Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pretty Perfect Porcelain Dolls

Warning: Long Blog :) I'm about to rant haha!

Can I just tell you how much I adore my friend Kristin? This blog is in no way all about her, but I have to introduce you to her first in order for you to understand what she means to me. Kristin and I met at a church outreach a few years ago. Little did we know we had a crazy link in both of our pasts; my college R.A. was Kristin's best friend in middle school. I knew then that I automatically liked her! Any friend of KC's was a friend of mine. 

Kristin and I talk a lot about what we hope to get out of life. She has the same entrepreneurial spirit and hunger to be a stay-at-home mom that I do. We're both very in touch with our creative sides and want to be able to just live off of that! Oh dreams, what would we be without them? 
She's the Mario to my Luigi!

Anyway, Kristin and I spent last Monday watching women's hockey (poor USA) and I taught her my techniques for distressing wood. I mentioned something about my past and how wild I used to be and Kristin gave me the reaction so many others do these days; "It's so weird to hear stories of what you used to be like when I only know what you're like now." God has brought me FAR ya'll! I mean like seriously great lengths from what I used to be. If you haven't read my blog Poor, Blind, and Naked you should probably do that before you go any further in this blog for a little understanding. 

I think a lot about all the changes God has made in my life, how far I've come and how LONG it took me to get here... and how I'll always be striving for a better, more godly, me. One of the reasons I love Kristin so much is because even though she can see the faults in me she's not scared to keep encouraging me, laughing at my issues, and letting me know where she relates... but I didn't always have that.

When I was about 21 or 22 I had left the strip club scene for the second time and moved home to Virginia for a bit. (BTW let's just consider 18 to 25 my gypsy years, please don't go checking for accurate dates because I moved around so much that it's hard to keep track of.) I was once again pursuing God and trying to change the environments I was in, in order to get better results this time. So I joined a small group of mainly adults, started volunteering with the youth group, and hanging out with the other college-aged leaders. 

The problem was and is that we Christians tend to compare ourselves to others and judge them negatively if they aren't on our perceived level. I had learned for years that my body and my skin were my greatest tools of persuasion and what made me "worthy". This wasn't just from the club, but from the years of car, motorcycle, and pin up modeling I had partaken in also. So I was pretty naked ya'll. I was the girl that would walk around in next to nothing and not even care. I didn't think twice about it, and if you said anything to me about it I just thought you were jealous... not that you cared.

This is what I would have considered to be "covering up"
I wore sundresses to church, but I worked at a marina so my wardrobe consisted of an array of bikinis. (Not bad for the marina, but I didn't wear much else outside of there.) And when I worked at the golf course it was tank tops and tennis skirts. Covering up wasn't just NOT a priority... it wasn't an option in my mind. I didn't fit in with the "preppy girls" and there was no way I wanted to look like them. 

I had a friend at church whose boyfriend was in a Christian band. One night they had a gig in Richmond, two hours away, and she thought it'd be a good opportunity to put me back in my "old environment" and see how I did. I was more than excited to go to a bar with my new friend because I was sure I'd be okay. 

As we were getting ready for the night my friend realized that none of my clothes were what she thought were appropriate and decided she was going to play dress up with me that night. She put me in a yellow floral mid calf length dress, white sandals, and pearls. Uncomfortable doesn't even explain it. We were going to a bar and I looked like a 50's housewife, I felt like I was in someone else's skin.

On the way to the gig my friend made one request; "Please don't drink tonight. My boyfriend's family will be there and they're kind of weird about that. I know you wouldn't get out of hand but just... don't do it." I agreed and really thought I'd be fine. I had never been the type to feel like I just HAD to have a drink, so why would it be any different now?

But once we got there it was an entirely different situation. My friend was so worried about her boyfriend's family that she walked off to talk to them and left me alone. Here I am, no friends in sight, looking like someone I'm not, and just wishing I could be ANYWHERE but here. It just overcame me, I needed a drink just to relax. I had never "needed" a drink before so this was a totally new feeling to me. I had no confidence in this scenario and the only thing I knew to do was hide from it. I ordered a drink and went to find somewhere to sit. 

I struggled to get through the night. Whether my friend had realized it or not she had left me to fend for myself in an environment I thought she was going to support me in. We got in the car to leave and she was fuming. My memory of the two hour drive home was lots of disappointment, tears, and misunderstanding. I knew I had broken my promise and I apologized sadly, but she was so angry at me for letting her down. Her criticisms of me were spilling out by now, "I just knew it! I knew that you couldn't even do the ONE THING I had asked you not to! Why tonight?! Do you know what they all think of you now?! You know what people at church say to me all the time??? Do you??? They say 'Thank you for pouring into her because she's just too much for any of us to handle!' Is that just your goal? You had to be too much for me to handle too?!"

I was so hurt. I had grown up hearing other people's stories of redemption and immediate changes when they got saved, for me it was taking years and years of minuscule changes and I was still "too much" for anyone to handle. I was a burden to the Christians. My friend promptly stopped talking to me soon after that night, and when summer ended I stayed home and tried to tough out another season. But the allure of having a "home" at the club I had left was too strong. In that place nobody looked down on me, in that place I was respected, in that place people were just so much nicer... because everyone there was broken. I fit in with the broken people, not the porcelain dolls. I went back to Savannah to live in the darkness with all my broken friends.

I say all of that to say this: churches are filled with broken people so why are we all acting like we're porcelain dolls? Why do we expect people to come in broken and leave miraculously put back together, piece by piece, without one single crack showing? Why is it that so many times when someone messes up we're looking down on them instead of uplifting them? Why are we so scared to share our own struggles to believers and non-believers alike? As a church, we have to get over this need to be perfect porcelain people. When all you're doing is telling people how you never have a problem, you're only discouraging the people around you who already feel overwhelmed. 

Please do not confuse what I'm saying. I don't want anyone to focus on the negative. I want all of us to be constantly grateful and praising God for what He has done for us. But relating is part of being relational, and when you're not relating to someone's struggle because you don't want them to know you've been through the same thing or that you're STILL THERE, that's pride... and we're called to be humble. 

I can hang out with hubby AND Nini in all these layers haha
What if the lame man who was healed left the temple that day and from then on just looked down on other beggars and people who couldn't walk? Do you think the beggars would see the grace of God in him or feel as if they had been forgotten and somehow disregarded? God doesn't want us to struggle alone, he wants us in community, but he also wants us to encourage others at THEIR pace. We can't keep expecting people to be on whatever level we feel we are. All we're doing is silently condemning them for the pieces in their life they haven't put back together yet. 

What does any of this have to do with Kristin? Kristin sees the level I'm on, doesn't condemn me for it, and constantly encourages me in a loving way to improve. She shares her struggles with me. She understands that my journey isn't always going to be the same as her journey, even though we're so close. Some people's journeys may take longer than your journey, or they may have more bumps in the road, don't leave them to walk the path alone. 

Brothers and sisters, consider what you were when God called you to be Christians. Not many of you were wise from a human point of view. You were not in powerful positions or in the upper social classes. -1 Corinthians 1:26