I stopped following rules

I was fifteen years old when the questions began to weigh me down.

I was raised in a conservative home where my parents took the four of us to church every Wednesday and twice on Sunday.  We looked like Christians, and by that I mean we were visibly different than most people.  The girls wore dresses and didn't cut their hair, the boys wore pants.  People would wonder if we were Amish or belonged to a cult.  A coworker of my dad would call us the Walton's.  That meant nothing to me at the time because we didn't own a television.  We were set apart for the sake of Christ.  We lived to be blameless before God.

It was in those early teen years that I began to desire an understanding of what God wanted for me.  I wanted to be fully dedicated to his call on my life, but there was great pressure to follow the set rules of Christianity.  I felt and heard the judgement of people when the letter of the law was not followed, and even when it was there was always a sense of not being good enough.  The sensitivity of my spirit did not want to be considered a sinner by anyone.  I was a "good girl," a people pleaser.  In my own thinking, I would look at the world of make-up and jewelry, women wearing pants and men in their shorts and I would decide that they could not possibly be a follower of Christ.  I was too naive to see the danger in this.

There were respected Christians that my parents would listen to on the radio who looked like the rest of the world, and I felt a disconnect.  How could they respect the guidance of people who didn't look like us?  I saw the world as an enemy.  I was afraid of those who were different and I was struggling to be good enough for those who were the same.  I wanted to please God, and it was becoming more and more difficult to work through what was right and what was wrong.  Christianity felt more like a prison than a paradise.  The problem began to grow when I realized many people found it more important to look like a Christian than to act like Christ.  I lived among the modern day Pharisee.  I was becoming one.

Slowly, my family began to stop following rules, and instead focused on following Jesus.  Our eyes were opened to the freedom we were designed to experience in Christ.  My parents were criticized for their apparent rebellion, but they eventually found their place in serving a God who doesn't judge us by what we appear to be on the outside.  Through their example, I began to understand the grace of God.  And I heard it well said this past Sunday, grace means the pressure's off.  God wants you just the way you are.


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