A few months ago a major event came into our family's life. This event has caused us to reflect, inwardly, on our lives; the decisions we make, the way we raise our family, the standards we uphold.
I was raised in a very stable home. We attended church faithfully. My parents tithed and gave unselfishly to our church, and they encouraged us to do the same. We were heavily involved in many ministries of the church. And while my family held many conservative values and standards, they were very open about letting us choose what we believed in and figuring out our own standards for ourselves. We were never made to wear culottes or skirts all the time. We were expected to dress modestly and pleasing to the Lord, but we were given the freedom to choose what exactly that was. Being from the south, and especially a beach side town, modest dress is very hard to achieve without being made fun of. But through Pastors, Sunday School teachers, and other good examples in my life, I chose a certain style of dress. I was careful to be respectful of others thoughts and standards. If I knew I was going to a friend's house who did not wear pants or shorts, I would not wear or pack pants or shorts. I would try and be respectful of their beliefs.
The same could be said of our music standards. My parents listened to many different styles of music. They encouraged us to be knowledgable in all styles. We were introduced to classical, jazz, blues, rock and roll, country. I always loved (and still do) classical music. I ended up taking over ten years of formal ballet training because of that love.
When I went away to college, all of the standards that I made myself, from good, godly counsel and studying Bible principles helped shape me into what I thought was a very confident woman that was a good example to others. And then I got married and moved up north.
Let me tell you, the north is different from the south. In the "Bible belt" there is a good, Bible believing church on every corner. If you don't like one, there is bound to be another one that fits your needs. Not so up here. On every corner there might be a church, but it's not baptist. And not always Bible believing. So the choices that we thought we had were slim to none.
We attended a church that was so dogmatic in their beliefs that anything different from their standards was automatically wrong. I came into the church with such high self esteem, ready to serve the Lord in any capacity that I could find, that I just knew they would love me. Everyone in high school did. Everyone in college did. I was the golden girl. Not so here. I was immediately asked to not wear my "short skirts" (they came to the top of my knee). I was asked not to attend ball games if I did not wear culottes. I was not welcome to come to visitation if I could not be dressed modestly. I was labeled a sinner for my southern gospel and contemporary christian cd's. Little by little, year by year, I was beat down.
I have been beat down so far, that all those beliefs and standards I worked so hard to find in high school and college, I have come to question many times over. And now, here I am. Back to square one. It's time to reflect again on those inward beliefs that, not some man wants me to have, but what God wants me to have. I have lived so many years trying to please a man, that I have lost sight of what is really important.
Who cares if I wear pants? Who cares if I listen to music that has a drum beat in it? Do you know what matters? It's my heart. It's how I treat others. It's showing compassion and love to others so that they might come to know Christ. I have never been shown true, Godly love or compassion in many times of my life when I truly needed it. It's time for me to become an agent of grace and show God's love to others. I have to look past all the bad, past all the negative looks, past all the gossip, and be compassionate. Be loving. Show grace and mercy even when no one shows it to me. I need to quit feeling sorry for myself. Quit waiting on someone else to be nice to me. Quit waiting for someone to show me love. I need to be the one. I need to be kind. I need to take the first step.
It's time for a change.