I am different. I always knew this about myself but I never really embraced it until the last few years. I was raised going to church every time the doors were open. Our family was there a minimum of 3 times a week. We went to private Christian school and all of our friends were raised by parents like ours. We never celebrated Halloween, the Easter bunny never left a basket and Christmas was about Jesus, not Santa. We prayed when we got sick, we prayed when there was a financial need, we prayed for everything. God was as real to me as the grass was. Still is. I have never doubted or questioned His existence because my parents never gave us the opportunity to. Growing up, He was the center of our lives and we lived to honor and obey His Word. My parents treated every situation as an opportunity to teach us what the Word says and how to please God with our actions. And I mean every single one. Seriously.
I am also naive. I thought everyone grew up like this. And if they didn't grow up as immersed in God as I did, they at least believed in Him. My mind could not grapple with the idea that some people did not believe in Him and hold His Word as the ultimate authority in their lives. When we moved out of state during my 7th grade year, my parents sent us to public school. I was terrified. I had never heard a curse word in my life, never knew any one's parents to drink alcohol, and never ever in all my 13 years encountered a kid who talked back to authority. I quickly learned that in order to survive (according to my immature calculations), I had to become like them.
The only problem with becoming like them was that my parents wouldn't allow it. So I rode the fence with my rebellion. I talked a mean game at school but as soon as I was home or with my church friends, I was angelic and God-fearing. I kid. I have never been angelic in my life. The older that I got and the more that I recognized how different we were from everyone else, I started to resent my upbringing.
Just to be clear, by them I mean kids who did not go to church regularly and by different I mean we were expected to live IN the world but not be OF the world (John 15:19-20). I wasn't allowed to date very often because my dad thought that everyone was having sex. We couldn't spend the night at friends' houses if my parents knew that their parents drank alcohol. We couldn't watch movies with bad language, nudity, or a rebellious message, etc. Basically, our lives were very censored in efforts to keep us from the world. And by world, I mean sin.
I just wanted to be like everyone else. Or at least not as different as everyone else. I wanted to have a "normal" teenagehood with dates and parties and opportunities for fun without the knowledge that those situations had the possibility of leading me down a path that didn't honor God. I wanted to worry about God when I was grown up, not when I was a teenager.
I spent the next couple of years out of my parents house following my own path and trying to figure out who I wanted to be. It took some really bad decisions that eventually led me back to living a God-pleasing life. I started to own my faith instead of just obeying what my parents told me to do. I studied my Bible like never before, I found my own church (and eventually made it back to my parents' church), I walked the walk. Being different no longer mattered to me. I embraced it because I finally understood that God's way is better than the world's way. And the cool thing is, I met people who were like-minded so being different wasn't as lonely.
I don't know where all of this is coming from. I suppose my heart has been heavy for the world and I have been reflecting on my view of it. And I have spent too much time covering up how I was brought up for fear of freaking people out over how differently I was raised to think, act and interact with the world. But I'm tired of trying to hide it. If believing in God and taking Him at His Word (in His Word) makes me a freak, then I will proudly fly my freak flag. This is who I am: a Christ follower who believes in a living God that still works in the world and speaks to His people. There. Feels good to get that off of my chest.