Have you ever heard the saying, “Everyone sees who you are but does not know the story?” Well, I have, especially in Spanish. “Todos ven quién eres, pero no conocen la historia.”
I take a lot of pride when someone asks me how long have I known Christ. Why? Because I grew up in church. My mom started taking my brother and me to church when I was around 4 years old. However, growing up in church was difficult, at least for me. Our walk in Christ was based on following rules; it was more about the things we couldn’t do than the things we could do. Things I could not do: Go to the movie theater, wear makeup or jewelry, wear pants, denim skirts, or sleeveless shirts; cut hair short, paint nails, and on, and on, and on. I remember one time, when I was like 15 years old, I wore bangs to my Bible Institute graduation and the pastor asked me to put my bangs back—I have the picture to prove it—. I begrudgingly submitted.
Psalm 1:1 was used to describe why Christians should not do those things, especially going to the movie theater. That Scripture reads, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” It was the lack of use of hermeneutics that allowed whoever was in charge to set up those rules. Now I know, “context determines meaning.” Thank you, Hermeneutics professor and Manna U. In only 10 months, you have become such a pivotal part of my spiritual (theological understanding) healing.
I stayed in that church until I was 20 years old. I loved God with all my heart, soul, and mind. That means that I wanted to follow every single rule. I did not want to go to Hell and burn for eternity—yes, that was what would happen had I not followed all the rules to a t—. I wanted to be perfect. God wanted perfection—or so I was taught—. That put an enormous pressure on me as I was growing up. I wanted to do everything right regardless of the cost. I was quick to judge my friends who did not follow the rules; there was no gray shades for me; everything was black and white. No grace, only judgment.
Sometimes I would think to myself and rant about it to other people, “why is it that we can’t do this or that but other Christians in other churches can? They look so blessed, joyful, and you can see the love of Jesus flow through them.” They were liberal Christians who would get different rewards when they got to Heaven. Whatever!
When Gabriel was born, Orlando and I decided that we did not want to raise him in that environment. We had enough! We started attending another church and God started teaching new things to us, about His grace and love for us. It has taken 20 years and I still learn new things about God’s grace every day. But I am not where I was—thank you, Lord!—. God has shown me His amazing grace and continues to do. Every. Single. Day.
I no longer live trying to do and be in my own strength. I now ask God to give me the grace to do what He called me to do. I need His grace. His grace is sufficient. Through His grace I am transformed, changed, renewed. Into His likeness. I am “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18b
This is my story. This is the way I remember it. I do not hold resentment against anyone; my heart has no place for that. And this is the way I choose to share it. On my blog. Unapologetically.