By Candace Lostroh
Here's a little secret that I'm going to share about myself...I've always wanted the ability to step out of my body and be able to see how I'm seen or perceived by others. I'm not sure if this would be a blessing or a curse, but for someone who has always valued what others thought of herself, I thought that this would be a super-human power to possess. I was the child and even the woman sometimes, that would mimic how girls I admired or idolized acted. I wold try to copy how they talked, how they posed in photos and even how they wrote their name. In my mind, if I could take on their characteristics I would be able to be seen the same way that I saw them. Looking back now, the reason I desired this so strongly was because I was not comfortable in who I really was.
As a young girl, I was the cowgirl in the school of kids who may have only petted a horse at the petting zoo. I was the one that would wear her Wranglers and buckle that she had proudly won at the rodeo the past weekend everyday to school. I was the one that would rather play football on the playground than sit around braiding hair at recess. And I was the one that was constantly teased for being too "country" because "country" wasn't cool. In elementary and for the first part of middle school I wasn't really bothered by this teasing but it really started to effect me in 7th and 8th grade. Before high school began, I was determined to not be known as the cowgirl. I would still rodeo on the weekends and ride my horse after school each day, but I had my alter ego that I would put on for school. I dressed the part as well. No Wranglers for me. No boots or buckles. If I was asked about it, especially by boys, I would turn red and try my best to change the subject. I was living a lie...it was hard to maintain and it was so tiring. Struggling to be seen as a certain person, while only allowing the real you to come out in small amounts is so hard on your soul. This drove me into hanging with the kids who partied and drank. Doing things that I knew were not good for me and dating the boys who did them too. This can only go on for so long until you start seeing the symptoms of a life not lived in your true identity. Depression, anxiety, suffering grades, fighting with your parents, uncontrolled anger and eventually the crash that is inevitable...and that crash happened at the end of my junior year. I had been a varsity cheerleader since my freshman year of high school and I played the part well. The mean girl status was not lost on me. The stereotypical cheerleader...oh yeah, I lived that life...but I wasn't happy. I lived for the weekends when my dad and I would load up in the truck and trailer and head out to the high school rodeos where I got to be me. At the end of my junior year, the person who I looked up to the most, my cheer leading coach, was leaving. That meant for my last year in living this lie, the person who helped make it more bearable would not be there.
So I had a decision to make. I could continue on for the next year of living the lie. With that I could be captain of the cheerleading squad. I could hold onto my reputation, my popularity, my status as a cool chick in school or I could walk away from it all and be me. The real me. I could live my passions out loud instead of hidden in the dark. I could have freedom. I could live full of light instead of shrouded in the darkness of a mask that I had to put on everyday. Would I lose friends? Oh yes! Would I be ridiculed, made fun of and laughed at? Oh, you better believe it!
So what did I choose...
I chose to walk away from it all. I quit the cheer leading squad. I joined the drama club, the newspaper staff and I started wearing my boots to school, haha! It makes me giggle even thinking about it. I couldn't have been more opposite than the girl I was before! This was exactly the same time that I was getting to know Jesus. The REAL Jesus who lived a life that didn't go along with the culture that he lived among. Pastor Steven Furtick calls Him "Savage Jesus." This was the Jesus who pissed off the religious leaders of his day. Who overturned the money tables in the temple proclaiming that he would not allow His Father's house to be prostituted out by the religious system that said you had to look, act and have a certain amount of money in your bag to enter into His presence. Jesus was loving on the Mis-fits. He was hanging out with the people who society deemed not worthy of their attention, the throw-aways. He was teaching them about the true nature of God. That God wasn't this far-off deity that sat on a thrown and only kept his hand from killing everyone on the planet because of the sacrifices that the people would bring to his temple daily. No, he brought revelation to the people that the Kingdom of God was near. Actually, it was right in front of them. As a carpenter, Mary's son, a boy from Nazareth. Jesus lived out of the Light that was inside of Him. John 14:11 in the Passion Translation says, "Don't you believe that the Father is living in me and that I am living in the Father? Even my words are not my own but come from my Father, for he lives in me and performs his miracles of power through me." He couldn't help but be anything but what God called him to be.
And you know what?
