I don’t keep condoms in my bedside drawer.
Because if I did, then it would mean one thing:
That I’m having sex.
Sex that would most definitely not be in accordance with the biblical prescription. Wild, out-of-bounds, unmarried sex. The kind of sex that all of my married friends probably think that I frequently have. But, I’m a Christian. And Christians don’t believe in pre-marital sex.
So, I don’t keep condoms in my bedside drawer
I keep them in the red-tin labeled “cookies” – both misnomer and double entendre – in the kitchen instead. A place where I am much less likely to happen upon them and be reminded of the gap between my beliefs and actions.
This blog post isn’t about sex though. It’s about this tension that we feel when our actions don’t align with our beliefs. This tension, also known as cognitive dissonance, has haunted me for the last few years.
Visiting Virginia over the last two weeks was like returning to the scene of the crime. To the place where I never could seem to be as kind, or selfless, or forgiving as Jesus prescribed in the Gospels. To a job where I was neither “slow to speak” nor particularly slow to anger; where I didn’t turn the other cheek and where I was not humble or meek. A place where I used a lot of curse words and the Sermon on the Mount seemed not to apply. Last week, I returned to the place where the discordance between my beliefs and my actions seemed the greatest.
To minimize the dissonance, I could have done one of three things:
Though the Bible seems pretty clear with regard to pre-marital sex, and the Sermon on the Mount seems rather straightforward, oddly enough, it was number 3 that I chose to do.
For a long time, it seems that I had confused “being a Christian” with being a “nice person”. A person who kept the peace (blessed are the Peacemakers, right?) at all cost which meant keeping quiet (let the women keep silent, right?) in situations where a voice was sorely needed. It meant being meek and smiling at the inappropriate jokes (while the the tension inside me increased). It meant ignoring bad behavior as a means of turning the other cheek and maintaining the status quo so as not to rock the boat (the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, kindness, meekness, and self-control, right?) All of this tension came to a head in Virginia.
I couldn’t live like that anymore.
And so in the turmoil, in the very awful place that I found myself, I re-read the Gospels. Over and over and over again, Jesus is challenging the religious leaders of the day. He’s calling them out on their hypocrisy (Matthew 12:34) and he’s indignant at the poor treatment of others (Mark 2/10). He’s anything but quiet in situations of injustice. He tells them how a prophet isn’t accepted in their own hometown and the people want to throw him off a cliff, but settle with running him out of town (Luke 4). Jesus wasn’t a milksop. The pharisees didn’t conspire to kill him because he was nice.
So I stopped trying to be nice and I followed Jesus instead. All that dissonance that I felt decreased as I allowed the Spirit to correct my incomplete — and in several instances wrong-beliefs. I was no longer quiet about abuse or afraid of what could happen to me if I spoke up. And once I found my voice, I didn’t stop speaking.
In many ways, that tension dissipated. I started to live in accordance with my beliefs and convictions and that decision set off a chain of events that affects just about every area of my life. The girl in the mirror and I have way less “what are you doing?” conversations. I’m no longer the girl at war with herself (and her red tin in the kitchen).
During our last dinner together in Virginia, my Besties and I discussed the events that went down. One friend asked: do you have any regrets?
I answered straightway and honestly:
No. I said everything that I needed to say. I filed complaints and worked to change the system. I challenged the abusive status quo. I did everything that I had to do.
In short, I lived my convictions (probably for the first time in my life) and I make zero apologies for that. Je ne regrette rien, or, as Beyonce would say: I ain’t sorry.