If i should speak, p.9

If I Should Speak, page 9


If I Should Speak

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  “If you’re a good girl, you can one day, but right now you can have a secret treasure name.”

  “I can?”


  “Will I be a princess?”

  They laughed.

  “You’ll be better than a princess if you’re good,” her mother promised.

  “I will?”

  “Of course.”

  “With a big, big castle, like this much tall?” she asked, her hands opening wider and wider, signifying her castle.

  “Even bigger,” her dad told her, amused.

  “And we can call you Princess Durrah.”

  “You will?” she asked full of hope and excitement.

  “Yes, because that’s your name now.”

  “Princess Durrah?”

  “Our princess Durrah,” her Dad chimed.

  He tickled her, and she giggled. “The princess Durrah!” he called out, suddenly lifting her from her mother’s lap as he stood, now swinging her around. “The best princess of them all!” he announced as her giggling filled the room. “The princess of the Gonzalez Castle!”

  Her mother laughed from the couch, amused by her husband and child.

  “Princess of the secret treasure box!” Dee’s tiny voice squealed, begging.

  “Princess of the secret treasure box!” his voice deepened, announcing. “But,” he stopped, holding her in the air, her small head almost grazing the ceiling, bony legs dangling awkwardly, “only if Princess Durrah is good!”

  “I’m good, Daddy! I’m the bestest princess of them all!”

  “The bestest bestest?” he frowned playfully, staring at her, waiting for her to agree.

  “The bestest, bestest, bestest!” she shrilled, giggling as he swung her around again.

  “Okay, the bestest bestest bestest Princess Durrah!” he agreed, letting her down to the floor, both of them falling playfully on the carpet, exhausted.

  He sat up suddenly, eyes narrowing waggishly. “But only if you be a good princess and pray and fast so you can get the bestest bestest bestest castle in the next world.”

  “The next world?” she sat up, eyes wide in anticipation.

  “The next world for the princesses and princes who get their castles because they were good girls and boys in this world.”

  “There’s another whole big world, Daddy?”

  “Yep! And if we’re really good, Mommy, Daddy, and Princess Durrah will have a castle!”

  “We will!”

  “Yes, we will!”

  “And I get to be the princess of the treasure box!”

  “You’ll be the princess of a lot of treasure boxes!” he promised.

  “All for Princess Durrah?” she hoped.

  “All for Princess Durrah,” he assured her. “But,” he raised a finger, “only if Princess Durrah is good.”

  Presently, Dee sighed and a lump developed in her throat. There were so many things she was struggling with. How could she find time to make someone else’s life difficult? How could she blame Tamika for her confusion? Dee herself was confused, and she had little reason to be. It was not truth that confused her but her failure to live according to it despite her belief in it. It was understandable that Tamika thought she just had to believe and everything would be okay. She had not known anything else. It was completely logical for people to believe wholeheartedly in what they had been taught, even if others misunderstood the conviction. Perhaps it had been so humorous to Dee because she had taken for granted the fact that, although correct belief in God was a prerequisite for Paradise, certainly there was more to religion and going to Heaven than merely believing.

  Dee had been taught since childhood that even after a person took the first step in giving herself a chance to enter Paradise by believing in and worshipping God correctly, the road was just beginning. There were minimal requirements that had to be fulfilled in order for the correct belief to not only benefit the person but to even be classified as correct belief. Her parents had taught her that it was incorrect for a person to simply profess correct belief, hold it in her heart, but live as she wanted to live, content with being “saved.” Each day was a struggle to stay on the right path, because there were obstacles constantly being placed in a person’s path. The temptations of the world were numerous, many of which were difficult to turn down. Sins like avarice, arrogance, and illegal sexual relations were among the most prevalent. But the most serious sin was that of associating partners with God. Although Dee understood the difficulty of avoiding the former three, she could never imagine doing the latter. How could a person either deny God’s existence or worship creation along with or instead of Him? It made no sense to her.

  As a young adult, Dee was constantly asking her parents about Christianity, a religion that had always confused her. She had a difficult time understanding how Christians could possibly view God’s prophet as God and His son. Didn’t they know that worshipping God’s creation was the gravest of sins, she would wonder? Didn’t they know that the committing of that sin forbade a person entry into Heaven—eternally? But what had confused her most was that the Christians she knew thought she was going to Hell for not worshipping God’s prophet Jesus. Furthermore, the Christians, although they worshipped Jesus, thought that pagans were wrong for worshipping idols and stone. In her mind, she thought, what’s the difference? If worshipping a man was okay, why not stone? Neither had any power except through God’s permission. Wasn’t the very definition of paganism the worship of creation? And certainly humans were creation, Jesus among them.

  She became perturbed whenever she argued with Christians. Sometimes she would come home in a daze, dumbfounded that they actually thought she was wrong. When she would ask her parents why that was so, they would most often explain that people generally followed the religion of their family, friends, or society. But why, Dee wanted to know? Why, when their souls were at stake? Why the blind following? Why the conviction? Did they study other religions? Did they ever think that perhaps the Bible was not God’s revelation?

