I should say at this point that I was raised to be a Christian. That’s not a particularly fashionable thing to say, and depending on how this story goes, you may even consider it sacrilege of me to say. I’ve always struggled with when exactly you reveal that information to people.
With friends, I let it come up naturally. In some cases that can mean years or hours based on the context of a friendship. With dating though, it’s a sticky subject. You don’t want to throw that matzo ball out there too quick. Otherwise the person on the other end of the table could start thinking you’re a militant from a Jesus camp, or an exhaustingly pious missionary who votes Republican, is anti-abortion and prejudiced against all kinds of people. Too late and you come off as hiding it and being a cult member trying to furtively enlist them.
All I’ll say about it right now is that it makes me especially sensitive to people looking for forgiveness. That’s supposed to be the whole rub of Christianity, but everyone puts all kinds of other loads and fine print on it.
That’s where I’m at. It’s just, sometimes I think I’m some sort of super-Christian, because my drinking, cussing co-workers all go to church … and I can’t help but think that they must have had terrible churches or that mine was extremely legalistic and I’m still not free of the invisible strings they can pull to control my behavior. I have no idea what they think of me; I know it’s not support to be that important – but it is, we all desire to belong. But I’ve always been told “bad company corrupts good character” and I’ve been wondering just where to draw the line. Being alienated from people you’re supposed to work with day in and day out – that’s just not a healthy environment. But I guess I’m me because I stand out as who I am. I give that up – and I’m not me anymore.
Jamie, thanks for reaching out and for the heartfelt response to my excerpt. I totally understand where you are coming from. I think it’s a common issue that we all generalize, and fall back on easy archetypes we’ve constructed for all manner of people, forgetting to account for people as individuals, rather than people as an “ism.”
I still struggle with this, and pray about it often, but the one idea that I’ve always held as a rock that can wash away the doubts of what my fellow congregation may think of me as a eccentric, drinking, smoker, cusser and general rake is this: at the end of all things, it’s Jesus who will tell me either “well done, good and faithful servant,” (Matt 25:23) or “I never knew you” (Matt 7:21-23). Above all else, hold that faith and relationship at the highest. Jesus doesn’t demand that we’re perfect, and anyone who expects themselves or you to be is missing the point. Jesus expects you to be you, and that the you that you are is a person who tries their utmost to be kind, respectful and full of charity and love.
Stay in touch, there’s more to come from this ongoing project.