Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Living In the World

I've been thinking a lot lately about how hard it is for people to not be pulled into the worldly way of living. It's especially hard for young people because they're practically born into it. It's hard for anyone to see the value of life when all they care about is money, sex, themselves. But even devout Christians struggle with that temptation - doing the easy thing, whatever makes you happy, etc. It's a very painful lesson to learn that life is ultimately more difficult when you go this route and give into that temptation. And it keeps you from achieving the joy you can find if you were to just follow God. Following Him is very hard; I won't lie. But I have learned that if something is easily obtained, it's really not worth much.

When I was 19, my boyfriend of almost 5 years broke up with me. At that point, because the life we had been planning together was all I knew and it had so suddenly been taken from me, I sort of fell off the wagon and became very lost. I had no clear direction and it only got worse from there. The next three years of my life were a mix of bad decisions, unbelievable pain and an emptiness I still haven't forgotten - one I often catch a glimpse of even now. It wasn't his fault I was this way; it was just how things were for me. One spends [what seems like] a very long time making plans for a certain major thing to happen - in this case, it was my whole future - and then it's suddenly ripped from one's grasp in a very painful way, never to be recovered again. It's hard getting through that. For some, it's just another opportunity to grow and change and become stronger. But for me, for the person I was back then, it was the beginning of a long detour that only led back to the path I was meant to be on after a lot of chaos I can't even begin to explain.

Those three years of my life were some of the hardest, most painful ones I've ever experienced, and looking back on them I know it was because I was living a worldly life. I had forgotten the concept of modesty and I had no real self-confidence or, more importantly, self-respect. I was aware of God but not as the center of my life, definitely not Someone I wanted to spend a lot of time on. I guess in some way I probably blamed Him for my situation, even though I know now that it was not His fault either. But for those three years, I did not know anything but the constant pain I was in. And as the gruesome cycle goes, the more pain I was in, the more I sought to hide from it and the more I sought to hide from it, the more pain I created for myself.

I look at the young girls of today and I weep. I am sad because they just have no clue. They think it's harmless to dress in skimpy clothes and flaunt their sexuality. They think it's cool to get so drunk they can't even remember what they did, or they only have shards of memories of a night they are certain they're glad they can't remember fully. And they don't even know who they are. They're just following the rest of their peers - another lemming in the crowd - because it's just so easy and they can't see past that. And what's an even harder concept for them to grasp is that they have no clue what their image is saying to everyone else. Or they just don't care. They have no concept of what it means to have self-respect or to respect others.

I know younger girls - some I care about very deeply - who are generally good people, even if they don't put God in the center of their lives. But they also live in the world. A lot of the time, the image they put forth to represent themselves is a total contradiction to who they say they are. And it's definitely far from what God wants them to be. Some think that just because they don't engage in a particular behavior "very often," that means that it's OK. But a constant stream of different behaviors that generally
don't represent God is never OK. For some reason, we have been conditioned into thinking that as long as we are generally 'good people,' it doesn't matter how we live our lives or how we act. Society breeds this mind-set into its children and hand-feeds it to them through every outlet it possibly can.

I remember in ninth grade one of my teachers was talking to us about impressions, particularly
first impressions - how we should always represent ourselves honestly and positively. Being very young and immature, most of us didn't really take that lesson seriously. But looking back, I wish it had been a lesson that was built-on, something that was taught in a more structured way and more in-depth, something that was ingrained in us as insurance for us to be productive members of society. But the way society runs these days is all about self. It's all about sex. It's all about doing whatever makes us happy.. and it scares the crap out of me.

I wonder how bad things will be out in the world as my daughters (and sons) get older and become more aware of its pull. How do I help them fight this? How do I teach them about how God wants us to live? Will they ask me about my life and how I was before I got married? My life didn't start over until I became pregnant with Angelina. But the three years that preceded that change are something I hope I never have to relive again - even if just in the telling of my story. But at the same time, I wonder - will my children (or others) benefit from that story? Will it be a good testament to God's love and infinite presence in our lives? Will I have the strength to relate it in such a way that will actually help them?

Over the past four years, motherhood has definitely taught me a lot. I struggle with learning to do things God's way even now, and I am fearful of not having the ability to convey what I know to be His truth to my children - especially when I have the world to contend with. I want to shelter them from the grit and ugliness of it while at the same time be able to share the beauty of God's will for the world, the way He intended it to be. It's going to be hard explaining to them why other people live a different way, particularly when it comes to those whom we know and love. But I know that nothing worth anything in life is easily obtained.

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