Confession: I have lived the majority of my life on a pedestal. It was the pedestal of all pedestals as, even in Christian circles, I had the reputation of being the Good Girl. The girl every God-fearing mother (and probably some perfectly heathen mothers too, for that matter) wanted their daughter to be.
I didn’t set out to be that girl, and I was always uncomfortable when anyone compared their children to me, but I was that girl, regardless.
What can I say? It is not in my nature to be rebellious. I guess I hate disappointing people too much. Goody-Two-Shoes is a title that comes all too easily to me. I’m sorry, okay?
But I don’t like the pedestal; it’s lonely up there.
So I decided to come down. And in the clumsy, fumbling, painful exercise of dethroning myself, I learned something that completely shattered my worldview.
If you grew up in church culture, you have probably heard ten thousand times that Christians are called to be in this world, but not of it. Right now, you’re probably thinking of that one family you know who have taken that statement and resolved to live it to the extreme.
What I’m realizing as I ponder the current state of my life is that we put too much focus on the latter part of that directive. After all, we’re already in the world, so how do we make ourselves “not of it”?
But are we in the world? Are we really, truly in the world as Jesus intended us to be?
I may be a citizen of earth—I may be a natural born resident of the U.S. of A.—but what I realized just this week is that I have never mastered the art of being in this world; I have only managed to perfect the religion of Be Not of It.
In her book, Interrupted, Jen Hatmaker reflects on her youth with this statement:
“I spent most of my time trying to ‘be separate’ (2 Corinthians 6:17), but what with all my arrogance and judgement, I’m not sure that was a tall order. I feared culture and the people in it, certain that my proximity to them would pave the road to perdition.”
I, too, used to be that girl. Thanks to the grace of God and the wilderness I have wandered this past year, I am her no longer.
Sometimes it scares me how easily I let that girl go. Sometimes I’m aware a part of her still lingers, nagging in the back of my mind that I have blurred the line between conviction and compromise.
I wish I could tell her for certain she is wrong. That all her fears are for naught. That in my descent into the heart of this world I have managed to remain entirely “not of it.”
But I can’t make that guarantee, because the line is harder to draw than one might think. And maybe I’m stupid to take a stroll into the darkness. Maybe this tumble from my pedestal is going to be the death of me.
Or maybe, just maybe, I’m finally learning how to be in the world the way Jesus was.