Despite the fact that I grew up in church, I didn’t have a relationship with God until I was twenty-two years old. Up until that point, I was just a church goer who went because it was what you did when you lived in my parents’ house. Once I moved out of my parent’s house I stopped going, and only began re-attending some time after I struck a genuine curiosity about whether or not God was real. I began asking tough questions in prayer and asking God to prove and reveal Himself to me if He indeed existed. He began answering those questions and setting me up in situations where I knew it was His way of speaking to me and getting my attention. It was then I started making the transition from a church goer to a young woman who was interested in having the presence of God in her life.
After I started attending, I often found myself in two places. The first place was this extremely vulnerably and difficult place of self-examination that would allow me to slowly change from the inside out. The second place was being judged by those who believed I was judging them.
I began changing things about myself one by one. In that first year, I found myself having to fast countless times in the process just to stay on track. After that, it slowly became easier to not give into my flesh or lead with fleshly thoughts.
“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” -Romans 8:5-7 NIV
As a result of this, my friends saw me less and less while my focus was on pursuing God. When I was around them I wasn’t cussing anymore, and they could tell I was a little uncomfortable when they did because it was a habit I had broken. I also wasn’t drinking, so when I was offered a drink I simply responded with a “no thank you” or an “I don’t drink”. I was more aware of how God desired me to conduct myself so I stopped making fun of others and partaking in gossip, and when it came to sexually explicit conversations, I withdrew from them. When arguments broke out, I found myself playing peacemaker, trying to get them to see it from both sides and intervening with the motive of forgiveness occurring. I was more mindful of my appearance, so I didn’t wear anything that was too revealing.
When I was invited to go out clubbing or to places like the strip club I now declined. If they wanted me to do something during a time when I was to be in service, I told them I had somewhere else to be, and eventually I stopped being invited anywhere at all or stopped hearing from friends altogether.
When I ran into my old friends, I was met with people telling me I was acting “brand new” and calling me “miss perfect”. I was called “holier than thou” and a “super Christian” and “self-righteous”. When we began actually conversing about how we had been feeling and acknowledging the tension in our relationship, I discovered they often felt I was judging them. If they drank around me they thought I was judging them for drinking. If they talked about others and I didn’t laugh or think it was funny, they thought I was judging them. If they cussed, smoked or got high around me, they felt like I was judging them. Anything they did around me that they thought went against the teachings of the Bible, they believed I was automatically judging them about it because I was making efforts to live by it; Especially the friends I had who were actually believers, but chose to live a lukewarm or carnal lifestyle, as I once did right alongside them.
On the other end, I was feeling very judged because of the personal changes I made for myself. At that time I felt very lonely and rejected by the people I’d been closest to. I felt like they didn’t accept me because of it. By the time we’d talked everything out and had taken our walls down, we realized we were both assuming things about each other that were never true to begin with. I also learned that a lot of times we’ll have a preconceived idea about someone because we may have known others to have been that way, and fall into the trap of believing that anyone who associates with anything of the like are all the same.
For months I felt separated from my friends (and for some years) due to simple miscommunication and misconceptions. I even had one friend talk about how she was celibate and waiting on her husband pop up pregnant. When she finally told me three months into her pregnancy she admitted she thought I would judge her for having premarital sex because of how committed she saw I was about dating in purity. I was going on dates and not even kissing because I didn’t want kissing to eventually lead to sex.
Let’s rewind back a couple years before this:
The first time I kissed someone a few months after my transition, I almost fell into fornication [on top of a pool table in his parents’ basement during a 4th of July barbecue] and was able to [barely] escape that temptation.
I should probably mention this was the last guy I’d had sex with prior to committing my heart to God. I went over there with the intentions of being a good influence and catching up with him. We’d known each other for over five years and the attraction was always there. My good intentions turned into a very thick presence of sexual tension I didn’t anticipate, as I’d been very disciplned in order to protect my purity thus far and this was the moment I found out I was still weak-kneed over him. I discovered my first weakness.
I tried my best to act like I didn’t want him whilst he was being very close and playfully testing how celibate I really was, given our history. I was dreading that my body language would somehow betray me and was rather tense, instead of being relaxed as usual. We finished playing pool and went upstairs to his bedroom. He talked about his post grad plans (he’d just graduated from college), as well as our shared interest of being songwriters and ghostwriters in the music industry. My guard slowly dropped down and before I knew it, we were making out.
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” -1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV
However, even when we put ourselves in a not so smart situation, God always offers a way of escape and it’s up to us to realize that moment and take it. As things got hot and heavy he informed me he didn’t have any condoms, and we both paused, which was just long enough for my conviction to kick in and that’s when I knew it was time for me to leave, as opposed to solving the problem or just going around it. If we look back to every sin we committed, we could probably pinpoint somewhere we should’ve changed our minds, but I think when God provides that moment of escape, He never makes it an easy decision so we can also learn to start recognizing and avoiding a set up against ourselves.
