I grew up in a Christian bubble. As the daughter of conservative-schooled seminary graduates, I experienced Christian summer camps, hand-made coolots, traditional hymns and at least 18 summers of one-piece swimsuits.
I could not imagine a world where notes could be written on notepads printed without a bible verse, or where a refrigerator magnet did not say “Bless this Home.” Christian stores, Christian school, Christian bracelets, Christian music, Christian books; everything in my world was “Christian.”
At the age of 18, I took my dad’s adage of “when you’re in my house, you play by my rules,” to the next level, and decided to experience the life that everyone around me seemed to be experiencing. Starting fresh in my own place, I started giving in to temptations that my only weapon over was so-called wisdom suggesting “the Bible says not to do that.” For me, God’s word was a rule book, and as far as I was concerned, I had already played by the rules and I still felt empty.
I began accepting invitations to stay after hours at the restaurant where I worked to drink. I wanted my identity to be in a society of acceptance, and I certainly wasn’t finding acceptance in Christianity. Instead I only found a set of rules, a formula telling me what not to do.
I didn’t know what to say the first time someone offered me drugs, so I said yes. I was not equipped for things like that, because in my world, in my bubble, only “bad” people did that. We weren’t “those” kind of people.
Well, what are “those” kind of people? It turns out I am one. Bitter from life in a church where nothing seemed realistic, I took cover in things that seemed logical to me. It did not seem logical that “we,” the fundamentalist Christians, could be so passionately pro-life but simultaneously so anti-life! We marginalize the “outsiders” of the faith. We don’t associate with anyone who would bring us down. Life sometimes doesn’t look so pretty, and to truly show someone what God’s love looks like, I believe, we have to be willing to reach them there. But I hadn’t been taught that.
What I had been taught were twisted half-truths. I remember specifically being told as a child to not be “unequally yoked.” What was at the heart of that was nothing more than racism blanketed by twisting God’s word. I was taught that this equated with not mixing race when you date or marry. What kind of wisdom is that to impart on a child? I felt so betrayed with so-called truths such as these.
As a child, hearing the popular phrase “God helps those who help themselves” became something to aspire to. It was the old pull yourself up by your bootstraps mentality that became something to strive for, a way to make it on your own-except for the fact that God helps those who cannot help themselves! It was more twisted truth leaving me reeling.
Unfortunately, I learned otherwise the hard way. After an “escape attempt” under the guise of a marriage that quickly failed, I realized that I had no coping skills to deal with the things life kept throwing at me. Despite every attempt to pull myself up, I kept failing miserably. The standards I grew up under were crumbling around me, and I found myself feeling as if I had no boundaries, no limits to the things I would seek comfort in.
After being honest with myself and with God I realized that I could no longer try to be the general manager of the universe. I had embraced everything, and lost myself under it all. At that point, I reached out for the first time, and felt grace, a grace that embraced me, this covert girl meeting darkness, often during the light of day. God instead shown his radiant light into my darkness and I learned for the first time that I have value being created in Christ’s image, and that my identity was not based on any group I associated with, what city I lived in or persona I adopted.
I felt recognized for the first time, and it felt great being so honest. My unstable nature suddenly became one of assurance as I realized that God allowed me this path so that I could see what true salvation looked like. It wasn’t anything I could obtain. It was only something He could give.
What that meant for me is that I no longer had to push the envelope to see if God would still accept me. Each time I ask God to meet me where I’m at, He says, “I have.” I hear God say to me “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matt. 11:28, The Message).
And that is life outside a Christian bubble. Perhaps we need our bubble burst. I don’t recall stories of Jesus only ministering to the church. In fact, I recall more rebuking of formulaic theology than rebuking the lifestyles of those in need. We all need to be reminded of what it is about Jesus that is so radical. He offers grace. He offers love to those who will seek Him with reckless abandon—and reckless is something I have covered.
Radically, I don’t feel abandoned anymore.