The Repercussions of Modesty Culture Gone Wrong

I am currently sitting outside on my back deck enjoying the beautiful evening listening to the birds. They sound so carefree, and they should be! The Bible makes it clear God Himself takes care of them. Oh to be a sparrow, and by nature fully trust in God for our every need. Why do I worry, really?

I saw something this week that has stuck with me. Little girls trying to play outside in long skirts.

It seems that this small observation would be completely harmless. But the realization of the matter is, it is incredibly harmful.

I could see myself in those little girls, I could see my daughter. Fast forward to four years after we left the UPCI (Emancipation Day is in my calendar this week!) and I am still picking up the pieces of myself that I lost as a child. I am still watching my own daughter navigate through the remnants of her past in the organization.

You see, these little girls have no voice. They have no identity. They have no choice. As I was, they are being taught from birth that the very God that watches so closely over the sparrows is so harsh towards them that he cares about every stitch of clothing they are wearing. They are being taught that by wearing certain articles of clothing it would make men sin by lusting over them. They are learning to be ashamed of their bodies as God designed them and learning to hide their curves at all costs. They are losing little bits of themselves every single day.

I am heartbroken, even now. These little girls are why I can’t stay silent. Years of these teachings create seemingly irreparable consequences. Small blows to their self-esteem build up and cause incredible damage to a woman’s psyche.

I know. I’ve been there. I am still there. Not as I was before, but definitely still there.

Building self-esteem takes time. After having your identity ripped from you your entire life, it takes lots of time to figure yourself out.

I have written about modesty from a Biblical perspective recently, https://findingmyfreedomdoingmylife.com/2020/02/07/the-oxymoron-of-modesty/, however, my burden this week has been the long term effects.

Being told what you can and cannot wear every single day, having ingrained in your brain only certain types of women wear those clothes, being constantly hyper aware of every male around you takes a toll.

Most women, by the time they are adults, have adapted a certain style, perfected a makeup routine, accumulated the perfect jewelry collection to match their outfits. Have taken a dance class or played a sport. Not me. Not the girls I was observing.

We get to struggle as adults to figure us out. We get to have fitting room meltdowns, wear awkward clothing as we try to navigate the world of women’s jeans, watch countless makeup tutorials on YouTube only to get overwhelmed in an Ulta and walk out with nothing. We are the women who are ashamed of our bodies, incapable of taking a compliment, and mistrust every man ever.

We are the collateral damage of a church organization ran by man-made rules.

We are the repercussions of the men who always have to be in charge of the women.

We are the victims of modesty culture gone wrong.

But, guess what? I now have a voice! I am now capable of standing on my own two feet, making my own decisions, and speaking out against this damaging mindset!

And I intend to.

As long as there are little girls trying to run around in a long skirt, I will speak up.

I will be their voice.

I owe it to the little girl I once was.

She deserves it.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Hello friends!

If you have kept up with my blog posts over the last few weeks, you probably feel I may be slightly bipolar. I am not, I promise. But while we are on the subject, let’s talk about mental health for a bit, shall we?

Specifically, mental health in a conservative religious setting.

Yikes, what a trainwreck that can be!

For those of you who have read my book, or have been following my blog for a while, you probably are already aware of the mental health challenges my son faced early on in his life. Watching my child go through depression and anxiety at such a young age, drastically changed my viewpoints about mental health.

You see, I was raised in a home where you just “prayed through” if you were feeling sad, angry, scared, anxious, lonely or even ill. Whatever the issue was, I was always taught it was a me problem. Something I needed to fix by prayer and inner strength alone. Relying on medication was strictly taboo.

This wasn’t an exclusive idea to my home either. I just recently heard a story of a young lady who was dealing with suicidal thoughts. It was assumed by her church that she was just making up stories about her mental state. Tragically, no one pointed her in the direction of a mental health professional, they just pointed her to the altar to pray more.

