Problems with Societal Expectations

Ok, so I want to talk to about the expectations we place on ourselves. (I am going to focus on the expectations placed on women, because that’s what I know. I recognize that men have challenges with the expectations placed on them as well but do not feel equipped to speak directly on that topic.)

There are so many expectations that are thrown at us through the media, through family and friends, through complete strangers, etc. These expectations can be really harmful to our personal identity, because they are often nearly impossible to reach, unhealthy, and time-consuming. For example, girls are to be both super thin and also have curves. However, when you are super thin, it is harder to have curves, because curves consist of fat, so for most people, this doesn’t work out. There are some women who are thin and have great curves, but unless you have a body type that allows for that, it’s pretty much impossible to have both (without cosmetic surgeries, but I think that further proves my point). It is good to work out and exercise and limit unhealthier foods; however, there is a point where people can overexercise and under-eat and thus be so underweight and malnourished that is unhealthy for them. Expectations have the ability to destroy us if we let them.

During the majority of my freshman year of college, I wore a little bit of makeup. No big deal, right? My goal was to wear enough to cover up my acne but not enough for anyone to actually know that I was wearing any makeup. I am not skilled with doing makeup quickly, so I was wasting so much time trying to cover my acne in a way that no one could tell that I was actually covering anything. It also just wasn’t helpful for me. I was really self-conscious about a lot of things, especially acne, and wearing makeup was a way to try to hide of the flaws I saw in myself. When I realized this, I stopped wearing makeup regularly. I was really self-conscious about this at first, but it ended up being really healthy for me, because I was able to start spending that time doing morning devotions with God and I was less consumed with the flaws I saw on my face. (Now, I have no problem with girls who want to wear makeup every day. Makeup just wasn’t helpful for me personally because I was not managing time appropriately, and I felt a need to cover my imperfections so that I could better match up to societal expectations for beauty. If doing makeup is healthy for you, then totally go for it.)

While all of these things are major issues, one of the biggest problems that I have with societal expectations is the triviality of these expectations. In 20 years, no one is going to care that I had acne in college. It doesn’t matter. It just feels like it is such a waste of time. I could be using that time to focus on the expectations that really matter – the ones that God has for us. Those expectations will still matter 20 years from now. If I am so focused on the way that I look, I am going to miss so much that is happening around me. As a Christian, I am called to love and serve those who God has placed in my life, and I can’t do this if I am totally consumed with all of my flaws.

I just want to challenge you to question the expectations that you are holding for yourself. Are these expectations healthy?

Please comment your thoughts/experiences with this, and let me know if you disagree on anything or think I got anything wrong about these expectations!

To be continued…

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Baltimore

God has called me to this amazing city called Baltimore. I am still trying to figure out what He wants from me here, and I still wonder why He has chosen me. I have been realizing lately that God doesn’t call perfect Christians, because perfect Christians don’t exist. God chooses to use weak people to reveal His strength and power. Moses was “slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Exodus 4), Jonah originally ran away from God (Jonah 1), Ruth was a Moabite woman, Paul had “a thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), but God used them. He filled them with His strength and His power and used them to accomplish His purpose (and reveal His glory). It was never about them… and it is never about me, either. It’s always been about God and about Him working through imperfect people who want to be used for His purpose.

To be completely honest, I am scared. I am scared of what I think He is calling me to, because it will change my life. This girl from the suburbs is being called to downtown, to live in the midst of a city with a lot of broken things and beautiful things. Sometimes, it feels even more daunting, because the beauty is often overlooked. Beauty can be seen through the community, through people who fight for each other, and through parents who teach their children about God, but these aspects of society are often unnoticed through the chaos that fills the city.

A couple years ago, I thought I loved the city of Baltimore. In reality, I had no idea what it really meant to love a city. Sure, I loved the fact that I could take a bus nearly anywhere, and I loved exploring the inner harbor and Ft. McHenry with friends. But I didn’t love Baltimore. I liked the attractions of Baltimore, but I didn’t know anything about Baltimore (other than what can learned through a few minutes of research on Google Maps). This past summer, I lived in downtown Baltimore for six weeks, and I learned so much. Even now, I wouldn’t say that I truly love the city. Because I have so much left to learn, I don’t think I am fully aware of how to love this city. As I continue to learn more and further educate myself, I think I am starting to learn how to love this city.

