So I just watched Lemonade and it was EVERYTHING! I must admit, while I haven’t been a fan in the past, I am loving grown woman Beyoncé. As I watched the video album unfold, The Ellipsis Experience theme “More to Your Story: Facing It To Fix It” whispered in my spirit. Like many women, I identified with the emotions depicted in the opening scenes and had to keep myself emotionally in check so I wouldn’t slip down my own rabbit’s hole of emotional volatility, which can sometimes be sparked by memory. Most of all, I loved the thematic progression and growth from anger and betrayal to reconciliation, hope, redemption and resurrection. While I agree that Beyoncé’s Lemonade is a tour de force of womanist theology, psychology, sociology, and history, it is also a good old-fashioned love story…grown woman-style.
I must confess that I was late to the Lemonade party and was compelled to watch it only after hearing my teenager declare, “I didn’t like it. It was confusing and I really didn’t get it.” And then reading numerous posts hailing it as “ground breaking”, “visually stunning” and worthy of small group discussion. I’ll also admit that I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. Amid the grit, the pain, the vulgarity, the harsh contorting lighting and music, I glimpsed the beauty of love. This lightness was a sweet and savory surprise based on the blogs, quotes, and posts that I had read, which seemed to focus on the themes of betrayal, heartache and pain. Some seemed obsessed with Becky and her “good-haired” identity, others were concerned with Jay Z and Matthew and their hurt feelings, others were focused on the #blackgirlmagic and women’s empowerment aspects, which are all viable interests. However, no one seemed to see the love story or at least have the language to pontificate on it, if they did see it.
It has left me wondering, do we know black love when we see it? Why in a story of love and life do we fixate on the labor pains instead of the birth? Why in a piece titled Lemonade, do we remain fixated on the lemons? Why does is seem to be theologically compelling to preoccupy ourselves on the struggle when there is also hope, redemption, reconciliation and resurrection? Why have we picked out and devoured every salacious morsel…Serena twerking as only she can, and Bey middle fingers up throwing her fur to the floor, just to name a few; leaving the pure refreshing joy of resurrected love… Bey & Jay curled up intimately in bed, and Blue Ivy swinging in the air, wind blowing through her fro (to be fair) untouched?
While I believe that we must face and accept ourselves, and our history in all of their grotesque and compromising complexity, I struggle with hanging our futuristic hats on the dreams deferred, and promises broken. Why are we so willing to accept and hold onto the worst in our stories, without also believing in and lauding the best? Why is it so much easier to talk about black relational brokenness than it is to talk about black love? THIS is the challenge we must face today. To recognize love as the hope of our future that it is. To endure the pain…to let it seep into our bones and feel the grit of it between our toes, but then to let the ocean of forgiveness wash it away.
This isn’t trite, light Hallmark-esq romanticism, but this is the enduring legacy of Christ and His sacrifice for us on the cross. When Jesus gave up His will in the garden of Gethsemane, He gave up His right to sinless purity for the remission of our sins. Jesus valued the forgiveness of our sins above His own purity to the point of death. While so many Christians place emphasis on relational purity (As the mother of three children, I’ll agree purity does have it’s place), I would argue that Christ’s ministry was focused not on maintaining purity but on the reconciliation and redemption that must take place when relational purity fails. Everyday acts of reconciliation, hope, forgiveness, redemption, resurrection…love are what constitute the sanctity of relationships and not our outdated expectations of purity.
Love is the sweet, life-giving force that turns our lemons into lemonade and it deserves to be recognized, celebrated and consumed as often as we shall in remembrance of Him.