…and then a guy told me to take my shirt off.
Here’s the story:
When my parents asked us what we wanted for Christmas last year, we told them we wanted money. Our plan was to save what was given to us and purchase a season pass to Denver’s major amusement attraction—Elitch Gardens Amusement and Water Park.
Today was to be our second venture into the water park; the first venture was on a Saturday, and the place was so packed we could barely navigate through the crowds. We figured a Monday would be far less crowded. We made a decision the first time we went, that we were going to dress modestly, wear plenty of sunscreen, and have fun.
Today was no different. Yet, today was totally different.
In the morning, we wanted to take our first ride on one of the three speed slides—seven stories of pure water-pumpin’, heart-stoppin action. At the top, awaiting our turn to mount the slides, the (woman) lifeguard stepped up to my wife and said, “You need to take your shirt off for this ride.”
Here’s what probably went through my wife’s mind: “What? Really? Is there a safety protocol of which I’m not aware?”
Here’s how my wife responded: “Ummmm…I’m not going to…for religious reasons.”
Less than a second later, we were allowed to go down our slides.
The morning passed, and we ate lunch. As we ate, we decided to go down the speed slides again, as our first “after-lunch” ride. I mean, what genius right? I figured that if I was ever going to hurl, this would be the best way to get make it happen and get over it as soon as possible. Then my wife asked me what we should say if we were told to take off our shirts a second time. Looking back on it, what I decided we should say probably wasn’t the best decision. I said, “Just tell ’em that we’re not going to. If they have a problem with it, we’ll offer to climb back down the steps.”
We climbed the seven-story stairway to the top, once again. At the top, this time, was a different lifeguard. A dude lifeguard. By dude, I mean the prototype 27/28-year-old, shoulder-length blond haired, slick shades-wearin’, and surfboard-totin’ surfer dude.
There was a boy who had a shirt on, standing in line in front of us. When his turn came, the lifeguard said to the boy, “I need you to take your shirt off for this ride.” As the boy obliged, I reminded Jessica just to say, “I’m not going to take mine off.”
When the lifeguard came over, he looked at Jessica and asked, “Do you have a swimsuit underneath that?”
Jessica’s response: “Yes, but no thank you…it’s for religious reasons.”
Lifeguard: “Well, I’m just gonna say that any other lifeguard who comes up here is going to make you take your shirt off, but…I’ll be fine with it this time…but you, sir…”
(Nodding his head, pursing his lips, shoving a thumbs up into the air) *Motions for the removal of my shirt*
Me: “I’m sorry, but I’m not going to.”
Lifeguard: *Going off into rhetorical rant* “Are you serious? What, is it the same as her, for religious reasons? What are you? You got some kinda proof for that?”
Me: *Making a confused look* “Excuse me?”
Me: “Listen, if you want me to climb down these stairs, I’m okay with that.”
Lifeguard: “Nevermind, come on in. I’m not gonna be the (expletive) lifeguard who doesn’t let a couple people go down the slides.”
Have you ever felt like you were persecuted for your beliefs? Jessica and I soon found it difficult to avoid thinking about what we “could have said” or “should have said.” While I am not proud of the fact that we ended up thinking of worse words/tactics we could have used, our reflection was good in two ways:
First, by reviewing the situation, we figured out that we shouldn’t have been so anxious to declare that we “weren’t going to do what we were told to do.” Instead, from here on out, we will simply ask questions (e.g. “Is there specific protocol we are violating?” or “Would you rather we just leave and not go down these slides?”).
Second, by reviewing the situation, we concluded that if someone asks us why we will not remove our modest clothing, we will simply respond by saying, “Because we are Christians, trying to live according to God’s standards.” (I think, perhaps, that this guy may have heard his “last straw” after hearing about the claims and effects that “religion” has placed on people around him. I think what would be the better action, would be for Christians to indicate that we wear what we wear because of who we follow, as opposed to why we follow Him, or even the fact that we follow Him—because this would probably be a nice change for those with the same disposition this lifeguard carries. Unfortunately, our actions did not give him a different perspective).
I hope you will take note of how you were responding to our story. If you were responding in favor of our actions, please consider making a simple switch, in two ways, for whenever you find yourself in a similar situation:
One, instead of considering revenge or rash reaction, prepare yourself to respond with gentleness and truthfulness.
Two, instead of avoiding your commitment to Christ, prepare yourself to boldly stand for the One who suffered for you.
If, however, you were responding in favor of the actions of the lifeguard, please consider making a simple switch, in two ways, for whenever you find yourself in a similar situation:
One, instead of lashing out at the Christians who make mistakes, pat us on the head and ask us, “Aren’t you supposed to be better than this?”
Two, instead of thinking that we are brainwashed/cultic religious followers, help us by asking questions. Ask us who Christ is, and what He does for all who follow Him.
“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls” (I Peter 2:21-25).