When I was diagnosed as being diabetic at the age of fourteen, I felt like I had failed in some way. I felt less than and inferior to those who were healthy because I had to rely on insulin to keep me safe. (Turns out insulin could have killed me, but that is another story for another time). I thought if I could somehow pray hard enough or say the right words, or have enough faith I wouldn’t have to take medication anymore. It wasn’t until not that long ago I overcame those feelings.

So, imagine, if I felt insecure because I had to take medicine for a disease you can see in bloodwork, how I felt at first when my son started taking medication for his anxiety. I felt like an absolute failure as a parent. But it was abundantly clear to me, a child that young suffering those things was not because he didn’t have enough faith, or because of anything he did or didn’t do. He was a child. It was clearly biological.

Now, you would think having gone through that situation personally, I would give myself more grace.

But, the past stigma is strong.

I started taking anxiety medication right before I wrote my book. Working alongside therapy, the right dosage of medication helped me tremendously. I overcame panic attacks, difficultly sleeping, heart palpitations and other physical symptoms I was having.

I graduated therapy and weaned myself off of my medication. It was never meant to be a lifetime fix for me, just something to help me through overcoming my past.

But then this week happened. Without going into details, it has been a week of absolute hell for me. Once again, my body started responding to stress physically, in undeniable ways I cannot ignore.

Which brings me around again to my point, why do I feel so guilty about seeking help?

Because I had one messed up childhood.

Isn’t it amazing things that happened to us years ago, pop up with fresh feelings when the present circumstances are just right? I know so many 30 and 40 somethings that struggle to make sense of and heal from their childhood. Childhood was decades ago, why does it have such a stronghold on us?

For me, my home situation coupled with my church situation created mass craters of trauma that got buried beneath feelings of insecurity, pridefulness and just life in general. I navigate life unaware of their presence until I suddenly have an event that creates a sinkhole. And then I feel buried alive.

But I refuse to let my past hold me back. I refuse to allow the stigma of mental health make me feel ashamed because my body needs medication to help me cope.

No, this does not mean I don’t believe in prayer. This does not mean I don’t think God will come to us in our time of need. But what I do believe is, God has given us the ability to medicate.

The Bible itself tells us God gave us wine to help us cope with stress and ailments.

Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress;
Proverbs 31:6 ESV

(No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)
1 Timothy 5:23 ESV

You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.
Psalm 104:14‭-‬15 ESV

Am I saying to become an alcoholic, no. But I feel I have to clarify for those who are looking for an argument.

But here is my point:

None of these verses say, only pray about your struggles. They imply that God gave us a tool that will help us control the neurons in our brains. Just as alcohol, medications can help us safely process our emotions by somewhat altering the chemicals in our brains. It is up to us to take advantage of this God given opportunity. He even gives us permission multiple times in his word.

I suppose I will forever carry reminents of my past with me. Betrayal is a strong force to overcome. But I am okay in saying I will be using the help of a therapist and medication to guide me through the landmines.

I would be foolish not to.

Untitled.

It took me thirty seven years, four months, and twenty six days to figure you out.

I thought I had it covered thirty years ago. Then, I thought I understood you more twenty years ago. Ten years ago, I thought for sure I knew the real you. Four years ago, I was thrown again. Two years ago, you once again derailed my expectations. Then today, oh today, you let me see the real, authentic you.

The true version that I had been shielding from myself for years. The version I always suspected was there, but somehow I always blinded myself from it.

But today.

Today, the scales have fallen from my eyes. I am no longer making excuses.

Boundaries.

I have learned much about boundaries in the last few years. Never before have I thought I would have to implement them with you.

That was my mistake. My naive mistake.

It won’t happen again.

During the last four years of finding my voice, I have become stronger, wiser, and braver.

I am a force to be reckoned with, and I am no longer a doormat.

Your loss.

The last one standing. The last one to not have boundaries. I guess I should say congratulations. You tricked me.

But I can assure you, now,

Things will be different.

Finding Friendship

After my last blog post, those of you who read it were probably left questioning my sanity. Today is another day, however, and and my emotional well being has improved. Part of my healing process has been learning to allow myself to feel. Admitting to and experiencing the highs and the lows has proven to be a slight challenge for me, but I am doing better at it! It feels good not to feel like a walking zombie all of the time!

