Eighteen years. That’s a long time to be anything, especially a Christian. For the better part of those eighteen years, I was in an environment that encouraged my faith, and made it possible for me to develop an identity that wasn’t rooted in meaningless religious exercise. I was never taught that my faith made me a better person than those who didn’t share it. As a result of that faith, I developed a worldview founded upon the indisputable value of each person, and tried to live accordingly, though not perfectly.
Over the past eighteen months, I have been caught in a struggle. I don’t consider myself to be what I call an obnoxious Christian, so I don’t believe in shoving my faith in people’s faces or down their throats. Some may see this as being ashamed of being a Christian, but I honestly don’t see what in mainstream (Western) Christianity merits such pride. More importantly, I could not see what in my own life was worth being proud of.
I have moved from a safe faith environment to one that doesn’t readily seem to offer any place for the faith that has moulded so much of who I am. Thankfully, I am surrounded by some of the most amazing people I have ever known, but that encouragement in matters of faith has been missing. Some of these people don’t even see God as worthy of the least significance. Does that make them bad people? Definitely not. But, it made me have to step back and view my faith through different eyes. This place has done more than challenge me–it has revealed the absence of a living faith.
I was (and, in many ways, still am) in possession of a faith that had yet to transcend my intellect, and make its way into my heart. You see, I fully believe in all Jesus has done for me, but I had closed my heart to what He wants to do in me. I had woefully neglected to live out the very principles I claimed to hold dear. It took being away from the comforts of home for me to truly appreciate that my faith is worthless if it does not lead to a transformed heart. If I am not growing in my love towards people, if I deny others the same grace gladly extended to me, if I am not kind in the way I think about others, then how am I being Christian (like Christ)?
Now, I’m in a vulnerable spot–and vulnerability is not my strong suit. Surrounded by people who have accepted me, but appear to have little use for my Christ, all my inconsistencies are out in the open. To be honest, this is exactly what I needed…not a faith I can hide behind, but one that calls me to true love and openness.
It’s so ironic that it took being away from my Christian circle to reveal the deficiencies in my faith, but I’m grateful and humbled. Grace has found me in this place, and I trust it to lead me home.
If the faith I claim to hold has not taken hold of me, it is less than genuine…and so am I.