Yes, I’m ashamed to admit I’ve faked it before. When my husband, Don, realized I was faking it, he was appalled. But, before you judge me, give me the opportunity to explain.
It was October of 2002. We’d only been married for three months. Our newly recited vows drew us toward activities designed to help marriages last. The Married Couples Ministry at Salem Baptist Church was hosting a weekend marriage retreat. Their website laid it out beautifully, “Learn how to have a joyful relationship with good communication, intimacy, financial security, and love.”
We signed up with zeal!
Salem Baptist Church is known for doing things real big. They did not disappoint as the festivities were held at the gorgeous Wyndam Hotel & Resort in Itasca.
The opening ceremony left us mesmerized as we watched a step-show made up of married couples. A step-show is a complex performance involving synchronized, percussive movement, singing, speaking, chanting, dancing and drama. In the 1960s, historically black fraternities and sororities began stepping on college campuses as a rite of passage for pledges.
Now stepping has evolved from campus organizations to high schools, local community events and church groups. The precision in their claps, boot stomps and body alignment left me speechless. That wasn’t the only thing that left a loss for words. My ears expanded during our “wives only” breakout session from the marital discord revealed. Once the couples reconvened, the raised eyebrows on Don’s face said the husbands dropped a few bombs as well.
The dramatized play that evening brought to life every major issue a marriage could experience. Some women sobbed aloud, for them, things were hitting close to home. The next morning was our final session. Impacted couples gave testimonies of deliverance. Everyone seemed moved. Upon conclusion, the retreat leader told couples who wanted prayer to stand in line. The pews went empty. We were 100 couples deep, single file. Soft music covered the hushed chatter of those of us who found ourselves at the end of the line.
So engrossed within ourselves, Don and I didn’t notice the powerful anointing hitting the recipients of prayer. They were going down like fighters in a boxing match, all with just a touch from the palm of the pastor’s hand. Now three couples from our turn, Don tells me we should take our seats. “Are you insane?” I whispered while moving up again.
He kissed my cheek and replied, “I’m not in the mood to faint. It don’t take all that. We can pray at home!” Terrified of the impression sitting would leave, I yanked him over. The elder began putting anointing oil on Don’s head. Then, just as he had with others, he professed blessings over him, stretched his palm and struck him lightly on the forehead.
Don didn’t budge!
The elder repeated this palm strike a few more times. He looked bewildered, as if his circuit to the Lord had malfunctioned. It wasn’t him, it was Don. He said he felt God’s power but had chosen to quench the Spirit.
I, on the other hand, FELL OUT as soon as the elder touched me. My school of thought was, “When in Rome, do as the Roman do.” After lying quietly several seconds, I eased one eye open to check my surroundings. The infuriated look on Don’s face told me I was BUSTED! He’d been staring down at me the whole time wondering if I was r-e-a-l-l-y out. He mouthed, “Get up!”
I hustled to get to my feet. He tugged at my arm and walked us briskly to our seats. He remarked, “This is a new low. I can’t believe you FAKED the Holy Ghost!”
If you ask me, we were equally awful, both guilty of a disgraceful smokescreen. Neither of us had been honest about what we were feeling that day. Don felt something, as the minister prayed for him, there were real tears streaming down his face. I actually didn’t. I was distracted. All I was thinking as the Elder prayed is, "I hope they catch me good."
Don and I will be attending Salem Baptist Church's marriage retreat again this weekend to celebrate Valentine’s Day. My, how we’ve grown over these 14 years.
Today, I stand firm in knowing that despite being tempted to the lure of pleasing people, I’m confident and proud of the woman I am. It is my intention to live a life that is pleasing unto God, not man. This means I must learn how to take His direction by hearing His voice.
Are you wondering how someone can hear God’s voice? It’s not audible; at least it hasn’t been for me. I’d be a little freaked out if it was. It comes from within. It’s a subtle thought. It’s a dream or a message within a song. Or it might be random advice from a loved one or stranger that fits your situation perfectly.
When you hear it, you’ll know it’s meant for you. Don’t allow the perception of others to distract you or quench what you know is real. The pleasure of a purpose driven life awaits you.
Excerpts of this column first appeared in the Inside Oak Lawn Magazine in 2013.
Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author and runner whose columns appear in The Reporter the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.