I grew up in a series of traditional black missionary baptist churches. The experience grounded me with a philosophy and a staple of practices that for the most part have helped me to navigate many of the challenges that I have encountered throughout the first half of my life. But I will admit that there was one thing my elders used to tell me when I was young that frustrated the dickens out of me.
“Baby, you not gonna be able to sang some songs until you’ve been through something.”
Those words stung me deep down in a mysterious place because I loved singing in the choir. I took very serious the responsibility of being a part of the team that set the atmosphere for God’s people to receive the WORD. I practiced my parts, I studied my commentaries. I resented that my elders, these saints who I looked up to and respected, found me lacking to the task that I prepared for because of my age and “inexperience”.
Looking back, I wish the culture of my church upbringing had led me to talk about this conflict I carried around in my heart for years before the Lord helped me to understand what those old soldiers were really trying to communicate to me.
It wasn’t that they judged me as not being worthy to the task. They knew from their experience that there were going to be some hard times ahead for me and that those challenges were going to give me the choice to lean on the teachings that they worked to instill in me. Through that process, my understanding and relationship to the gospel would change and prayerfully enrich the meaning of those songs for me.
That experience can take the message of the gospel far and above the vocal techniques that a musician (even a talented one) can employ. That experience can take you to a different realm, into a sweet communion with something greater than your individual self. Words truly pale in comparison when you try to describe it.
Those elders were absolutely right. I am grateful that they took the time they did with me. Many have gone on to their reward. A part of me wishes I could hold them close to me and tell them I understand now and thank you. In my spirit, I know they know and I pray that I honor them thru my service.
I didn’t know when I started writing this why I had such a strong urge to play “Be Grateful” by Walter Hawkins when I got home from work today. Sometimes you just have to let go and let God. This song doesn’t mean the same thing to 37 year old Marta that it did to seven year old Marta. This song won’t mean the same thing to 67 year old Marta either, and that’s not only okay, it’s an amazing demonstration of the mighty way that God works in the lives of His people.
Marta C. Youngblood is a writer, education and social entrepreneur based in Lubbock, Texas. For more information on her current projects visit https://about.me/MCyoungblood.