Something beautiful happened to me this week and I wanted to share. But first, a little background.

Not to pat myself on the back at all, trust me I have many flaws, but I am a giver and a fixer by nature. Acts of service is my primary love language, so I tend to show my affection in the same way. It’s just my personality. Drives my husband crazy at times because he has other strengths and sometimes he feels like I commit to and give too much. He is probably right. But, however, right or wrong, this is my way of showing love, and also feeling loved.

As most everyone knows, and many of you can relate, when we left our UPC church nearly four years ago, we lost many people whom we considered friends. The system makes keeping relationships with those inside the church nearly impossible. I’m not saying it cannot ever be done. I have one dear friend left from my past life who’s friendship is still strong. However, it stung quite a bit when she recently said, talking about some topics is now “off limits”. So while we are still close, I would be a fool to consider our friendship unscathed.

There were very lonely times for me in the first two years out. I am a woman, I like to be able to text a friend when I find a cute pair of shoes on sale, or if have a bad day. Those types of relationships were nonexistent during that time. I discovered fairly quickly those whom I had considered close as family, were friends with me simply out of convenience. We were not friends because we had shared interests, or got along so well. We were in a friendship for the simple reasons, we attended the same church, we were at the same practices, rallies, and conventions. We were merely in the same places at the same time. Convenience. When it came right down to it, when we were forced to make any sort of effort, the relationship wasn’t deep enough to bother. From my point of view, I felt like I tried, but at some point, it is just too exhausting to carry on a one sided relationship and so I allowed them all to fizzle out. Looking back now, those relationships all seem very superficial and conditional.

Ouch.

Are there friendships that exist without these faux pas?

There are many factors that come into play when talking about this side of leaving a toxic church, I’m not going to go into all of them now, but long story short, I found myself lonely and friendless.

But, it does get better. We don’t stay in valleys forever! Working through many of my hurts and hangups has allowed my heart to heal enough to begin putting myself in vulnerable positions in order for friendships to flourish. I wrote a blog about this very thing in December of 2018, https://findingmyfreedomdoingmylife.wordpress.com/2018/12/11/love/

When I wrote this, nearly a year and a half ago, I was in the beginning stages of forming true relationships with people. It makes my heart happy to see the growth in myself!

Now about the something beautiful I was going to tell you about!

While video chatting (because that’s the new norm these days) with a couple of amazing women the other day, one of my sweet friends began opening up about how her family is going through some financial struggles during this time. The economy is a mess right now, I know many people are having similar issues. After having great prayer and a small boohooing session, we ended the chat with “I love you’s” all the way around. It was what my soul truly needed that day.

The next day, I was at the grocery store and my friend came to mind, I picked up a gift card and slipped it into her mailbox anonymously. I just wanted to bless her and her family with what I could.

The following day, we were all chatting once again, talking about the economy and the stimulus checks that were scheduled to be issued. I mentioned how I was waiting impatiently for mine because my unemployment benefits had yet to be paid out. Our checking account was running dangerously low.

It wasn’t two minutes later and the sweet friend whom I had given the gift card to messaged me that she had sent me some cash to carry us through until we got our check!

I looked in my account and it was the same amount as the gift card I had anonymously given to her! This amazing friend had unknowingly, passed her much needed blessing onto me without even any questioning or hesitation!

I was speechless and began bawling on the spot. I knew she needed the money, yet, she was willing to share her blessing with me, with zero terms or conditions! Who does that?!

Like I said before, act of service is my love language. Many times I think acts of service and gifts go hand in hand. It wasn’t so much that she gave me something, it’s that she gave without me asking and without expectations of me doing something for her in return!

Is this real life?

I have been chewing this over in my mind for the last few days. It’s not that this dear lady and I have a long standing friendship. We have only known each other for a couple of years, a drop in the bucket compared to many other people I know. But the quality of friendship far surpasses the quantity of years of the friendship.

