17 Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their thoughts. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts. 19 They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more. 20 But that is not how you came to know Christ, 21 assuming you heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, 23 to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth. 25 Therefore, putting away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. 26 Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and don’t give the devil an opportunity. 28 Let the thief no longer steal. Instead, he is to do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need. 29 No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. 30 And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by him for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. Acts 22:17-32 CSB
Hey guys welcome back to the PSALMS to God podcast. So today I want to talk about the massive changes that happened as I was growing in Christ in my 20s—and I feel like a lot of these changes are so subtle. I don't think I fully changed as a person. It's not...it's not to say that people who knew me in my 20s would meet me now be like “Yo, you ain't changed a bit. You the same crazy kid you was at 20.” There are some significant changes that people would be able to identify in me, but I think the biggest changes have been like philosophical changes or mentality changes, attitude changes—things that maybe I do the same things or I believe the same things, but how I go about them and how I approach them are very different. So for instance, I’ve talked about my temper: the same things make me mad. Make no doubt about it, the same thing that made me go off when I was 20, will still make me mad if you do it now. But the reaction you get may be different and how I process it, how long I stay mad about it, all of those things have been changing. And one of the things that I realized is that as I’ve been getting closer and closer to God and as I've been letting the Holy Spirit shape what kind of person I should be, a lot of the things I learned about my Christian walk did not come from a church. They actually came from me joining my sorority.
I'ma let y'all ponder that for a minute…
Lessons From the Sorority (00:04:28)
And so I wanted to talk about 3 lessons that I actually learned from my sorority that apply heavily into my day-to-day walk with Christ, and how they started molding me in my 20s—my early 20s, in my late 20s—and why I think these are important things that we start teaching at church that we start fostering within the Church with a Capital C, so that we are ready for Christ, so that we are more efficient at spreading the Word of God, at spreading the love of God.
Choosing Your Family (00:05:05)
So the first thing that I learned was about creating a family out of people you are not related to, and not just so I'm not related to you but you a stranger. It’s really easy for us to treat our friends like family. You know, a lot of people will refer to their best friends as their sister or their brother, you know. And you've been cool with this person for tens and thousands of years—okay I'm being crazy right now, but you know what I mean—you’ve known this person your whole life and so you treat them like family because you've known them for a long time, but what about the person that you meet that you have never seen before. They just wandered into your church one day. ...By themselves. Do you talk to them? Do you hang out with them? Are you cordial, or do you treat them like that your long-lost cousin that you ain't seen in 10 years?
And what I learned about this from my sorority is just that. When you join a fraternity or sorority you take an oath of sisterhood (or brotherhood in the case of a fraternity) to all of the other people that join your organization, and when you take that oath that means that when you go places, you introduce yourself. So if I see a member of my sorority just randomly walking across the street. Like say she has on her letters—I may not I have on my letters but technically this oath that you’ve taken of sisterhood, I would walk up to her and be like “Hey, I'm also in his organization,” you know, “This is where I crossed, this is when I crossed. How are you? Nice to meet you,” blah blah blah. Like you would just introduce yourself and start talking to this person. And I have had this happen to me. I've been out wearing my letters—or actually somebody who goes to my church is a member of my organization, and I met them because they saw my car, which had a tag on it, and they left me a note on my windshield wiper with their phone number saying “Hey call me.” Like literally this is how people in the sorority will meet each other. And you know I've never been somewhere where, you know, someone just didn't act friendly towards me because of the sorority.
I remember when I first joined my sorority, I went to a conference, and I was really nervous about going to the conference because my prophyte wasn't going. And I was like, “I'm not going to know anybody 😰,” and she was like “Hello! It's a sorority conference, like everyone there is supposed to be your sister!” And sure enough when I got there, everyone was like “Oh, you came by yourself? You can sit with us. You know, I'm so-and-so. Hey, how's it going? Tell me about yourself.” And by the time I left I was friends with most of the people there. Like...I...we were cool! And that's how it should feel when you go to church—but it doesn't.
Going to a new church is one of the most intimidating things. I mean it's like—it is less intimidating to go to the club by yourself than to go to a church by yourself, and that's a problem, because that's not how it's supposed to be. And you know, I remember I had a sorority sister who needed to come to South Florida to take care of some business, but she didn't have money for a hotel room, and I happened to live close where she needed to handle her business—me and another sorority sister, but the other sorority sister I had was living, I think with her boyfriend or something. There was a reason that she couldn't offer her a place to stay. They knew each other. I only knew of her through the sorority, but she ended up staying with me because I'm the one who had the space for her to stay, and that is something that we... I mean when have you ever been like, “So I have business in…” Let's pick a random place. “I have business in...uh...San Francisco. I don't know anybody in San Francisco. I really need to go out there and handle this business, but I just do have enough money for the flight. I don't have any money for a plane ticket. I am going to call the Church in San Francisco, and tell them what's going on and somebody from this Church is going to offer me a room to stay in for the night, so that I can do what I need to do and get back over here.”
