We moved to California a little over 3 years ago. It was the middle of the school year and up to that point, they had attended a public charter school. After visiting several schools in the area, we chose to put our children in a small, private Christian school. There were a variety of factors that came into play when making that decision - the fact that we are Christian being one of them, of course - but if I'm being honest, it was mostly because the overall "feel" of the school felt similar to the one they were leaving, and we felt it would be the easiest transition.
Now that my daughter is about to enter high school, we have decided that we want to move her to public school. Again, there are a variety of factors coming in to play here, but simply put - we just think it's what's best. Like all decisions we make as parents, we could soon learn that we made the wrong one. I think that may have happened one or eighty-seven other times but who's counting? For now we're listening to our heads and our hearts and trusting that God has a little something to do with how we feel.
As you can imagine, my daughter is apprehensive. She's got friends - a lot of them, actually - who aren't leaving her current school. The new school is close to 10 times the size of her current one. As far as we know, she'll only know a few people when she first starts out. These are very real, and very legitimate fears. We've told her this and we don't expect her to suppress them.
But one night recently as we were discussing her anxieties about the move and why she was so skeptical she said something that really broke my heart. She said…deep breath…"But, Mom. There are going to be kids there who aren't…Christian."
Oh, sweet girl.
My mouth gaped open for a minute. I shut my eyes and shook my head. She knew immediately that what she said bothered me.
"I'm sorry! I'm not trying to be mean!"
I know you're not. But what a disservice I have done for you and I'm disappointed in myself. Somewhere in my attempt to teach you how to be a good Christian, I apparently neglected the most important part! You see, when Jesus gathered his disciples he did NOT say, "Listen up, y'all. We all agree that this Christianity thing is awesome, right? Well, I really think it'd be super cool to keep this club exclusive, so don't go telling anyone else and for sure don't hang out with anyone else. Yuck. Now grab a coffee and talk amongst yourselves."
Nope. Not how things worked AT ALL (I mean, besides the obvious).
I know lots of people who are Christians, obviously. Most of them walk the walk. They follow God's word and they "do unto others". But some of them…well, let's just say they don't paint us in the best light. They spend a lot of time congratulating themselves on being "Christian" and looking down on everyone who happens to be different. Those people frustrate me a little because that's really not the best recruitment strategy if you think about it.
I also have friends who aren't Christian. I can think of one specifically, who is a different religion and her set of beliefs is quite different than mine. But let me tell you, she is a wonderful person. She is funny and hard working and talented and brilliant, and she is also one of the most philanthropic people I know. She's just lovely. If I went through life opting to only interact with people who think exactly like I do, I wouldn't know her. And I would really be missing out.
I know you're not perfect, but you've got such a big heart. So big that sometimes I swear I can see it beating. I see it when you're willing to help classmates with their homework even though they haven't been a good friend to you. I see it when you come to me and ask if you can invite a girl over who you don't usually hang out with because you know she's having a hard time and could use a friend. I see it when you see something sad on television and then come wake me up in the middle of the night because you can't stop thinking about it. I see it when you feel sorry for the homeless people you see on the side of the road and when you want to save every stray dog you see - even when we're on vacation and our hotel doesn't allow pets.
As much as I'd like to (and trust me - I'd really, really like to), it's not fair to keep people with hearts like yours all wrapped up tight in a safe little bubble. Hearts like yours are the biggest, flashiest billboards that Christianity could hope for. Hearts like yours are meant to go out in the world and be seen. Even when it's a little bit scary...for both of us.