This post is about something that has been on my mind for a very long time, now. Namely, the discrepancies between who I so often feel pressured to be and who I actually am.
I grew up in an environment that was super conservative and legalistic. When my parents first got saved, they went to a Baptist church that had an alter call every Sunday, sang only hymns with a lone piano, and read from the "inspired version" (King James) of the Bible*. Women always wore skirts, and there was a definite separation of the genders. Women had their place in the home, and men had their place in the workforce, and that was that.
After awhile we began going to less legalistic churches, and I was exposed to an opposite extreme. My dad was a youth paster when I was about 8 years old, and I looked up to the teenage girls. Although my family stilled leaned in a conservative direction, I secretly admired the fashionably skin tight jeans of the girls, their cell phones and the bits of exciting gossip I would hear here and there.
Time passed, and I grew. When I was about 12 and 13 years old, I was all into Hannah Montana.** I wanted to be a popstar (never mind that I'm not even a very good singer...) and I wanted to be popular and fashionable. My spiritual life was at its weakest, I think. I went to the church I actually go to right now, but it was different then. I wanted desperately to be accepted by my peers, so I did things and tried to look a certain way which was specifically designed to give me popularity (although I was extremely shy and was probably the LEAST popular person there...). I had a friend who was into the rock scene, and I wanted to be like him and liked by him so badly.
Then I went to Amish country when I was about 14 years old, and my entire life did a 180. Suddenly, I was the most conservative person in the world. I wanted to be Amish. I wanted to marry an Amish or Mennonite person someday, and go live in the hills on a farm with a buggy and little barefoot Amish children running around me and live happily ever after. I wanted to quilt and I wanted to can and I wanted to bake***. I literally dressed in Amish clothing and wore an Amish headcovering. (I still have it somewhere...)
We started going to a different church again (my dad was the Assistant Pastor), and I made some friends who I mildly idolized. They were super conservative. They lived on a farm and did all that heirloom stuff that I wanted to do. I didn't want to go to college (college was for men!). I just wanted to get married young and be a mom and that was it.
My spiritual life was still pretty weak at that point.
Then came my mid-to-late teen years. It was around my 16th birthday that I changed yet again. (We were going to yet another church.) This time, though, it was more of a middle-ground outlook. I was in the middle of conservative and liberal, still leaning more toward the conservative side. My spiritual life began to grow, but I was still shaky, like a little calf taking it's first steps after birth. I wasn't prepared for what life had for me, but then again God knew exactly what he was doing.
Then 2010-early this year, I had the craziest things happen in my life. Stuff I don't even want to share because I feel like it's too personal, but I will say it was family and friends stuff. Everything seemed to change and slip out right under me, and I found out a lot of things (and friends) weren't really there for the long haul. I love the song "Over My Head" by The Frey, but two lines stuck out to me the most during that time. "I never knew that everyone I knew was waiting on a cue to turn and run when all I needed was the truth... I'd rather run the other way than stay and see the smoke and who's still standing when it clears."
Now, I say all of that - I give you this history of my life - because I want to talk about what I have learned in my (almost!) 18 years. This year, I have just taken a step back and looked at all that stuff, and I've asked myself the question I think everyone asks themselves at some point or another: "Who am I really? and who do I need to be? Where am I going?"
You see, I clung to group after group after group throughout my life. I just wanted to belong and I wanted to be told what to do. With the more liberal groups, my mentality was, "Well, that's how successful, cool people act, and I want to be like that." and I placed pressure on myself to conform to that group. Then, when I was in my conservative modes, I wanted to be associated with them. I think during that time more than ever, I was attracted to their appearance of Christianity. I think my opinion was, "If only I look like them, then I'll achieve who I feel like I need to be inside. Then I'll be a good Christian." So I pressured myself to conform to their group.
But then trying things happened, as they always do, and I was forced to say, "Ok, who am I really? What am I actually doing here?" Life is beautiful. I am so, so blessed in so many ways. But there do come times when it is harder than you think you can stand, and in those moments you're either living a hope you can stand on, or a hope that fails you.
So, now, who am I? And who do I need to be? Well, for starters, I don't want to be Amish anymore. ;) I've also given up my ambition to be a popstar. Because I'll tell you what, if who you are and what you're hoping in is a list of rules to follow to make you fit in with a group, it won't hold up when life gets stormy.
I want to share some scripture with you. I am still growing, so I think this definitely fits with the "Who do I need to be?" portion of the questions I've posed, but it is what I'm striving for every day.
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." -Romans 5:1-11
I have been justified through faith, so I can have peace with God. And my life needs to be a constant act of boasting in the hope which I now have and trying to share that hope with others!
Don't get me wrong, I still feel pressure to be a lot of things. Being homeschooled, being a Christian girl who still leans in semi-conservative directions places so much pressure to be a certain way on me. I want to go to college (possibly secular), but to some people that might be shocking. I don't always wear skirts; again, some people might find that shocking. Guess what? I don't really like gardening or sewing all that much (although I do them because I think they're beneficial). I like some secular music, and that offends people. I think Bollywood dancing and henna are cool and beautiful, and hip hop music is fun. I like Harry Potter and romance movies.
But what really matters? Is pleasing people what matters? Are we called to live our lives in such a way as to follow the rules of a group?
I don't believe we are.
As I write this, it is my earnest prayer that what I'm trying to communicate is coming across clearly. I am not condemning one way of living or another. I'm just trying to say that in the end, it's not how well I can embroider or can fruits or sing or dress or even people's opinions of me that matters. The only thing that matters is following hard after God. He is the only hope that truly satisfies us.
Lord, make my life count not because of all my accomplishments or because I was great in some group's eyes, but help me be a humble jar whose holes and beatings from the pain of life serve only to let the light of your gospel shine through brighter.
Let your light shine and your life count for more than people's opinions. Just strive to live for God in everything, and even if you can't sew a tiered skirt for a million bucks, you won't have wasted your life. ❤
"For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." - 2 Corinthians 4:6-10
* Just to clarify, I do believe the Bible is indeed the inspired word of God, and I don't have a problem with the King James Version itself. I just do not believe the King James Version is the only valid version of the Bible. Personally, I'm a fan of the NIV.
** Don't laugh. Hannah Montana was popular, ok?? ;)
*** Baking... oh dear. I was a very bad baker and cook when I was younger. lol Thankfully, I have improved since then... O.o