this is how
the Mad Griot
so it sounds
is a storyteller
and I’ve been that
since I was very small
the “mad” part
bear with me
When I was 18, I read the New Testament, from beginning to end. I became a hardcore Christian almost immediately afterwards.
I started going to church every week. I joined the youth group and the church band. I read the Bible every day. I threw out all my rap CDs, because I only wanted to listen to Christian music.
I prayed a lot. I jerked off a lot too, so I never had to worry about running out of things to ask forgiveness for.
Didn’t date much. Some of that had to do with my Christian code of ethics. Most of it had to do with being terrible with women.
Things changed once I went to theatre school at NYU. Except for the being-terrible-with-women part. And the jerking off. I kept right on with that.
I tried finding on-campus Christian groups to be a part of, but I didn’t have much luck. The most promising faith community I found ended up being a cult. But while I was there, I did end up meeting the woman who would later become my girlfriend and then later become my ex-girlfriend. Which just goes to show you that you can find love in the craziest places.
By my junior year, my closest friends weren’t people of faith. They were mostly theatre folk, and mostly non-Christian. And according to my beliefs, most of these people were going to hell.
This was a hard pill to swallow. I didn’t see how I’d be able to enjoy living in Paradise knowing that the people I loved were going to be impaled on flaming pitchforks for all eternity.
The spring of 2001, I did a study abroad program in London. One night, I was alone in my dorm room. I decided to settle things with God then and there.
“God,” I said. “I’ve been taught that the Bible is your Word, but I’ve heard that the Koran is your Word, as well as many other holy books. How can I know what is truly your Word and what isn’t?”
“Father, I want to serve you,” I said. “I don’t always do a good job of it, but I try. But right now, I need something from you if you want me to keep serving you. I need you to send me a sign. I want a burning bush…like the one Moses got. Or an angel. Or just your Voice telling me what’s true and what isn’t.”
“It’s important that you talk to me, God, because there are people in my life that I care about. And according to the Bible, they’re going to hell because they don’t believe in you. To be honest, God, it doesn’t matter to me what people believe. Just as long as they’re good people. And I think maybe you feel the same way.
“Actually. if I’m really being honest, I’m not sure you’re even out there. I could be praying to absolutely no one. So show me a burning bush or some other sign. Because if you don’t give me a sign, I’ll take that as a sign that you’re not real.”
I sat in silence for about 20 minutes, waiting for that burning bush. I suppose it was a weird expectation because there weren’t actually any bushes in my room to begin with. But that seemed like a small obstacle for someone as powerful as God. Besides, I wasn’t committed to it being a burning bush. I would have been fine with a burning chester drawer or a burning bookshelf or a burning toilet seat. A burning anything really. Just so long as it was burning.
Nothing burned, so I got up and left the room.
That weekend, I went to a pub with some friends. We met a friendly American businessman who bought us all two rounds of Red Bull and vodkas. I followed that up with a Long Island iced tea and a beer. The beer was the only thing I drank that night that I’d heard of before.
It was a night of two firsts. First time I got drunk and my first night without God since my conversion.
I woke up the next morning in agony. Body and soul.
What I didn’t know at the time was that my prayer had been answered. The match had been struck, lit, and applied. The first flames were so tiny, I didn’t see them. But they were slowly going to get bigger and bigger. I wouldn’t smell the smoke until it was too late.
It wasn’t a bush that was gonna be burning. It was gonna be me.