Does this mean everyone I am friends with has to start giving me money? Clearly, not. I am not trying to sound superficial. But the thoughtfulness and selflessness of her act touched my soul in a deep way.

Philippians 2:3 says this:

Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself

Her blessing to me far surpassed the monetary gift, it was the motivation behind it. There truly are genuine people in the world, and there is hope to have authentic, unconditional relationships.

My sweet friend proved that.

The Anger Is Real.

I don’t see myself ever sharing this blog past this site. It probably won’t be helpful to very many people. But, to be very blunt, that wasn’t the point of this blog site to begin with. The point was to have an outlet for myself, to get things out of my head in order to heal. Thankfully, this blog has done that for me times ten! And truthfully, if anyone else has come along for the ride and has been uplifted, that is just an incredible bonus! And I am humbled God would choose to use it for such a reason.

Being completely raw, being at home this long during our time of social distancing has had lots of ups and downs for me. I was definitely not cut out to be a homeschooling, stay at home mom. No offense to those people who excel at these talents, it is just not me.

My kids drive me nuts, more than I would like to admit. It’s not them, it’s me. I am impatient. Even now as I write, a child comes bursting into the room where I am literally hiding. Don’t worry, my kids are teenagers, they’re fine by themselves for a bit.

Now, here comes a dog, whom I guarantee, will be followed by my husband. Yep, I called it.

And while I am so very grateful for my beautiful family, my children and my husband are amazing humans, I’m gonna be honest here, don’t judge, but I need my space. Badly.

Couple that with some ex-church related Facebook posts, and I am about to go off the deep end over here. Usually, now a days, I can just scroll right past the crazy, and not think twice about it, but this week? It is all just making me, nothing but angry. I told you I was going to be raw in this one.

I have successfully left a legalistic cult, passed my EMDR therapy for my PTSD, gotten off of my anxiety medication, and built an entire new social life from the ground up in the past four years and this week, I feel like I have taken two giant steps backwards.

I am really not going for a pity party here, I truly am so very thankful for all of my blessings, but I am angry at myself for my feelings, which I know isn’t good.

Something has to give. Something has to change. I know that something is me. And I will work on it. Just probably not today.

Today, I am just angry.

Not Today.

Where do I even begin? I use writing as therapy, kind of a stress reliever for myself. Most of the time, I have a specific thought I am going for, something that has been stewing around in my mind for a few days that feels as if I don’t get it out, I will simply burst.

But not today. Not this week.

Today, I am doing my best to get off of the couch. I am trying to be patient with my kids, and am not succeeding. I am attempting to feed my mind and soul healthy things and just can’t get my brain to cooperate. My world has been in an upheaval for two full weeks now, and I am beginning to feel the effects.

Don’t get me wrong, I have it good. So far, all of us are healthy, money is not a problem, and my husband is working from home. Seems like I have it made, and I do, truly. I am not trying to complain at all. My heart bleeds for those on the front lines of this pandemic, and even more so for those who have lost loved ones to this terrible virus. It really feels like we are living out a movie plot, and one day I will wake up and it will all be just some terrible dream.

But this is our new normal, at least for the coming months, and I am not sure how I feel about that.

I had every intention two weeks ago of utilizing every drop of this time wisely. I was ready to spend time with the kids, fix up the house, eat right, and even exercise! But as the reality of the gravity of our current situation sets in, as I walk around the grocery store keeping my distance from other shoppers wearing masks and gloves, as I read on social media the horrors the healthcare workers are facing in the U.S., a first world country, I am disheartened. My energy to stay positive fades and it is all I can muster to hold back tears.

Then, I feel guilty because I know I am not the only one feeling this way. Everyone is. Everyone is a little on edge right now, anxious about the unknown and what our near future holds, but trying to keep a brave face for the sake of our loved ones. Everyone has been affected somehow.

Today, I caved. I gave in to the anxiety. I laid on the couch and ate junk food. I let the kids entertain themselves and I vegged. Will I do this tomorrow? Probably not, tomorrow is a new day. But if I do, I have decided to put away the to-do list and give myself the grace to do so.