I am terrified of what God could be calling me to here, and I doubt my abilities to do His work, but I am trying to trust that He will give me the strength I need to follow His calling for my life. God has a beautiful plan for this city, and I can’t wait to see what He is going to do here.

Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done, in this city
Where glory shines from hearts alive
With praise for You and love for You, in this city

~ Bluetree

Let it Go

One of the biggest challenges for me lately has been learning to rely more on God. I like to be in control of my life. However, I can’t both run my own life and fully rely on Him. It just doesn’t work that way.

I have been working on relinquishing parts of my life to God. I really started with mental health. My mental health got out of control to the point where I was very unstable and couldn’t handle it on my own. At first, I was stubborn, but I started spending great lengths of time just crying and talking to God and pouring out my heart to Him, because I realized that it was too much for me to handle on my own. I had to seek out help from God and others. (Since that time, I have stabilized through therapy and other things, and I am doing much better now.) That was really hard. I thought that it was hard going to my parents and telling them how much I was struggling, but being truly honest with God was even harder. I didn’t want to be honest with Him about why I started to cut and why I kept cutting. I didn’t want to acknowledge that cutting myself did not glorify Him and was, therefore, a sin. As hard as it was to open myself up to God and surrender these things to Him, I found freedom through honesty with God.

Lately, He has been revealing other areas of my life where I like control too much… especially my grades. I have this tendency to define myself by my grades, so if my grades aren’t amazing, then I must also by definition be a totally trash human being. It is my current struggle to relinquish my grades to God. It’s hard, because my grades have always been such a huge part of who I am. My life doesn’t have to look like this. My mood doesn’t have to always depend on whether or not I am good at a given subject.

When we relinquish our fears and the things we try to control to God, it is not easy, but it is also so rewarding. Only when we fully commit ourselves to God are we able to begin understanding our identity of who we are in Christ.

Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore…..

So, what are you going to do?

My mom and little sister saw this lady in a parking lot. She was drunk, sick, and needed help getting access to medical care. My sister asked my mom, “So what are you going to do?” My mom did help her get to the hospital and for a period of time afterward, but the question my sister asked really stuck with me. “What are you going to do?”

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

God has shown us His will in the Bible. He has placed us in a very broken world. Some of us have privileges that allow us to live ignorant to issues of injustice. But there are also many people who can’t ignore injustice, because they experience it every day.

I believe God puts people in our lives for a reason. We have the chance to impact so many people over the course of our lives. Is Christ’s love enough to make you stay and fight for other people? Or will you run away? Jonah ran away, because he didn’t exactly like the people of Nineveh (Jonah 1). In the story of the good Samaritan, the religious people passed by someone in need (Luke 10).

So, what are you going to do? He loved you… can you humble yourself enough to follow His will and love other people?

So, what are you going to do?

What if there’s a bigger picture
What if I’m missing out
What if there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now
Outside my own little world

Matthew West, “My Own Little World”

Welcome!

If you have seen this blog before, you would know that this it looks pretty different. I needed a chance to start over with this blog, because I have been learning so much about God and other things lately. Some of my old posts will probably come back over time, but I needed to redirect the focus of this blog.

This blog is still about my journey toward knowing Christ more intimately while navigating through mental illness, but it’s also about following God through other hard things. This blog is about keeping our eyes fixed on Christ and standing for Him every day, whatever that means for us… whether that is facing mental illness, dealing with areas of sin, or standing up against injustice. It’s about discovering His will, and then making sacrifices to follow Him.

Image taken during an internship that changed my life in this broken but beautiful city that won my heart. God has called me to this city, and I am still figuring out what I am supposed to do with that calling. I am trusting that in time, He will reveal His plans for me here.