In my hometown, I was never made to feel shame because my family didn’t attend church and I did. I knew it was different, but most people knew my family and it was accepted as factual. My parents were more conservative than almost all of the other families I knew, both politically and in their actions. They didn’t keep alcohol in our home, and I could count on two fingers the times I had heard either of them swear or use crude language in any way.
In my late teenage years, and especially once I got to college, I began to feel differently about this family dynamic. As people discovered this part of my faith, I started to feel pressure to convert my family or to take a stand in some way. For a time, I even used it as a badge of honor. Solemnly, “Yes, I chose this on my own,” implying my spiritual superiority over the sheep who had been born into Christian families.
Over the years I had developed staunch opinions on what it means to have a different belief system than loved ones, but suddenly I was challenged and defensive. I was no longer a child, in a situation out of my control. As an adult, I was now - some people expressed - in a position to change my family.
I did not want to change my family.
Any institution, be it a school or a camp or a marriage, looks different when you see that the Wizard is actually just a man behind a curtain. Working at a place I had previously seen as magical was the first time I truly, in my soul, understood that God is not a genie. And that maybe I didn’t believe everything I thought I did.
My high school sweetheart and I broke up on and off during our sophomore year of college, until we finally ended it for good. We had built a true friendship, but probably an unhealthy dependence, and we both needed to stretch our wings.
I was 19 by then and going through a lot of growing pains, years later than they were expected. In college, there were clear lines drawn in the sand between the “good girls” and the “troublemakers.” Unlike my hometown, there was no history to give yourself credit. You wore your label proudly or you got lost in the shuffle. Instead of feeling like college was a time to find yourself, it felt more like a time to Define Yourself.
The problem was that for the first time in my life I had real friends of different stripes. They had different political beliefs, different views on drinking. Some of my new friends were from big cities, and they knew more about fashion and style and ambition. I soaked in this microcosm of culture clash. I dated boys who weren’t so nice, I hurt others in unforgivable ways, I betrayed and was betrayed in ways I thought only unfolded on after school specials.
All of this with my Bible and nights of Praise & Worship as the backdrop.
continue to Have Faith, Part V...