Recently, I finished reading a book by one of my favorite novelists, Karen Kingsbury. Within the course of the book, one of the main characters was having coffee with one of her friends, and their conversation moved to talking about living in today’s world amidst a worldly mindset in today’s society. The characters talked about the negativity that surrounded them and how they could stand out amongst those who continually gave in to the world’s self-focused culture.
The main character shared a story about some curtains her mother had hung over a window in their home when she was a child. The curtains had a hideous pattern woven into the fabric, but when one stood back and looked at them with a casual glance, it seemed that the pattern disappeared.
As I absorbed the illustration conveyed through the story, I found I could relate. Due to the fact that I have a visual impairment, I cannot see things clearly until I come close enough to make sense of what it is I am seeing. For example, when I am approaching a red-and-white-checkered tablecloth, the fabric appears pink at a distance. But when I stand close enough to see the tablecloth clearly, I see the pattern on the cloth.
In many ways, the conversation between the characters in the novel and my own blurred view of a patterned cloth at a distance made a great deal of sense to me. I could understand what the character meant when she paired their discussion about the world’s standards with the analogy of a patterned set of curtains. When we begin to stare at a patterned cloth for a prolonged period of time, we no longer recognize the intricate lines and shapes; everything blurs together and the image becomes “typical” to the viewer.
The same is true for us as Christians as we go about our daily lives here on earth. We are surrounded by temptations and negative influences, all while we strive to shine for Jesus in this self-focused, all-about-me culture. Sometimes, we become so immersed in what we see every day that we forget that we should be set apart, or as Romans 12 phrases it, not being conformed to the patterns of this world. Did you catch what I just said about “patterns”? Yes, we are continually exposed to patterns of this world, but since we live here among the world, it is often difficult to take a step backward and take a stand for Christ. But unless we make an effort to stand out from the crowd, the patterns of this world will begin to blend together until everything becomes so commonplace to us that we begin to view things as normal or acceptable.
Just a few weeks ago, I encountered such a situation in my own circle of friends. I had been invited out for an evening of live music at a local establishment, which just happened to be a bar and grill. Now, I am not opposed to having dinner at a bar and grill, but I draw the line when it comes to sitting in the bar itself and drinking while partaking in the atmosphere.
But several days after the invite, I found myself actually considering attending this event. I knew I would be among friends who would understand the fact that I don’t drink and that I would be uncomfortable in that setting. I also knew where I stood on the matter and that I wouldn’t be doing anything wrong by attending the gathering of friends. But deep down, I didn’t feel right about the matter, so I began to pray that God would intervene in the situation and make the answer to my dilemma clear and without doubt.
A few days later, I found myself at Bible Study and leading a lesson about— you guessed it— not being conformed to the pattern of this world. Out of the blue, one of the ladies commented, “So what would you do if your friends were encouraging you to… maybe go out to a bar or something? Would that be okay? I mean if you’re not drinking and just setting a good example…”
The odd thing about this comment was that this woman was not currently battling with this issue. She had merely felt led to express it, somehow knowing that someone in the group needed to discuss the topic. She told me this later that evening, and I could not contain the peace that came over me when I realized the intervention of the Holy Spirit. But in that moment at the Bible Study, the room got quiet and I finally spoke up, saying that I was dealing with that very dilemma. And then with obvious love and brutal honestly, my Bible Study ladies made two things clear:
“Cassie, would you really feel comfortable in that environment?” they asked. And “If Jesus came back at that time, would you want Him to find you there?”
The answer to both of those questions was a resounding “no” from me.
“Well then, it looks like you’ve made up your mind,” one of the women responded. “Remember, do not be conformed to the patterns of this world…”
Now before you start to think that I am flat-out against drinking or being social in an environment such as a bar and grill, I would like to say that I am not telling you this story to belittle you, the reader, for making such a choice. Everyone has a different level of comfort and maybe even a ministry to the people that may gather in such environments. But for me, I am glad I did not give in to the pressures of my friends. I still consider these friends of mine to be wonderful people, and I pray that they have come to respect my decision. But in that moment, I simply had to take a step back and analyze the situation. How could I best mirror the patterns of Christ instead of the patterns of this world? With peace in my heart, I am certain that I made the right choice that day.
As I close out 2011 and look into 2012, I strive to continue to serve (as was my goal in this past year). But now I also make the commitment to conform to a life that would honor Christ in every aspect. In 2012, I seek to mirror Him in all I do.
2 thoughts on “Patterns”
Cassie this blog touched my heart. When Ed and I were in our twenties. one night two groups of friends talked us into going to a bar near our schools. Ed was in one group I was in the other. One person in each group decided we should meet each other. We never went back to that bar again but. Ed called me, we became friends and decided to marry. We still do not go to bars. We do not enjoy seeing people that need to drink to have fun destroy them selves. I know this does not always happen but it does sometimes. I like the choice you made but I am also happy about God giving Ed to me. Life is so strange. I know I am rambling but these were my thought when I read your blog.
Thank you for sharing your story. I completely understand your ramblings and I just appreciate that you took the time to respond to the post! Blessings to you!