Neon Stains

Neon Stains

We constantly allow ourselves to fall deeper and deeper into sins that seem to permanently stain our souls and spirits, resulting in shame because of our utter messiness. Sometimes it can get to the point where it seems like there is absolutely no return, but please know that redemption is possible.
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Contrary to popular belief, a color war is more than just fun mixed with brightly colored powder.

For those of you who don't know, participating in a color war not only guarantees immense amounts of enjoyment but also a rainbow-tinted coating of somewhat stubborn colored powder (corn starch and flour dyed with food coloring). My high school had a color war yesterday, and it did not disappoint, though my feet were still slightly blue today as I walked into church, and I did not particularly want to lead worship with blue feet and one pink ear. I talked to others who had attended the event as well, and they seemed to have a similar problem ridding their skin and clothing of the stuff.

The saga continues today, as I'm still finding powder in my ears, in my bathroom, and on articles of clothing taken to the wash. I even struggled to carry my Chacos out to my porch because they were so caked with powder that any slight movement would trigger an avalanche of neon messiness, and I have yet to unpack the bag containing my t-shirt and shorts.

Our secret (and oftentimes public) sins are pretty difficult to remove on our own accord, especially when they're piled on top of each other and left to stain our souls ever-darker. Walking into church sometimes feels futile because we are so broken, and it seems like the impressions left on us by our inevitable sins are immovable, so we are ashamed, even reluctant, to walk into so sacred a building as church. We are ashamed to stand before the heavenly throne of God as the messy, ugly, and dirty human beings that we are.

Often, this results in neglect of our sins. We become so ashamed of the dirt and grime that cakes our souls that we try to hide it. We just leave it to ruminate and become more pressing while we attempt to ignore it because we think that will be the final solution to our problem of sin. We think that hiding the sin will reduce the shame of the sin, and that is simply not true. In the book The Picture of Dorian Gray, the main character Dorian Gray owns a once-beautiful self-portrait painted for him by a friend, but his outward sins have transferred into deformities and imperfections on the painting. Eventually, the painting becomes so ugly and undesirable that Gray stores it away in his attic and simply goes on about his life full of sin and deception, even resorting to drugs at one point. In the end, he sees the finished work of the despicable painting, and it disturbs him to his very core. He stabs the painting with a knife, resulting in his own death.

Sin, and later the ignorance of sin, led to Dorian Gray's death, and this is characteristic of sins in the non-fiction world as well.

Not only does the shame brought on those (even those who have been assured of their cleansing by the blood of Christ) who are broken (hint: that's every single person who has ever existed except Christ) often cause them to neglect confronting that sin, but it also causes a desire for and an ease of surrender to more sin.

At the beginning of the color wars, I was tasked with filling bags with colored powder of each color in preparation for various events. I began with orange, and naturally my palms looked as if I had just gotten a bad spray tan. My shirt was slightly tinted, but the powder dusted right off. Then, as I moved to yellow and then blue, I noticed the hue of my skin was darkening and darkening. By the time the games were ready to begin, my hands were almost blackened, and my shirt had a plethora of colors already on it, removing the original purity of the crisp white tee. The beauty was gone once the colors had all been tested, and it took a lot of scrubbing to rid my palms of the black mixture of colors.

Sin almost completely loses its appeal once it begins to pile up on us, but we feel as if we must continue in it in order to hide it. We feel like, if we keep on sinning to cover up past sins, eventually everything will just disappear. Even if we know that all sins, big and small, remain with us without the cleaning power of Jesus's redeeming blood, it is incredibly easy to fall into the snares that are constantly thrown at us.

"Just come to the party! Your parents will never know."

"One drink isn't going to hurt you!"

"Come on! Don't you love me? It doesn't matter if you go a little further."

"It's only a couple dollars, just take it."

"Drugs make you feel amazing. Just try it! You can always stop if you don't like it."

"You've already gotten this far. If you quit now you'll just be a loser!"