Have any of y'all experienced this? I've never experienced this, ‘cause the devil got us with fear, right. ‘Cause we're afraid. What if the person calling is not really who they say they are? What if they're crazy? What if they murder me in my sleep? What if the person I'm going to stay with is crazy? What if they murder me in my sleep? That's fear, y’all. That’s the devil talking; that is not of God.
Just like I gave my sorority sister a bed for the night, we are supposed to be doing this for our fellow Christians. Family and church are synonymous. Jesus goes through this in Matthew 12:48-50. Its synonymous, OK. There should be no orphans in our churches. OK, we're always talking about people growing up in single-parent homes. If you're growing up in the church, you may only have a mother in your house, or you may only have a father in your house, but the men and women of the congregation should be stepping up to act as mothers, to act as fathers to those children. We should not be abandoning our old people. They should not feel lonely. Single people in the church should not feel lonely. Even amongst married couples, they shouldn't feel isolated. New mothers: they should have support. We are supposed to be a community and a family, and it should be the least intimidating place to go. We should be able to go there and receive help and give help as needed. And I did not learn that in a church setting, I learned that in a sorority setting, and that's sad. But that's not the only thing I learned in my sorority so let's keep going with what I learned.
The second thing I learned is about image and how I present myself to the world. If you’ve ever watched sororities, you know that there is a lot that goes on. Like from branding, so for instance wearing your colors. I remember while I was in college I almost never wore the colors of the other organizations. I still...there is some times where I'll put on color combinations, I'm like “Oooh I can't wear this; this is not working right.” And it’s just because if I was going to an event I was going to wear my sorority colors, because it identifies me as a member of my sorority. But it wasn't just about the colors and the letters. One of the first things they told me when I joined the sorority is that once you join the sorority people see you as a member of the sorority, they don't see you as an individual. And so you're no longer out here representing yourself you're representing the sorority: what you say, what you wear, what you do, how you behave, how you treat people... And when they first told me this, I didn't really pay it that much attention. But as I think about my own process of joining the sorority: why I joined the sorority, how I thought about Greek life; it was true. I never went to the websites of every single sorority in high school and read about them. And you know, understood what they stood for. When I went to college my entire basis of what I believe about Greek life and sororities and fraternities came from the people I had met growing up. How they treated me, how they treated people around them, what they did in the community, that is what I thought their organization stood for, and that is what I believed about people in that particular organization. And that made me either interested or not interested in those particular organizations.
When I joined my sorority and after I had been a member for a while, one of my neos has reiterated this point when she came to the interest meeting, and she said she wanted to join the organization. The reason she listed for wanting to join the organization was because the two of us had been at an awards ceremony together and she had seen me get an award for having a really high GPA. And it had inspired her, and she felt like you know, our organization was doing a lot of things academically—and the sorority is founded on education and on pursuing education. It was actually only established for educators. It's only been in recent years that non-educators could join the organization, and so she wanted to be a part of that. And so seeing that action from me, was part of what inspired her to join the organization. Mind you I had never talked to her. We didn't actually meet at this event. It was just that one thing that was drawing her into organization. I've had other people who joined the organization to have said similar things. Something that... Some interaction they had with some person is what motivated them to join the organization, and even for myself the interactions I had with people who are already in the organization are what led me to choose that particular organization.
The same thing is true about followers of Christ and the church. Most people are not out here reading the Bible cover to cover. They're not studying the Bible. They're not going through and reading the Hebrew and Greek translations, and learning all of the different nuances about context of the Bible. They're not going through the exegesis of the Bible. They're not reading apologetics. They are not into the Word that deep. Their introduction to God is me and you, it's the people who are professing to be followers of Christ. And what they're seeing from us is what they think Christianity is all about. That's what they think God is about. So if we're out here acting like hypocrites, that's what they think God is about. If we're out here being hateful and spiteful, that's what they think God is about, and if we're out here loving and doing the Will of God then that's what they'll think God is about.
And a lot of people if you talk to them about why they're against Christianity or why they're not Christian or why they’re not Believers, the things that come out of their mouth are not Biblical! They are things that the Bible would agree with them on, and be like “Yeah Jesus doesn't believe that either!” But what they see tells them something different.
