You’re Worth More Than A Pair Of Shorts

I don’t like to wear shorts when I take the bus. Even if it’s boiling hot outside, I just don’t like it.

It isn’t because of the way the seat feels on my bare legs or because I never take the bus in the summer. Nor is it that the bus has amazing air conditioning either. No, it isn’t any of these things. Rather, it is because I think something bad might happen to me if I wear shorts when I’m traveling on my own.

Shorts make me feel extra vulnerable — even though mine aren’t “uber-short.” I worry about other people’s perception of me. I worry that guys will try to approach me and take advantage. I’m scared to wear shorts, even when the rising temperatures scream that I’m crazy to wear jeans because of what my culture, both Christian and secular, has taught me about men.

But I’m learning that this mindset is wrong. Plain and simply, it is destructive.

I don’t care whether you believe in modest dressing or not. I don’t care how Biblically sound your ideas are. I am not here to debate with you or argue over the value of modesty for Christians or dismiss your ideas and beliefs. I just want to say that a girl’s worth should not be rooted in how long her shorts are.

For a long time, I believed that dressing modestly somehow protected me. That if I wore higher shirts and longer shorts I would be a less likely victim. To be honest, I do not know what the statistics are for sexual assault victims*; however, I do know that what we wear as Christians or even as non-Christians, but as people, should never define who we are as human beings.

We live in a sex-saturated culture. I’m sure that’s clear by the advertisements and movies and music that we come across everyday. But contrary to popular belief, this fascination with sex is far from absent in the church. Oh no. It simply takes a different form at the altar. In Christian culture, sexual fascination takes on the form of legalized purity.

“But how can this be true?” You may ask. “After all, didn’t Jesus command us against sexual immorality?”

Yes, against immorality. But God didn’t tell us that our sexuality should somehow determine our worth.

In the Church, we’ve become fascinated with purity, particularly sexual chastity. While that’s great in and of itself, I believe we’ve taken it a bit too far. Nowhere in the Bible does God say that we’ll be saved based on what we wear or that there is no forgiveness for pre-marital sex or that sexual purity is the ticket to heaven; but that is the way that I believe some Christians have made God’s grace out to be. On the other hand, God calls us to love Him, first and foremost, and then to love our neighbour. Attaching a person’s worth to a clothing choice is simply not loving because we are whole people, worth more — much, much more — than a single clothing choice.

We were created in the image of God, our creator. Now, I’ll be honest — I haven’t always lived that idea out. I’ve spent my life critiquing others’ clothing choices and actions and monitoring my own. I haven’t always seen others as whole people, humans, created in the image of God for His glory. And I haven’t always seen myself that way either. But now, I want to change. I don’t want to see anyone’s — my own or another person’s — worth wrapped up in their chastity or lack thereof.

Because we were created for more. Much, much more.

We were created to love and be loved infinitely by our Perfect Creator.

We were created to serve God, create as He did, and bring about justice.

We were made to enjoy and live and work and build relationships.

Created in His image, first and foremost. That is our true identity.

You’re worth more — much, much more — than any old pair of shorts.

So now, let us live in the freedom and joy of Christ.

*Just so it is clear, I am NOT by any means advocating that “statistics” can show who is at fault. I firmly believe and know that a victim is NEVER at fault because of their clothing, words, or actions.

Today, I stumbled across this AWESOME post by an amazing blogger on modesty and worth. It is extremely well-written and insightful; she writes from this same perspective, though I think she conveys her thoughts much better than I did in this post. I encourage you to check it out!

The Way Our Eyes See

I first saw hunger with my own eyes when I was in Mexico. It was my first outreach project and I was collecting garbage with a few local girls, when a small group approached us and asked us if we had food. I didn’t know much Spanish then, but I knew by the word comida and the look in their eyes, that they were hungry. I said, “No,” for our outreach did not include food, but the memory has stuck with me ever since.

The next summer, I saw people in a different way. I noticed the homeless and saw the hunger in their eyes as well. I’d never thought people in my own country were that needy, having assumed that drug addictions were the main source of such problems. But the more people I saw that summer, the more I realized the wrongness in my eyes. Perhaps they were drug addicts, perhaps they weren’t. Maybe they’d made a million mistakes or maybe just a thousand. It didn’t really matter. I learned to see them as people and that they had the same needs and desires as I did.