I apologize for the word vomit. I always try to end my blog on a positive note, but tonight, I just don’t have it in me.

Stay safe friends.

Beauty From Ashes. Some Thoughts on Covid-19

Wow, so Covid-19! Who would have ever thought something of this scale would happen in our lifetimes? I have to admit, this virus has given me some anxiety. People are losing their incomes, getting sick and even dying over this, so anxiety does seem like the natural instinct. But, on the somewhat up side, what an amazing opportunity this virus has given us!

The human race with the exception of essential healthcare workers, grocery workers, and delivery services has shut down entirely. How often does this happen worldwide?  I am choosing to look at this experience as a lesson.

Even though our normal life routines have been shaken up or paused entirely, the amazing fact remains, the world will indeed go on. Us humans are resilient. But with humans out of the way, nature itself has taken this opportunity to shine. The canals in Venice are clear enough to see the fish, the skies in China are blue again from the lack of pollutants in the air, and here at home, outside my window, spring is making itself evident by the birds singing and buds on the trees. All of nature is singing it’s song, and for once, we are not too busy to notice.

While I am feeling uncertainty about the immediate future, I am determined to make some mindful changes while I am at home.

I am making a conscience effort to connect with my kids. They are getting older, and this will be some of the last times we will spend together under one roof. I am being extra conscience to put down devices and look them in the eyes. I want to really hear them when they talk. We created a calendar of fun family things we can do together, and so far have laughed until our sides hurt.

I have been extra assertive to connect with friends. We are all home with our children, and some of us are not okay 24/7! Trying to keep some normalcy of adult conversation is imperative to my mental health, even if it means unconventional ways like video chats. Yes, I am old enough to say video chats are not my normal way to catch up with friends!

Livestreaming church services is going to be an amazing lifeline right now! I am so thankful for the technology we have in this day and age to do that! I am using this opportunity to dive into new Bible studies as well.

I am also doing things like switching to nonfat coffee creamer, because let’s be real, most of us will probably come out of this a few pounds heavier if we aren’t careful. I am also making a point to find an online workout class so when I switch out my closet to summer clothes I will still have clothes to wear!

Do I believe everything happens for a reason? I honestly don’t know. But in this circumstance, I look at it like this, I have a choice. I can choose to let anxiety overcome me and veg on my couch binging on Netflix all day. (Don’t get me wrong, I will be catching up on my shows). Or I can take this as a lesson. Nature doesn’t need us, we need nature. Time will indeed march on, and I can choose to be mindful of the things right in front of me, or I can spend my life with my nose in my phone oblivious to the changes happening all around me. I can utilize this opportunity to really see and hear my family, or I can let this time pass by without noticing their laughs or the sparkle in their eyes.

Please feel free to share with me the ways you are getting through this social distancing. I would love to hear some more ideas on being mindful! I want to come out of this a better parent, a better wife, a better employee, a better human! Just think of what the world could be like if all of us took the time to actually notice, even when there isn’t a global pandemic forcing us to slow down! Let’s not waste this amazing opportunity we have been given.

Isaiah 61:3 is a beautiful reminder of God’s restoration process:

And provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61:3 NIV

Stay safe friends.

The Oxymoron of “Modesty”

I am having a difficult time deciding how to begin this blog, so, I am just going to throw it out there and begin.

Yes, that is a picture of me in my beach attire. I thought it was fitting for the theme of the blog. Plus, it is a flashback to warmer days on the beach, there is currently snow on the ground outside my window.

This is a touchy subject, and I’m sure it will offend someone, but then again, someone somewhere will always be offended right?

Modesty.

I told you this would be a tricky one. Before I dive into the details, let me explain why.

I recently happened upon a Facebook post from someone I do not know personally bragging about their “modest” beach apparel. In this post, they specifically stated they didn’t mind people looking at them in such clothes.

Herein lies the problem.

