BLOG SERIES: MY JOURNEY
As I said before, my journey led through the church. I practically grew up in the pews. I’ve really never known life outside the four walls of the church.
As far as I’m concerned, every person needs a spiritual, and biblically sound foundation upon which to build a solid life structure.
My foundation has always been religious and spiritually based. As far as I’m concerned, this is the only solid, and sure foundation there is.
Although I grew up in the church, that doesn’t mean that I’ve always had a relationship with God. That came later … much later. Before we get to that, let me tell you a little more about me.
Growing up, in school, I’ve always been the “different” one. That could very well have had something to do with my appearance. Coming from a strict religious setting, my church did a pretty good job of making sure we didn’t look exactly like the world. Their philosophy was that the church is supposed to be different from the world — set apart. And this is also God’s philosophy.
The Bible tells us to “come out from among them, and be ye separate.” God expected Israel to be different from those nations around them. Because they were now His people, they were supposed to reflect His nature, which is holy.
This is also true for the church today. The church is supposed to be a reflection of God’s holy nature, therefore, there is supposed to be a visible, spiritual difference between God’s people and the world.
But unfortunately, the church doesn’t always know how to go about making this separation. Sometimes we get caught up in legalism, as I’ve stated before.
While the church leaders’ intentions were good, you really find that we’d fallen into man-made laws, which we felt made us stand apart from the world.
I’m reminded of the Pharisees, who Jesus had many debates with. The Pharisees were a very religious Jewish sect who tried to adhere to the letter of the law.
They also tried very hard to appear religious before men. They wanted to be seen as very religious, so they prayed long prayers in public to be seen by men.
Whenever they wore the traditional Jewish clothing and implements, theirs were often more garish and flamboyant than others.
These Pharisees often sought the best seats in the banquet halls. And they were known for their long greetings in the marketplace, which showed others that they were very good Jews, or so they thought.
But Jesus told these self-righteous Pharisees that they were like whited sepulchers, sparkly clean and new on the outside, but full of dead men’s bones. While they appeared very religious outwardly, Jesus told them that their hearts were far from it. They served God out of tradition, and not with their hearts.
Well, I grew up in a tradition-based environment in the church. I looked different from those around me. People saw this difference and would sometimes question me about it. Why do you wear skirts all the time? How come you don’t go to the school dances, or to the movies?
When you’re young, you do your best to explain these things as they’ve been explained to you. But deep down inside you somehow know that it’s not the external that saves you. But still you adhere to these things because you don’t want to be rebellious.
And, when you take up fellowship in a church, you usually go in having a pretty good understanding of what the church expects of its members. And as long as it doesn’t blatantly go against God’s laws, you do your best to be obedient to those who are over you.
I didn’t have a hard time abiding by these rules. But some of my peers had a difficult time with these rules, and often rebelled against them.
Just imagine how hard it is dealing with peer pressure when you’re young, and trying to establish your own identity…..or just trying to figure out who you are.
This is a difficult enough time for a young person who’s trying to wade through life. But when you add these types of church-related limitations on them, which further separates them from their peers, most youngsters can’t handle that.
Most adults don’t have the strength to stand out from the pack and be their own unique, individual selves. And this can be very hard on a young person who wants very much to be liked by his or her peers, and to fit in. Well you can’t really fit in when you don’t look like everyone else.
But I never wanted to be like everyone else, or felt like I needed everyone to like me. I guess I never really needed this type of validation from pimply-faced, secretly insecure peers.
Most of the people we seek validation from are really looking for this same validation themselves. So my experience in a strict religious upbringing didn’t really cause me such angst. I just learned to roll with the flow.
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I was this strong, secure, and self-aware person. This wasn’t the case at all. As I’ve said before, I was very shy growing up, and shyness is a form of insecurity.
Instead of wanting to blend in with everyone else, I wanted to not be seen by anyone, and sort of blend in to the environment. Shy people don’t like a lot of attention directed their way. Attention was the last thing I wanted.
I was very much aware of the whispers of people, or of being called a square because I literally didn’t fit in. Yep, I heard it all. And it hurts to hear people call you these things. They never said it to my face, but these types of things always have a way of coming back to you.
But, I do know that a lot of times people call you these hurtful names because somewhere deep down inside they are truly envious of you. Envious that you have mustered up enough strength to be different, to be true to who you are, and to not care more about seeking people’s approval than you care about being authentic and true to who you are.
If more young people today could muster up enough strength to be authentically true to who they are, then the sting from the bully’s lash would not cut deep down into their souls causing them to retreat from society, or worse, take their own lives.
May we always be kind to one another and treat others the way we would want to be treated.
Be true to who you are. Don’t always seek the approval of man, which ultimately only leads to more heartache and pain. Don’t seek people to validate you.
Most of these people are insecure themselves, and are often trying to find their own self-worth. Broken people seeking the approval of other broken people leads to a world filled with messed up, broken people. This will never work.
Someone has to break the cycle, step out from the pack, and be the best person they can be. We all have an inner strength inside of us that we have to find the courage to tap into.
Find out who God created you to be. Seek His will for your life. Live according to His holy standards. And come out from among the world, and be different and set apart for His holy will.
Man is not the architect of God’s holy laws; God is. And remember, God’s laws are not grievous or burdensome to those who truly love Him, and seek to please Him.