Part II in the story of how I stopped adhering to the traditional Pentecostal lifestyle of long skirts and long hair, etc. You can read Part I here.
I continued to live the traditional Pentecostal lifestyle after I graduated from high school, but discontent had begun to sneak in. Mainly, I didn't like looking so different from my fellow college students. I was already different in that I didn't live on campus, didn't belong to a sorority, and didn't drink, so having hair down to my butt and skirts down to my ankles made me feel like a total oddball. Still, I had no plans to rebel. That would have made me feel like an outcast in the only place I felt I belonged, and I didn't want to take that risk.
A pastor friend of my dad's recently wrote about his journey towards accepting a more "liberal" lifestyle, and this analogy made sense to me. He said that if you were taught from your earliest childhood that you would die if you sat in a red chair, you would almost certainly believe it. All through your school years, you would avoid red chairs. Sure, other people sit in red chairs and nothing happens to them, but how could you be sure you wouldn't be struck down? Better to be safe than sorry.
Then one day at work, your staff (who know nothing of your belief) decide to surprise you with a new desk chair. They make you close your eyes and lead you into the office, and have you sit down in the chair. You open your eyes and realize you're sitting in a forbidden red chair. Your heart pounds wildly--Oh no! I'm going to die, you think--and then you realize: It's just a chair, and a comfortable one at that. The information you had been taught your whole life was false. You timidly begin to accept the idea of living in a world where you can choose any chair you want, without fear.
My first experience of "sitting in the red chair" was in a movie theater. The first movie I saw in the theater was Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. (I KNOW. My boyfriend chose it.) I wasn't afraid God would smite me with actual lightning, but I was a little uneasy. However, I was smart enough to see the flaw in the logic that permitted renting a movie and condemned watching it in the theater--as if the size of the screen determined the size of the sin. (No one ever gave me a good reason for banning theaters. I suspect it had something to do with the make-out sessions teenagers were supposed to have during movies. But if we were forced to avoid places teenagers make out, no one would ever drive a car. To be consistent , the church leaders should have banned ALL movies along with TV, but they were out of touch, and by the time they noticed that their constituents were loading up on videos from Blockbuster, it was too late--even most preachers had VCR's, and I'm sure they weren't only watching the latest G-rated Disney cartoon.)
Even though the rules didn't make complete sense to me, I had still followed them all of my life. I didn't want to disappoint or embarrass my parents. And I didn't want to do anything to damage my relationship with God, either. That's why I prayed (silently, of course), "Lord, if this is wrong, make me feel guilty about it. I mean, REALLY guilty. And if it's wrong, then I won't do it again."
I still think I had the right attitude about it. If I was in fact guilty of violating any law except that of sophisticated taste in movies, I really did want to know so I could refrain from doing it. A movie was not as important to me as God. I still believe that. If I believed that God wanted me to give something up or start doing something, even if it meant being an oddball again, I would do it.
But on that day, God apparently had no problem with Jim Carrey. As I walked out of the theater, I searched my heart for guilt and found none. I felt...normal. I had sat down in a red chair and no harm had come to me.