By Melinda Bach Gray
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)
Peer pressure is a term well discussed with most young people. It’s addressed by their parents, by mentors, in youth groups and at schools. It’s dramatized in movies and books. Often though, it is assumed that it is the “bad” or rebellious friends that will be a bad influence on our precious children so we encourage them to make “nice Christian friends” and strive to offer them opportunities to meet such people. What happens, though, when it is around your “saved” friends that you feel the most pressure or the most alone?
The year was 1988 and I was a young and naive 15 year old excited to spend the night at another gal’s house from church along with 4-5 other girls who I loved being around. They were fun, well liked, popular and I felt cool…ok, cool-er around them. It was the usual repertoire scheduled for an innocent evening among teenaged girls. Junk food, soda, a movie with good looking guys and romance in it, then we had plans to all get up at crack of dawn to help one of our friends with her paper route. When you’re 15, even delirium from sleep deprivation mixed with bed-head, pajamas and silly girls is entertaining. We were in the middle of watching Top Gun, lounging in our sleeping bags, bloated with carbonated drinks and pizza, and giddy with teenage infatuation as Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise (he was less crazy once) played beach volleyball shirtless in one of the movie’s most well known scenes. I’m usually a late night person but the last thing I am able to recall. It was only 10pm but could not resist my heavy lids and weary body as I drifted off to sleep. The next thing I remember was the girls trying to wake me at the “crack” for the paper route, but I couldn’t rouse at all. I was disappointed, when they finally did return, that I had missed it…missed most of the whole night. I chalked it up to just being really tired.
It was two years later, our senior year, while at youth group when a friend who was known for her gossip said through a mocking laugh…”Do you remember the time when the girls drugged you at “*Brenda’s” house so they could drink wine coolers?” (remember, it was the 80’s). I didn’t even respond because the idea was so unfathomable to me. I apprehensively approached some of the girls and asked them if this was true. They giggled uncomfortably and confessed that it was, they had and can’t believe they did it…”we could’ve killed you! It was so bad!”
All I could do was sob.
The Back story: I had chosen to not hang around most of my school friends outside of school because most of their time was spent doing stuff I wanted to avoid. I wasn’t perfect…I was, actually, scared of being in an environment where I’d be in danger or tempted to do something stupid. So choosing to be around “like-minded” people and “safe” friends was my alternative.
The Night: What actually happened was the girls that wanted to drink, knew I wouldn’t and didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable and so the decision was suggested by the host to give me some sleeping pills in my Pepsi so then I wouldn’t be an issue.
The repercussions: I was devastated emotionally. I felt rejected. Even though these girls were still my friends and though two years had passed, suddenly I felt labeled a fool. I felt like a joke and I felt alone.
I struggled with these same perceptions for several more years. I remember being told in college, by a Christian friend, that I was just a “conservative” Christian and that other of our friends were “more free”. I wrestled with these words and desperately wanted to know what it meant. While home from college a wise and good friend and I spent some time talking and I shared with her my struggle and my perceived isolation amongst my believing friends. She reminded me of 1 Peter: 16 as she shared, “There is no conservative or liberal in Scripture.. it says “be holy for I am holy”…” The Lord’s words and her friendship were a blessing to me and an encouragement for my soul.
I know that none of this has changed for teens, even 25 years later. It may even be worse and I would bet there is still someone who feels rejected, at church by his/her friends, for her choices. There are still people who despite their claim for Christ will live selfishly and call it freedom. I want to encourage any girls who are like I was and say: I understand. Don’t give up. You are not alone.
The Irony: In the end, it turned out they had only shared one drink between the 4-5 of them. The girl who told me what had happened wasn’t even invited that night, yet she was able to rub my embarrassment in my face for the sake of making herself feel better. My good choices that were supposed to protect me from pain…in this case, led me to it.
My tenacity to the “rules” was not a bad thing, however I was no less a sinner than anyone else. My sin was self righteousness and pride and I withheld grace from those who, like me, were struggling to figure out our relationship with Christ. It was, perhaps, this tunnel vision that made me feel like a righteous loner instead of recognizing we all needed to grow closer to Christ to understand His grace for each of us. I wasn’t better than any of my friends in that moment. I didn’t need someone “like” me…I needed more Jesus and to draw nearer to Him because when you are in His presence, you are not looking around to see who is with you or needing approval or acceptance. He is all you need.
The Message: Our lives are called a vapor (James 4:14) and the short years in our teens are so fleeting in comparison to the decades we spend here before we get to be with our Lord, yet many of our choices can alter our path forever. There are some things you can never get back. Don’t let any ones perception of you, good or bad, define who you are, even if you are made the fool. I would rather be the Lord’s fool then the worlds because His Word tells us He uses willing fools for His purposes.
1 Corinthians 1:26-27(NLT) Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.
Some of these girls and I are still good friends. They are very dear to me and we are not silly teens anymore. They still uncomfortably giggle when the story is brought up but they have apologized and I can laugh about it now because I have long ago forgiven them and don’t hold it against them. I need forgiveness daily. I need my attitude realigned with Christ on a regular basis and I need to remember this life is His. Each of our lives is a colorful and unique testimony that should always point back to the gospel. We are not victims in this world. We are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
Melinda is a wife of 13 yrs to a bearded-mountain man. She’s mother to 3 crazy and active kiddos, an ER RN and chatty Christ follower who is seeking to know Jesus more and encourage others to do the same. She is currently involved in women ministries at her church and is being used in the specific areas of Ladies Retreat, mentoring and leading a weekly study. She is open to speaking opportunities and loves to share her heart, humor, and God’s mercy in the areas of mothering, womanhood and life as we all, really, are just muddling through. Find her at: Muddled Moms & Mercy
*Not real names