For those of us who grew up in the UPC, or other such organizations, women’s modesty was taught as clothing rules: skirts or dresses only, to be worn below the knees, past the elbows and above the collarbone. The UPC tacks on a few additional rules just for fun, such as no makeup or jewelry, The verses used to support such beliefs are Deuteronomy 22:5, 1 Timothy 2:9, and 1 Peter 3:3.

Now, this blog is not to debate the pants and skirts argument that stems from Deuteronomy 22:5. To be honest, I am tired of that entire conversation, as it is such a ridiculous debate since we are no longer under the Old Testament law, and said verse clearly does not apply to us. Not to mention, people wore robes in Biblical times, there were no pants and skirts back then so this argument all the way around is moot.

The point of this blog is the definition of “modest” in the Bible. The UPC as a whole seems to miss the boat entirely as to what this word actually means. And honestly, it’s a little frustrating to watch. The main verse they use to promote their doctrine of modesty is 1 Timothy 2:9-10:

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

I included the KJV here, as this is the version I grew up with and most often have heard cited by UPC ministers.

In the UPC, women are praised for how “modest” they are with their clothing, after all, modest is hottest right? But what truly is modest? As I already mentioned, their version of modesty is a skirt or dress that stays within certain guidelines. It doesn’t seem to matter to them the cost of their modest clothing, the elaborate styles of their hair, or the brand name of their church high heels or purses. They also don’t seem to mind, and actually take pride in the way dressing as such brings attention to them in public.

Let’s take a closer look from the “world’s” viewpoint.

In today’s society, women wear pants, people wear swimsuits to the beach, and beehive hairdos are not exactly seen on a daily basis. Keeping those facts in mind, let’s be honest with ourselves, dressing in UPC style attire makes you stand out like a sore thumb. It makes you look like a religious zealot and makes you pretty much unapproachable to the average person. Is this the version of modest Paul was going for?

Let’s look at 1 Timothy 2:9, 10 in the NLT to help break it down:

And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do.

“Not draw attention to themselves”, right there that seems to blow the UPC version of modesty right out the window. But to be fair, let’s continue researching.

Personally, when researching a particular subject or verse, I like to go back to the original Greek text and use an interlinear Bible app to compare. Here is the verse laid out as it is directly translated from Paul’s original writing:

Likewise also women in apparel respectable with modesty and self control should adorn themselves not with braided hair or gold or pearls or clothing costly.

This doesn’t say anything about standing out from the “world” or looking different. In fact, if we look at 1 Peter 3:3,4 these verses seem to go together in theme:

Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They put their trust in God and accepted the authority of their husbands.

Modesty according to the Bible has absolutely nothing to do with how long your skirt is, what you are wearing to the beach, or how plain your face looks without makeup, but everything to do with your attitude and how you should behave in moderation in every aspect of your life. I certainly don’t see how writing a long post about how you wear a “modest swim skirt” to the beach for people to stare at you lines up with the Biblical definition. In fact, it pretty much goes against what Paul was trying to convey. Even if you go back to the King James Version of 1 Timothy 2:9 it includes the word “shamefacedness”. What does this word mean exactly?

The definition for shamefacedness is this:

Showing shame, bashful, modest, or shy.

Sigh… I suppose the entire point I am getting at is this: is modesty sticking out in public and being proud and bragging about it? Or is it more along the lines of not standing out in a crowd and being approachable to those who may be looking for a shoulder to lean on?

Even Jesus himself got frustrated with the religious folks of his day with their long phylacteries that they prided themselves in. Here are Jesus’s own words regarding this practice:

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Matthew 23:12 ESV

I could go on all day about this subject, this is definitely a trigger for me, but I will end on this note, research.

Research for yourself the definitions, Biblical context, and today’s application for words thrown around in religious societies. Had I never looked through an Interlinear Bible app or challenged ideas like the definition of modesty I would still be in the same boat as the poor woman who posted pridefully about people looking at her in her swim attire.

Do I judge her clothing choices? No. Do I care if she wears a skirt to the beach? Not even a little bit. But I do take issue with the misuse of Bible verses and the idea that others who chose not to stick out in public are being “immodest”.

