When I was younger, I used to believe that I had to have one thing that I could do that would be considered bad. One thing that I could turn to when I just needed to feel brave and raw. Over the years, I turned to smoking cigarettes, doing drugs, pills, drinking heavily and self-injury as some of my bad things. I stopped doing drugs and popping pills in 2001. I stopped causing physical harm to myself the same year. I stopped smoking cigs a year after my daughter was born, and God put it firmly on my heart to completely stop drinking shortly after my son was born. But I didn’t want to give up the drinking. It wasn’t that the other addictions weren’t a struggle to put down as well, but that drinking bit was all I had left by that point. I remember wrestling with God about it. I told Him, “Look! I don’t cut anymore. I don’t smoke. I’m not drinking like I used to. I’ve got control over this now, Man. How can you ask me to give up my one last thing? You know how I need one thing to turn to when I need to just let it all out. I’ve given up all my bad habits except this one. If you take it away, what else am I going to turn to?”
I’ll never forget the soft voice that followed: “Me.”
I used to think that goodie-goodies were no fun, that they lacked a certain coolness that I wasn’t willing to sacrifice no matter how much trouble I got into. Don’t get me wrong, I admired their firm stance. I just thought they were ill-informed or scared to try the things that I was “brave” enough to embrace. It wasn’t until later that I realized that when I denied myself an experience of what I considered ‘a bad thing’ or a ‘cool thing,’ I felt neglected and incomplete. When these other people chose to avoid temptation and the inevitable downward spiral that giving in would have created, they felt grateful and complete. They gained strength and confidence when they remained pure in heart, mind and body. I hadn’t known that side of it. I hadn’t acknowledged the character that could be built out of withstanding ridicule from people like me. I hadn’t realized that with every successful avoidance of sin, they were increasing their faith in God and their ability to maintain what they considered important morals to have.
I don’t know if it would have made a difference to me if I’d considered that point of view when I was a teenager. By that time, I was sick and tired of being overlooked. I figured the good-girl image that I’d acquired was to blame. I wanted to be noticed and decided to do something wild and crazy to get that attention from my peers. I think the main difference is that I didn’t know God then. I didn’t have standards. Strength of character and ethics didn’t amount to a hill of beans to me. They do now. And I pray that when my children are old enough to be tempted by the more destructive things of this world, that they will find it a worthy cause to maintain their integrity and exercise some self-control. I pray that they won’t feel incomplete just because their peers won’t always accept and appreciate their goodness. I pray that they understand that God’s opinion of us matters more than the fickle opinions of their peers and that they don’t need anything except God to run to when life gets tough.