Shiny Objects: Dead Ends

After I surrendered myself fully to Christ, I imagined living the “Christian Curated” life. A life where, through prayer and supplication, I’d meet my wholesome husband instantly, land a perfect job where I could easily and safely spread the Word, sell some Christian merchandise on a perfectly curated website, and most importantly, take amazing photos with great lighting to add to my flawless social media feed.

I imagined living the life I described in my first post.

Unfortunately, on the journey to an impeccable Instagram page, I ran into obstacles. Many that I am realizing now, I created myself.

As I went deeper into my relationship with God, I began to hear from Him. Though, I didn’t immediately obey Him. I began to understand how I live a life of fear instead of one of faith. I would hear from the Lord and feel so grateful that He responded to my prayers and sometimes cries, but then become anxious, and convince myself that I knew what was best for me and my life.

Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

James 4: 17 (NLT)

I began to live in a toxic cycle of praying to the Lord, asking to go deeper in my faith, to hear from Him, to live for Him, then hearing his response and turning away from it. I allowed fear to eat at me, to control me, and instead of obeying, I turned to my creature comforts. Instead of seeking Christ wholly, I sought comfort, things I imagined could quickly fill voids, quiet my fears and hopefully strengthen me.

Relationships were my go-to. Men, really. I felt dating was a strength of mine I never really had to sharpen. I found myself in relationships, I never sought them. I found myself on dates, never asking for them. I wholeheartedly allowed men, some who didn’t identify with Christ, pull me away from what God asked me to do, time and time again. I realize now that even though I did not consciously seek their company, subconsciously I welcomed it. They were void-fillers. I convinced myself that they could sate the void that only God could fill. Some of them were even brilliant, hardworking, handsome, strong, and shiny, like a gift. But they could never replace my need for God. Despite their attractiveness and potential, I would eventually find myself unhappy and ready to abandon ship.

Though I realized this about a year ago, my anxieties and fears did not disappear overnight. I continued to get closer to God, now allowing myself to obey Him, but with trepidation. And during those times of inviting fear into my life, a shiny object would appear in my line of vision. And unfortunately, I’d allow myself to be distracted, over and over again until my disobedience caught up to me.

God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.

Colossians 1:13-14 (MSG)

God rescued me from the sin I was doomed to keep repeating, disobedience that leads to more sin because sin begets more sin. It pulls you further and further away from Christ and leaves you at a dead end.

It took finding myself in a dark place, at rock bottom, in a place I never expected to live in, a place I was too ashamed to share with anyone, to wake me up from disobedience. God allowed me to see the light in a place of darkness, and desire to live in His light.

Though the consequences of my disobedience haven’t completely vanished, I am happy to have learned a great lesson, to let go of the thoughts that try to control me. The thoughts that aren’t from Christ. I learned to obey. I learned what I allowed to distract me and why.

I have also learned to cut off the things that pull me away from God. I have decided to do a dating fast. I have realized that I am not strong enough yet to date the way that God wants me to, so I won’t until He decides I am ready.

What are you deciding to cut off today? What distracts you and pulls you away from His love and grace and light?

The Cult of Purity: Part Two

Rahab is one of my favorite women in the Bible because of her checkered past. She, like me, does not easily fit into the image that purity conjures. Yet her courage and faith, not only reconciled her with Christ but also made her pure again and cleaved her to a royal family.

Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road.

James 2:25 NLT

She married Salmon, one of the spies she helped to hide in Jousha 2. She gave birth to Boaz, who married Ruth. Ruth gave birth to Obed, who was the father of Jesse. Jesse fathered King David and Jesus came from King David’s line. Rahab went from being deemed a harlot to being mentioned in a family line with Christ. So of course even I, with my tattoos and my own unwholesome past, became part of Christ’s family once I accepted Him into my life. Even with my mistakes, I am God’s masterpiece.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Ephesians 2: 10 NLT

Here is a shortened version of my story:

Men were never hard for me to get, I never sought boyfriends or male companions, and I often found myself in relationships or relations (unholy ones) with men, serious men too. The ones who worked in hedge funds, engineering or were billionaire heirs. Though I never bragged about these things or even worked hard to acquire this kind of admiration, my friends and acquaintances saw me as some kind of gem, and at times, I was addicted to the way they venerated me. So I hoarded it.

