Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My 3 Cents - Recentered Identity, Relearned Lessons

    I'll never tell you this... But I still remember when I was maybe 11 or 12, and you said to my mother in front of me, "Don't you think those pants are getting too tight on her?" ... I remember being mortified... I've forgotten so many things from when I was young, but that I remember. 

    Do you know I hated buying jeans for years afterwards because I always wanted ones too big for me? That I only ever wanted to wear baggy jeans from then on out? I... never told anyone how that impacted me, or why I was so difficult to buy jeans for... 

   I know you didn't mean harm... But I'm sensitive, and it did hurt me.... confused me... I'd read about being modest... You reinforced that I needed to be modest, or people would confront me - and if tight jeans were bad, then baggy ones must be good. Somehow for many years, I planted the idea in my head that everything I wore needed to be big on me, or I was being immodest. My parents never told me that... But I believed that anyhow.

    Little by little though - especially from 16 - 18... I've become more comfortable with who I am... I realized that God cares more about my heart than my outward appearance - but He also doesn't find it a sin to enjoy fashion, so long as I'm being modest. 

     Late last night, do you know what I did? I went through my drawers and got rid of all the jeans that don't fit me... The ones that have never really fit me. They are a size or so too big. I have a few that do fit - and those are the ones I've been wearing now... And yet I've still held on to pairs that don't fit... Part of me has been saying, "Oh, I'll wear those again someday."

     No. I won't.... 'Cause ya know what? I'm not so worried now about what everyone thinks of me... Yes - I think I'll always be conscientious and want to be modest.... But it's okay to be fashionable, and like pretty things... It's okay that I want some days to wear bright contacts, and wash out blue hair. It's okay that I finally think of myself as pretty, instead of always comparing myself to others... It's okay that I'm comfortable as myself (most times) without worrying about everyone else's opinion...

    I finally feel I get that now.

      That memory is one I've been trying to shake for a long time. I hear it every time I buy jeans... About a week ago, for the first time in a long time, I went and bought myself a brand new pair of jeans. I heard that voice... and I ignored it. And I bought a pair that fits - not skinny jeans, or necessarily tight ones -  but ones in my size... And I felt very grown up and happy.

     It's odd... I didn't realize how much I was still letting a comment from years ago, still have a hold on me... It feels nice to try and let that go... I'm sensitive in some of the wrong places - I'm learning to grow away from my hurtful inner voice.

     In being modest, God does not call me to disparage the way He made me.... He doesn't call me to not accept compliments... He doesn't call me to compare myself to others and think, "Well, I'm more modest than them." Or - "I'm just not pretty."... We are not to be prideful - but He doesn't want us to put so much stock in our outward appearance, that we don't like ourselves... It's all so fleeting -  life is - outward appearance is. We worry too much. I worry too much.

      I know of two people who told me they've had similar experiences when I shared this last night on G+, just to ramble out my feelings... So to anyone who has felt the same... Ya know, you're not more holy if you dislike/hate your outward self... It's okay to dress in what makes you feel pretty, within reason. Be joyful, and bright, and happy with who God made you. He loves you wildly...

      *Laughs as I suddenly realize* When it all comes down to it - the point of this post isn't about skewed views of modesty, or really anything about jeans - it's about asking yourself - myself - 'Where do I find my identity?' ... For longer than I care to admit, I've had my identity in my outward appearance (which I didn't like), and who I am, in relation to family (the first born, and a pastor's daughter.)...

    But those things are not my identity - they are simply parts of me... My identity is: I am a precious, beloved, child of God - no matter what... God loves me - and He made me - His redeeming blood has made me clean... He didn't make a mistake. He wants me to find all of my joy and life and identity in who He is - the glorious, unchanging, perfect love that He is... He wants me to rest, and run, and Delight in His presence.

     On Sunday, a friend emailed me... This was the last paragraph:

        He loves you, Ophelia, more than you can ever know. And His desire for us all is to come to know that love more and more and to lose ourselves in love with Him. That is what Christianity is about: the love of God. I so often forget that and make it more about trying to be holy and live up to a set of expectations I am no longer required to keep. When I do that, I live in religion and become a Pharisee. God is not interested in law-keeping for the sake of performance but in a love relationship with Him, where we walk with Him. To really walk with Him is to pursue Him and leave behind that which takes our hearts from Him. In fixing our eyes on Who He is and who He has declared us to be, we come alive in our identity as sons and daughters and we walk out of sin and shame because they belong to the old dead man. For there is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ. For behold, if anyone is in Christ, she is a new creation. The old IS gone. The new HAS come. For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. And if a son, then an heir. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, by Whom we cry "Abba, Daddy!" 


      And this, really - is the lesson I'm learning again. To take less stock in myself in general - and  to see myself truly through the eyes of my Abba.

    ~Ophelia - Marie

Sunday, July 19, 2015

UnWound - A Book Review


       I recently finished the Unwind series, by Neal Shusterman.

"In America after the Second Civil War, the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life armies came to an agreement: The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, a parent may choose to retroactively get rid of a child through a process called "unwinding." Unwinding ensures that the child's life doesn’t “technically” end by transplanting all the organs in the child's body to various recipients. The reasoning is that, since 100% (actually 99.44% taking into account the appendix and other "useless" organs) are required to be used, unwinds do not technically "die", because their individual body parts live on. Now a common and accepted practice in society, troublesome or unwanted teens are able to easily be unwound."

       "The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state, is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive."

         What makes a human, a human? What gives a life worth? As a Christian, I know the answer to those questions, but in a world where morality is often seen as whatever "feels right" and is culturally accepted, the lines between right and wrong seem blurred and skewed.

      These books are frightening to me, in a way. They ask the questions - what if? What if we, as a country decided that using "unwanted" teens as organ and tissue donors was giving them  a "more worthwhile existence"? What if we told ourselves - "It's not murder - it's doing what is best for society, and the child." ?

      Ah - they frightened me because I can see the abortion movement wrapped all in the moral dilemmas it draws. People say, "It's not murder. It's a choice!"... but what about the person being killed? What choice do they have? ...

      As the premise would dictate - these books are dark. People die, and/or are literally taken apart - some are put back together. I don't find it all realistically believable, but it does make me ponder some very pointed questions...

     How do I defend a human being's right to life? Some heretical churches claim that abortion is okay - just like in this book some religious sects defend unwinding - so how do we as a Church defend against the lies that creep in?

      I didn't expect a young-adult future-world book to make me do so much thinking... So for that, I'm glad I read them. I recommend them, but with caution, for their dark content and the broken view of Christianity they portray.

        As for the book itself - the writing, the characters, the pacing - it all worked well together. I enjoyed the different life-view perspectives of the characters, and the fact that they had families (or lack-there-of), history that haunted them, and goals. They grew - good side characters came in and out - some people died -  and you could never be quite sure if the author really would let the 3 main people live ( Heh, and I won't spoil that for you.) ... The overall arching story-line of the series ended with a sense of completeness. I like that.

       If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

~Ophelia - Marie