February 13th, 1998–I stood in the pulpit of the Mount Olivet Baptist Church to give my initial sermon. I was 16 years old with a unique outlook on life. I was standing in a place where giants have stood to proclaim the Gospel message to the world. I was a teenager attempting to make sense of a Bible to offer a word to all who would listen. That Friday night was definitely one I will never forget. The people that made their way to support me and the launching of my ministry was amazing. The way that I imitated what I saw from the pulpit makes me laugh today.
However, I sit at this desk typing and reflecting on one major flaw from that evening. I was not (in my opinion) qualified to speak with authority on the subject of that evening–True Love. I recognize that many people who are spiritually deep will suggest that God uses whomever God chooses. While I was able to speak to the mechanics and philosophy of First Corinthians 13, I had a difficult time receiving the fulness of what God was attempting to deposit in my life.
For 41 years, my life has possessed a serious thorn regarding my ability to give and receive love. As a young man, I did everything I could to be noticed. I was not always embraced right away. I did not always get the hugs and acknowledgement that I needed or desired to validate my space within this world. My mother was not always the lovey dovey mother to me. Her main objective was to make sure that I survived and succeeded by any means necessary. It was not always translated into “I love you” or “just do your best”. It became incumbent upon me to strive or achieve near perfection to access the love I sought. It was a life of transactions.
Please understand that I have done a lot of personal work and had many conversation with my mother. I understand with grace why things were the way they were. It was not easy to be my mother. She was attempting to give me every single opportunity to achieve and press on. She sacrificed working a job that was beneath her intelligence to put me in private school, expose me to many different summer programs, opportunities around the country, and beyond. I can honestly say that emptying yourself to provide has the capacity to deplete your emotional resources. Though my relationship is so much different than during my youth, I can openly acknowledge that my perspective of being loved and the desire for genuine interaction was framed by a transactional construct.
What does it mean to experience transactional love? The concept is one rooted in giving the best of yourself with the hope that it will be seen and embraced. It is rooted in the desire that one who sees you will reciprocate what you give. The issue becomes that both sides now are attempting to keep pace with one another hoping neither will tap out. Eventually, someone realizes that nobody will be able to do enough to be satisfied. Generally speaking, human satisfaction is something that will never be truly fulfilled. Humanity is fickle.
I can trace moments in my life where I realized that all my existence was to people was an ATM machine. It wasn’t about cash. It was not about wealth. It was to capitalize on gifts, talents, and skills I felt like I rooted in love and care. I learned the hard way. People said they would never leave my side. They said that they would be loyal. The moment circumstances changed and my offerings did not apply to their new trajectory, I was out.
But man you know sooooo many people……..
Of course I do. That doesn’t mean everyone knows me. Everyone is not privied to the deep places of my heart. Everyone is not welcome (any more) to the inner sanctum of my thoughts and emotions. Everyone does not get to examine me and see how they can benefit. The problem with transactions is that no emotion is behind it. It is all business. It is never personal.
After so many years, my soul could no longer take the settlement for artificial love substitute. My being was always in search of authenticity. My mind needed to be fed by genuine souls. My mental health was in need of an injection of connection.
Myrissa and C.J. saved my life. They have always made sure to remind me that I am more than enough. I have never had to question my worth with them. I have never needed to renegotiate my worth with them. I am who I am with them. It is not always a simple task. Yet, I am better for them being in my life.
I have told people that it is not easy being my friend. They look at me strange thinking that I am crazy for saying that. The reality is that my life, work, calling, and personality takes a great deal to understand and deal with. I am not a perfect person nor a completed work. However, I realize that many people are not willing to sit with someone and address or listen to the their feelings when they have challenges of their own. “Who attends to the wounds of the wounded healer?”
One of my objectives in life is to be as genuine as I can. Genuine does not mean pristine. It means recognizing that there is always room for growth. That understanding of self aids me in living into the gift of grace with all. We are all people who are in need of grace. We are not supposed to live under unyielding emotional debt for life. We all need the opportunity to not to have our relationships be strictly based on a transaction of superficial needs. We must become a better humanity that returns to the premise of love for one another. We must live into the sacredness of our humanity, bodies, and beings.
In order to break the curse and obstructions of transactional love, a few things must happen.
- Acknowledge how our love ethic was framed: If we are not honest with our journey of understanding love, we can not ever correct the process. We will constantly live in the cycle of repeating what we have always known to the next generation.
- Forgive: Forgive yourself for what you settled for. Forgive ignorance of what love is supposed to be. Give yourself the grace to grow from the revelation
- Create: The revelation is not to cause us to live in pity or resentment. The revelation give us insight into creating a new construct for the future.
To those who were ever connected to me via transaction, I apologize for not being strong enough at the time to demonstrate my understanding of my own self-worth. If my self esteem was better, our interactions may have produced better results or the lack of wasting each other’s time. To those who never understood my inner turmoil, I apologize because I did not understand it fully. It feels like the revelation took too long. However, I have learned that time for revelation is not the issue. Understanding the revelation when received is the most important matter.
I pray that with the rest of my life I can aid in fostering an environment where people will no longer be afraid to be themselves. I pray that every person understand the value that they bring to this world. It would not be a better world without your gift, life, and presence. Shine as God has created you to shine. Know that you are loved first by your Creator and all who see you truly as well. Our worth is not a tradable good. Our love is not an investment stock. Our valued existence is an enhancement to the world.