Internally, this made me feel small and worthless. Externally, I beamed with false pride.

Often, I did not have deep feelings for these men. I was attracted to them, but hyperaware of how incompatible we were. Many of them reduced me to my appearance and were happy with just some kind of trophy girlfriend they could brag to their friends about, I often felt owned by them instead of equal to them. Internally, this made me feel small and worthless. Externally, I beamed with false pride. I even began to give advice to the many women who wanted to be just like me, because they believed their value was in being devalued.

Even though I knew God had more for me, it took me years to understand the damage these flings and relationships caused to my psyche. It has taken me some time to unpack the depth of the impact disregarding God, dishonoring my body and not following His instructions has had on my life. It took me leaving my favorite city in the world, my hometown, in order to fully confront this issue.

And once I became obedient to God, followed his instructions, moved, surrounded myself by “Godly” people, worked at a church, served in church, promised to save myself, the same issues not only persisted but began to reign down on me, with more problems added to the mix. Though it took some ups and downs that I will discuss more in an upcoming post, I refused to yet again become a slave to my flesh and my ego. God freed me from that bondage and I accepted my status as clean, as a new creation, as pure, just like Rahab.

So even if I don’t fit into the carefully curated image of purity in the media, I am confident that Christ views me like royalty, fearfully and wonderfully made. And I am here to tell you that you are too. He sees your mistakes, your past, the trials, and tests you haven’t yet endured, and still loves you.

The Cult of Purity: Part One

Oftentimes, I too am lured by the sleek edges, happy homes, and glossy photos of “the pure,” or the women who were always wholesome. The ones who come from two-parent homes where their families didn’t yell much.

The ones who wore purity rings in high school and joined Christian sororities in college, the ones who then went on to marry at a reasonable age (at 25 or younger) and saved themselves for their one true love who God spoke to them about.

These women often live in huge, well-organized homes with good lighting. And the lighting is important you see; because it allows for picture-perfect social media feeds. Their Instagrams are decorated with photos of the perfect family, beautiful children who begin to prophesy at the age of three, husbands who are too good not to brag about, and of course the “pure woman,” she has perfect hair and expertly applied makeup, she’s fit and eats clean. She’s the woman you could’ve been; if only you’d been pure.

But I am not that woman.

I am not an Esther, a Ruth or a Sarah. I am a Rahab.

Every time I stumble across these feeds, or more accurately, whenever I seek the social media accounts of women who’ve made the right choices in life, I begin to feel a sharp pang of guilt, or envy, your call. It’s not because I fail to understand that social media is a lie, full of filters, photoshop, false smiles, and tricky angles. It’s not because I’ve been bamboozled into believing these women actually lead perfect lives, despite what their accounts and various books say. It’s because I can’t relate. I am a Christian. But I am not an Esther, a Ruth, or a Sarah. I am Rahab.

I am Rahab because I am a woman with a past. Not a past of prostitution. I never worked in a brothel, I was never an escort nor any kind of sex worker, but I have a past none the less.

And my past is what blocks me from relating to the image that purity conjures up: I have never worn a purity ring, I avoided the Christian groups at my university like the plague, I didn’t start serving in a church until last year, God didn’t speak to me about my first love. In fact, I didn’t even speak to God about him until we were at least a year in and not exactly living purely. And wholesomeness was a concept I viewed as inaccessible at best, and a lie at worst.

This hostile view of wholesomeness stems from the image it conjures up: Perfection. Something I can never live up to and something I don’t believe any human can. Yet groups, blogs, and Christian influencers shape their ministry around this false image. And over and over again I have compared myself to the glossy photos of what my life without a past might look like, perfection.

I originally created this blog in order to dismantle the false narrative of purity and to disband the cult of purity and perfection. I am imperfect but I am pure. I have a past but I am made right with God. I am a new creation.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT

But then God placed an even greater responsibility on my heart, to build women and girls up, especially those who have a past, and restore their identities in Christ. To use my story as an example, and to share stories with other women in order to free ourselves from shame and the false notion that only the perfect get to experience God’s love, grace, mercy, and a flawless social media feed.

What have you been running from in your past? I’ll tell you more about mine in part two.