Beliefs and perceptions are powerful things. In my Critical Issues in the Arts class, I’ve been reading articles called Seeing by Annie Dillard and Interpretation by J.E. Russon. Honestly, my mind is not yet developed enough to tell you exactly how one sees or interprets. I’m still less than half-way done my module review, which is due tomorrow and these philosophies are quite beyond me. But all of this has gotten me to thinking: how do I see the world? How do I perceive others? What are my prejudices? How do I love? How do I see myself? How do I see God?

It’s not as simple as I once thought. Just because there’s a table in the kitchen and my eyes see it that does not mean I only see a table or that I even see it at all. Sometimes I see things as more than they are. My mind wanders and I become upset about issues that do not have to be issues. Other times I see people as less than they are. My heart disdains the beauty that God has made because my eyes will not look far enough. The surfaces of life can be a deadly trap for the eye.

So how do I see the world and the people in it as God sees them? How do I see the Lord as He intended me to perceive Him? How can I look at myself the way that I should? How must I train my eyes to discover beauty in everything and love as He has loved?

The answers are beyond my perception. Perhaps they always will be. But I want to look harder and deeper and longer at the things placed before me, no matter how hard they may be. Because I don’t like the way in which I see; I want new eyes with sharper lenses.

God, let me see as you see. And let me do as you do, too. Amen.

G Is For Grace

High school is behind me now, but I haven’t stopped learning, it would seem. Today, I spent a good chunk of time cleaning and organizing an overflowing box of schoolwork. You see, I’m not the most organized person in the world. Okay, I’m an absolute failure at organizing my stuff…especially papers. I kind of like to just relax and forget about things when I don’t particularly need them anymore. So, throughout the last two years, everything that I don’t really need anymore has gone into the school box. Consequently, the last few days have been spent sifting through Spanish homework, student aide lessons, English notes, and lots of Biology.

It was an interesting task, to say the least. I can’t say that I enjoyed it, but it did bring back old memories, good, bad, and unflattering alike.

My Biology brought the most thought, in the end. Oh, the Spanish I enjoyed looking through and made me dream about taking university Spanish classes next year. My teaching notes reminded me of the class I helped in and the future I may have in education. And of course, English brought a smile or two. But in of all that, I learned the most from the subject I know the least about… Biology.

Not to be a downer or anything, but I’m terrible at Science, Math, and anything technical. I’m extremely creative, as my project based Lit 12 class proved. I can write to save my life. I picked up Spanish pretty easily and was even able to teach it. But if you give me something technical like a fractions sheet or a chemistry lab, I’d rather get my eye brows plucked.

As I organized and slightly reviewed my notes on Meiosis and Mitosis, plant cells, and the urinary system, an aspect of myself that I’m not so proud of, unfolded before me. I am afraid of failure. In fact, I am so scared of missing the mark, that I run, hide, scream or do whatever is needed so that I don’t have to deal with my failure. But as a Christian, that is not the attitude that I am supposed to have towards Biology, school work, or my sins. Because Jesus is enough for my failures and I need to trust and let Him carry my load when I can’t.

But the truth is, I didn’t do that with Bio 12 and I don’t do that with most of my life. In my course, I received some A’s, lots of B’s, and a few C’s. And some of my marks were really, really bad. Actually, in addition to some super low C’s, I failed my first test by 3 %. Yup, I actually, officially failed. But really, my Biology scores are no different than my regular life as a human. God doesn’t grade us on our attitude, but I can garuntee we’d all fail more than one test if he did. 

Throughout my organizing, I found a lot of unopened envelopes. Like I said, I’m afraid of missing the mark and I literally run away from it. Since I was home schooled, my teacher sent my marked work through the mail and I had the choice to open it or leave it untouched. So, because I knew I wouldn’t be getting top scores all the time, I left a lot of them unopened, at least to me. My mom could open them if she wanted, but several times I wouldn’t touch my Bio marks. I was ashamed, just like I am of my sins. I didn’t want to look back at my failures because it showed me that I was unworthy, messed up, and fallen.

But isn’t it funny how that’s just not how God would look at failure? He forgives and loves us, despite our brokeness. And not only that, but He gives us second chance after second chance. God does not give up no matter how badly we miss the mark. And He wants to show us once again what is right. He encourages us to keep going and tells us to overcome our sins. When I went through my Biology marks, I found the envelope with the bad test mark. But because I’d wanted to run and hide and forget about my failure, I had missed the lesson. My teacher had sent that test back to me so that I could learn from my mistakes, but I had let my shame overtake me. God doesn’t want us to run from Him because of guilt.

