I’ve always felt pressured to follow the rules, to stay out of trouble and be good. I grew up being known as a good girl, and even the other day was called one of the good ones. I’ve always been polite to everyone, and I treated people the way I wanted them to treat me. When guys swore around me they would always apologize saying they forgot that I was there, or one would tell the one who swore to stop because a Christian girl was present. People thought I was a Christian before I became one.
When I did become a Christian, a real one, I followed the rules more strictly. There were a lot of them too. I tried hard to be the best Christian I could be, and that meant being a perfect Christian. When Jesus said to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect, I took that very seriously. It was my mission, so to speak. I would do everything right, and become perfect. Needless to say, I failed — miserably.
While I was on my way to being perfect, I used to look with disapprobation at others I thought weren’t doing it right. I used to look at what they were wearing, how they spoke, and the way they behaved. I don’t think I ever considered myself as better, in fact I hated being praised by the elders of the church. I did, however, dislike the feeling that I was the only one trying to be good, to do well, to follow all the rules properly.
The thing is, my father was raised strictly, and he raised my sisters and me the same way. We were to do as we were told, and if we didn’t we would feel it (take a guess at to what it was). Then I ended up going to a church that was also very strict — another follow-the-rules type of upbringing — and I was fine with it. It was what I was used to; you tell me what I need to do, and I do it. And it worked, that is, when I had faith in the one making the rules.
I had always been taught that God was perfect, that He never made mistakes. He knew everything, and He was everywhere. Nothing could be hidden from Him. He was all-everything. So was the Bible. It was the word of God, His love letter to man. We got closer to God by studying His word daily and making it a part of our lives. This was fine too, until three years into my Christian walk I started to realize that something was off.
It turned out the Bible did contradict itself, contrary to what everyone at church said. To any seeing eye, there were things in the Bible that clearly contradicted each other, and I don’t care if they’re only numbers from Numbers and Ezra, or Numbers and Leviticus, or whatever two books I saw the numbers in that didn’t match. Something is either infallible, or it isn’t. While I used to roll my eyes in my head at atheists and other non-Bible believers for not understanding what was so clearly written in the Bible, I started to feel a bit unsettled. There were things wrong that couldn’t be explained away, and apparently everyone knew, but they were all ignoring them. The ones who didn’t believe had good reason for not believing.
I started to fall away a little. Everything started to look different; the Bible, our devotional, the sermons. It was all wrong. The thing I’d been building my life on wasn’t what I thought it was, and I was using it to judge people, and myself.
I took a step back, a tiny step, and I kept walking backwards, looking at things differently, thinking about them differently. I started to not take things so seriously, and to see more and more that people make mistakes. People make a lot of mistakes. I had, my parents had, my friends had. That doesn’t make us wicked or terrible people. We’re still people just the same.
It’s okay to wear nail polish. It’s okay to listen to music that isn’t gospel. Some people are a bit more stylish than others, that doesn’t mean they’re farther away from God. So what if someone wears jewellery? As long as they don’t let that take away from their relationship with God. God doesn’t judge by outward appearance, why are we? People who swear still need love, and they know how to give it too. People with tattoos aren’t bad or anything, maybe they just like tattoos. There isn’t anything wrong with them. And it’s not the worst thing in the world to have sex before you get married. That’s a touchy one, and I think I am going to wait, but I hate feeling like someone has less worth for doing that. The person is still a person. Not that I’m completely okay with all of this, and everything still has its place, but people who do things we aren’t in support of are still people who need other people. So they’re not perfect, so they don’t fit our standard or suit our taste. They’re still people, and we need to think of them as people. I want to think of them as people.
I’m sorry that it took me this long to realize all this, and that I hadn’t been very understanding of others before (although it was just in my head), but here I am at twenty years old, finally coming to terms with the fact that I’m not perfect, that people aren’t perfect, that all of us are just people.