Those snares entice us until we give in, and then we have the option of opting out (the right option) or continuing. Most commonly, sins are used to try and cover other sins, and that is ultimately going to be unfruitful and just hurt you even more.

My ultimate objective in this color war, as I told one of my friends, was not even for our senior class to win any competitions. My goal was to get as colorful as possible. I ran right into the action and got a small burst of excitement each time I saw my once-white shirt stained with yet another bright hue. But I knew I could go right home and wash it all clean. I knew that, come Sunday, I'd be clean and prepped for church, like nothing ever happened.

The point of the grace of God is not to make it your ultimate goal to sin as much as possible now because you know that God will save you from it when you ask Him. It is true that the blood of Christ washes you clean from your sins, but there has to be a heart change as well. True Christians feel something after they sin. They know they'll be sinners until the day they die, but they also know that it is not right, and they are focused on putting off sins that they notice themselves committing, not just sitting in them. Don't get covered in sin because you know that once the fun is over you can wash it all away and restart the cycle.

This post is in no way supposed to make color wars sound sinful (I realized about halfway through that this post is not very generous to the event used as a metaphor. I promise they are worth the mess!). The point of this post is not to criminalize color wars in themselves. The point is to stress how broken we are and how much we need to realize our sins and ask God to rid us of them. However, becoming more like Christ (a process called sanctification) is not only a God thing. Sanctification is a cooperation between God and man, so in order to become more like Christ, we must make an effort to eradicate acts that displease God from our lives.

So, next time you walk into church (or decide to skip it), ashamed by the sins you feel are so obvious to everyone around you, know that you are loved. God knows that we are imperfect, and He meets us in our brokenness and messiness, willing and ready to carry us back to a relationship with Him. You just have to be willing to yield yourself to Him and trust that He has your best interest in mind. He is not judgmental of those things of which you are ashamed as long as you knowingly admit that those things are things that are, in fact, shameful. He loves, plain and simple.


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To The Boy Who Will Love Me Next

If you can't understand these few things, leave before things get too involved
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To the boy that will love me next, I need you to know and understand things about me and my past. The things I have been though not only have shaped the person I’ve become, but also sometimes controls my life. In the past I’ve been used, abused, and taken for granted, and I want something real this time. The guys before you were just boys; they didn’t know how to treat me until it was too late. They didn’t understand how to love me, until I broke my own heart. Before you truly decide to love me I want you to understand these things.

When I tell you something, please listen.

I’m my own person, I want to be loved a certain way. If I ask you to come over and watch movies with me please do it, if I ask for you to leave me alone for a few hours because it’s a girl’s night please do it. I don’t just say things to hear my own voice, I say things to you because it’s important to my life and the way I want to be loved. I’m not a needy person when it comes to being loved and cared for, but I do ask for you to do the small things that I am say.

Forgive my past.

My past is not a pretty brick road, it is a highway that has a bunch of potholes and cracks in it. I have a lot of baggage, and most of it you won’t understand. But don’t let my past decided whether you want to love me or not. My past has helped form who I am today, but it does not define who I am. My past experiences might try and make an appearance every once in a while, but I will not go back to that person I once was, I will not return to all that hurt I once went though. When I say those things, I’m telling the complete and honest truth. I relive my past every day, somethings haunt me and somethings are good reminds. But for you to love me, I need you to accept my past, present and future.

I’m just another bro to the other guys.

I have always hung out with boys, I don’t fit in with the girl groups. I have 10 close girlfriends, but the majority of my friends are guy, but don’t let this scare you. If I wanted to be with one of my guy friends I would already be with him, and if you haven’t noticed I don’t want them because I’m with you. I will not lose my friendships with all my guy friends to be able to stay with you. I will not cut off ties because you don’t like my guy friends. I have lost too many buddies because of my ex-boyfriends and I promised myself I wouldn’t do that again. If you don’t like how many guy friends I have you can leave now. Don’t bother trying to date me if you can accept the fact I’m just another bro.