The last envelope I opened surprised me. I knew before that I’d failed the first test and that my marks weren’t the best. I was aware of my failures. But this last envelope had not been opened by anyone–even my mom. It contained something different. I gasped when I saw that I had received % 100 for this Biology assignment! I was thrilled and I wished so badly that I hadn’t let my shame overtake me when it first arrived in the mail.

If we got report cards in heaven, we would all get 100 %, too. Even though we would have messed up and failed. Although we would deserve much less. Seriously, if God marked us on perfection we’d all get zeroes and my Biology marks would look good. But He doesn’t mark is on perfection — He accepts us with grace. And that is why the G on the report would be for grace and not good because of the grace that God has truly given us through His son.

If you’re hiding in shame and guilt today, please stop. If you think that God can’t love you because of past mistakes, that isn’t true. God always, always accepts and loves us for who we are… broken, messed up, but oh, so precious in His sight.

Your Faith Has Saved You

They called her a ‘sinful’ woman. She was a prostitute, perhaps. The Bible doesn’t specify about her except for the fact that she was undoubtably and undeniably sinful. For that reason, she probably kept away from ‘righteous’ folk as much as she possibly could.

But then she heard that Jesus was in town! Jesus! He was the son of God. Well, some people said that he was. The woman wasn’t quite sure if she believed that or not. But the woman did know that he was a good prophet, a kind man who healed people. She wondered, is there room enough in his heart to heal a harlot like me?

When a woman who had lived a sinful life in the town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume…

Luke 7:37

In a way, I can be just like that woman. The word ‘sinful’ could serve as a description for each and every one of us. And I know for a fact that I am very sinful. I may not be a prostitute in the literal sense of the word, but haven’t we all been some kind of prostitute? I know I have forgotten God and prostituted myself to idols time and time again. I’ve been a prostitute to constant sin. I feel like it feeds me though it really just eats away at my soul. In many ways, I am just like that sinful woman.

But Jesus always saves. I know that from Sunday School and the Bible. I know I can always find my way back to Him, despite my sins. I think about it and realize that he probably has enough room in his heart to forgive me once again.

But when the sinful woman entered the room, she realized that not only was Jesus enough — He was more. He loved her, despite her many sins. Somehow, he cared for her more than anyone had ever cared before. Even though the righteous disliked her, this man, who was more righteous than all of them put together, was her friend. And the woman was overwhelmed. She did not think of herself anymore or even of impressing him with the perfume. Instead, she knelt down before him and began to cry. She wet his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, kissed him, and poured the perfume on his feet as a final touch. She loved Him and He loved her. She was so unworthy, but somehow, He was worthy enough.

and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and poured perfume on them.

Luke 7:37-38

So many times, I’ve gone to church or just opened my Bible, with thoughts like this woman. Maybe He can save me again. And then I enter into his presence. Suddenly, all my fears, worries, and even failures melt away in an instant. It’s only Him and me. He is beautiful and I am ugly in my sin. But as I kneel before in worship, He wipes those sins away. Jesus refines me and makes me beautiful again.

But the ‘righteous’ men did not like the woman. They looked down on her and thought Jesus to be false for His kind treatment of her. To them, she was sinful, dirty, and not meant to be loved.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him, and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.’

Luke 7:39 

Sometimes, I feel bombarded on every side by people who hate me. I am judged by sinners just like me. Yet somehow I am ‘more sinful’ to them. I am caught in a snare because to them I am not worth enough.

But it didn’t matter to Jesus for he was more righteous than the pharisees’ self-righteousness. He was worthier than all of the woman’s unworthiness. Jesus had the power to stand above righteousness and fill the ‘sinful’ woman with worth.

Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you. Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?

Luke 7:40-42

And Jesus forgives me just like he forgave that woman. His righteousness and worthiness makes up for my lacking. He fills me with all that I need, including His unfailing love.

Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much.

Luke 7:47

So Jesus forgave the woman. Even though she was sinful, He loved her without holding back. And He loves me like that, too. Jesus dismisses my failings and replaces my fears with his amazing love. He turns to me, as he turned to that woman and tells me my sins are forgiven because my faith has saved me.

It’s interesting that Jesus told the woman that her faith had saved her. The Pharisees in the Bible and lots of “churchy people” now like to make up extra rules and judge people for what they don’t do. But the truth is that we are all sinners who are going to mess up. And that is why nothing but the blood of Jesus can save us when we put our faith in Him.

Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you;go in peace’

Luke 7:50

Remember that He didn’t say your purity or good works has saved you. We could never do or be enough for that. It’s not our righteousness, money we give to the poor, or the way that we dress ourselves. We would never be worthy if it were based on those things. It’s not how many days we go without sinning because the truth is that we all sin every single day. Instead, it is the grace of God that becomes ours when we put our faith in Him.

Have you put your faith in Jesus? Remember, it’s never to late. You may be sinful, but we’re all sinful. And Jesus accepts us just the way we are — broken and dirty. He makes us whole and clean through his blood. So come to His feet now and he will say, “My child, your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Forrest Of Lies

Sometimes I walk with a head that hangs in shame through a forrest of people who hate me. It’s a difficult road, full of thorns and twigs. And it’s dark in the forrest — so dark that I can’t find my way out. The forrest of lies consumes me until I want to cry.

In the forrest, I’m never good enough. I’m ugly, stupid, and not likable. No one wants to be my friend in the forrest of lies. Because who would want to stand next to a failure like me?

I’m bad and wrong in the forrest. I’m too ambitious for a female. In the forrest, they denounce what I want to do with my life and who I would like to be. I’m utterly wrong in the forrest. I can’t be successful there. My dreams of university and a career are scoffed at. I’m told that I need a man to do anything worth with my life. A man and a lot of kids. I am worth nothing in the forrest of lies.

I am sinful beyond compare there. My clothes are immodest even though I try so hard. Certain things I do and ways I act are just plain terrible. My actions in the past are unforgivable. I’m not good enough for grace in the forrest even though grace was made just for me. I’m never pure in the forrest of lies.

The forrest is demeaning, rude, and shallow. I do not like to live there and I will not let myself stay there any longer. It’s full of ridiculous expectations that I could never meet. Perfectionists without an ounce of grace pound my heart to pieces. And that is why I call it the forrest of lies.

But at the end of the forrest, there is a garden. It’s a perfect, beautiful place. I go there to be uplifted and refreshed. And in the garden, there is a gardener who calls me by name. Although He is perfect, the gardener doesn’t mind that I am not. For He has enough grace to share the beauty of his flowers with me. So I’ll leave this forrest of lies behind and go to the garden. Are you coming with me?

Fresh Start

This week, I came to terms with my ugly self and the terrible desires of my heart. I learned that I’m not as good at forgiveness as I thought. I realized that I have a lot more to learn about love before I could ever say I’ve fulfilled my calling. In it all, I came to see that sometimes I need to erase the past and start fresh.

There is this hurt that I have. I’m not going to say exactly what it was or who hurt me, but it was very painful. Over a year ago, I struggled with this incident and thought that I had become free. After all, I could laugh about the person and the hurt that he had caused. I seriously thought that I had forgiven him. But then I realized that even though I could laugh, the hurt was still eating at my current relationships, the way I view myself and that person, and what I think of certain people because I hadn’t really ended it and started fresh.

Recently, God has been convicting me that I am not loving enough. I hold grudges and refuse to allow people the privilage of a fresh start in my heart. The worst thing is that I rarely recognize this flaw at all.

The other day, I was extremely mad. I got angry at a lot of people who had nothing to do with the situation as well as the person who hurt me. None of it was necessary though. Nothing new had transpired. I was only drowning in the anger of an unforgiving heart. I hadn’t truly ended what I needed to end.

God calls us to a life of love. The two greatest commandments are to love Him and to love others. If we do these two things, we are fulfilling the rest of the law. Forgiveness is a part of that love. Starting fresh is part of that, too. The world tells us that revenge is satisfying, but God tells us that vengeance is His. Our hearts tell us that we should hate, but God calls us to live a life of love. He pulls us away from all bitterness, brawling, anger, and slander, as much as our humanity tells us to give in. God desires that we overcome evil with good, instead of repaying evil with evil. If we truly want to love God and love others, we need to give second chances and start fresh everyday.

But anger is still alive and well. I have no solution to erase it completely. The only healthy thing to do with anger is to accept it. That’s what I did. I wrote a letter and told that person how mad I was at him. But then, I destroyed it and started fresh with a letter of love.

I’ll be the last person to tell you that all of this was easy. On the contrary, true love is a battlefield, real forgiveness is like forgetting a grudge from a war, and sincere friendship can be a constant torture of the two. It was hard to forgive. It’s almost impossible to erase the past and start from the beginning.

