For school I was prompted to write about a time I conformed to someone else’s standards and ideas. I mind immediately jumped to the time before I was saved when I constantly tried to be like my friends. It was peer pressure, not freedom, but I’ll let you read the essay. It’s another side of my conversion you might not know.
I grew up in a Christian home. That meant that heavy makeup wasn’t worn, just because it wasn’t. Dressing modestly was something we all wanted to do, and were sure to do, because it simply was the right thing to do. Looking to God for direction was what life was about.
I was pretty happy in my home and church until age 11 or 12. I knew by then that those little prayers I had prayed before hadn’t really saved me. I knew that I wasn’t saved and wasn’t a true Christian, but at the moment, I wasn’t too concerned about that. My days were filled with finishing school as quickly as I could so that I could run up and play with the neighbors. At their house, even though I was not allowed inside, I learned things that I had never learned at my house. I saw and heard things I had never seen or heard before. The neighbors knew better than to speak colorfully or talk too bluntly about their situations, but I learned enough to know that they lived a lot differently than we did.
I became a rebellious young girl. I liked my church just fine, but I didn’t want to stay there all of my life, and I did not like the restraint of a family. I felt like I had been stuffed into a box of rules, but one day I would actually be free. I told myself, “I’ll be free to do my own thing. I can live my own life.” What I imagined was everything that my friends talked about, boyfriends, phones, facebook. It was something I didn’t see until years and years later that the “freedom” of the world came with drama, heartache, hardening, peer pressure, and depression, and was not really “freedom” at all. In truth my vision of “freedom” was conforming to the codes of this world.
During those preteen years I went as far as I could to be like my friends. At the store, I first used my saved money to buy makeup. Makeup wasn’t a big deal at our house. There was no hard set rules, it was just an unspoken rule that too much makeup was frowned upon. I reached for eyeliner and my older sister stopped me. “Oh, don’t get black. That looks so dark. Get brown. Black looks so unnatural.” She left me and walked around the corner, leaving me along with the makeup. I looked from her retreating figure back to the eyeliner. If I got black now she would be mad once she found out, she might tell my parents, “I told her not to get black”, but brown didn’t show enough. I wanted something bold. Instead of black I got blue. Of course she wasn’t happy, but it was already bought and soon I spent a long time in front of the mirror with my makeup. Every day I applied a little more.
Next I bought some clothes. I had found a lovely dark gray t-shirt with a pink guitar dripping with dark liquid. “Exactly what my friends would wear!” I thought. I was placing it in the shopping cart when my dad stopped me. “You really want that?” he asked. “Doesn’t it look a little….grunge?” “That’s the point,” I thought, but I didn’t say that, I just put it back and settled with another with birds around a keyhole. Dad looked at it a little hesitantly, but he let me buy it.
I read whatever I was allowed and even things I wasn’t allowed. When I wasn’t at my friends’ house, I buried myself in books. I learned that “Christian” books and “Non-Christian” books sometimes have very little or no differences to them. “Christian” books saturated my head with romance and visions of running away. And some “Non-Christian” books were set aside because they were boring and moralistic.
Perhaps the most harmful thing I did in an attempt to fit in with the world, with my friends, was to listen to secular music. I don’t remember my parents ever telling me, “Do not listen to those radio stations,” but as soon as I did, I knew they would not approve of what I was listening to. So I didn’t tell them. I have always been an absorber of music. I can remember anything in the world so long as it is set to music. In a couple days I had the songs on each radio station practically memorized and hummed them silently to myself, the lyrics running through my head at all times. They did not free me from my life of worship music, they simply captured me into their own themes and romances. I was truly addicted.
There was times when I was convicted of my sin, or I coveted the peace of the Christians I saw. One time I can specifically remember preparing myself to get up out of a meeting and find a place to pray and give myself over to God. But as I was convincing myself to stand and leave, a woman at the church asked a question on her heart: should their be a difference in the music Christians listen to and the music that the world listens to. She began explaining that she didn’t want to be legalistic, but she saw a problem with a lot of the music she saw her friends enjoying. I was cemented back to my seat. I could never give up my music! I lived in my music. I dwelt in it, and gloried in pictures of making it myself one day.
When God saved me I was in the thick of it all. Dad had given me a talk about my makeup and I had been told to wear less, but it was discreetly being built back up. I visited my friends and talked about boys and music with them. I soaked my head in books of romance. I wore clothes as much like my friends as I could, and they still would have called me a “good girl”, which I hated. I acted like a Christian on one side of my life, though I did a bad job, and a heathen on the other side, and again I did a bad job. My life might have been “fun” but it wasn’t fulfilling in the least. I was depressed often. The more I fit in, the more I was pressured to fit in more, not by anything that anyone said, but by my own mind that looked at them and looked at me and saw myself lacking. What I really dreaded was the thought of not being famous and important. More than anything, I wanted to be admired.
To be saved, God had to show me, rather dramatically, how useless and faulty all those things were. I had chained myself so fully that when He shook me loose from the boys, phones, and the books, I fell into a despair and darkness until I took his hand to let Him pull me out. He showed me that apart from Him, I was headed for destruction. A few of those things were left behind immediately after I was saved, and it had all lost its flavor, but the pattern of my thinking and lifestyle was gently changed by God’s faithfulness and through much tears on my part. The first two and three months after I was saved I felt that I had not changed enough, that I could not really be a Christian when these awful song lyrics were still running through my head, but God’s word, Romans 12:2 pointed me to keep reading the Bible and praying and one by one I saw those battles won. Gospel music finally made sense to me. Constructive books finally found value. Modestly finally had a reason. I even found myself looking better without so much makeup.
Perhaps I didn’t really know I was chained and still imagined myself with a will of my own. Perhaps I had felt the chains of the lure of this world before I was saved, but I would never admit it. But my mind and affections had truly been captured. Freedom came from having a truly wonderful master. God has turned my life from conforming to this world and is continually transforming me into the likeness of His Son. Depression has finally left my everyday life. I am truly happy.