Why I Won't Be Stereotyped and Other Declarations of Independence

6:24 PM

Apparently, I am too conservative -- a skirt-wearing, long-haired, patriarchal, stay-at-home, homeschooled, fundamentalist, close-minded, brainwashed, pitiable, probably Mormon, Amish, Catholic or Greek conservative.

People have made snarky remarks about homeschooling to my face. They've lumped me with overzealous fundamentalist groups who don't let their old-maids-in-the-making out of sight. They become offended when I wear skirts most of the time. They've asked me if I have to wear my hair up when I put it in teddy bear ears for the day or if I have to wear a head scarf because I thought it'd be cute to do up my hair in a kerchief. Sometimes the only respect I get is as an escaped refugee from fundamentalism, a pitiable little woman who might have been great were it not for the patriarchal abuse to which she unwittingly submits herself.

Apparently, I am too liberal -- I study politics, literature and theology, I'm in theater and dance, I wear pants, I wear makeup, my stay-at-home beliefs aren't quite as unforgiving as others. Who knows what other capital crimes I have committed. In any case, good little conservative girls don't do them.

Apparently, I am too liberal to be conservative and too conservative to be liberal, and the peanut gallery isn't very forgiving of the fact that I can't be pegged. There's a quick and easy remedy for that.

"You want to know a trade secret?" a friend told me as we hung over the porch railing. "Don't care what anyone else thinks."

It's safer to live life in labels. It's easier to look at a person's jean skirts and braids and homeschool textbooks and let our own prejudices make snap decisions on who that person is and where she is going in life. But it's a miserable experience to try to walk one's Christianity in lockstep with a fellow believer. It's impossible:

Girl A never wears pants and always wears mascara. Girl B goes to public school but never to a public dance. Girl C is a diehard homeschooler and reads Harry Potter and Twilight in her spare time. Girl D dresses rather immodestly but has a stauncher policy on guy-girl relationships than her ankle-skirt-wearing acquaintance.

For almost six years of my Christian life, I've lived to get the approval of men. I needed approval. I needed to fit in. I needed to be loved, respected, praised, cherished, adored, et cetera. People said I was wise beyond my years.

I was just a plagiarist.

My convictions were never my own. Blindly I found my role models and clung to them as if they were a different dispensation of truth. Whenever decisions cropped up -- do I go to college? is this okay to listen to? is this okay to wear? is this how I act? -- I didn't flip open a well-worn Bible and ask for God's wisdom. Oh, no. You'd find me frantically clicking through conservative blogs or thumbing through dog-eared books on stay-at-home daughters to make sure that what I was planning on doing could still fit into this ideology that I had picked up and called Biblical truth.

Deep down, I am all bark and no bite. Conflict isn't my thing. I cry instead of yell when people oppose me. I'm not okay with being criticized or unloved. I don't like standing out in a crowd. I'm not strong like that.

I am just a shadow, an echo, a hollow attempt at being a person.

I don't advocate antinomian independence from conviction. That's the pendulum swung too far in the wrong direction. I'm talking about freedom to follow my own convictions -- convictions that I am not going to impose on you, convictions that my God has called me to uphold. Subtle implications that "good little conservative girls" don't do this and pious disapproval alone is not going to rock my boat. A good, solid, Biblical argument is first in store before I spend wakeful nights wrestling through convictions.

The fact is, I am not a copycat of an elusive "perfect Christian," be she the intelligent, highly-educated, ultra-liberal disapprover or the three-layered-petticoat, breadbaking wonder. I don't see in Scripture an endless list of convictions (or lack thereof) that I must hold in order to be successful in my spiritual life. I won't be held to other people's standards.

And another fact: much of what I perceive to be judgment is my own imagination, forged by guilt and self-doubt as I try to fit into a certain crowd. Satan's very happy to let me be as pious as I want, so long as I'm doing it to make myself look good, to get praised as "wiser than my age," to be pointed out as an ideal role model to well-meaning mothers' ten-year-olds.