That day I decided early to always be honest with myself and set a boundary there – no kissing til the altar.
My reason for having that boundary was something I kept to myself. Her, nor anyone else knew about that specific detail. According to everyone else I didn’t even think about sex nor care to be with any man ever because my standards seemed impossible. My dating life was always kept private. I didn’t want to publicly be connected to any man until I was sure about him and knew he’d be around for a while. My friends nor my family ever knew about who I was dating. I might loosely mention someone here and there, but I felt that meeting my friends or family meant it was serious, considering I’d never formally introduced anyone to them before.
Besides, I didn’t want to be that girl on Facebook who was in a new relationship every three months. That’s usually how long it lasted once they realized I really wasn’t going to have sex with them. Some called it a relationship, but it was only dating to me until I introduced you to someone and actually had a conversation defining the evolving of our dating relationship. (You see how easily we can perceive things when we don’t know the whole story?) Sure, no kissing til marriage seemed extreme, but just because I loved Jesus didn’t mean my flesh didn’t operate like everyone else’s. I wasn’t some rare non-sexual creature! I had very heightened twenty-something year old hormones I was dealing with everyday. I was just determined, and as a lady, I didn’t feel it was necessary to share every struggle I had when it came to sex.
On my own I had to learn to pay attention to what things ignited my flesh, whether it was certain music, conversation, TV shows, movies, a certain setting or a certain person who just had that effect on me. I learned how to redirect my thoughts and determined when and where to draw my lines. I would inevitably be judged for the lines I drew, but all that mattered was that I was conquering my flesh and not giving into temptation.
Jumping back forward a couple years:
You can imagine I was devastated that she didn’t trust me as one of her best friends, and felt bad that I talked to her every week and had known her since I was thirteen, but she felt she couldn’t open up to me now. I also felt a type of hurt that’s hard to even describe in words that she was going to leave me out of such an important time in her life. It’s been several years since then and thankfully we’ve grown to respect and understand each other and agree to disagree on some things, while still maintaining our history of friendship over the years. I didn’t get all of my friends back and some people I was close to are still distant, but my best friends have been consistent for the most part and we’re still able to share everything without defense. I do have one friend I miss dearly, but they won’t even talk to me, and unfortunately that happens and it’s a part of life. There are people I thought would be in my life forever who I’ve simply grown apart from.
The most important factor in deciding who I’d keep close in my life was who honored me. It didn’t mean they had to believe what I believed nor change everything about themselves just to be around me, but there is a certain reverence you have with those who you respect, the same way there are things you wouldn’t do or say in front of your parents or pastor. The same would go in a romantic relationship with your significant other. If you know they dislike something, it would simply be inconsiderate to their feelings to continue doing it. When I realized there were people I’d literally just met who would apologize if they used profanity in front of me before the people I knew for quite a while repeatedly did something and never even realized I was uncomfortable, I knew where to make the altercations in my circle of friends. Those people aren’t for you and those people will hinder you and help you stumble.
Fortunately, I have best friends who understand this. I accept who they are and they accept me. That is what you call co-existing. They never try to persuade me away from my beliefs nor do I force what I believe onto them. We’re simply aware of what each other believe, and we are able to debate about things without it turning into an argument. I may invite them to church or bible study from time to time, and whether they say yes or no, I still accept them, and they still expect me to ask because they know that’s just who I am. They don’t bring up my past to bring me down nor co-hearse me to go back, but support me in my journey.
In fact, they’ll be the first ones to tell me when I’m close to compromising before I have the opportunity to make that mistake, or be the one to reel me back in when they see I’m going too far. They won’t even invite me to go somewhere, to do something, or even have certain people around me, if they know it may effect my walk. My personal favorite is when they don’t allow others to attack my character in the absence of my presence, because they truly do know me. And THAT is what you call a true friend – one who holds YOUR best interests!
It would only be fair for me to be the same type of friend and protect them from the self-righteous Christians who truly are violently judgemental, as no one is perfect, but we are all capable of becoming perfected with time and effort. The fact of the matter is “Holier than thou” Christians DO exist and they’re probably more commonly known of than the ones who are not. Sadly, many people from the outside looking in have had contact with those kind of Christians who only talk about sin and never talk about love, when it should be a balance of both, considering God IS love and sin is what keeps us apart from God. However, it is unjust to assume that every Christian possesses those kind of characteristics, just like it would be wrong to expect a new man or woman to give you the same experience as the last one. Just like you want someone to get to know you before they judge, get to know others and let’s make it mutual! 😉
-Debrinah S. Dorsey