Bibles, Boobs, and Beauty

There is an article floating around social media that truly grieves my heart. Part of me was very hesitant to even link the article in my blog, but the other part of me figures there’s a good chance you’ve already seen it. While I don’t particularly want to give that website any more traffic, I believe a discussion is in order.

The author pits two teenage girls against one another in an effort to “prove” that one is better than the other. One teen girl comes from a Christian family, the other does not. Let’s strip away the fact that these teenagers are reality stars with big families, big money, and big followings. We’re left with countless people tearing one girl down in the name of Christianity. Sadie is inspirational. Kylie is promiscuous. (Not my words, mind you.) The fact that so many Christians are liking, sharing, praising, and justifying this article shows the rest of the world a picture of Jesus that I do not recognize.

Here’s the thing. Kylie Jenner is created in the image and likeness of God. He wrote eternity on her heart, too. She is fearfully and wonderfully made. His grace is sufficient for her. Christ laid down his life for her. She is entitled to the throne of grace; she has an invitation to be a daughter of the King.

We are all products of our environment. It’s safe to say that Sadie’s parents and Kylie’s parents have different priorities and belief systems. The easy thing to do is compare ourselves, our daughters, our sisters, and every teenage girl we pass in the mall to Sadie and Kylie. If we look more like Sadie than Kylie, we must be doing a good job. If your daughter dresses like Sadie instead of Kylie, then you’re doing a good job as a parent. If only it were that simple.

Not only is that mindset damaging and discouraging, it isn’t biblical. Christ is our standard. He marches under a banner of love, grace, and acceptance. Compare yourself to him — how do you measure? I know I fall short. Daily.

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that your own Sadie-esque daughter grows up to make some Kylie-esque decisions. Would you love her any less? God wouldn’t. Comparison and judgment leads to complacency and a false sense of security.

Growing up, I was Sadie. I was the pastor’s daughter. Then life happened. There were several years that I looked more Kardashian than Christian. I was judged and labeled by Christians who formerly loved and supported me. American Christianity prizes good reputations over Christ-like relationships — I’ve experienced that harsh reality firsthand.

Rather than judge, criticize, and label, look at Kylie through the eyes of Christ. Utilize the lens of love. Rather than publicly demean her, pray that she finds unconditional love, grace, and true acceptance. Rather than placing Sadie on a pedestal, pray that God continues to guard her heart in the midst of a very public lifestyle.

May you see the heart that God created, rather than the painted veils we often hide behind.

The Lifeguard and the Buoy

I have known loss. I have seen tragedy, raw and messy. I have watched a mother bury her son; mourned with daughters over the loss of their father; wept bitterly with parents who buried their teenage daughter; stood incredulously at the door of a former colleague who just couldn’t continue. I have seen loved ones swept away by unseen floods. The swells swallowed them whole before anyone saw a ripple on the horizon.

Precious lives stolen away by overwhelming forces. Helpless families torn apart by decisions out of their control. Permanent solutions to temporary problems. One bad decision on one very bad day.

As I carry the knowledge of this deep pain and loss, I am forever changed. When I see ripples of despair, I take note. Minor blips on the radar can no longer be ignored after witnessing the unimaginable outcome.

When a lifeguard sees a struggling swimmer, he cannot ignore their plight. Even if the strained seafarer does not call out for help, the lifeguard will still stand vigilant. Based on his training, knowledge, and experience, he will act. In some situations he tosses a buoy line, which may be enough to aid an ailing sailor. In other situations, he jumps in to rescue the weary soul.

Cries for help come in a myriad of methods and means. Some are silent, virtually unseen. Others are vented bursts of steam — perhaps prolonged, perhaps intermittent…usually consistent.

When someone slips into a stream of sorrow, encouraging words may serve as buoy lines to help them gain their footing and find healthy perspective. However, there are times when those buoys aren’t enough. The line is too short; the current too strong. When someone is in danger of drowning in an ocean of despair, it often takes a lifeguard to jump in and utilize their training. I know there are times when my best efforts and best intentions just won’t cut it. The wound is bigger than whatever bandages are in my kit.

During those emotional triage moments, when my best efforts of love and encouragement fail, tough calls must be made. Do I keep affixing Band-Aids to an arterial wound, hoping for the best? There comes a time to admit that my training falls short. I can’t attempt to practice out of my scope. I must rely on fully trained and professionally qualified experts.

In moments of my own despair and anguish, do I settle for trite words of encouragement? Or do I dig deep into scripture and plant my knees in prayer? When my best efforts fail — and they often do — I must relinquish any façade of control and rely on the One who calms the storms. Whether I sink or swim is not mine to fear. I have only one option: Rest in the arms of the One who commands the waves.