I think we all may be able to relate to a moment in our lives where a sharp pain prevents us from breathing deep enough. Our short quick breaths leave us gasping for air, wincing with pain, overwhelmed and unable to rationally deal with our surroundings.
These were moments I anticipated. I thought about them a lot. They would tumble and bounce through my mind interrupting sleep and causing my mind to never slow its pace. No matter how many times I would play out the situations in my mind, no matter how well I thought it through; in the back of my mind I knew… better brace myself, because I knew it would knock me off my feet.
Choices aren’t always easy and certainly not always clear, but never the less, they must be made. Leaving the message has opened a world of new choices. It has actually made things so much more complicated.
It may seem a simple task, but I assure you it has been one of the most complicated and difficult things I have attempted. It challenged my comfort zone, my pride, my upbringing, but most pointedly; it challenged my relationship with others.
Of course when one chooses to dress differently than they have their entire life, it’s bound to cause a reaction of which my personal favorite would be, “You know better than that.”
Do you? Do you really “know better”? Being told one thing all your life, I would say you have conformed to a standard, but convicted? More than likely not.
Sometime around age 13 or so I remember a visiting minister or perhaps it was at a church camp calling out specifically to us young girls. He seemed to understand how hard it was to always be so different. To be singled out in school and never fit in, to never feel like “the other girls.” His soothing, kind, and understanding voice assured us of our purity, our love of God, and His word. We were predestined and called to perfection, set aside and Holy Ghost filled. All who looked upon us with our clean faces, uncut hair, and long skirts would see Jesus on display. This outward appearance clearly stated that we had something they did not. You see, he told us, we could go out and cut our hair, wear make up, throw on a pair of pants, run around with boys…. why, we could be like them in five minutes.
“They” however, they could NEVER be like “us”.
I cannot begin to describe to you the mental separation that continued to take place in my life. It amplified what was already there. I was keenly aware how different I was at a very young age. This, though, seemed to bring a sense of pride in that separation. It made everything better and acceptable in my young mind. It wasn’t that I wanted to look like them or even that I disliked what I was wearing. It was the loneliness. It was somewhat easier to allow one’s self to believe they were just the true believer, the odd ball, that’s of course why you don’t fit in. It would seem the more secluded one became the more spiritual they felt. It was the excuse, the bandage that made “everything better”.
Pride, pride, pride.
My choice to wear a pair of pants was not because I desired it, I didn’t find them attractive, I didn’t even know how to find my size, let alone explain to a sales attendant I had never worn pants before. It was all so embarrassingly uncomfortable.
I’ve really had to challenge myself on modesty. It’s been a long tough road for me. One not so clear as it had always been before. That was a struggle in and of itself. The most difficult of all though, was allowing myself to dress differently around my family still in the message.
It was something that weighed heavily on my heart. No matter how clear my conscience felt, no matter how I prayed and talked to the Lord about it, I knew my family would be deeply hurt.
I would love to tell you that it blew over and they told me it wasn’t a big deal. I would love to tell you they told me I was beautiful to them even still, that clothing couldn’t separate their love for me or my children.
Sadly, I cannot.
What I can tell you is that I saw their tears, their disappointment, their heartache, and it hurt me deeply. I hated seeing their pain. Even though I tried to continue to act as though nothing had changed, we all knew it had. It grew silent, gazes dropped to the floor, and I felt like I had grown a third eye.
Days have not healed this moment. Nights have not closed this new separation. Conversations attempting to bring closure have only resulted in regrets and hurtful words. Apparently, for message believer’s one’s choice of clothing differing from another is a result of “what is really on the inside”. Not looking the part is a lack of a holiness standard and a lack of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual. This new choice of behavior or change in one’s appearance is the cause and reflection of any struggles or problems one may be having. After all, these things didn’t occur until after you left the message.
Yes, your choice of clothing now questions your salvation. And, just so you know, until you come “back”, you should continue to expect bad or questionable things to happen to you. God has removed His hand from you, you cannot be blessed, and all hell must be set loose for you to find your way “back”. Back of course meaning the confines of their interpretation of the holiness standard and of course what is modest. “Back to the word” “Back to the message.”
They have said, time heals all wounds.
For now, this one is open and still hurting.
Allow me to clarify that fear has not entered into my life. Nor sudden found conviction. If anything, their words have further confirmed my decisions. If one garment of clothing can halt love so abruptly that it disrupts a life long relationship in a matter of moments, something is dreadfully wrong. If one garment causes you to treat me differently and change your previous thoughts about me, then perhaps your love was more shallow than I realized.
I have read the Apostle Paul’s words over and over, they state:
“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?
As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”
No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
For too long I have separated myself from all that I considered unholy. I separated myself from this world and all who partook so freely in it. I was a stranger waiting to be called to a better place. I am ashamed to say in that same mindset of separation, I claimed to have more of God, to have been more revelated, and blessed of God than most. I claimed to be His bride, to have so very much of Him inside of me that I mustn’t blemish my spotless garment.
I now grimace at this thought. I cringe with regret. To be so full of God and refuse to share the love of God cannot go hand in hand. If I cannot reflect His love for all others, if I cannot love equally and unbiased upon my own convictions, I am nothing but a hypocrite. How can I be the hands and feet of Jesus if I can not go near enough to make a difference?
Outward appearance has dominated the placement of one’s spirituality far too long. It is an absolute misconception to build one’s self up while pushing another down all based upon a garment. This judgmental attitude is a true reflection of not having the love of God to express in the first place.
We were taught to strive to a rapturing state of perfection. This teaching has brought condemnation and a “better than you” mentality. It neglects to tell you, you are human, created to be redeemed. Created to need a Savior. You were designed to be weak. Designed to fall down so He can pick you back up again. He is strong when we are weak. It is in our weakness, that we call out to our Savior, “Lord, help my unbelief.”
We have strived to achieve perfection, taught to be “little g-o-d-s”. Perfect love, perfect faith, speaking the word and creating our desires into existence. All that is holy outwardly expressing the inward working of revealed truth for our day. I find this “perfection status” a ridiculous notion knowing these same holy temples neglect the basic simplicity of Christian expression: Love.
1 Corinthians 13
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
The love of God should unite us, unfortunately we have been far too busy allowing our garments to separate us from any form of unity whatsoever. Our garments declaring our spiritual status and modesty, have done nothing more than become a garment of separation drawing a line in the sand from you and all who could possibly need a little something we are all called to give. We are meant to express the same grace extended to us, and the same love. Love and grace that is unconditional, love that cannot separate or divide. Love that never fails.