Not a Real Christian

Her name was Lyza and she hailed from south Georgia. She had waist-length light brown hair and thick-lashed brown eyes. We met at the tender age of nineteen when fate or circumstances would land us as roommates at a small Florida college.

 

We prayed together, broke bread together, and dissected women’s daily devotionals with a fat lavender candle lit between us. We decorated for Christmas and spoiled each other with tiny, thoughtful gifts that made the other smile.

 

She was, truly, a lovely spirit and a wonderful friend.

 

And then, one day, with real tears glistening in her eyes, she clasped my hands and said to me,

“JessieLeigh… you have such a good heart and such a strong mind… and, well, it just breaks my HEART that you’re going to Hell.”

 

I think I may have raised a single brow over a wide teal eye. A giggle erupted. “Lyza, what in the world do you even mean?”

 

“Well, you know,” and her voice got low, “because you’re not saved, JessieLeigh. You’re not really a Christian.”

 ************

There was one session that I knew I had to attend at Allume. Oh, there were oodles that looked interesting and helpful and informative. But there was ONE that I carefully underlined and committed to memory.

 

I trembled as I asked her the question, “So, I know you’ve converted to Catholicism and, well, I’m a cradle Catholic, but, still… I was just wondering… do you ever find other Christians telling you that you’re NOT a Christian now? At least, not a “real” Christian?”

 

She finished the question with me, even as my voice trailed off. The very fact that she knew what I was going to say was the answer, but she verbalized it anyway:

“Yes.”

 

And my heart broke anew.

 

The divisiveness. The walls. The insistence that “you don’t get it and you don’t know Christ and this-is-the-only-way” is so, I don’t know…. HUMAN. I simply can’t believe that Jesus would determine, “You know… she lives a good life. She has a strong mind. She stands for the weak. Defends the voiceless. Loves her neighbors. Loves ME. But, well, she’s not Southern Baptist. So, obviously, down to the infernal pits of Hell for her.”

 

And, no, I’m not describing myself up there. I’m far more flawed than that description would indicate. (Most of us are.) I only seek to make a point…

 

These labels? They’re not purposeless… they help us find a “tribe”, if you will. They allow us to have multiple avenues to pursue as we seek to grow closer to Christ. And I’m so grateful for that. It makes me happy that there are different ways to worship, different structures for a service, different buildings and layouts.

 

I may bow my head and fold my hands. You might raise your hands and face to the sky.

 

We both love Jesus.

 

All the methods and rituals and trappings? Those help us find a place that feels good. A place that meets our needs and allows us to grow while feeling safe and ONE.

 

Do I think God has a list of which denominations are “right” and which totally missed the boat?

 

No.

 

The only time I’ve ever felt, even for a moment, that one of my Protestant sisters or brothers in Christ was less of a Christian than me?

 

Was the day I was told I wasn’t a real Christian.

 

 

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17 comments to Not a Real Christian

  • Marcia

    Oh Jessie Leigh! That breaks my heart anew…because you see, I was raised in one of those Protestant denominations where we were taught that ours was the only way to heaven. I can remember being afraid to date my now husband (of ten years!) because he was Catholic! My mother in law has the patience of a saint because we (husband and I) would get into long theological debates, and when I pulled out the bible, he’d pull out the phone and ask her! She had raised eight children of her own in the faith and had been an RCIA sponsor for many others, so she knew exactly which parts of Catholicism I was having problems with, and patiently, she’d explain. She never tried to convert me though. She left that to God.
    Five years after we married and I was expecting our first child, God gave me that gentle nudge to join the Church. I can honestly say that I have found more peace in the “rituals and trappings” than I thought possible. I finally belong. I have belonged to Him for thirty one years now, but I have belonged in a faith community for only the last five years.
    I feel horrible every time I think of the way I treated one of my dearest friends in high school because she was raised Catholic instead of Protestant like the rest of us, but you see, we were indoctrinated to try to “lead her to Christ,” so like your roommate Lyza, I can only take solace in the fact that my heart was in the right place!

