Saturday, September 5, 2009

Christianity and the Small Town Girl

So I grew up in a small town. The same town John Cougar Mellencamp sang about in the 80's in fact. You knew everyone, and everyone knew you and who's kid you were. You couldn't drive 2 miles without seeing, and waving to, at least 3 people. We had a few churches, but the one I went to, was the big Church of Christ, right in the middle of town. It wasn't a huge church, but it felt gigantic inside.
Growing up, we didn't attend church. I can't even remember being told about God, I am sure I was, because I knew ABOUT Him, but not all the "details" I started to go to the Church of Christ in 6th grade, with a friend of mine. I HATED going. I did, I'm not proud of saying that, but it's true. I basically went because I stayed the night at her house and her mom "made" her go. This was the kind of church that had organ music and hymnals. Sunday school classes before "real" church and a basement where all the potlucks were held.

What I did love, was Youth Group. It was supposed to be a time for all of us kids, to come together and talk about God. To talk about how He died for us, and how we are saved. We did that, but it just wasn't cool to be into it all. It wasn't cool if you acted interested. When you're 12,13,14 yrs old, being cool was your bread and butter! So I kept it hidden to everyone else in my life, when I left church, I didn't bring church with me. I didn't talk about going to church, I didn't talk about faith or quote the Bible, I just didn't let on that I went to church. Only the people AT church, knew it.

In 7th grade, I was saved. I talk about it here I can honestly tell you, back then, as strong as I felt about it, even though I didn't know all I know now (and let me tell you, I don't know THAT much now) I felt called to give my life to Jesus. I just didn't really know what that meant. Not the full extent anyway. I just knew that it seemed like the right thing to do. It seemed I SHOULD go to church, because going to church meant I was a good person. It meant people would see me as a Christian. Which was a moot point, since no one else knew I went to church, except the other people AT church. How very naive I was.

As an adult, I see things through much clearer eyes. I understand more now at 36, than I did at 12. What I still don't understand is, why I feel, sometimes,almost embarrassed to stand out and stand up and say how I feel about God. Why? Why do I care if someone will think "Oh GREAT! A "Bible thumper" because in reality, that's their thorn, not mine. Why do I care what people think of me, being a woman of faith? I am not ashamed to say I go to church. I am not ashamed to talk to my kids or my husband about my faith. It's everyone else "out there" who might think it's "not cool" to be a Christian. Or to believe. Everyone seems to have a stigma about praising God, or reciting Bible verses. In my heart, I can honestly say, I have a very strong faith, it waivers at times. Some times I don't make the BEST choices, I don't always follow the bumper sticker mentality.. WWJD. However, I can say, in my heart, I TRY very hard to live my life, in a way I can walk with my head up high. Sometimes I falter. That's ok. I give myself a break when I do. No one is perfect, no one.

What I believe is important to me. Having my kids raised in the truth and in the Word, are very important to me. If it's not popular, or if I get looked down on for it, that's ok. I want my kids to hold their heads up high, and walk into a room and KNOW, they are a child of God. I want them to be so full of faith, they are more concerned about following the ways of God, than following the ways of their peers. I want my kids to feel so confident in themselves, that if they lose friends, or don't get into the so called popular crowd, that they don't care. I want them to have the kind of character that will sustain them, even when it's tough.

I'm going to make a conscious effort now, to be proud of my faith. To be proud of my belief, and not worry about what others might think. I'm not proud of how I have felt in the past about sharing that side of me, I'm not proud to say, I've been embarrassed to be seen as a Christian, because now, it's time for me to forgive myself, and ask God to forgive me for that and move forward. Because what matters to me, is being the kind of person who lives the kind of life, that others will look at and see, being a Christian, is something to be proud of. Because I am proud of it. I'm proud to say, when I am so moved, I raise my hands in worship. Sometimes, I am so moved, I cry during worship, sometimes, I cry during the sermon, because it moves me so much. Sometimes I do feel, my pastor wrote his sermon for ME. Why should there be shame in that? Does it make me weak? Does it make me a loser? I don't believe it does. I'm not really concerned anymore, if someone else might think it makes me either of those things. If you're not going to be my friend, or talk to me, or acknowledge me BECAUSE of my faith and belief, then I suppose I am better off.

I am facing forward and remembering who I am, and WHO's I am. I belong to this world just like everyone else. I'm proud to be known as a Christian. I WILL quote the Bible once in awhile, I WILL sing worship songs out loud in Target if I am so moved, and I will fall to my knees in praise.

I am going to live my life with a purpose. I'm going to set myself free and reach down inside myself and pull on my faith to see me through the hard places in my journey.

Our pastor spoke tonight about character, and what convicts us. HE spoke of people who are SO outspoken about something. People that point their finger at someone else in disgust and shame them for doing or saying, or being something they think that person shouldn't be. If you peel back the layers of that nay-sayer's character, you see deep inside, they are so passionate about it, because it is the exact thing THEY themselves are struggling with. I know I'm guilty of that. Pointing my finger and loudly convicting someone else of something, I myself am guilty of doing. I'm ashamed to admit it, but it is the truth. What you get the most fired up about, is most likely something you yourself struggle with. That speaks volumes to me. I was so afraid of what other people would say about me if I stood up for my faith, that I would get so fired up at people who didn't do it, wondering where THEIR faith was if they were a so called Christian. In reality, I should have been asking myself that same question. Where is MY faith. I guess it's all about the journey right? This is my cross to bear. One I AM going to overcome. I want to be like Daniel, in the Bible, and stand up to peer pressure. I want to be and do, and behave in a way that maybe others would cringe over, or would make fun of me. I want to look past all of that and do it anyway. That's what Daniel did, right?.

What we believe, will determine how we live.

What you take in, will eventually come out, right? If you let in the bad garbage, you will let bad garbage out. If you surround yourself with good and take in only good, you will let out only good. That's how I want to live, I want to surround myself with good people, and people who aren't perfect, but are holding their heads up high, making their own journey to a strong, unbreakable, unshakable faith. I want to be around people who are proud to be a Christian. I want to hear the Good Word, and hear people's testimonies. I just want to surround myself in light, so that light exudes from me. It won't be easy, I know. I will hit rough patches, I will hit the proverbial, bumps in the road, but if I keep my eyes focused on the big picture, I'm going to be fine.. I will overcome!

So this small town girl is going to shake that feeling of shame, and kick it to the curb. I'm proud of who I am. I'm proud to be a child of God. He's proud of me, even when I mess up, He loves me. He loves me unconditionally, and that makes me VERY blessed.

Truth is knowing your character is shaped by your every day actions.
watch your beliefs, they become thoughts
Watch your thoughts, they become words
Watch your words, they become actions
Watch your actions, they become habits
Watch your habits they become character

Your character, is your legacy.

Vince Lombardi