My mind was fixed on physical circumstances. I was simply looking for conditions to improve. Perhaps my successes had me ego trippin. I began to turn to my own strategies and (wo)man-made solutions to fill my voids. I was an Elijah. And like Elijah, I deserted my post and ran for my life…seeking refuge…in search of “better conditions”.
I like to believe that God gave me specific instructions to move to Charleston, South Carolina. (That it wasn’t an emotional reflex move.) The last time I moved away from everything I knew and everyone I cared about to live on my own was in 2006 when I moved from Mississippi to Fayetteville, Arkansas, for graduate school. The difference between that move and this one…I had a family now—a husband and two small children—so the stakes were higher. Not only did the Holy Spirit deliberately speak Charleston to me, I was also led to believe that this would be the place where God would restore me. I was an assistant professor at a flagship institution, just a year or so from having tenure and I was only 31 years old.
What in my life needed to be restored at such a young age one might ask?
My dry bones. I was dehydrated from a high-speed agenda, sky-scraping goals, racial realities and social delusions. I was an ambush predator, sitting and waiting for the next opportunity or congratulatory e-mail. And all the while, I could see vultures circling in the sky, patiently waiting for my figurative death.
I needed desperately a radical move and wellspring of hope. I. Ran. For. My. Life. Landed a new job. Negotiated my own contract for the first time…
Same script, different cast.
I moved my family to the east coast where I worked on the peninsula, indulged in real diversity, ate shrimp and grits, and saw dolphins every other day at Battery Park. I was living inside the verse of a freedom song, being bold and relishing in my “improved circumstances”, but my spiritual condition reflected the solemn refrain of Rachelle Ferrell singing Wounds in the Way.
Too many hearts. Too many hearts devise ways to tolerate toxic situations. We then find ourselves depending on those situations to “grow our strength”. Before we know it, we begin looking to our relationships, spouses, mentors, parents and, almost always, our careers to fix what’s broken in us. You see, at this point, my conditions had improved. Sullivan’s Island and Folly Beach looked and felt like refuge; but like Elijah, I was just benefiting from another human strategy to be content. I would go to work determined to “take back what was stolen from me”, failing to realize how careless I had been all along. Constantly leaving myself open. Nothing was taken from me that I didn’t give away.
I moved to Charleston the same summer Dylan Roof opened fire during the Bible study at Emanuel A.M.E. Church and the community was not shying away from the issue of racism and the topic of race relations. Families of the nine victims forgave the white supremacist who took away their most precious gifts. Healing was happening in many forms—publicly and personally.
What God needed to convey to me was something I could only receive while living in the Holy City with the backdrop being that poignant Mother Emanuel massacre. It was in Charleston that I came to terms with my own wounds. Lodged in my core, were injuries I incurred in my twenties as a young, malleable, black woman trying to manufacture love, fight her own battles and authentically embrace her identity.
I’ll never forget the evening I was sailing along the beautiful Charleston Harbor, past Fort Sumter, along the Battery and beneath the Ravenel Bridge, when the sun took a bow and I reflected on my past insanities.
I found Glory.
I forgave myself and everybody else…
and I grew in Grace.
Clinnesha D. Sibley is an award-winning playwright and published poet/essayist. She is the Literary Arts Instructor at Mississippi School of the Arts in Brookhaven, MS. For more information, please visit: http://onepagerapp.com/clinneshadsibley.