But with God, anything is possible. He makes all things good. Yes, friendship is difficult, but it is also wonderful. Love is hard, but we reap the greatest rewards through true love. Forgiving someone is like fighting a war, but just like a real battle, there is freedom when you finish. And because of Christ, starting fresh is an option.

Today, I’m going back to square one and starting fresh. It definitely isn’t easy, but I’ve never felt better. Forgiveness is freedom. Love is beauty. Friendship is peace. I’ve overcome evil with good and it is amazing.

Free Like The Wind

Last weekend, I walked home from a conference. The sun was out and shining at last and the sky was beautiful. The wind was out that day, too. It brushed my long hair out-of-place and the loose, black shirt I was wearing flew behind me. And suddenly, I felt free.

I stopped at the park and settled on one of the swings. I rocked back and forth and the wind whipped my hair off my back. I closed my eyes and breathed it all in…the stillness, wind, and sun. I realized that everything that had held me down didn’t matter. I didn’t have to care about what other people thought. The mistakes I’d made had been forgiven. There was no condemnation. I was free.

For months, I’ve felt like a prisoner. I’ve been locked in by the stress and worries of life. The sorrow sweeps me up into a flurry of despair and I feel like I can never be happy. The gossip, the looks, and what I know people would say if they knew, traps me in fear. I’ve felt condemned and have yearned for freedom time and time again.

That day at the park, I felt like I had it for once. I’d had a better-than-normal week. There were difficulties, of course, but I’d gotten through them. I had overcome some fear I’d hidden inside. And that day I’d learned, that I really, truly could be free because there is no condemnation when you have Jesus.

The wind continued to blow and the sun shone brightly. The rocks crunched under my feet as I slowed the swing down. I picked up my Bible and read the passage that had set me free that morning again.

This verse wasn’t just written for me! You can have this freedom, too. Jesus bought you at a price. He paid for your sins. If you are in Him, there is no condemnation for you, no matter what you do. He has freed you.

Hope Amidst The Humbug

December rolled in this week and with it, the beginnings of Christmas. The first Sunday of advent came and went, a candle was lighted, and the kids in sunday school started practicing their Christmas Carols. I got ingredients for the shortbread and snowballs and other goodies that I like to make and worked hard all week with rehearsals for my next play, A Christmas Carol, coming up in just ten days. Forgetting the 25th and all it stands for was not a possibility this time. 

However, I found the Christmas cheer a bit harder. It isn’t painful this time. I’m not sad or grieving like I was last year. It’s not that, yet I usually don’t feel like the happy person that most people make me out to be every single second of the time. I haven’t felt sad per se–just tired, lonely, confused, and restless. I often just feel like saying, “Bah! Humbug!” to it all, as Scrooge would.

Today, it was all pounding on me. I wanted to wake up at 7:00 but I slept in until 8:30 instead. I felt like writing but the words wouldn’t come. At a show promotional, I almost felt like I would fall asleep while singing Christmas Carols. When I came home and tried to do something productive, I only lazily watched my favourite episodes of The Waltons. And I struggled with odd feelings and sinfulness and desire for things for ahead in my future and again I said “Humbug.”

But just like Scrooge, my heart was changed.

I marched in a parade tonight, for Christmas, that very event that seemed to start it all. My feet were frozen even in their ski socks, and I looked like I had an outdated fashion sense in my Dickens costume but suddenly, I didn’t care. I saw people I knew and I waved to them, the music played as we walked along and I sang it loudly. I looked around me at my other cast members and I felt joyful. My friend beside me smiled harder than she has in a while and proclaimed that she was happy. There was no humbug in that moment.

God rest ye merry gentlemen. Let nothing you dismay. Remember Christ your Saviour was born on Christmas day. To save us all from Satan’s power when we have gone astray. Oh, tidings of comfort and joy. Comfort and joy! Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!

The singing did not leave my lips as easily as it normally does. Tonight, the words resonated with me and I heard this old song in a new way. It was telling me to rest, for Jesus Christ had been born, to save me from Satan’s power. Oh, comfort and joy indeed! No more humbug for me!

I’ll be the first to admit that life is hard and sometimes I really do get tired of living. I don’t pretend that joy comes easily to me because it doesn’t–that is, without Jesus. But with Him, joy is true, it is real, and so very comforting.

So may God rest you, this holiday season and always. No more humbug! Jesus was born to save us!