I have been very blessed to have an amazing Christian community right from the start. I was spoiled, really- I didn't have to work hard at finding new Christian friends like I know some other people have had to do. Instead I was instantly accepted into the group of friends that Chris already belonged too. They were his small group (church language for bible study group) and immediately they were my small group. This group hung out a LOT. Once a week bible study, lunches after the Sunday service, and often some sort of hang out on Friday or Saturday night. I felt like I was thrown into the deep end, and at times it felt like it was a sink or swim senario.
They seemed like normal people alright, but there were subtle differences. I didn't understand a lot of their jokes. For instance, why is it funny to call someone a Pharisee? Better question WHAT is a Pharisee?? And why does everyone burst out laughing when someone says they were worried they were "left behind"? Bible Study was a little intense. I would get sweaty palms when we were all asked to flip to a certain passage in the bible because I had NO IDEA where it was, and always spent twice as long looking, only to give up and check the Table of Contents in the front. (So embarrassing) Don't even talk to me about when it came to prayer time. Praying out loud?? Full on panic attack. These people could be having a conversation about God and say stuff like "Well in Matthew 6 it says____. How on earth do you memorize this stuff?? And then they talked about "Talking to Jesus" (like they had some sort of direct phone line to the guy) in regular conversation. Color me confused.
Even with these differences I felt quite comfortable around them. Aside from the time that they asked me if I'd like to go to dinner to talk about the Bible. I can't even describe how crazy it felt to be sitting in Boson Pizza with 3 other people with our bibles on the table. People stared and honestly I didn't blame them. The funny thing though, is that I clearly remember being less worried about what the other people in the restaurant were thinking, and more worried that those 3 people were going to find me out. I was terrified that they would realize that I don't fit into their exclusive club- not one bit.
When I first accepted Jesus, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. Chris and I have talked about how we wonder if anyone really does. As I said in my last post, God was quite gracious to me in how He slowly changed my heart. I'm not sure I could have handled a radical change where all of a sudden I didn't want to listen to music with swears, or was bothered by sex on TV and in movies. There is a lot of sacrifice that goes along with following Jesus, and if it had come all at once, I'm not sure what my reaction would have been. So, while I am thankful that I was able to ease into it, there were some side effects of feeling like I didn't quite belong on either side of the line.
When I was first saved I still swore, and made a lot of jokes about sex. I would leave Bible Study, get in my car and crank up my hardcore music- singing along with each line regardless of the swears. I still smoked cigarettes on and off (something I had done since I was 15) and at the very start I even still got drunk.(Feeling guilty every time) Each time one of these things was exposed to one of my new friends I felt so awkward. I knew they didn't engage in these things and I felt embarrassed, but at the same time I somehow felt like these things were what kept me myself. I felt like it was my mission to prove to the world (mainly my friends and family) that I could be a Christian and it wouldn't change my life. I was still me.
The truth is, I was wrong. I was no longer me as I knew myself- and that's ok. It says in the Bible that it is no longer me that lives, but Christ who lives in me. It took me a while to understand what that meant, but when I did, and I accepted it, it suddenly all made sense. The changes came easier, and with less resistance from me. The beginning really was hard - there truly was a time where it seemed like I had one foot in each world because that is exactly what was happening.
At some point you have to choose though, and I chose Jesus. Not so I could fit in with this new life and these new people, but because every single change I have made has made me feel more joy than I ever expected. Each sacrifice of a television show that doesn't line up with the Kingdom, each promise made and kept to God about smoking and drinking- it has all drawn me into closer relationship with Him, and there is no better reason than that.
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