Awhile back, I wrote a post about my existence as a more-or-less permanent fixture “outside the mold” when it comes to being a Proper Christian Lady. If you haven’t read it, feel free to clutch your pearls, because I revealed some fairly pearl-clutchy stuff there. I am, dear reader, a woman with a past. And it’s not just checkered; it’s polka-dotted, paisleyed, argyled, harlequined, and curlicued, and I don’t even know what that means. Suffice to say, I’ve led an “interesting” life.
But there’s something else about my Christian walk that sets me apart:
I don’t follow the happiness narrative.
If I’m not feeling friendly and chirpy and joyful, I don’t act friendly and chirpy and joyful. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m not what anyone would call a cryptic person; my self-control is much better than it was when I was young, but it’s not hard to tell what kind of mood I’m in. For “Good Little Christians,” this is inexcusable.
You see, a Godly woman is expected to always have a smile on her face. She must never express frustration, disappointment, or any negative emotion. Any deviation from this very pretty picture, and the fingers will start wagging. “You’re not being thankful!” “Don’t stir up division!” “Remember, all things work together for good, tee hee!” “Just give it to Jesus!” And of course, my personal favorite, “There are people worse off than youuuuuuu!”
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have been openly mocked by members of church leadership for my “unfriendly” mannerisms in the past. Because God forbid I’ve had a bad day, a rough week, a painful month, and I have the audacity to sit in the pew with my arms folded and my body language closed. God forbid my depression kicks into high gear and I’m not Miss Florida Effervescence even though it took every ounce of strength just to come to Bible study because I knew I needed to be around other believers.
I have problems. SUE ME.
Or, you know, try having an ounce of compassion when you see a fellow Christian with a frowny face. Instead of immediately shooting me down as a Negative Nancy, try listening. Maybe don’t automatically lump me in with the “dissenters, murmurers, and complainers.” Yes, the Bible warns us repeatedly about such people. But there’s a big difference between someone deliberately stirring up strife within the church, and a single woman who just wishes people would stop assuming the worst about her because doesn’t beam sunshine on command.
Galatians 6:2 is one of the small handful of Bible verses I can cite without looking it up:
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (KJV)
It means a lot to me. And there are TONS of other passages that echo this sentiment. In fact, even though I didn’t intend for this blog to be a litany of Scriptural citations, here are a few more:
Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. (1 Thessalonians 5:11 KJV)
Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad. (Proverbs 12:25 KJV)
Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. (Romans 12:15 KJV)
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32 KJV)
No, the irony is not lost on me.
I know this applies to me as well. Before you fire off a rocket about how hypocritical I am in “condemning” other Christians, I’m keenly aware of my own need to offer grace to the same people who are judging me. It’s just that I’m less inclined to bite my tongue these days when I feel I’m being held to an unreasonable and unbiblical standard.
Sometimes I need encouragement instead of being avoided because you might catch my gloom cooties.
Rather than telling me to cheer up, smile FOR me. I’m sure you can spare one.