Nathan Stanton has spent the last 10 years as a pastor, church planter and artist on the West, South and Northsides of Chicago, and is an Interfaith America Racial Equity Media Fellow.
The following short story and poem are a part of a series of vignettes from Stanton that we will be publishing each month and are connected to a larger narrative called Master Peace. The narrative is about characters seeking personal solace in a time of unrest. You can find the first short story and poem ‘Darnell’ and “Black Bodies Beauty” here.
The rumble she felt happened as she prayed on her knees in her room. Often she awoke long before the sun had risen spurned on by Malachi 4:6 “The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in it’s wings. The Great Physician was more apt to heal as we witnessed the rising of the most perfect circle. She glanced over at the clock and saw it was 3 am. She had been looking to remove a certain disdain and terror slowly welling up in her spirit, where her intuition lives. She’d been reared in the mostly black church denomination that could only see the goodness of God as any benefit to life. The dress up on the weekends reacted to the blue collar dress down during the week. She looked as her sisters were all primped and puffed to go to a building that would become their sanctuary for the next few hours. Even longer on Sunday. Ever since she was a child there was plenty of praise for her pious nature and her willingness to be an usher with her white gloves and show people to the wood and velvet lined pews at the same church she had found Jesus. Yet and still there was a new rumbling in her spirit that didn’t sound like “Oh Happy day” or even “Great is thy Faithfulness”. She had been taught so much yet there was a nagging darkness growing into a crescendo at that moment in her room in an unforeseen void.
That deep sound called to the sound that had been cultivated inside of her soul from long ago. Now on her own in the apartment near the edge of town, she felt the lances of imprisonment and safety all the same. But directives grabbed a hold of here even as her mind dueled with the expectations so many had placed on her shoulders that forced her to become who she could not be for much longer. The depth of the rumbling became like a song to her that lasted only a few seconds. But by and by it became a song that did not end for in her it had found it’s reflection. Leaving the hastily painted place quietly knowing she would need to explain her absence to her quietly dozing roommates upon her return. She walked barefoot through the early morning darkness, with each step she shed the weight of expectation. Her commitment to God had never waned. She imagined Him cheering her on as she broke away from the confines of tradition to follow some unseen powerful force that had beckoned her forward. As that weight got lighter the reality of the way she felt got stronger and she wept uncontrollably tears streaming as she struck our towards the barely imperceptible sound with her ears but obviously deafeningly loud and disruptive to her very spirit. The God of the universe had begun his glance toward her section of the galaxy and His attention was felt with immediacy. The tears washed away the facade of her identity and the incensed look and fear of her father could not even make her look back. The clarity of the night and brightness of the stars urged her on into a future that rested just past the boundaries of this obviously God-forsaken town.
There seemed to be tears and time enough for every injustice that had existed and on she trod with a determination one has when the destination exists in the heart. She’d wanted to go out but was taught by her parents to be suspicious of everything and everyone especially when the sun goes down. Now in this time the darkness, the unknown had become her own. God speaks the loudest in a vacuum
Striking a match just as Abraham had done for his faith. So imagine the surprise when she approached a disheveled man starting off in the direction of the sound and a little further partygoers exiting a gathering not in the best of spirits but as they had decided to stay too long and the mood became all too somber. Normally Celeste would cross the street in humility to not be to close to the debauchery that was happening but now the beauty and precious nature of their fragility and humanity struck her like a lightning bolt and they stood transfixed upon her shoeless figure and the tears that dropped before each step and were crushed underfoot. She was reclaiming the land that was her identity, freedom and ironically there was no one there to see it. Only strangers she passed in the night. Just as those who had known her would soon become. Yet she was impressed by the thoughts, inspiration and joy that flooded into her mind at that moment as if ushered there by the moonlight.
I’d escape without myself
A most pernicious mystery becomes the self from which one runs
Like the mirror that follows one propped
up in the Radio flyer
In keeping with the deceit that becomes desire
Resting in the confidence that the other path will be all right and
seeking towards the reality as a side effect
keeping in control of spite
for my settlement that required the meat of my own party
Dreams have to die for others to live and I’ve found the
resurrection of one’s identity a harder gift to give
for the comfort that has to be sacrificed for
lately cannot be exited safely as time
Yet there is a welcoming into the danger that is unknown that is strong
shaking us to the midst of our core and deciding to explore
The limits of the places i was willing to go
Still here in my skin and convinced I should want to stay
but calling out into the darkness still reverberates loud
like the beating of silence against the conscience
I’d remain in most cozy confines trading vacation stories
of when I was once free for the weekend
became the need to trade what I strive towards
for what I’d known
that long ago in me the Nomad was sown