Those ideas are what I am speaking out against.

Finding My Identity

Hey guys! It’s been a minute since I have had time to sit down to write! The holidays were crazy busy around here! As I’m sure your’s were as well! But here we are, now in January, the month that always seems to drag on for at least two months!

If you hadn’t heard, I recently did a podcast interview with Cultish. I am so very grateful and humbled to have had the opportunity to represent women from around the globe who have escaped legalistic, oppressive religions. If you haven’t had a chance to listen, please do, the guys at Cultish are incredible! I applaud them for giving a voice to so many. I have been touched by the many positive messages I have recieved and am excited to see where God continues to take me on my journey!

Something that has been on my mind the last week or so, is my identity. What does that look like for me, a woman and a Christ follower?

The UPC has rather recently coined a term to describe their identity, “Apostolic”. They say this means they are like the Apostles. They use this word to describe their outward standards (especially the women’s) and even have started selling clothing with words like #Apostolic and Apostolic Identity printed on them. They seem to be very proud of this term and like to advertise it a lot. I’m not going to lie, it bothers me.

When I was growing up, there was great question as to what I should call my religion. This was before the Apostolic Identity term came around. If you know anything about the UPC, you understand why. If I were to simply say I was a Christian, people may get me confused with every other mainstream denomination who called themselves that. If I said Pentecostal, people may think I was a (gasp) Trinitairan. Thus the dilemma. Belonging to a United Pentecostal Church, we had more revelation than other organizations, so we needed something to set us apart as the highest order of Christians. This is why I think they are now running with the Apostolic identity idea. They needed something to say they are different than other Christians. And this is my problem.

I recently had someone say to me that by speaking out against the UPCI, I was speaking out against them personally because their identity is the United Pentecostal Church. This made my heart hurt. You are not an organization, you are a person, a child of the most high God.

So where does this leave me? Someone who has not only left the “Apostolic” identity, but is actively speaking out against their ideals.

Let’s break it down a little bit.

According to Collins English dictionary, the definition of Apostolic is this:

Apostolic means belonging or relating to the early followers of Jesus Christ and to their teaching.

Okay, so that seems noble enough. If you are Apostolic, you are following the followers of Jesus.

But, is that the best we can do? While clearly Jesus’s earliest followers had great insight, I mean, we use the books they wrote everyday as a guide, they were just men. Men whom Jesus hand picked to follow him and spread the Gospel, but in the end, they were just like us. They sinned, gave into fleshly desires, and woke up everyday having to reconsencrate their lives to God.

What if we all just went directly to the source and became Christ followers? In Acts 11 it records that even the disciples were called Christians.

The definition of Christian is this:

Christian: of, relating to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings

So, why wouldn’t I want my identity to be directly tied to Christ? Why would I want to be identified as a follower of the followers of Jesus, when I can follow him myself? The New Testament tells me, we no longer need a high priest to be an intermediary, we can now go directly to the source.

I am in no way belittling the teachings of the apostles, but Ephesians 2 says it beautifully:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,

Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our faith. Yes, the apostles and prophets help build up the church, but just as we are, they were nothing without Christ.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Colossians hits the nail on the head as well. We are rooted and built up in Christ, why wouldn’t we want to identify ourselves with him?

My conclusion is this: I am a Christian. I am a free woman following the teachings of the One who gave his life for me. And furthermore, as a Christ follower, I don’t have to live in the bondage of man made laws or traditions, my burden is now easy, and my yoke is light. This was God’s plan for me from the beginning of time, and I am humbled and grateful my identity lies in Him and Him alone.

“Easy-Believism”

I have been mulling over a thought for a few weeks, but life has been so crazy I haven’t had a chance to sit and unpack it the way it deserves. It is the holidays after all, who isn’t crazy busy this time of year?

I actually do have all of my presents bought and wrapped this year on December 23rd! I am pretty sure that is a personal record. Last year, I found myself buying stocking stuffers at Walgreens at 11:45 PM on December 24th! It is safe to say, gift giving is not my forte!