  No matter how much Dee argued with Christians, she could never get over their blind conviction to the concept of the Trinity, of which Dee never got a satisfactory explanation. And being “saved” was a concept that made no sense to her either, in that the entire purpose of living each day was removed. And a man as God? That was mind-boggling. How could a man, as helpless and in need of God as she, be her creator and savior? It would have even made more sense to Dee if they had believed that God was a man and nothing else, at least that was consistent. But the half-man, half-God, yet fully man and fully God concept blew her mind. They actually believed it, that she could never quite get over. Their most popular explanation was the metaphor of an egg. An egg! The Trinity, they would confidently explain, was like an egg, three separate parts but all one—one egg. But she was too ashamed to tell them that such an analogy was actually proof against the Trinity.

  Many times she left them alone, amazed and astounded that they were serious. An egg? The senselessness of it tormented her. Such an analogy could be used to argue that everyone was god, all different people but making up one human race—“one god.” But still, an egg? How? An egg had three parts that were inexorably separate, termed an egg for terminological simplicity, not to point to their three parts being the same. Unlike the parts of the Trinity, if the egg yolk was removed, the whites and shell remained. But, in Christianity, if you removed one part, the Father, son, or the Holy Ghost, all were supposed to be gone, because they were all the same.

  Once Dee had asked a Christian classmate in high school why he thought Muslims were going to Hell, and he told her because they didn’t worship Jesus. When she told him they worshipped God, he had told her that was not good enough.

  “Then you don’t believe Jesus is God then?” she asked him.

  “Of course I do.”

  “Then why would I be going to Hell for worshipping God?”

  “Because you don’t accept Jesus.”

accept Jesus as the prophet he was.”

  “But you have to accept him as your Lord, as God.”

  “But I accept God as God.”

  “Not if you don’t accept Jesus.”

  She chuckled, shaking her head, confused. “Wait a minute,” she stopped him. “Define God.”

  “Define God?” he repeated, the request baffling him.

  “Yes, define what you mean when you say God.”

  He did not respond for some time but said finally, “He’s Jesus, who shed his blood—”

  “No,” she interrupted him, “what I’m saying is, before we can discuss who is and who is not God, shouldn’t we first know what we mean by the word ‘God’?”

  He stared at her blankly.

  “You see,” she said to him, smiling, “Muslims believe that God has attributes, certain characteristics that make Him God.”

  “We do too,” he interjected.

  “But Muslims believe God is All-Hearing, All-Seeing, All-Knowing and—”

  “We believe that.”

  “Then you don’t believe Jesus is God?” she asked, feigning ignorance.

  “Of course we do.”

  “But doesn’t your Bible quote Jesus as saying he does not know when the Hour is, that only the Father knows?”

  “That was him talking about himself as the son.”

  She laughed. “So when he doesn’t know something, he changes into the son, when he’s supposed to be God?”

  “God can do anything.”

  “Yes,” she agreed, clarifying, “God can do anything that’s consistent with Him being God.”

  He was becoming frustrated. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

  “It means that God is All-Powerful, yes, and He can do whatever He wants, but He does nothing that is inconsistent with His Majesty or Power.

  “Think about it,” she had told him, reasoning. “I say I’m a strong person, but if I tell you I’m so strong I can drink till I’m drunk, what would you say?”

  “I’d call that stupid,” he told her emphatically.

  “That’s my point,” she told him. “My strength is not demonstrated by doing whatever I want, like getting drunk, because this does not show any strength on my part, even though it took energy to do it. But my strength, although it is shown sometimes by being able to do certain things, it is also shown sometimes by not doing certain things, if those things contradict my strength, like getting senselessly angry, or getting drunk, or whatever. Similarly, you can’t point to a weakness, like lack of knowledge, and then attribute this to God’s Power, saying He can do whatever He wants. Because the fact that someone does not know something, especially if he’s supposedly all-knowing, demonstrates his limits, not his strength, power, or capabilities. And thus, it demonstrates his lack of divinity.

  “So,” she continued authoritatively, “we can’t argue that God can do whatever He wants to justify the argument that He is a man and God at the same time, because being a man in flesh, as Jesus was, having to walk here and there, or having to eat, to pray, to have limited knowledge on things, all of these things are weaknesses, inconsistent with and contradictory to Godhood. And, certainly, experiencing pain and chastisement, as you believe Jesus experienced on the cross, is unbecoming of God, where you say he cried out helplessly, ‘My God, my God, why has Thou forsaken me?’ Killed, killed,” she underscored, “at the hands of the humans he supposedly created and over whom He has power? Was that God, the All-Powerful, the One capable of doing anything, talking then? And if it was, who was He talking to?”

  Until they graduated from high school, that student never spoke to Dee again, constantly avoiding her, although they had many classes together. She knew he was avoiding her on purpose, unable to give any intelligent answers to her questions, although he was constantly carrying a Bible, which was tucked under his arm, and inviting people to “the Lord” so they could be “saved.”

  Dee had felt sorry for him, awfully sorry for him. His uncertainty and ignorance was apparent on his face. He had no idea why he was calling people to “the Lord” in the manner he did or why he believed Muslims or anyone else who did not worship Jesus was going to Hell. He had no idea. For, although he “called people to God” everyday, he clearly exhibited that he did not even know what he meant when he said “God.”