And still in Matthew 12 (Matthew 12:33), Jesus again tells us that you know a tree by the fruit, right. A good tree bears good fruit. A bad tree bears bad fruit. Your actions speak to what you are, what kind of tree you are. Are you a follower of God? Are you not a follower of God? Your actions will tell that. How you portray yourself to the public will tell that story. You do not have to put a big sign in front of an apple tree that says it is an apple tree. You see the apple on it, you see that it's a good apple that you want to eat the apple, you know it's an apple tree. Same thing with a pear tree, a plum tree, a banana tree. It doesn't matter. You can look at the fruit. You can tell them that it's a good fruit, and you can tell that you can eat it. You don't need a sign.
The same thing as true as Christians. I don't need to wear a shirt that says “Christian” or that says “I love Jesus.” What I need to do is act like what God told me to act like in his Word, and that is how people will know the fruit of my labor. That's how they will know that I am a good tree bearing good fruit, and that will also help then to identify Christ and want to pursue a relationship with Christ.
Like I said I learned that from the sorority and from having to deal with knowing the consequences of my actions would reflect on the sorority. Knowing that the directors of Greek life were going to have something to say to me if I was doing something crazy. You know, knowing that people were watching me with certain expectations. All of that informed how I was behaving, and so the same thing is true here. There's a lot more than I can say but for time’s sake, I'm going to jump to the third point.
And that is about prioritization and excuses. So when you join an organization, one of the first things you learn is that suddenly you have a lot on your plate. OK? You’re supposed to be a student; that is your first and primary reason for being in college. You’re supposed to have good grades. You supposed to get a decent GPA. You supposed to learn whatever you need to learn, get whatever internships you need to get, so that you can get a job when you graduate—otherwise you're not going to be able to pay Sallie Mae back, and thats going to be a problem. That's your first priority, but you also want to do things, extracurricular things, and in most cases an organization is not going to accept you into their organization unless you have other things going on. So for instance I was involved in a lot of community service organizations on campus, my prophyte was involved in band (I was also in a band). You know, my neos were in various different organizations. There was one organization, the organization that was the largest organization, their members were in everything. You know, they were mentors. They were on the welcoming committee. Like, you could not get through your freshman year without meeting somebody from this organization through the other organizations on campus, and I think that was strategic, but in general you have responsibility in those organizations as well.
But then when you join your sorority, you take on obligations and responsibilities there too. So now you need to manage your time and your schedule such that you are able to get everything done without failing at something. And when you're in trouble, you need to let somebody know I can't get this done. There are no excuses for why you're not getting things done. A lot of times we think certain things are valid excuses, but the truth is what you want to do, you will do, and what you want to get done will get done. This is the most important lesson I have learned in my life. People make time for what they want to make time for, and that goes a long way. I'm telling you guys whether it's about relationship, friendships, goals: it does not matter. When you want to do something, you will do it you will find a way to get it done. I’ve seen this time and time again with my own planning, with other people's planning. If people are constantly forgetting you or neglecting you. They're not getting your stuff done? It's not a priority. When you make a list, say you make a list of things that you need to do and there's this one thing that you keep forgetting to do. You never get it done. It's because it's not a priority to you. It's not important to you. You're okay with it being unresolved.
I learned this going through the sorority, you know. When things get bad, you know, these are the kind of conversation you have. Why aren't you doing this? Why didn't you get this done? Why are your grades slipping? You shouldn't be so concerned about showing up to the party if your grades are slipping. These types of conversations really make you refocus your priority list, what your actions are doing vs. what you're saying.
And I know that a popular phrase within the church is “giving honor to God who is first and foremost in my life.” And as I was going through my 20s I started to realize that there are a lot of things that I was doing that put priority on something else over God. In life there are things that we want that God does not want for us. And I have found myself as I got into my late 20s and even now in my 30s saying phrases like “Y'all I want something that I don't want to want because God doesn't want me to want it, but I want it. But I don't want it.” And these are the cases where we start getting real tangled up and real messy with our prioritization and our excuses. We start doing things we ain't got no business doing or avoiding doing things that we should be doing. We say “oh I'm too tired to do this,” “oh you know I'm going to do this tomorrow,” or whatever, and we put off things and never do it. You know, I'm going to read the whole Bible from cover to cover, but I don't. But I spent 2 hours scrolling through Instagram. Or you know, I don't know. I'm going to go to prayer meeting. I didn't go to prayer meeting, but I watched every episode of this new show that they just put out on Netflix, right?
