When I turned 12 my parents wanted me to participate in a fraternal type organization designed for young women. I guess you could compare it to a sorority because you had to be voted on to get in, the meetings were held in secret, only open to the members, and dues were required. We even had a secret password and handshake! Woo-hoo! As a part of this organization, I would be able to learn some things that I am sure they felt were important for a young woman to learn. I would have the opportunity to participate in service projects, hold positions of leadership, be taught certain disciplines, have good role models, and my personal favorite, wear formal dresses.
The fact that the organization was selective, and the meetings exclusive always made me question though the percieved value of my participation in the organization. Something deep within my heart told me that something was "not quite right" about it. Strong emphasis was placed on what I will refer to as "disciplines" and performing them perfectly. When the girls were given the opportunity to display their "disciplines" those who did not "perform" perfectly might experience being shamed in front of their peers. Now I am not talking about the twirler dropping an occasional baton on the football field, or the band member losing step with the band. There is no shame in that. I am talking about the type of shame that would cause a young girl to cry uncontrollably or even drop out of the organization altogether. Only the very strongest would persist all the way through the ranks.
I was one of these. Somehow I managed to advance through the organization to hold every position of leadership until I reached adulthood and was no longer eligible to participate. I can recall times when my stomach hurt so bad and I was so nervous, but yet I continued to participate. I look back and ask myself "Why?" "Why did I continue to participate in an organization that I really did not believe in?"
Well, I think it was for several reasons. First and foremost, I think I wanted to please my parents. If they thought it was important for me, then it must be so. Looking back, I think they may not have always had my best interest at heart. It was something that they could say, "Look at my daughter, look what she has accomplished." And they could feel good about themselves. Second reason, well I admit, I did enjoy the dresses. What young woman would not? Girls love dressing up! Third reason, I stuck it out because it brought me some sense of accomplishment. Moving through the levels of leadership made me feel important and like I was moving toward a goal. Plus there was always lots of accolades from the people who were watching me "perform".
But once I reached the highest level, I looked back and felt only emptiness. Because I was a Christian and was also participating in the activities of my church, I realized that all my "accomplishments" were for nothing. In light of eternity, all the energy and effort I had spent as part of the organization would not last. It was like a being in a beauty pageant and getting a crown or participating in a sport and getting a trophy. You put the crown or the trophy on the shelf and it gathers dust. You take it off the shelf and you dust it and show it to your friends and say "Look what I did. I worked hard, I earned this." But God was nowhere in it. And once I am dead and gone, who would care?
I don't mean to sound like participating in school or community activities are not important. I know they are. But you have to understand, this organization required DEDICATION. It required perfect attendance, no excuses. It demanded perfection in every way. No excuses. But did my participation in the organization really make a difference in the person that I am today, or where I spend eternity? Looking back, I don't think so.
Now, like I said, I was also involved in my church activities. Very involved, very active. But when I think back, my heart was divided. The time I spent in doing the "disciplines" for the organization could have been better spent learning the "spiritual disciplines". Studying God's word, spending time in prayer. These are the things that will truly last a lifetime and beyond.
I remember one time I invited my pastor to come to one of our open meetings of the organization. I had invited him to present me with a Bible in front of my peers. I know now, that it really must have put him in an akward position. But you know, he was willing to oblige because he cared for me, even though I am sure he was thinking, this is not God's will for your life. Don't you see how you are wasting your time here? Devote your time and attention to God and what he would have you to do.
I think even now, how God must look down on us and think "Look at what you are doing! Don't you know you are just wasting your time? Who and what are you doing this for? It's certainly not for me." But yet, he patiently waits for us to come to the age of maturity where we realize that what is really important is what matters to Him, what pleases Him. Everything else is just decoration. Like wearing a fancy dress and thinking we are important or accomplishing something.
It's like this, I had to decide if I was going to live my life to please my parents, or for the recognition of other people, or for my own pleasure ( the fancy dresses!). Or was I going to live my life for God and seek to please Him in all that I do.
Matthew 6:19-21 says .... "Don't save treasures for yourselves here on earth. Moths and rust will destroy treasures here on earth. And thieves can break into your house and steal the things you have. So save your treasure in heaven. The treasures in heaven cannot be destroyed by moths or rust. And thieves cannot break in and steal that treasure. Your heart will be where your treasure is."