That same spirit that lived in Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives inside of every follower of Jesus. You are endowed with the same light that lived in Jesus. I use the word "light" because that is what Jesus calls us. He calls us "the light of the world (Matthew 5:14)." When we have accepted him as our Savior, we are a new creation. Not of this world anymore! And the light, which is the truth of who Jesus Christ is, lives inside of you and me. When we allow the light or truth of what Jesus did on the cross and who he calls each one of us to be to come into us, it drives out the darkness or lies and opinions that we believe about God and ourselves out into the open. They are no longer hidden unless we choose to ignore them and guess what? That's not freedom! Just like when I was bound to the lie that I was living while at school with my peers, we are bound to live in chains when we are afraid to let the light of Jesus confront the lies in our hearts that are set on destroying how we live in Jesus Christ.
Darkness only exists when there is absence of light. Dark cannot get darker, but light can get dimmer. I hear people in church saying, "Oh this world is just going to keep getting darker and darker until Jesus comes back." But I propose this thought to you, maybe the world is not getting darker, the light of the world is getting dimmer because believers are placing their lights in hidden places.
The full passage in Matthew 5:14-16 again in the Passion Translation reads, "Your lives light up the world. Let others see your light from a distance, for how can you hide a city that stands on top of a hilltop? And who would light a lamp and then hide it in an obscure place? Instead, it's placed where everyone in the house can benefit from it's light. So don't hide your light! Let it shine brightly before others, so that the commendable things you do will shine as light upon them, and then they will give their praise to our Father in heaven."
If our lives are meant to light up the world the only reason that darkness exists or seems to be getting stronger is because our light is growing weaker. We are hiding it in obscure places. We're hiding it at school and the workplace because we are fearful of what people might think or say. We are hiding it in our relationships because those people know our past and "how could we possibly be any different than our past?" And the area that I want to devote the most time to is how we let our light shine in our social media presence.
In the Bible, the word "light" equals the truth of who Jesus is and who he says you are. The Bible also says that Jesus is love and this love of Jesus lives inside of every believer, not only to allow us to have the capacity to love everyone around us, but to love ourselves. To be completely fulfilled and satisfied by the love of Jesus means that we do not need to be known, liked or satisfied by the world we live in. We don't need to have a certain amount of 'likes' on a post, thousands of followers and a viral social media presence to feel fulfilled in our hearts. I'm as guilty as the next girl who gets excited when one of her posts surpasses a certain number of 'likes' but it's only temporary. That good feeling only lasts as long as the time between posts lasts. I have to start all over again when I make my next post. But God's love endures! It doesn't have to be earned back everyday like our approval on social media, it was already given freely and will never be taken back because God loves us so much and chooses us every time.
Jesus tells us that if the they (the world) persecuted him, they'll persecute you too (John 15:20.) When you're light shines bright it convicts, uncovers and embarrasses darkness. Well, darkness likes to fight back. It will fight against your soul which is your mind, your will and emotions. It will tell you that you're all alone and that you're the only one dealing with this little problem. So out of that feeling of loneliness and shame we might make a post that shows off a side of us that the world likes, our sexuality. But wait, I'm still a christian, so I'm going to post this cleavage-filled picture with a scripture about how I'm "fearfully and wonderfully made" underneath it. Or out of desperation, I'm going to take a selfie that shows that I'm doing something fun and important, because just maybe people will think I'm important and popular among my peers.
Here's the deal, with every post that we make that is not flowing from a heart that is getting our needs met in the love of the Father, our light grows dimmer. Darkness wins when we choose to believe the lies that it tells us. That we're ugly, dirty, alone, dumb, unpopular, invisible, not wanted. That we make bad choices all the time and that no one else, especially a child of God is dealing with these same issues. Darkness wants to isolate you and get you all alone. Just like a wolf would single out a lamb, that's what darkness wants to do to you.
This blog post is NOT about condemning anyone for making Instagram posts that are seductive or misleading, but it is about convicting our hearts on where we are going to be fulfilled when we feel shameful, lonely and unsatisfied. Run to the Father, not to Instagram or Facebook. He has everything you need.
If this speaks to your heart, get ready because we are diving deep into this subject with the following blog posts that me and a few of my bold, sisters in Christ will be making in what will be called the "Light Shine Bright" series.
For now, I want to offer a prayer for you my sweet friend:
"Father, we are so thankful that you are enough for us, more than enough. That you're made strong in our weaknesses. That you are glorified when we are humbled. God, you are a good, good Father that desires to give His children good things. God chase away the darkness that tries to fill us with lies. Shine a light on the lies that we've believed and replace them with your truth. Do not let our eyes to be shrouded by what the world expects of us, but that we will learn to live in your Light always. That your Kingdom will be established in our minds, our wills and our emotions and we live and move and breathe in you, God! Let your Light shine through your daughters and let us change this world by our fully surrendered hearts to you!
In Jesus's name, Amen!"