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?