About 15 years ago, I became a vegetarian . . . and immediately offended select family members in the process. Never mind that I neither proselytized nor criticized their meat-eating ways and, furthermore, was still willing to cook meat in the family setting. The very act of removing meat from my diet was apparently viewed as a repudiation of their values in this regard.
Years went by, and they gradually became accustomed to my new habit. It was understood that I had ended my affair with meat on moral grounds; however, my manner was nonthreatening, so it became more of a topic to tease me over than one to be indignant about.
In my world, Christianity has worked a little bit the same way. Many people I'm close to are Christians of various denominations and to various degrees, ranging from sincere to nominal. And as long as I am silent and do not offend the status quo, I can go comfortably on with my life.
Until I speak. Silence can be an opportunity for reflection and peace; it can also be an instrument of negativity and cowardice. For so long, I kept my silence no matter what I believed because I didn't want to argue, nor did I wish to offend (I still don't). But it occurred to me that over and over again I am presented with un-Christian opinion or accepted worldly wisdom, spoken loudly, frequently, and as if beyond contradiction. If these others may speak freely, should I not at least make an effort to be heard?
And if God gives me some desire to write and occasionally lays an issue on my heart, should I not be obedient and write it . . . even if it does bother people I love?
However, the outcome is not always pleasant or comfortable. I see the division of family and friends that Jesus spoke of in the Gospels that comes because of Him. I hate feeling that people I enjoyed sharing companionship with have distanced themselves from me because of my beliefs--beliefs that need not have compromised the relationship any more than theirs did.
Yet it would seem that simply knowing what I believe has been seen as arrogance or accusationa sort of repudiation of their ways or their past, much like the silly meat issue of so long ago. But in this instance, rather than pouring out their hurt or anger over my words, I feel the long, cold silence.
I don't know how to heal the relationship or define the issues if they won't talk to me. I never stopped loving them, even when I knew we weren't on the same page. Some of the words I wrote were difficult to put down, knowing that, if read, they might reopen wounds of the past for loved ones. I have tried to frame the words within reminders of the grace of a loving Godgrace that I need constantly.
I don't advertise my sins any more than I do my accomplishments, but they're there. I know I'm not perfect better than anyone. I know the things about me that are hidden now (but won't be forever). And I know that in every story or article I write, there is usually somewhere in there an accusation of myself, in large or small print, a finger pointing at myself . . . much more than at them, because I do not know what's in their hearts--only what's in mine.
Lisa Holloway is a Christian freelance writer, as well as a copy editor and writer for Inspiration Networks. She has served with the U.S. Navy and USAID/OFDA, and has studied in India. She recently wrote four stories for the compilation "Can My Marriage Be Saved?"
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