I might be a badass, but I actually have a big heart.

To a lot of people I come off to be a very crazy and wild girl. I will agree I can be crazy and wild, but I’m more than that. I’m independent, caring, responsible, understanding, forgiving, and so such more type of woman. Many people think that I’m a badass because I don’t take any negatively from anyone. Just like we learned when we were younger, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Most people can’t do that in today’s world, so I stick up for myself and my friends. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me, or their option on how I live my life. The only thing I care about is being able to make myself happy. Even though I’m an independent woman, understand that I do have a big heart. Honesty when I truly care for someone I will do just about anything they ask, but don’t take advantage of this. Once you take advantage of this part of me, all respect will be lost for you.

I’m hard to love.

Sometimes I want to be cuddle and get attention, and sometimes I don’t want you to talk to me for a couple hours. Sometimes I want you to take me out for a nice meal, but sometimes I want a home cooked meal. Every day is different for me, sometimes I change my mind every hour. My mood swings are terrible on certain days, and on those days you should probably just ignore me. I’m not easy to love, so you’ll either be willing to find a way to love me, or you’ll walk out like so many others have.

I’m scared.

I’m scared to love someone again. I’ve been hurt, heartbroken, and beat to the ground in my past relationships. I want to believe you are different, I want to hope things will truly work out, but every relationship has always ended up the same way. I’m scared to trust someone, put my whole heart into them, just to be left and heartbroken again. I sick and tired of putting my whole body and soul into someone for them to just leave when it is convenient for them. If you want to love me, understand it won’t be easy for me to love you back.

When “I’m done.”

When I say “I’m done” I honestly don’t mean that I’m done. When I say that it means I need and want you to fight for me, show me why you want to be with me. I need you to prove that I’m worth it and there’s no one else but me. If I was truly done, I would just walk away, and not come back. So if I ever tell you, “I’m done,” tell me all the reasons why I’m truly not done.

For the boy who will love me next, the work is cut out for you, you just have to be willing to do it. I’m not like other girls, I am my own person, and I will need to be treated as such. For the boy that will love me next, don’t bother with me unless you really want to be with me. I don’t have time to waste on you if you aren’t going to try and make something out of us. To the boy who will love me next, the last thing I would like to say is good luck, I have faith in you.

Cover Image Credit: Danielle Balint

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The Truth About Politics In Religion And How It Affects Our Relationship With God

They don't have to be mutually exclusive.

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It's evident that religion can and has been used in politics from the values of voters and leaders. However, to use your religion or your relationship with God for making political decisions doesn't share the same meaning.

I've always loved finding all the best facts and research for argumentative work but I couldn't pursue that approach for this topic. Why? Because I've experienced the pattern in my relationship with God of how God defies logic.

God can't be contained to a definition or explanation. I liked the way I've heard one leader express that, "If you hear someone trying to explain to God as if he knows then he's a fool before he starts talking". That's a paradox within itself.

I've learned more recently to identify that the two sides of the paradox that you might wrestle with in understanding God are both true. That, yes, His hands are big and He knows exactly what to do to make you surrender but you'll also find no greater love than with Him because He has the biggest heart and knows what you need better than you do.

I think that accepting this paradox will differentiate between those that view politics religiously versus those that view it from 'what is God trying to do here'? The one that focuses on seeking 'what is God trying to do here?' would represent those with a relationship with God. This doesn't mean that referencing the laws of God exempts you from having a relationship but the love of God is the strength that sustains the relationship over the law. This is also a bit of a paradox because they're both important in Christianity.

There's the difference from seeing God as one-sided which is very prideful, limiting and incorrect compared to recognizing that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.

I believe that what we believe and how we see God will bring limitations or provision on how we can be used in God's plan for His kingdom on earth when it comes to the way the world is run.

God, our relationship with God and the law of God all have to be considered in the things we do as Christians.

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