Why I Won't Be Stereotyped and Other Declarations of Independence6:24 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.