What planet am I from anyway? Not really sure, but sometimes I feel I am bouncing between two very different ones, wondering what the weather will be like and if I should carry an umbrella or wear shorts.
I grew up in a devoutly Catholic home, praying the rosary, going to church every Sunday and attending a Catholic school for several years of my life. I was considered religious by many of my friends … but there were many inconsistencies in my life.
For all that I had learned about how to live as a good Christian/Catholic, I sometimes felt alone in my pursuits to live by God's standards. In fact, I felt more pressure to sin from the environment at my Catholic elementary/middle school than I did in my public high school. So whenever I resisted that temptation, which may not have been as often as it should have, I felt very self satisfied.
Eventually I went off to college and then grad school where I was indoctrinated into this thing called tolerance, which of course tolerated everything except a faith in Jesus as a Savior. All those years of supposedly behaving well, relative to some around me, now seemed like efforts in futility and ignorance. It makes me want to cry now to think how easily I began to shed my beliefs. Oh Peter, how I relate!
At the same time, I never had the opportunity to walk on Planet Christianity. I’d never known what it was like to really “hang” with people who really had a passionate zeal for the Lord as I did back then. I felt like a foreigner in a strange land. Don’t get me wrong, I hung out with decent, normal people. But I always felt if I shared my desire to know God with them, they might have thought I was weird. So I kept quiet about it. Some may chastise me for not becoming more of a disciple for Jesus by sharing my faith. But how could I do that when I didn’t know anything about it myself, having never, at that point, been encouraged to read the Bible, let alone study it.
Then one day, in my twenties, someone invited me to Planet Christianity. I call it this because that’s exactly what it was, a new planet. I mean, I’d heard of it and seen portrayals of it on T.V., but this planet usually tends to get bad press. When I got there I felt like I was finally coming home, there were people like me there. And yet, it was something like what a missionary kid might feel coming back to America after having grown up in Africa. Yes, there was a sameness, but I’d spent a long time out of my home culture and it impacted who I was and how I look at the world. So now, like a missionary kid (a.k.a. a third culture kid), I sometimes feel like I don’t fit on either planet.
You may ask why I call them planets. It’s because sometimes each of these worlds is so distinct and to some degree unaware of the other. Recently, I saw a CNN report featuring a well-known Christian musical group where the announcer was flabbergasted that live performances attracted so many fans when, as he put it, their music had never even played on the radio. I wanted to scream, “Just cause you don’t listen to Christian radio doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” He was clueless. And that’s the least of the issues those outside this planet are clueless about. Like the fact that there are actually lots of people who believe the Bible is the Word of God and seek to live their lives according to it.
But then, on the other side, many people who have grown up in small, conservative towns or in Good Christian homes don’t understand how people who didn’t have this hedge of protection make the sinful choices they do. I can tell you … it’s easy. I grew up in a good family who had high standards for my behavior, but outside my home was a world of relative good and bad that made it easy to disregard what my mom and dad taught me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Mary Magdelene. But sometimes it seems I identify with her more than I do the people of Planet Christianity—my home.
Back when I was a Sociology major, and I held the belief that every child was born the same, tabula rasa, blank slate. And that each person was only the summation of what their parents and society wrote on those slates, I often wondered, “Why would God put us in all these different circumstances that could lead us to either succeed or fail. However, I no longer believe we were all born the same. Some children are born with autism, some not. Some have life threatening allergies and some debilitating diseases. So why would God throw even more stuff into the mix to mess with our lives? Because He’s going to use those experiences.
I used to say God took me “window shopping” allowing me to have a glimpse of a human experience He wanted me to touch. As I said, I was considered (relatively) a good girl, though I didn’t always seek to live according to the Bible. But God put me in many places where I saw people struggling with some serious sin. And for some reason there were many people who felt the need to tell me their struggles, secrets they didn’t share with others. They needed someone to understand, to be with them where they were and gently lift them to where they should be. Unfortunately, at that time I didn’t have the means with which to do that—God’s Word. I do now!
Third Day has a line in the song This is Who I Am, that goes, “Take me as I am, but please don’t leave me that way.” That’s my Christian battle cry. For all those people who feel they, too, are floating between two planets or are already on Planet Christianity and not feeling like they’ve meshed with the culture, and for all those who want something more, but are afraid they just won’t fit in, let’s take each other as we are … but not leave each other that way. God has bigger plans in store for us.