It was the first line of Tyler Perry’s book that drew me in: “Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve known there was something greater than myself: something bigger, something stronger — something higher.” I believe this well-known celebrity has found the answer that our world needs. In the midst of our chaotic world, we must know that there is someone who is stronger, bigger, higher and that HE cares about our lives.
As I read the story of the shy little boy, growing up in New Orleans, being abused by his alcoholic father, I saw that Tyler Perry is not your average celebrity. His memoir is all about his relationship with the Creator, the Savior, in the worst and the best of times. He confides, “My childhood was a story of discouragement, belittlement, and unthinkable abuse.” What would have happened if not for two special women who brought sunlight into the dark, hopeless, places of his life? There was Mamma Maxine and Aunt Mae. His conversations with them went something like this: “What are you doing Aunt Mae?”
“Talking to Jesus, Baby.”
“How can you do that?”
“Well, did you say your prayers last night?”
“Then you were talking to Jesus.”
Riding across Lake Pontchartrain, the little boy would ask, “Why doesn’t the water cover the bridge? Aunt Mae’s answer was, “Because God’s got it. He’s in control. God is good!”
It seemed to the little boy that Jesus made Mamma Maxine and Aunt Mae happy in spite of trouble. When Tyler would ask, “What is faith, Mamma, what is faith?” Mamma would answer, “Baby, faith is what you believe when you can’t see.”
When Tyler was older, he moved to Atlanta, in search of a better life. He says, “At first, living in Atlanta was a life and death struggle. I wanted to die.” When he couldn’t pay his rent, he became homeless, living in his car. It seemed that he could no longer hear God’s voice — something was badly wrong in his life.
Perhaps it was the ongoing prayers of those two special women in his life, that pulled him through. He would eventually remember Aunt Mae’s words, “God’s got it. He’s in control. God is good.” As he examined his life, he realized that he must deal with the anger he felt toward his father. Once, in a conversation, his father confided, “You don’t know what I’ve been through, what happened to me.” Tyler then remembered that Emmitt, his father, had been abandoned in a drainage ditch at the age of two. “When I was able to forgive,’ says Tyler, “I felt love and compassion.”
Today, Tyler Perry knows that everything in life, the good and the bad, is a God-given opportunity to stand in the light. “My soul-filled experiences,” he says, “have taught me to embrace disappointments, knowing deeper lessons will be revealed. God’s hand opens some doors and closes others.” As God began opening doors, the shy little boy from New Orleans eventually became a writer, a filmmaker, a songwriter, and a philanthropist,
“Even now,” he says, “when I don’t hear God’s voice it means something is wrong. It happened recently. I was waking up in the morning, watching the news first thing, and being fully captivated by our country’s drama and polarization. I allowed myself to become absorbed in it. I got completely caught up in the material world, and put my soul on the back burner. I didn’t make time for prayer.” Tyler Perry now begins each day with a reverence for God and His blessings; he spends the first moments of each day in communion with the One who is Higher.
Tyler Perry’s book, “Higher Is Waiting” is available at the Meridian Public Library.
Virginia Dawkins is the author of Stepping Stones: Steps from Shackles to Freedom, available at Amazon.