If in doubt, don’t. But I did. And it hurt….
About five weeks ago, when Travis and I found out that I’m pregnant with twins, we decided it would be fun to take weekly pictures of my growing belly. When I looked in the mirror and realized, “This body has to stretch enough to accommodate two babies. I may never look quite like this again,” I decided we better hurry up and get a picture before the growing started.
A couple weeks into taking these weekly pictures, I began to consider sharing them with my friends by posting them on Facebook. But then the thought crossed my mind, “At what point in pregnancy does it become ‘appropriate’ to show off a naked belly? How big does a naked pregnant belly have to be in order to not be ‘offensive’ or ‘immodest’?”… Doubt #1.
So I let the idea ride for while and didn’t post any pictures.
A couple weeks later, our weekly picture showed a significant change from the initial this-is-how-my-body-used-to-look picture. Excited to finally see some change, I thought, “Well, now those initial pictures don’t seem immodest because they are just a reference point for my growth.” And despite the doubts I had had a couple weeks prior, I posted the pictures and felt okay about it.
But then people started commenting on the photos–all positive comments, granted–yet with each comment came another twinge of doubt. “Maybe I should take those pictures off Facebook….” Doubt #2. #3. #4. Maybe more.
Still I didn’t remove the pictures. Hundreds of my Facebook friends remained able to see my naked, barely pregnant belly.
A few more days passed, and then came the consequence. As I was getting ready for church on Sunday morning, I noticed an email from a respected and older sister in Christ. I opened it up to find the most humble, gentle, loving, yet extremely painful rebuke (for lack of a better word) concerning my belly pictures. Of them, she said, “I believe because of your joy and excitement, you share. But I do not think it is proper or modest. I ask you to please consider this. Today the world reveals all and has no shame, but we are of Christ and are to be modest, discreet, and above reproach…. Many struggle in this culture of immodest dress, and so as women of God we need to be examples.”
Totally ashamed and embarrassed, I archived the email before my husband could see it and resumed getting ready for church, feeling horrible and knowing I wasn’t really going to hide the email from my husband. About then he sat down at the computer, and nonchalantly I said, “Honey, do you think I should take those pictures off Facebook?” I proceeded to have him read the email from my respected Sister, and we then immediately changed the privacy settings so that only I could view the pictures (although I’m not sure my decision at that point was based on anything more than knowing I had offended (again, for lack of a better word) at least one person).
As we walked into church that morning, I felt guilt-ridden and ashamed. What if people from our church saw my pictures and felt the same as the friend who emailed? I could hardly get my mind off my own feeling of guilt enough to even engage in converation. Even through the service, my mind was preoccupied. I just wanted to go home, curl up in a ball, and retreat to some place inside myself.
Back at home, as I was preparing our lunch, I finally asked my husband, “Honey, why do I feel so guilty? like I did something wrong?” Responding as with the voice of God (and not knowing about the former doubts which I had ignored), he said, “You’re still thinking about that? Well, if it’s really bothering you that much… I’m just wondering… is it possible you sinned against your conscience?”
I don’t think I ever really answered his question, but in my heart and in my mind, I immediately knew the answer. Remembrances of my initial doubts–and of subsequent doubts–all reasoned away by my own justifying conclusions, flooded my memory. I asked him, “Well… what do I do now?” And again as if speaking with the voice of God, he said, “Repent.”
I would like to say I fell on my knees in broken repentance right at the moment, but no, it took me a little bit to get my heart completely aligned with God’s–to rid myself of my pride and to truly agree with Him. Once I knew my heart was in the right posture, I confessed my sin to God and begged Him to keep my conscience sharp, knowing full well that each ingoring of the conscience has a tendency to dull it just a little more. When I was done praying, our gracious, merciful, forgiving God took away my feelings of guilt and replaced them with feelings of gratitude that I had been chastened by my loving Father and then forgiven.
I would like to clarify that my feelings of guilt were not because of a Godly friend’s opinion being shared with me or even because I had shown my bare belly to the world of Facebook. My feelings of guilt were brought on solely by the fact that I had sinned against my conscience. Romans 14:22-23 says, The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats (or in my case, if she posts these pictures), because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin. I had condemned myself in what I approved because it was done not in faith, but in opposition to the conviciton of the Holy Spirit.
I would also like to clarify that the older Christian woman who “rebuked” me did so humbly and lovingly, with the proper motivation of preserving me and my testimony and out of total obedience to the Scripture: Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored (Titus 2:3-5).
Lastly, I would like to say that it is so like Satan to try to talk us out of our convictions. In Genesis 3:1, the serpent said to Eve, “Did God really say…?” Be on the lookout against his schemes! Remember that the Holy Spirit speaks to you through your conscience and that the old saying, “If in doubt, don’t,” is often a pretty good guide.
I hope the story of my painful lesson in listening to my conscience will preserve some of you from a similar chastening, but with much gratitude in my heart I recognize that the most important point in my story is this: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).