Gray Areas4:30 AM
To be honest, I miss one big aspect of my black-and-white legalism of my younger years.
A clear conscience.
See, even though I judged people, I held myself to the same standards. I avoided many things that now give me heartache. I never even thought of giving in to things that I now regret. I am saddened that the people who called me "prude" and "homeschooled" failed to introduce the Gospel to me and instead pressured me to explore "freedom" against my conscience. I am even more saddened that I listened.
"All things are lawful. . .but not all things are beneficial."
How do you judge gray areas? I talk big about not setting rules the Bible never makes and especially not judging people according to manmade standards. In all that, I completely missed the point of the weak vs. strong problem: the issue is not that some people make rules and some people don't. The issue isn't about rules at all -- it's about a clear conscience. And keeping a clear conscience may (read: does) involve rules, standards, and guidelines for oneself.
Even more important than a clear conscience is a tender conscience. . .one that recoils at sin's repugnance in its own sake (without recoiling from the person or withholding grace) and for your own sake. One of the most eye-opening moments was when a bunch of college friends and I were watching a random YouTube video that deteriorated into something pretty inappropriate. It was the partying, frequently drunk kid who got weirded out first and shut it off -- while all us Christian kids were still laughing along in order to appear cool and nonjudgmental.
What happened to that little girl in me who knew right and wrong and strictly held myself accountable to the right?
Once I admitted that, "Hey, not everyone needs to hold the same standards as I!", I went completely downhill into a hardened conscience that told myself to stop being prudish -- I can handle R-rated violence, a PG-13 sexually charged scene, books with profanity, kissing my own boyfriend, watching a questionable YouTube video. If I can't, it's all in my homeschooled head. I tried to be gracious and conscientious at the same time -- running away during awkward scenes on Friday movie nights, refusing to watch crude humor, staying away from books and actions and thoughts that tempted me. But I was pressured and told not to be judgmental, not to be prudish, not to be a baby. You're an eighteen-year-old college freshman. You can handle it.
Except I can't handle it. I cannot. I am sorry. I hate the violence, blood, sex, and language in most movies and books. I hate being tempted to go too far with my boyfriend after I left my "sheltered" boundaries of just holding hands. I hate it so badly. And I hate that I no longer hate those things as much as I once did. My conscience accused me of sin, and I accused it of prudery, of judgmentalism, of harboring vestiges of sheltered life incongruous with the real world.
I lost my innocence freshman year into college. I caved in and stopped judging -- and discerning -- entirely. My mind now goes to dirty places. It knows all the innuendo, swear words, and questionable thoughts I naturally never knew about. I am certainly more knowledgeable and worldly-wise. . .but I lost something I never can regain: that pure innocence that felt deeply and passionately because my conscience and my heart still remained tender.
And you know what? The second I disobeyed my conscience, the minute I stopped covering my eyes during the gore of V for Vendetta, the moment I kept reading during an explicit sex scene in the library book -- I sinned. Not merely "broke boundaries" or "pushed my limits" but flat-out sinned against my God.