The Great Divide: when your friends have different values to you

Most of us discover this at uni. For some of us it happened way back in high school. When you have a different moral line to your friends, a strange and sometimes painful phenomenon occurs that I like to call ‘The Great Divide’.

Your friends want to skip class and go to the beach, but you know your education is important, and you don’t want to dishonour your parents by failing a class and having to repeat it. So you say no.

Your friends want to go out drinking and gambling. You have work in the morning. “Come with us,” they say. “You only live once (what an overused phrase in residency halls across Australia).” You stay in, and then go to work, feeling fresh the next morning.

Or your friends say, “Just hook up with that guy/girl. They’re really cute. It’s only one night. You can say sorry in the morning.”

You say no. And are shunned as a result (whether consciously or not).

See, you understand that you do indeed only live once, but your definition of living a full and complete life is more often than not a little different than your friends’.

My whole unit found out that I was Christian on my first day at res. I didn’t even have to try. Trust me, it is not that hard to stand out in an environment like that.

We played one of those bingo mixer games and when one stranger/potential new friend got frustrated because they couldn’t find one single person so far who could have a good time without drinking, I volunteered for that category. Like wildfire my answer got around, and bam, I became ‘the Christian girl’.

When people meet you (or hear about you) and find out that you’re Christian, they will assume a lot of things about you. Let’s be real here. Who hasn’t encountered a version of one of these?

You are conservative. You are judgemental. You are crazy/weird. You are going to shove your religion down my throat. You think that everyone else is either the anti-Christ or carrying a demon (or several).

The list goes on. Their mouths may not always say it, but one way or another the message is delivered loud and clear.

And believe me, I know what it’s like to fight through all those assumptions and misconceptions, slowly breaking down that super-religious, total fruitcake image that people have of you the second they find out you have faith.

You are going to lose friends, or at least the chance of closer friendship/acceptance with some people, because of Christ. It’s just the truth. My older sister was the one who actually introduced the idea of The Great Divide to me.

I was upset one day when she came to visit my residents’ hall, saying that all my friends would bond over drinking etcetera, and I would end up getting left out. I couldn’t break through what seemed like an invisible barrier. As I sat there, getting frustrated while trying to figure out how to break through this, close this gap, my sister just said, “You can’t. There is only so far you can go and then your principles stop you. There will always be a gap between you and them because you’re just not willing to do that stuff.”

It was a revelation that brought no joy or relief, except maybe the relief of quitting trying to blend in with them and be their best bud. It’s a hard thing to accept, but I finally realised that I was going to them for acceptance when I should have been going to God. Friends are great and loneliness can suck sometimes (and uni can be a real struggle for a lot of us as Christians) but coming to a realisation that Jesus is everything we need ends that struggle a lot faster (and don’t get me wrong, I’m still learning that). Our identity needs to be found in Him, and Him alone.

Otherwise we will never be fulfilled. Always chasing the in crowd, never feeling like we are enough. But instead of craving the approval of people, look for something more. C.S. Lewis said it right.

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

You do only have one life on earth. How are you going to live yours?

Sincerely, Lil

‘God, This is Not What I Ordered’: when God says no and other answers we don’t want to hear

Ever felt like saying that to God? You pray and pray about something, so full of faith and sure that God will comply, and when it doesn’t turn out how you expected, you think God didn’t answer.

So did He or didn’t He?

Recently a situation turned out almost opposite to what I was expecting and when it happened I was so surprised and said, “But I prayed about this so much.” Like as if my prayers didn’t work or God was somehow out of the office that day.

So many times we fall into the trap of thinking that God is like Jim Carey in the movie Bruce Almighty sending out a blanket ‘yes’ to every person in His prayer inbox.

My church has recently been doing a series on prayer and it really stuck in my memory when our pastor said, “Thank God He didn’t answer every prayer of mine with a yes!” The thing is, even though we think we know best, we don’t. Not more than a sovereign God.

God hears every prayer. And He always answers, but it’s not always a yes. Sometimes it’s a ‘no’, or a ‘later’.

To again quote the wise words of my pastor Russ, “Instead of asking, ‘God, get me out of this,’ ask:

‘God what can I get out of this?’”

God wants to teach us. He wants us to be obedient and not run away when He tries to build our character. And take it from me, building character is never fun, and almost always involves being humbled in some way (or every way). This is good for us because God “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6, NIV). He delights in the heart that admits to not having it all together.

Because He wants to be needed. We are designed to be totally dependent on Him, and then we walk through life trying to depend on other things, we’re like a six foot man struggling with a child’s crutch, wondering why it won’t work.

I often want the whole plan for my life laid out before me (or at least the next 5 years) but, while God does speak to me about things to come, He actually wants me to walk with Him, spend time daily seeking His face. He wants to be known. How incredibly personal is that?

God never promises that we won’t get hurt. In fact, He is so invested in our characters that He often allows us to experience pain, and I think that is something that a lot of people, myself included, need to get straight. Instead of promising an easy ride, Jesus says, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first” (John 15:18 NLT).

This morning it was brought to my attention, not for the first time, that my life is not my own. We died, remember? “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3, NIV).

I’ve been grumbling to God and others about how His testing and character building is inconvenient in my life. I was reminded today this one simple, life-changing truth.

My life is about the Father’s business.

We need to adjust our lives according to truth, not experience or feeling. In order for us to be effective in the world, we need to let God lead us through the wilderness (the desert, the valley, whatever you want to call it…) in preparation.

Preparing our character involves developing things like… our loyalty, wisdom, humility, integrity, obedience, responsibility, accountability. None of these are fun words but all of them combined create a heavy enough anchor to hold us when the storms, the challenges, the growth and the blessings of life come.

“But we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope …

… and hope does not disappoint.”

(Romans 5:3-4).

Sincerely, Lil

Image: http://tlcatholic.blogspot.com.au/2014/05/give-god-your-teddy-bear-and-get-bigger.html
Sourced: 9 May 2015