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.

A New Reality

I had the most incredible dream last night. These days, I’m doing good to remember any dreams with multiple night-waking divided between bathroom trips and flailing toddler arms. This dream is a true gift that I cannot keep to myself. I wholeheartedly believe we can all learn from this alternate reality…a fresh perspective, indeed.

In this dream, Trayvon Martin was my brother. I didn’t spend time figuring out the hows and whys of the circumstances, nor did I question the obvious outward differences. My parents also accepted Trayvon as their son – my normal real-world family was intact, except with this new sibling.

In this dream, Trayvon Martin was the one who lived after the infamous altercation.

In this dream, he was hated by the media, seen as a cold-blooded killer, and was in prison.

No part of my dream dealt with trials, lawyers, judges, or juries; it only dealt with my brother in prison. My heart was truly broken for Trayvon, and I made every attempt to visit him as often as I could. My husband, who does not now and will not ever have a tattoo of his own personal preference, got a tattoo of Trayvon on the top of his right foot to symbolically show that he would walk every step with my brother, and that he would never be alone. We all took turns visiting him, lamenting his treatment by others, hugging him, crying with him, and just being with him.

We championed his cause as if it was our own, because we made it our own. I could do nothing to change his present circumstance – my sole purpose was to love him. I prayed for him, with him, wrote him letters, showed up for every visitation; my heart was truly grieved for him.

I woke up this morning to a very different reality, yet my heart was still grieved. My beautiful son was smiling next to me, gave me a big kiss, and requested his breakfast – as he does every morning. Except this morning was different. My heart hurt for this brother.

I woke up with Hebrews 13:2 emblazoned on my heart and soul: “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.

The truth is, we are all brothers and sisters. What would our world look like if we truly lived out the compassion of Christ? What if we did as we were instructed and ALWAYS showed hospitality to strangers? What if our hearts were truly grieved for those imprisoned by so many different things – not just impenetrable walls, but by addiction, sin, anger, and loneliness? What if we truly hurt for those who are hurting? What a different reality we would all experience.

Not Again.

In the wake of another senseless school tragedy, my heart is heavy and mind swirling. The question of “Why?” will never fully be answered; the tears never fully dry. 

When the Columbine shooting happened, I was 16. That summer I went on a mission trip to Russia and learned that Rachel Scott (one of the Columbine victims) was scheduled to make that trip with the same mission organization. I remember feeling responsible for doing the things that Rachel would never be able to accomplish – I had never met her, but her death greatly impacted me. After April 20, 1999, I entered my classrooms looking for the quickest exits and hiding spots…just in case.

My first teaching job came three years after my enlistment into the Air National Guard. I have the unique perspective of being a teacher and member of the military – it’s impossible for me to separate the two ideas of thought; my training as an educator follows me to the base, and my military training follows me into the classroom. That particular school routinely practiced fire drills and shelter-in-place drills. Every single student and teacher knew the routine: lock the door, lights off, huddle silently in the corner.

I taught at my last school four years – never once did we have a shelter-in-place drill. Fortunately, I knew what to do with the kids, and by the grace of God we never needed to do it. I was routinely bothered by the fact that we never practiced those drills, so I would run through practice scenarios with my classes at the beginning of each year. I even showed them a DVD about what to do in case there was an active shooter in our school. They knew to smear hand soap on the tile floors if they were trapped in a bathroom – it would cause whoever entered to slip, giving them a chance to escape. My students were aware that the outdated computer in the corner could bust out the window, leading them out of the classroom without having to use the door. They were also under strict orders not to practice any of those maneuvers. I viewed school doors as ECPs (entry control points) and every now and then I’d double-check that the outside doors near my room were indeed locked.

I wholeheartedly understand that there is little I can do as an educator to keep my students 100% safe in the event some evil person is hell-bent on death and destruction. I raised my right hand and swore to defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That oath follows me wherever I go, especially into the classroom. Most teachers are not members of the military, yet I know the vast majority of them won’t hesitate to lay down their lives to protect their students. This is evident with each passing tragedy.

While my time as a public educator is over, I will forever cherish the relationships forged with my students and fellow teachers. As a new parent, I’m keenly aware that my son will one day join the ranks of public school. I’ve considered homeschooling him for a few years, but I feel it’s important for him to be among his peers at some point in his academic career. It will be my mission to support his teachers and walk alongside them in his education. I will do everything in my power to keep him safe – and what I cannot physically do, I trust that God will.

I pray for hope and healing among the victims’ families. I grieve with them and hurt for them. I pray safety over my family of educators and our children. I take comfort in Psalm 147:3, knowing that God “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” I am grateful that this world is not my home.