I don’t quite know where you earned your popularity, or where you went to school that you know so much, or how it got to be that you are the last word on fashion, theology, art, money, responsibility, etc. Without anybody noticing, you somehow managed to worm your way into a role of authority in my life, shaping my opinions and guiding my choices as a loving parent would. For most of my life I thought you really cared about me, that you wanted what was best for me. I’m not so sure anymore. I began to suspect that your acceptance is given only as long as I do as you wish, hold your opinions as my own, behave as you deemed appropriate. And do you know what, “They”? I don’t really like being a puppet. And I’m tired enough of your manipulation tactics, that I am taking drastic measures.
Consider yourself to have been served notice: I am not willing to play your game anymore. It isn’t that I can’t be friends with you anymore, or that I don’t want to see you ever again, though I will be severely limiting our interaction from now on. The time has come for me to leave your overbearing influence and live the life God has given me according to His terms, not yours.
I suppose I am partly to blame for this break-up since it was my choice that allowed you this unhealthy balance of power. I was so caught up in the drive to “abstain from all appearance of evil”* that I took all the Good Guidelines you provided and stopped thinking for myself. Worst, I took your word for it instead of going back to God’s Word and seeing what He said. Your Good Guidelines settled and became Standards, and I passed judgment on others accordingly. The choices I made were Good ones, but they were made with your approval in mind.
During our long acquaintance I’ve observed you closely. I’ve seen you pass clear condemnation without so much as uttering a word, with your polite smile still firmly glued in place: your eyes would go a little cold and your smile would get a little hard, and somehow the temperature would drop several degrees because You Didn’t Approve. And I didn’t want that disapproval aimed at me. Maybe the choice someone made wasn’t a good one – maybe it was unquestionably bad. But basing your disapproval on your Standards isn’t helpful. Your Standards might just line up with God’s Word, but because condemnation is based on your opinion it isn’t going to change things. To put it bluntly: it isn’t your job to change hearts – that is the Holy Spirit’s job. Don’t be angry with me for saying so. I watched you for a long time and learned quite well – I can silently condemn with the best of Them. I know in minute detail, right down to the slightly raised eyebrow, what your reaction would be if you found out I read that book; watched that movie; tried on that dress; or liked that song – because at some point or other, I have delivered the same disapprobation with artful finesse. I am not without guilt.
God has been working on my heart, and I’m slowly learning that I need to be listening to Him for direction, not you. I need to live my life in such a way that the world asks, “What makes you so different?” instead of what church denomination I belong to. I need to write what I believe out loud instead of worrying about offending someone – namely you, “Them”. I need to be willing to admit I’m not perfect and I make mistakes, that I’m still learning. I need to be open to gentle correction when someone who loves me pulls me aside and says, “I’m really concerned about you. Have you thought about how this choice of yours is affecting your Heavenly Father’s reputation?”
This isn’t open rebellion, “They”. I’m not declaring open war on you and your Good Standards, nor am I disregarding *1 Thessalonians 5:22 in an attempt to justify living life the way I want to. (If I did it would make the previous ten verses obsolete, too.) I am hereby simply delivering notice that I am done living my life to gain your approbation.