journey for a while, but then, all of us who are in the between space of first breath to last breath are on that same travel.

For me, it has been trying to become who I believe the God of the Universe created me to be.

Why someone like me, fifth born, last daughter, grew up motherless, would be called into ministry and spend years figuring it out.

When I was still-and-yet seeking my way, a little, tiny afro-wearing, walnut colored African American woman came into my hospital room in the week hours of the morning. She was a hospital chaplain and was assigned to visit those who were in pre-op. For me, it was an emergency surgery for a swollen gland on my neck that threatened to cut off life and voice. 

So she politely asked to enter my room and sat on the window sill to just be with me while I waited. My husband was traveling for work, my daughters were early elementary school, my youngest son was away at college, so I was in the quiet spaces of being alone facing a major surgery.

Being a chaplain now myself, I understand the vulnerability of that moment and entering someone's room at 5 o'clock in the morning.

We chatted. 

Up-to-that-point, I had neither met a Chaplain before and certainly not a Black woman one. I was intrigued.

I asked her about her studies and how she came to be in that space and then she told me about the seminary where I eventually attended and graduated.

Funny thing, I never saw that woman again and couldn't pick her out if I had to, but she was there and she listened with all her senses.

Then she said something to me that for a decade, I haven't forgotten, "Who's to say your writing isn't your ministry?"

Now, if you know me, you know that I have been putting pen to paper or fingers to keys for a very long time, trying to make sense of the world as it unfolds. This very space, long before influencers or instagram was the place to share moments, I was writing here. Before that, it was with Helium. 

But writing as ministry?

That was the first time I'd heard it.


I wanted to know how this could be and somewhat being in the space of caring for children while my husband's very demanding career was all the focus, I had to just try to get the words in when I could.

My book reviews started over a decade ago, my poetry long before that, I even have a manuscript written, and since that time, more scholarly papers than I ever thought.

Ministry in words?

Of course it makes sense to me now. 

So, here is my confession, I took what she said to heart, and tried to fit into spaces in public ministry that went on to take up the last 8-10 years of my life. Since then, I've earned another Master's degree and have been actively looking at doctoral programs. I've presented at scholarly seminars and published scholarly papers. 

But to center the quiet spaces of hearing what the God of the Universe wants me to say to the world, to make that the center of my vocation, and to be unapologetic about it?

I haven't fully done that yet.

And that is my confession.

My repentance.

I will be sixty in a few months, and in reaching that milestone that half my father's siblings never reached, I'm facing my own "more years behind me than in front of me" as my father said. I have a sense of urgency to me now.

The world is lost. 

We have more lost children since October than in so many wars.

Just this past week and yesterday, even, the undereducated and un-enlightened in two states just voted to have a narcissistic criminal as their party candidate for the upcoming election.

There is a space for those of us who ponder.

But that is also the space for those who studied writing and journalism were targeted and called all manor of everything but someone deeply loved by the God of the Universe. That is intentional.

Writing is freedom.

My ancestors, as one descended from those Born on the Water™ as Professor and Journalist, Nikole Hannah-Jones coined us, were among those who were denied the right to learn, think, and create for themselves. 

Reading and writing is liberation.

Reading and writing and thinking is justice and a way out of oppression.

I am giving myself a reclamation and transformation, my own Sankofa moment to renew and resurrect what was placed in me before I was born.

In speaking it, or in this case writing it, I am claiming it.

©2024 by Antona B. Smith, just a woman writing as Taye Foster Bradshaw in a world trying to figure it out while sipping a caramel vanilla latte with a Moleskin™ and handmade wooden pen nearby.

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