  Chapter Five

  The night grew cold and dark in Makisha’s room, and although Makisha had spread out several blankets and sheets for her, Tamika was unable to get comfortable on the uncarpeted, cold tile floor. The sound of Makisha’s rhythmic breathing filled the room, her silhouette but shadowy curves created by her comforter, which rose and fell with each breath.

  “You better sleep here,” Makisha had advised Tamika after she told her about how the two roommates ganged up on her, Dee laughing and Aminah asking questions to intentionally mislead her.

  “I told you,” Makisha had reminded her, shaking her head knowingly. “You need to talk to the residential office about moving out of that place before they drive you nuts. You can file a conduct suit, if you want,” she casually suggested with a shrug. “And you can call it harassment. They like that word.”

  Tamika had shrugged. Although upset with her roommates, she was unmoved to take such a drastic measure, certain the problem would pass. “It was just a misunderstanding,” she concluded after calming down.

  “Girl, that wasn’t no misunderstanding!” Makisha told her, staring at her as if she was crazy. “They tryin’ to convert you.”

  Yeah, maybe, Tamika considered. But she didn’t care. If they thought what they were saying was true, why wouldn’t they try to convert her? Hadn’t her mother told her to convert people to Christianity for the sake of their souls? Why then should she view it as an insult if Aminah and Dee were doing the same? Wasn’t it a person’s love for you that moved her to want you to have what she thought was best?

  “They have some good points, though,” she had said reflectively, her eyes distant, arms hugging her knees as she sat on the floor facing her friend, who sat on the bed.

  “Naw, naw,” Makisha stopped her, waving her hand in the air, her thick braids moving as she shook her head. “Don’t go there, girl,” she cautioned Tamika “That’s all they want you to do.”

  “But what was it that the other prophets taught, Makisha?” Tamika asked, her question seriously intent, her voice far away, as were her thoughts.

  “Who cares?” her friend retorted. “They’re dead.”

  Tamika groaned and sucked her teeth. “But it’s in the Bible, Makisha, we can’t just say that.”

  “Well, if it’s there, it’s there, so what? I gotta go with what I know. I ain’t nobody’s preacher.”

  “You think the preachers know?” Tamika asked hopefully, her tired voice becoming slightly more alive.

  “Of course,” Makisha replied simply. “They studied all that stuff.”

  “Isn’t one of your uncles the reverend of his church?”

  “Yeah,” she said slowly, unsure where Tamika was heading.

  “Why don’t you ask him?” Tamika sounded like a helpless child, aching for any answer someone could give. She did not care what it was, anything, so long as it satiated her appetite for peace of mind.

  “Girl, he lives in North Carolina!” Makisha reminded her, staring at her friend as if she had lost her mind.

  “You know his number, don’t you?”

  “His number?” she asked incredulously. “I ain’t calling him long distance to ask him that.”

  “Why not?” Tamika begged her. “It’ll be real quick. I’ll pay you back.”

  Makisha was silent, touched. She suddenly felt sorry for Tamika. She realized then that her friend was a mess, hungry for answers, as she had once been. When Makisha had gone through her confusion, her mother had come to her rescue, gently giving her the answers, each one with a reminder that we weren’t to question God. We were only here to believe, and although the responses were simple, they changed Makisha
’s life and increased her faith. Since then, she had never questioned again. She was ever so grateful to her mother for being patient with her during those fragile moments.

  “Okay,” Makisha agreed finally. “But you better pay me back, girl!”

  “I will,” Tamika promised, forcing a smile on her stressed, contorted face.

  After finding the number in her phone book, Makisha called her uncle. They exchanged small talk, and she told her uncle about Tamika, after which he eagerly agreed to talk to her, especially after Makisha mentioned that it was Muslims who were bothering her.

  Makisha handed the phone to Tamika, whose heart was pounding wildly.

  “H-h-ello?” she stuttered, barely able to speak, her hands trembling from nervousness.

  “Yes, Tamika,” his deep, comforting voice replied. “My niece tells me you have some questions.”

  She chuckled self-consciously. “Yeah, I… just a few.”


  Her first question was about the message of the other prophets to their people.

  He cleared his throat, “Well, uh, they just told their people to do good and worship God.”


  “Well, uh…” There was a long pause—too long for Tamika’s comfort and waning hope. “We can’t quite say that. But they worshipped God as best they could.”

  “So they didn’t worship Jesus?” Her heart sank. She did not want to hear that.

  “Well, he hadn’t come yet, so, uh—”

  He was making excuses. She could see right through it, the way he fumbled for answers, just like she had.

  Just then, Tamika felt as if the world were caving in on her. She wanted to cry.

  “So then is Jesus God?” Certainly, he could answer that for her.

  “Yes and no.”

  Yes and no! She wanted to throw the phone against the wall. “E-e-excuse me?”

  “Yes, in the sense we must worship him to get to Heaven, but no, in the sense he was also a man in flesh until he died.”

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