I remember being in upper elementary school and asking my parents to shave my legs for the first time. It was apparently a big deal. I remember feeling devastated as my parents told me no. I couldn't for the life of me understand why I couldn't when so many girls at school were doing it. The other request at the same time was wearing makeup. My fresh face of 11 begged to be covered in makeup.
Those were big deals. What I remember most was devastation that came from the fact that I so desperately cared what other kids thought-I just wanted to fit in. I actually told my parents that the kids were calling me, "hairy monster". To this day, I am uncertain if that was true or if I was trying to manipulate my parents into saying yes.
I spent much of my life caring what others thought of me. Concerned if I would be liked, accepted, or respected. I cared very much, so much that I followed the rules to "t", I towed the line, I passively allowed others to hurt me, and more.
There came a point around high school - early college that something snapped inside of me, and I broke free. Sort of.
I was desperate to prove to others that I was not one to be walked on-that what you saw is what you got-so forth and so on.
Yet, it was all a facade. A desperate attempt for me to gain control of my life rather than letting others control it.
However, it wasn't really the "Christ in me" way of being. Living from Christ within requires me to know who God has created me to be and to be confident of that creation which is founded in Christ. I am created by God and I find my identity in Christ.
My value and worth is not determined by what I do or by people. It is alone determined by Christ and His sacrificial love for me.
When that penetrates to the heart and soul, there is no longer a need to try please others. His Word says that it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. Christ in me who lives and works in me to do and to be.
I seek His face and His will in all things - big and small - my pleasure and joy come from pleasing him alone.
As you are transformed in this truth, God begins to show you who He created you to be. For He knew us and formed us even while we were in our mother's womb (Psalm 139). We are all created uniquely with different likes and dislikes, with different temperaments, different preferences, different families of origin, different passions and giftings...all of these many things make up the beautiful of who we are. And when we see these things in the light of Christ's love and grace, we realize - first - our desperate need of Him, and then we realize how beautifully He truly made each of us and how much he truly values our individual uniqueness.
Now I am getting to the driving point of this blog entry. The most wonderful aspects of 2015 for me have centered around what I have mentioned. The past couple of years have been a journey of learning who I truly am in Christ in all my imperfection, yet beauty - it has been simply wonderful. The learning that who we are is not based off of our life choices or what we do, but simply who God created us to be at the core of our being. But what has been even more wonderful and glorious has occurred over the course of THIS year. It's the unquantifiable acceptance of who that person is.
Much of what I have written in this blog and will continue to write is a discovery of God, the world, and others. And, most of the time, it is turned upside down from what I thought I knew before. This is no different.
There are things about myself - weaknesses and imperfections that frustrate me and drive me to my knees. Yet, I am learning to accept those things and appreciate the fact that as Christ works to transform those areas they keep me dependent on Christ. There are other aspects like my creativity, my passion, my drive, my tenacity that I am learning to value. It's all part of the process.
I have embraced, differently, all of the things I am learning and accepting about myself.
I decided a few months ago that I was interested in getting my nose pierced. I view it as a pretty accessory piece, and a creative way to individualize a person's look. I think it is also an artistic expression of a person's uniqueness.
As I began to contemplate this, I immediately began to think of all of the differing opinions about piercings, tattoos (which I also find can be a beautiful artistic expression), even hair color (which mine is now burgundy). I come from a fairly conservative, and somewhat legalistic background that played a major role in my concern of pleasing others.
But God has truly broken the stronghold of this, and continues to help me find freedom in this. So, I did research. I processed. I prayed regarding my motivations and the potential of any offense it could have since I am in a pastoral/leadership role.
I felt at peace in my motivation. I felt God assure me that this was not about offense, and that this was a tasteful way of artistic and creative expression. Needless to say, I felt and sensed God's approval. And, at the end of the day, any opinions about nose piercings are strictly preferential and not biblically based. And that is where the buck stops for me.
If I refrained from having my nose pierced, it would be due to a concern of others opinions or acceptance of me. Which is the very thing Christ has set me free from. It is not a matter of "to hell with it" - it is intentional and driven by Christ's work in me. It's being continually founded in Him alone in the big and in the small decisions like nose piercing.
Those who know me, know that I live by strong and firm biblical and ethical principles. I am passionate about knowing Christ, identifying with Him, and glorifying Him with my life. This is simply a nose piercing. It is fun and creative...and I did it.
I am so happy I did. I love it! It was not really painful, it was not expensive, and it is tasteful. And it looks great! I am very pleased.
More than anything, it is a simple symbol to me that I am standing firm in Christ and not anyone else. And that feels good. It feels free. And it makes me so grateful to walk into 2016 with that freedom. This was a simple nose piercing, but I can only imagine the great possibilities of more to come as I live with a heart that is fully surrendered to Him and not others thoughts and opinions.
Start 2016 with a resolve to be free of the entanglement of living to please others, of living for others acceptance. We all need transformation, but find yourself in Christ and be transformed in ways that are led by Him alone. Then and only then will you know true transformation and freedom.
Back to the nose piercing... I share this in a blog, because I am not naive. I am a pastor and in a visible role. And I have family and friends who may not fully understand or will have questions. Some will love it and some will hate it. Some will rave about cute it is, others will look at it in disdain. Many will be indifferent. First, I believe that I am not acting against biblical principles and truth. With that said ALL of the varying opinions are okay, because I did it for me and me alone.
A little side note, the beauty of this is when you accept who you are, you will find the freedom to accept others for who they are (even if they hate nose piercings). :)
As a dear friend of mine says, "you do you". :) If I can "do me" and honor God in the process, I am content.