way. Most of my closest friends wore a label different than my
own. As I interacted with them, I felt confused. They were fun
and smart and often true friends, but the ever present “in or
out” mentality within erected barriers in our relationships. I
could not relax, let down my guard, and enjoy those that my
church labeled as “other.”
At the same time, I witnessed several troubling
situations and relationships within my church. Various shades
of affairs and scandals came to light. One of my Sunday School
teachers left his wife and family and created a new life with one
of my teenage friends. I witnessed a youth minister tell one of
my youth group friends that she had “bedroom eyes.” Though
I was uncomfortable at the time, it was years later that I realized
he was saying that she had seductive eyes that expressed sexual
longing. Were those of us inside the church really all that
different? Did he take actions beyond using inappropriate
words with my friend?
Despite internal uneasiness as I reached high school,
college, and beyond, I nonetheless held onto the dogmas I had
learned, and I operated adeptly within this system. I was afraid
to step too far outside of this circle despite the internal
misgivings I often experienced. Fear of “others” was ingrained
in my mindset. There was much vocabulary around this idea,
from fallen, to hell bound, to sinner. I preferred to view myself
in the category of saint. Somehow acknowledging my very real
struggles as a human being was a threat to the image I desired
to transmit within my circle as well as out into the world. I
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