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Monday, July 16, 2012

The Dichotomy Between Church & Self

There isn't a time that I can't remember not being in church. Sundays were always the same: I'd pull up a chair to the kitchen stove to get my kinky hair hot combed to silky perfection, all the while praying my mom didn't burn my scalp this time. Soon after that task was complete, I'd go get dressed in the outfit I had laid out the night before.

I was baptized at nine, partly out of fear, more from pressure from my granny. Each week I was urged to go up when the doors of the church opened. At that age, I didn't know she was talking about the Invitation to Discipleship. In my mind, every time I went to church, the doors were open; how else would we all get inside? One particular Sunday, I fought through my shyness and walked to the altar with granny. I confessed with my mouth and believed in my heart that Jesus is Lord and just like that, I was saved.

Not fully understanding the commitment I just made, I didn't know my lifestyle was supposed to change. Being a child, I was already following the requisite rules: obey your parents, do well in school, etc. There was nothing for me to readjust. It wasn't until I got older that I started to realize what I had signed up for. In high school, it equated to a life with no fun. Secular music was banned from my house which meant I was sneaking off to listen to all my favorite artists. Rated R movies were taboo and any time I went out with friends, I had to give a full account of the night's events prior to getting permission. I was being trained to protect my mind and body from the temptations of the world.

In retrospect, I appreciate my mother for doing her job as a parent. I wish more would care like she does.

As a 20-something today, temptation is running rampant everywhere I turn. Sexy men of every shade, color and creed possess the ability to make me wanna relinquish ALL this religion. It has become clear why my mom tried her best to preserve my naivete. Thankfully, I made it through junior high, high school and college without succumbing to temptation. The fear of becoming a young mother is what kept me chaste. But like I said, I'm older now, in the field with grown men looking to do grown up things. Lack of experience is what fuels the fear now, along with a lack of relationship.

Sexual temptation is not the only thing that plagues me though. I'm tested in other areas now as well, especially in my relationships with friends and decisions with my career choice. In the back of my mind, I'm always wondering if this life I want to live is the one that lines up with God. Never one to be out of control, I've lead a good life thus far. I have been blessed beyond my worth and have somewhat of an active social life. Every week I'm in church, sometimes twice, regardless of how late I was out the night before. I know right from wrong. The conflict arises when I feel I'm missing out on living life like a "normal" young adult. Romans 12:2 says, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." Simply put, as a professed child of God, I should be drawing the outside world to my lifestyle, not the other way around.

There are still many days where I feel that if I choose to do what makes my spirit man happy, my flesh will suffer. Life is all about choices and those same choices result in consequences, good or bad. I would love to see Heaven once the time has come for me to depart from this life. The stories I've read about what awaits in Hell is enough to scare me into a fit of constant depression. The book of Revelation is too real for me to read but I know it only scares me because it's the truth.

No, I don't pray or read my Bible as often as I should. Being born of the flesh, I do make mistakes but with God being as forgiving and merciful as he is, I know I'll be forgiven. Thanking Him for all that he has done is something that I do regularly. It's the least I could do for him breathing life into me every morning. Anything less is just disrespectful. My intention is not to preach to you or force my beliefs on you. Instead, I'm trying to make sense of this dichotomy between myself and my religion. Temptation is nothing new, as it has been around since God created Eve. We are given a choice to do as we please but if we consistently make the bad decision, we'll suffer for eternity. Each day calls for a renewal of the mind so for me to gain the understanding I seek, I must spend time in the Word.

Fifteen years after I made the decision to dedicate my life to Christ, I'm starting to understand what that means. It is a lifelong commitment to living a life that will honor God which consists of me making tough decisions sometimes. Yes, questions still run wild in my head but that is when I must exercise faith and stand on my belief in God. I'm not sure what I'm trying to accomplish with this. What I do know is that being a Christian is NOT easy. I know that I want the reward of an eternity in Heaven  but am I willing to do the work? 

I should probably come to a decision soon. I have never been a fan of extreme heat.

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