So now that I have taken a moment to brag about my newly acquired, mad present skills, back to the thought that has been stewing in my brain!

“Easy-believism”.

Yes, that is an actual term. One that I had been taught my whole life to avoid like the plague. This term is considered derogatory by some and used to describe those who believe their soul’s salvation rests strictly on believing in Jesus.

Stick with me here, I have a feeling the word vomit may get a little extensive.

I suppose because it is Christmas time, the time when Christians acknowledge the birth of their Savior, I can’t seem to shake this topic. (Yes, we are aware Jesus was not actually born on December 25th, just clearing that up.) But let’s be honest, the story of a virgin giving birth is a little hard to believe. Mix that in with the miracles Jesus is said to have performed and the idea that He was raised from the dead after the most gruesome execution available in that day, and you have a fairy tale that seems more far fetched then Sleeping Beauty! And if all of that isn’t insane enough for you to doubt the Christmas story, add in the belief that because Jesus suffered this gruesome death and was raised from the grave, we all now have the opportunity for our mistakes to be made right before an invisible Being in the sky. Yep, that all sounds a bit unbelievable.

In fact, it sounds so unbelievable it would be a huge disservice to yourself to not research these teachings on your own. I am not here to argue about whether or not God is real, and salvation lies in Jesus, I have done my own research and made my own decisions and am strong in my faith, but that being said, nothing is concrete. Let’s be real and honest with ourselves, none of us were around 2000 years ago. None of us were there when the earth was formed, you can say there is scientific fact to back whatever beliefs you may hold, and there may be, but at one point in time, the smartest people around thought the world was flat.

My point is, we all believe in something, even if your belief is in nothing. It takes faith to put your trust in whatever you believe, faith and confidence that the beliefs you hold are the correct ones. And that is scary. It is scary because we all like to be in control, and we all like to be right.

Having faith in something requires you to step out into the unknown and let go of the things you can see. Faith requires getting over the fear of being wrong and embraces the idea that even if you can’t tangibly see, touch, or hear something it is there. This takes the control away from us, and places it in an unseen force. Yikes!

If you have hung with me this far, thank you, you are an amazing human.

So now for the main point. Let’s assume you do buy into the teaching that God’s only Son came to earth, was born of a virgin, suffered and died on Calvary, rose from the dead and because of His perfect sacrifice we can now be free of our sins and live forever in heaven, I would say that would take a huge step of faith!

All of Christianity is based off of the teaching that Jesus came, so why use the term “Easy-believism” as derogatory or use it at all? If you indeed buy into the idea that there is a God, and He is the embodiment of perfect holiness, what makes you say there is anything “easy” in believing in that? Isn’t that the basis of all Christians?

I can tell you why, from my own perspective. It is because to put all of our faith in the belief that simply believing in Jesus is enough for our salvation, we relinquish some of our control. To admit there is NOTHING that we can do as humans and put our whole hearts in the belief that Christ did enough on our behalf is entrusting someone we have never physically seen with our very eternal salvation.

The phrase “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself” comes into play here. It is humbling accepting the gift Christ gave us. It is a blow to the ego to admit we aren’t enough by ourselves. It is hard to relinquish having the control over our salvation.

But the fact is, Jesus said “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Why would we attach any clauses to this?

The only verse in the entire New Testament that specifically asks the question, “what must I do to be saved”, is Acts 16:30. To which the reply was, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Sounds too easy? It’s not! As we already established, belief in Jesus takes a huge step of faith. Why in the world would we ever downplay this by using the term “Easy-believism”?

I think that is a slap in the face to Jesus. I know it would be painful for me if one of my children said my sacrifices for them weren’t good enough.

Do yourself a favor this holiday season, if you have never researched what you believe in, whether it is Christ, nothing, or something completely different, please do. It’s not easy to believe in something, but be responsible in whatever you decide to put your trust in.

Thank you for sticking with me while I spilled my heart.

Merry Christmas! May you all find peace, love, and joy this holiday season!