I wanted to cry.
The tears were there.
I felt the familiar sting of wetness welling up behind my eyes.
But nothing would fall. It seemed as though even my tears were in submission to the silence that engulfed me—silence that engulfed the theater after I’d just finished watching the film, Twelve Years of Slave.
There’s so much to say about it. Some of which I’ve said already over on my blog, In Search of His Face. But even after writing that piece, I had the sneaking suspicion that I wasn’t done thinking about it. Would I ever be done thinking about it? Feeling it?
I took one look into the big, bright eyes of my precious baby girl to realize the answer.
The depiction of the realities of physical and mental slavery endured by my ancestors was like nothing else I’d seen before on film. The intentional separation of families. The vile devaluing of human beings as the basis for an entire economy. The despicable sexualization and violence against women and girls.
Wait…are we sure this movie isn’t really a reality show from 2013?
Although it’s hard for even me to imagine, there is another kind of slavery that I think is more insidious and arguably more damaging than even America’s chattel slavery of Africans.
See you can chain my hands and feet, even attempt to chain my mind… but when my spirit is broken, when my soul no longer remembers—or in the case of some of our children, never has known—what it means to be free, then I will find myself truly at the point of no return. Freedom of spirit means to be unencumbered by people’s perceptions and judgments of me. To live by my Creator’s design and in service to Him and those He allows to cross my path. Yes, caged spirits are worse than caged bodies, for sure.
And both, I believe, were an intention of American slavery.
Yet, too much of it is still happening today.
You see, while most of us don’t live in physical bondage (or the threat of it), there are so many of us who struggle to shake off the residue of both our immediate pasts (our own choices) and our distant histories (the choices and circumstances of those who came before us). Our spirits are entombed and so comprehending love, having pure joy, and forgiving because we are forgiven are notions we can never imagine grasping. Mental bondage (when our thoughts are controlled by others), emotional bondage (when our emotions are unable to be released) and spiritual bondage (when our soul is confined to trends of self-deception and brokenness) keep us stuck—unable to press toward our goals and purpose and unable to be fully and authentically who we were created to be.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. – Psalm 139:14
So here’s the thing: If we’re not careful, if we don’t continue to pursue our own healings, if we don’t, like Mr. Northrup, “get free” by continuing to tell our stories regardless of the risk, we are certain to pass our chains down to our sons and daughters.
They’ll be born into a different kind of slavery altogether.
In my own life there are many strongholds I’ve been working to conquer. Things with which I’m certain other women in my family have also wrestled. Fear. Low self-worth. People-pleasing. Oh, and yes, fear. (I seem to have been given a double dose)
Yet, I am determined to not give my baby girl my issues. Consider this blog post my own emancipation proclamation!
Will she have her own trials, her own issues to work through? Absolutely! As she should. But if I can give her tools to use, tools I got from my own walk to freedom, then maybe—just maybe—her “stuff” won’t bind her forever.
And not just her! My hope and prayer is that all of us who finally get our spiritual freedom papers will risk going back “in” and getting our brothers and sisters who still are in captivity. Just like in the 19th century, this might mean going underground because there are certainly still those in this world who intend for us to never be fully free. But underground or not, let’s do what we can. Volunteer in an at-risk after school program, give that sister a hand who’s struggling with her value as a woman… or better yet, just be a model of the love, joy, and peace that comes with God’s liberty.
Is this a realistic pursuit? How have you tried to prevent your “stuff” from being passed down to your children?
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This post is the latest in Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Faith & Motherhood” series.
Tracey Michae'l is a writer and educator based out of the Philadelphia area. She is a wife to William and a mother to a beautiful two-year old little girl. You can find her on the web at www.traceymlewis.com.