    • I absolutely LOVED reading your story here, Marcia! And what a wonderful example of how to LIVE and share faith your mother-in-law is!

      Your last line is totally key. There is not a single doubt in my mind that Lyza’s heart was in the right place. She truly loved me and was genuinely sad to think my soul was destined for Hell. I never stopped loving her and counting her as a great friend… it was just a surprising slap in the face, to be honest!

  • No one can judge how your relationship is with Jesus. I too have heard from an early age how Catholics aren’t Christians and I now know that vast presumptions like that aren’t ever true. I just know what the Bible says and that’s what I believe. Differing views doesn’t mean that I don’t love the person. After all, Jesus is love.

    • Or maybe I should say that it was taught that certain things were practiced differently by the Catholics. I don’t entirely know how to word this. I think my main reason behind leaving a comment on this post is that: regardless of what we believe differently in our faiths, I know you are an amazing, Godly woman. :)

      • I appreciate that you commented, Miranda, and also that your thinking and beliefs have evolved… we all need to be open to learning and discovering new things with time. I’m so grateful for all the ways God has opened my heart through the years! :)

  • Amanda Wade

    I don’t know about this whole ‘Real Christian’ thing at all. I love at people’s actions. To me, that’s the biggest way you prove you’re really a follower. And quite frankly JL, you got me beat big time. You’re such a huge inspiration to so many people.

    And quite honestly…I don’t really like any rituals lol. The only one I like is communion, but I don’t like when rituals surround it. I think it’s too personal to me for a ritual to satisfy it’s meaning. Right now we attend a Southern Baptist church. I used to attend a non-denominational one, and that’s what I prefer. They hand out cup and bread and let you do your own thing with it. In Baptist, it’s a cracker made of paper (I’m pretty sure lol), and you have to crack it together, and I hate waiting like that. It’s so impersonal.

    I say, whatever works for you. I know what works for me, and I can’t tell you or anyone else the right way to do it. I am so sick of judgment. It’s so exhausting.

    • Amanda Wade

      *I look at people’s actions lol

    • It IS exhausting, Amanda… and time-consuming! Oh, if we could all just redirect that time toward caring for those who need us, we could do a world of good.

      Communion is a fascinating difference among denominations. I’d say that most would agree that’s perhaps the biggest differentiation found in the Catholic church. I still believe we each have to do what works, but I do find the wide array of communion celebrations and experiences very interesting.

  • Celine

    Oh this breaks my heart and fills my eyes with tears. I so hate when others judge with the notion that there is only one “church path” to heaven. It was made pretty clear exactly how one lives eternally in the bible which both those of the Catholic faith and many others use.

    “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).

    “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36)

    “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

    “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. . . . He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16,18).

  • Lynn

    Amen Sister! So true!

    I am LDS and told often I am not Christian. All those who believe in Jesus Christ, no matter what religion they are, ARE Christian.

    Love your blog. Very well put.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience with this too, Lynn! Oh, it makes me sad. We have GOT to find a way to find unity rather than divisiveness between the different denominations, don’t you think?

  • I know nothing really, but I was under the impression the Catholics were the top of the heap so to speak. When I heard this story before I just chalked it up to when you look up a southerner shaking their head saying “Bless her heart” in the dictionary you’d see a picture of that girl talking to you because she’s a dodobird.
    I went to Baptist and Methodist churches growing up and I can honestly say they never said anything about other denominations one way or the other.

    • “Catholics were at the top of the heap” < – this made me laugh out loud, Heather! :) I’m truly glad to read that you weren’t fed any lines about that Christian hierarchy that I referenced. I certainly know there are plenty of churches who aren’t pushing that as truth– I’m glad that was your experience!

  • W

    I live this EVERY day. I feel ya!

  • ACK! I’ve never been told those words to my face, but I bet’cha some of my blog readers feel sorry for me. ;)

  • […] And so, my Baptist roommate Lyza and I dug deep into a devotional for young Christian women (even though she didn’t think I was a “real Christian”) and that filled a huge need for […]

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