“I read your last blog and what you said about being sixteen and asking yourself ‘why do I have to have my beliefs?’ resonated with me. I’d love to read how you came to terms with having certain beliefs or convictions that limit you from living the ‘normal American’ life. Assuming that you have come to terms with that.”~ A friend of mine
When I was eleven, and older or younger, I loved sitting in on the wild debates of my extended, ginormous family. My grandma would always tell me, “Go be a kid and play with your cousins.” But I’d always find a way to sneak back in, and edge in a word or two of my own.
I loved how my family was basically a soap opera that couldn’t be fit in any box. I thrived on being allowed to question all of my beliefs and even disagree with them.
Always, my nature has been derived in a naivety tainted by a mind that perceived all wasn’t as I wished. Oxymoron, I know. Just accept it, if you can.
I never trusted anyone completely, yet I could pour my every thought to anyone. I trusted none, and loved all to the point of nearly hating a few. I judged all immediately. If I loved an individual, which was usually, there was little chance of me ever verbally acknowledging that. But … I didn’t, my mom was sure to hear, “That lady is a witch,” or “He’s a control-freak.” My mom would “rebuke” me, and then agree with me months or years later.
When I was twelve I decided I would no longer accept the way we kept Sabbath, ate only clean meats, and spoke to God with only Hebraic names. I would know why, and not because my grandpa or father said so.
That is when I started on a path I’ve never ended on; a path of always studying and never being satisfied to stop. I came terms with some of my family beliefs, and threw some out. I argued my points and convinced my entire family to quit observing the Lunar Sabbath and change to Saturday when I was fourteen.
But in my later teens my love for knowledge and truth was diluted—mind you, not extinguished—for a time as I entered a new realm of friends and their questions.
They asked me if I thought I was better than them. When I said no they’d ask why I did what I did. When I gave my reasons they’d ask me if I thought they were going to hell. When I said no they would then say, “They why can’t you just be normal? Why is it so important to be different if it doesn’t matter.”
I tried and failed to explain why my beliefs mattered to me even if they didn’t make better. I tried to say that I didn’t think differences should separate us. I tried and failed. Some friends felt judged anyways. Some friends left. Some friends stayed, but wouldn’t talk about anything.
This time embittered me toward my beliefs and my love of my family.
“Why couldn’t I have been born normal? Why must I have to think this way? Why can’t I just be like my friends and not wear dresses, not observe Saturday Sabbath, not eat clean, not have to worry about whether or not I’ll ever be able to live any sort of life because of not having a social security number. Will I even ever find a guy that will accept me for who I am and not think I’m hating him because we are a little different?”
(I’ve always assumed I’d marry a guy that believed a lot differently than me because I don’t like the arrogance of most people that believe like me, and also I love stimulating debates, and what better way to have an unlimited supply of those than to marry someone who believes a little different about things that don’t matter in a Salvation sense?)
Which brought me to the question, “Why must I stress over these questions that aren’t derived in morality?”
It wasn’t that I wanted to be like my friends. It was that I was tired of the people I loved judging me because they thought I judged them. I was tired of being accused of being a debater even though they would instigate the questions. Why did it have to matter that I wore dresses? Couldn’t they see me for who I was, not what I wore?
Why did it matter that I didn’t eat pork? That shouldn’t have affected them. They could still eat whatever they like. And we could still debate about all the intricacies of the kosher laws and still be friends and still eat according to our consciences.
Why did it have to matter that I worshiped on Saturday Sabbath? Why did it matter to them that I planned to never get a social security number? Why did it matter that I was different? Everyone was different in some way and I loved how they were different.
Why did they have to be friends with me despite our difference? Why couldn’t we be friends because of what we had in common, and that commonness unite us during our times of debates? Why did their have to be conflict simply because I was “more weird”?
Friends told me I wasn’t a real American (because no SS#). Friends told me I wasn’t a real Christian, because I was too “Jewish”. Friends don’t me I was living under the old law because I loved the whole Bible.
Friends left, and for awhile I grew silent. For years I didn’t tell anyone I didn’t have a SS#. But somehow they’d find out from someone that I “didn’t exist”. Or that I didn’t or did do something that was, “Wow. Really? Why?”
Stubbornly, I pushed through people’s inquiries and post-recoils, and searched for people who didn’t judge me for my answers. Also, I learned to give answers that weren’t so confrontational in nature. Yes, I’ll admit sometimes my excitement and love for how I was raised may not have always looked as I meant for it to look. It was probably my fault that many friends said the things they said to me.
All the same, it forced me to start a long process, and ask myself, “What do I value, and why?”
It forced myself to be honest. And to study deeper than ever before. It forced me to allow myself to grieve over certain people and their words and to dig into the truths of what they said. It forced me to look at myself in another way.
So what did I determine were my values?
In a nutshell: truth, family, friends, love; in no particular order.
My values weren’t rooted in what I believed, but why I believed or did what I believed. Some things I truly believe as truth with all my heart. Some things simply raise my heart toward God. Some things I do out of honor for my family. And some things I do out of love toward my friends.
With all my heart, I believe God is, and that His words are mine. I belive something very controversial that there are different types of sin.
Some sin are sins against God directly and result in an eternal punishment. Example: blasphemy against God, rejection of His son.
Some sins are against man, and the punishment isn’t always so severe as in being eternal, but holds devastating emotional and physical earthly consequences. Example: Adultery, fornication.
Some sins are against both man and God, and God will judge man accordingly. Examples: Murder, turning a blind eye to the poor and imprisoned, etc.
Some sins hold minor, earthly consequences, and such are up to the individual and his conscious. Example: If one doesn’t keep the Sabbath their body will be overcome by exhaustion and their health will slide, and such.
Some sins are of ethical or principal value, meaning they do not go against God or man, but who I am as an American. And this is where the social security number falls under. Socialism is against everything I am and stand for to my very core. I will not go to Hell if I ever receive one, but it will also change many aspects of who I am and mean a forfeit of my values if I ever receive one.
And then there are the sins that are against those I love. Meaning, the way I dress, and remain at home, and refrain from certain holidays and alcohol. These things are not sins against anyone, but to do them now would cause unnecessary offense toward those I wish to honor. Does this mean I do all my parents wish of me? Absolutely not. But I choose my battles, doing what I feel I must to live my life fully, all the while honoring them as much as I can in what is ethically and principally important for them.
Learning this about myself (and sin) has helped me come to grips to not being normal. And it’s helped me be more confident when others ask me, “So, why don’t you just do what everyone else does if you don’t think it’s wrong.”
I still naively believe in love; a love that is so loyal that it unifies all even when they dress and eat and party differently. I still dream of a world where we can all live together in our own way.
I value family heritage. I value friends of all backgrounds. I value people willing to debate and not insult; friends that are stimulated by each others’ difference, friends who understand each other even when they don’t agree.
I’ve come to terms with all my other values by understanding why I have them and in what order I have them, and I’ve come to peace with them by continuing to love all people, but by not being bothered by those who are bothered by me.
I’ve come to grips with the fact that some people just won’t ever be able to see me past my beliefs … but that some will.
Above all, I value real love, giving it even if I don’t receive it, and receiving it from those who accept me for who I choose to be.