July 20, 2011 by Heather Harris
My Senior year of high school was a year of depression and angst, saturated with an overwhelming feeling of being trapped. All I wanted was to get out, to find help and encouragement in a college environment that I knew was God-centered. I fought the odds against me: the cost, the fact that my parents couldn’t contribute (they couldn’t even co-sign on any private loans), and the fact that the school I wanted to go to was 6 hours away from home. Late in the summer before my freshman year of college, I finally succeeded and was able to enroll for classes at Grace College and Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, IN. You couldn’t have found a happier or more grateful person than me at that point.
But then the time came to leave my family, my boyfriend, my home…And I struggled, while I was away at school. The distance put a strain on my relationship with my boyfriend. My homesickness deepened into depression and I turned to self-injury and abuse of painkillers. Even among fellow Christians who befriended me, supported me, and encouraged me to seek help and counseling, I still felt incredibly alone. So at the end of my freshman year, I decided to try to transfer to a Christian school that was closer to home.
But God had other plans.
Looking back, I think God always meant for me to go to University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, commuting from home, but my insistence on going to a Christian college and my persistance in finding a way to get there persuaded Him to let me see that the Christian bubble wasn’t what I needed, though it may have seemed that way at the time. It was good for me to go to Grace and make lifelong friends (affectionately referred to as “Gracies”) that I still keep in touch with, who still encourage and support me in my walk with Christ, and I believe that it was His will for me to be there for the time I was there. However, I also believe He had other plans for me that I rebelled against, and have continued to rebel against until just recently. As outlined in my last post, God called the nation of Israel to a similar task. His purpose for them was to be a nation of priests to a world that needed to hear and learn about Him. Similarly, they rebelled against his calling. They fought to blend in instead of stand out for God. I have done the same. Instead of going against the grain and standing up for Christ, I have tried to go with the flow and stay unnoticed, but this year that is going to change. I believe God wants me at the school I’m at to make a difference for Him on a campus that more often rejects Him than receives Him.
Too often, I think that Christians are magnetically pulled into their own little Christian bubbles, and forget there’s a world outside we’re supposed to be witnessing to. Whether it be through individual acts or large organized events, we, as followers of Christ, are supposed to be reaching out, not huddling together with our backs to the lost.
I’m not saying to dismiss Christian fellowship. God says in The Bible that we need to stick together (Romans 12:5). What I’m saying is that we shouldn’t ONLY fellowship with other believers. Did Jesus only hang out with His disciples and religious people? No. In fact Jesus was called a friend of sinners (Luke 7:34), and He, himself, said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick…For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance,” (Matthew 9:12-13). Therefore, we need to do the same. Yes, we can rally together as a body of believers, but our purpose shouldn’t stop there. As Christians, we are called to reach out in love and point the lost to God. How can we do so if we insist on only communing with those who are already saved?
I believe God puts us all in situations where He knows we can grow and make a difference for Him. In a place where I don’t have as many Christians to lean on, I’ve learned to lean on Him. In a place where my beliefs and lifestyle aren’t generally accepted, my faith has been strengthened. In a place where there my Christian bubble has been popped, I have learned to reach out in love to those who need it most.
What about you? Have you experienced this popping of your Christian bubble, where God suddenly puts you in a place where you are almost alone in your faith? How did you deal with it? Were you like me and the Israelites and rebelled against God’s calling for you?