I grew up in church. We were there at the opening and stayed till it was clear and empty.
I was an only child of a street club dancer. My mama was a pole dancer by night. She hated it, hated how she felt afterward, but mama had to fend for us.
My birth certificate read unknown father.
It was another thing that caused my mother deep shame.
She had a one-night stand with a total stranger. I heard it one night as she cried to God in anguish.
Mama would smile at folks in the church and volunteer for every activity. Many days she couldn’t see through the guilt and exhaustion. I learned as I grew older that she was atoning.
A man in the church started to visit and bring beautiful gifts for us. I saw mama’s eyes light up each time he came around, then grow heavy with sadness. Mama was so overridden with guilt that she couldn’t accept anything good.
Then one day, the preacher talked about that scripture that says, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb. While I was still unformed, You knew me.” I had seen mama cry many times during a sermon. I knew she couldn’t dispel the shame and guilt she felt.
On this day, though, mama’s eyes were the brightest I had ever seen. It was like watching a rebirth. Finally, she understood that she was truly loved and forgiven. God knew her. God saw her. God loved her.
As long as she lived, mama would say with wonder, “blessed is he whose sin is forgiven.”
I never left the church. We were there at the opening and stayed till it was clear and empty.
Mama loved to serve in the church and outside its walls. She said that the one who is forgiven much loves much.