And a third for good measure: that guilt and self-doubt isn't the prick of conviction or the sting of the Holy Spirit. It's the malicious reward of living for others instead of Christ alone. On one hand, it's easier to live for men -- they don't see your soul and you can tug the fleece down nicely over their eyes. On the other hand, it's a continual battle to force all men to view you as the same person you want them to. Our God has offered freedom from that guilt-ridden path of conformity. Conforming to Him is the most challenging, the most freeing life there is to live.

This is my declaration of independence, written after a million false starts: I am not a stereotype. I am a Christian, and my God is bigger than a box.

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11 impressions

  1. This was excellent to read.
    I am homeschooled myself. But I do not think anything wrong with going to regular school, wearing makeup, or wearing skirts above the ankle. Being a Christian isn't about following a list of rules for physical appearance. It is about developing a relationship with Jesus and depending on him to help us with finances, school, health, and relationships. I think one should seek balance. No need to dress so unattractively in heavy potato sack style clothing but no need to wear mini skirts either or I will question your motives.

    The main thing to remember is: Being a Christian isn't about acting holy and mighty and thinking yourself better than others. That's hypocritical and judgmental. Just make sure yo immerse yourself in the word of God to live a life of prosperity and happiness!


  2. First off, the pictures are redunculous. (I rather like that word)

    Second off, what triggered this post? Talk about vehement. :) Kidding, kidding, but I nearly lost my bun when I read the part about the peanut gallery. One thing I love about you? You tendency to be completely hilarious while being completely serious. That's a new quote of mine - add it to the list.

    I love this post. Because if I could be more serious at the moment, I would write something truly serious. But as it stands I'll say this,

    "So true."

    Yup, that's also for my list of quotes. :)

  3. Oh man sounds like me

  4. A well articulated post, I feel just the same.

    But would it be worse, if "they" always asked whether you were Baptist?

  5. Tragedy101 :: I do not quite know the answer to that, mostly because Baptists have been the majority inclined to paint my convictions as legalism.

    Maybe I'm just rebellious, but there's something that doesn't sit well with being asked if I'm anything besides Christian. I don't mind being asked why I stand out, so much, especially if "they" let me define who I am and what I believe...instead of untangling myself from a stereotype.

    If that's not a good thing, I'm hoping I'll become more moderate as I mature.

  6. I love the photos you included. They match perfectly the idea of bursting out of a box, coming into your own, and breaking free. The Bible is so freeing!

  7. Please bear with me, I've never commented on a blog post before.

    First of all, the guy that said that thing about not caring what anybody else says, is as imperfect as everyone else. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23. But I think he's right...as long as you are following God's word and not just being rebellious.

    Secondly, some things are cut and dry in the Bible as far as convictions, but God lays others on our hearts.

    Next, allowing labels sounds very worldy. I know a fellow named Screwtape would love someone to allow labels but "the Enemy" would rather us conform to God (as you said).

  8. Go, Bailey!

    You are on the right track. It is not about labels. It is about Him.

    You are great thinker and communicator! Keep up the good work!

  9. Just found your blog and LOVE this post!

    I am a Mama of a DOZEN children, and we don't fit into ANY box.

    At our contemporary, non-denominational church we are the "very conservative" ones. We don't watch t.v. and we don't allow our teens to date. Yet, in the traditional homeschooling community we are the "ultra liberal" ones. We allow our girls to wear jeans, listen to contemporary music instead of hymns, and allow our children to participate in public school programs.

    As a mama ... I like my jeans, my highlighted hair, and my acrylic nails. But those don't in any way take away from my love for Jesus.

    My young adult kids may not dress as modestly as I would like ... one of he girls has a nose ring ... some attend churches that I wouldn't want to attend. But, they all love Jesus.

    Even within our large and crazy family, we don't fit into any type of box. One son has crazy hair, tattoos, and his ears pierced (much to his mother's dismay). Another son enjoys a "military haircut". But, they both love Jesus.

    Blessings to you as you learn and grow in the ways of the Lord. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

    aka: Mama D.


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