We do these things. because where our priority is, is often within self. We live in a society that is always talking about self—self love, self care, self healing. And I'm not saying that these things are bad in and of themselves, but we have to be mindful that is not all—it's not about self, OK. God is self-less. And sometimes we have to prioritize God over ourselves, or actually all the time we should be prioritizing God over ourselves. But one of the examples that I can use for you guys is that last week when I started this series, I said I wanted to do all three episodes last week. That didn't quite happen, but I did manage to get 2 out during last week. And that second episode almost killed me to get it out.
The day that I—the night before I was going to publish that episode, one of my friend asked for a ride to the airport. Now like I said in the very beginning about being like family I realized that I should give her a ride to the airport. I didn't have a reason not to, and in general it didn't seem like a big deal. It's probably like a 20-minute drive to the airport, so I figured this might take 40 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour at most, right. It's an hour. I can spare an hour, still get this podcast edited, the transcript done, publish everything. It'll be fine. But then she was running late, one thing happened, another thing happened, and this turned into like 2 hours, and so I didn't end up getting home until like 10 o'clock that night. And I had not done anything for the podcast before I left. So when I got home at 10, I was like “oh man this is about to be rough. I am not going to be able to get this done and still get a nice 8 hours of sleep and get to work bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning.” But I was prioritizing the fact that God had asked me to do that episode, and it's sad that God was asking me to get this message out for whatever purpose. And so I was like, “You gotta do this. You gotta get this done. You gotta get this episode out. You made the decision not to work on this more before you left.” ‘Cause I had three hours that I could have worked on it before I went to pick her up, and I just did not. So I told myself like you're going to suffer the consequences because you need to keep your priorities straight. So I started working on the episode; it took me until 2 a.m. to finish editing it and doing the transcripts and doing the graphics and all of that. And I published it.
And you know what, God rewarded me, because I still woke up in time to get to work on time at 7:30. I was not tired at work. I didn't fall asleep at my desk. I was good. I made it all throughout that day. I got everything done. I was fine. This weekend I caught up on my sleep. Everything is great.
This is a type of prioritization that is hard, and it took me a long time to be able to look at myself, look at my actions, and realize that I'm actually prioritizing something else over God. Because we naturally like to make excuses for ourselves. We like to say “Well God knows my heart.” “Well God knows that I needed some rest,” and “He knows that, you know, I was tired” or “He knows that, you know, this is OK,” “I need to do this to pay my bills. I need to do this to get this job and I need this job because I need the money,” and all of these things. And we'll start compromising what God has asked of us, whether it's a commandment that God has asked of us or the conviction that God has given us. And we will put that down to follow something the world has taught us. And that is not keeping God first. That is a prioritization issue. And I learned how to identify that through my sorority.
Wrap Up (00:27:44)
So these are the 3 things that I think have had the most profound effect as I've been growing in Christ, like I said in my 20s and now into my 30s. And I realize that the roots of all of these things actually were given to me by the sorority that I joined, and I'm thankful for that, but I wanted to put it out there. Because I think these are things that we should be getting from the Church these are things that should be, for somebody like me who grew up in the church, I should have already known these things by the time I joined the sorority. I shouldn't have had to join a sorority to learn these things, and I just wanted to share that for people who are new in the faith, for people who are, you know, old heads in the faith, that we need to do a better job—we, me included— of teaching ourselves and those around us in the body of Christ these traits, so that we can form a stronger bond, a stronger Church. That way we can be more effective and more efficient at spreading the love of God.
So I hope that this helps you and I hope this helps you to understand where I'm coming from as I continue the podcast. Thank you guys for tuning in, once again. Much love to you guys. dDon't forget to subscribe. You can add me on Instagram shiree.hughes and I will see you guys next time. Also the transcript for this particular episode is at www.psalmstoGod.com/christianlife. See ya.
References and Footnotes
- ”They” being the lessons not the sorority.
- ”Crossed” is a term used in Black Greek Letter Organizations that basically means the when you joined the organization
- By tag I mean the front plate on my car, which used to have my sorority letters on it. It has since been damaged and I haven’t convinced myself to spend money to replace it
- A “prophyte” is someone who crossed into your chapter before you
- I definitely meant place to stay, but clearly I’m thinking hard about plane tickets
- A “neo” or “neophyte” is someone who recently crossed into the chapter.
- I might have pronounced this wrong…
- ”Exegesis”. Merriam-Webster; visited March 2019
- This is a legitimate personal example. This may have happened a few weeks ago